Iraqis Struggle to End Occupation
- The escalating attacks are not usually aimed at civilians, but are a
direct response to the brutal actions of US-led troops
The Iraqi resistance only exists to end the U.S. occupation
Thursday April 12, 2007
In Muqdadiyah, 50 miles from Baghdad, a woman wearing a traditional
Iraqi abaya blew herself up this week in the midst of Iraqi police
recruits. This was the seventh suicide attack by a women since the
Anglo-American invasion in 2003, and an act unheard of before that.
Iraqi women are driven to despair and self-destruction by grief. Their
expectations are reduced to pleas for help to clear the bodies of the
dead from the streets, according to a report by the international
committee of the Red Cross, released yesterday. It's the same
frustration that drew hundreds of thousands to demonstrate against
foreign forces in Najaf on Monday.
In the fifth year of occupation, the sectarian and ethnic divide
between politicians, parties and their warring militias has become
monstrous, turning on its creators in the Green Zone and beyond, and
not sparing ordinary people. One of the consequences is a major change
in the public role of women.
During the first three years of occupation women were mostly confined
to their homes, protected by male relatives. But now that the savagery
of their circumstances has propelled many of them to the head of their
households, they are risking their lives outdoors. Since men are the
main target of US-led troops, militias and death squads, black-cloaked
women are seen queuing at prisons, government offices or morgues, in
search of disappeared, or detained, male relatives. It is women who
bury the dead. Baghdad has become a city of bereaved women. But
contrary to what we are told by the occupation and its puppet regime,
this is not the only city that is subject to the brutality that forces
thousands of Iraqis to flee their country every month.
Bodies are found across the country from Mosul to Kirkuk to Basra.
They are handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-ridden, bearing signs of
torture. They are dumped at roadsides or found floating in the Tigris
or Euphrates. A friend of mine who found her brother's body in a
hospital's fridge told me how she checked his body and was relieved.
"He was not tortured", she said. "He was just shot in the head."
Occupation has left no room for any initiative independent of the
officially sanctioned political process; for a peaceful opposition or
civil society that could create networks to bridge the politically
manufactured divide. Only the mosque can fulfil this role. In the
absence of the state, some mosques provide basic services, running
clinics or schools. In addition to the call to prayer, their
loudspeakers warn people of impending attacks or to appeal for blood
But these attempts to sustain a sense of community are regularly
crushed. On Tuesday, troops from the Iraqi army, supported by US
helicopters, raided a mosque in the heart of old Baghdad. The
well-respected muazzin Abu Saif and another civilian were executed in
public. Local people were outraged and attacked the troops. At the end
of the day, 34 people had been killed, including a number of women and
children. As usual, the summary execution and the massacre that
followed were blamed on insurgents. The military statement said US and
Iraqi forces were continuing to "locate, identify, and engage and kill
insurgents targeting coalition and Iraqi security forces in the area".
It is important to recognise that the resistance was born not only of
ideological, religious and patriotic convictions, but also as a
response to the reality of the brutal actions of the occupation and
its administration. It is a response to arbitrary break-ins,
humiliating searches, arrests, detention and torture. According to the
Red Cross, "the number of people arrested or interned by the
multinational forces has increased by 40% since early 2006. The number
of people held by the Iraqi authorities has also increased significantly."
Many of the security detainees are women who have been subjected to
abuse and rape and who are often arrested as a means to force male
relatives to confess to crimes they have not committed. According to
the Iraqi MP Mohamed al-Dainey, there are 65 documented cases of
women's rape in occupation detention centres in 2006. Four women
currently face execution - the death penalty for women was outlawed in
Iraq from 1965 until 2004 - for allegedly killing security force
members. These are accusations they deny and Amnesty International has
There is only one solution to this disaster, and that is for the US
and Britain to accept that the Iraqi resistance is fighting to end the
occupation. And to acknowlege that it consists of ordinary Iraqis, not
only al-Qaida, not just Sunnis or Shias, not those terrorists - as
Tony Blair called them - inspired by neighbouring countries such as
Iran. To recognise that Iraqis are proud, peace-loving people, and
that they hate occuption, not each other. And to understand that the
main targets of the resistance are not Iraqi civilians. According to
Brookings, the independent US research institute, 75% of recorded
attacks are directed at occupation forces, and a further 17% at Iraqi
government forces. The average number of attacks has more than doubled
in the past year to about 185 a day. That is 1,300 a week, and more
than 5,500 a month.
Another way of understanding this is that in any one hour, day or
night, there are seven or eight new attacks. Without the Iraqi
people's support, directly and indirectly, this level of resistance
would not have happened.
· Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi exile who was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein,
is the author of Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London
haifa_zangana @ yahoo.co.uk
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