Global Policy Forum

Voices: Life in Samarra and Falluja


August 22, 2006

As part of a series focusing on the rising sectarian violence in Iraq, BBC spoke to residents of two of the Iraqi cities most closely associated with the insurgency and the sharp rise in sectarian killings.

Mohamed Jassim, 45-year-old teacher, Falluja

The high cost of living is the major problem for my family since we returned to Falluja on 25 December this year, when the US forces decided to allow us to return to our homes. My salary which is about 300,000 Iraqi dinars ($200; £107) is not sufficient to provide for the basic needs of my family. I now provide for 11 people. The price of a single gas cylinder is 17,000 dinars while the price of 20 litres of petrol - the amount needed to operate the home generators for a month due to frequent power cuts - is 115,000 dinars. Just imagine how life is in a house with a large family where there is no electricity, especially when the temperature becomes so high in summer time. To make matters worse, this family has small children and students who are preparing for upcoming exams. The drinking water is so bad, it's not fit for animals. The water and electricity network works only between one to two hours a day.

Healthcare is not good in Falluja either. The local hospitals are short of anaesthetic. A doctor has asked one family of a patient to fetch some from Baghdad. The communications network is hardly functioning. Sometimes I have to leave Falluja to make a phone call. The trip may take two hours. Leaving and getting back into Falluja requires a special authorization.

Generally speaking, we lack any sense of safety and security. I feel, therefore, that things are going from bad to worse in all respects. I am convinced that the occupying forces are seeking to destroy the Iraqi people with the help of certain domestic powers. I think the solution lies in disbanding the Iraqi army and security forces and forcing the US forces to withdraw from my town.

Ishraq Shakir Mohammadi, 35-year-old teacher, Falluja

The situation in my school is terribly catastrophic. Teachers and students are finding it quite difficult to reach their school in light of the continued military operations and sporadic attacks. To make matters worse, some teachers and students have been either arrested or murdered. Some families have stopped sending their daughters to the school as Falluja plunged into chaos and insecurity prevailed.

At school, we lack the basic equipment. More importantly, some students don't have the purchasing power to buy the basic schooling equipment such as a copybook. Of course this state of affairs does negatively affect the students' capacity to learn. However, as teachers we do understand their circumstances. US forces often come to search our home but they treat us kindly. The sense of fear amongst my five kids has waned gradually as they grow used to the noise of explosions. Nevertheless, they dare not leave our home after getting back from school.

On the other hand, I cannot forget the American crimes when they bombed my town. An entire family made up of 18 members, which used to live nearby, was killed. There is an honest resistance seeking to expel the occupying forces from the city. However, some intruders bring harm to the resistance by wreaking havoc on Falluja and killing innocent people. Iraqis should come together so that they can expel the occupying forces from Iraq.

Rawa Abdel Khaleq, 25-year old housewife, Samarra

The situation in Samarra has been volatile since the attack on the al-Askari shrine last February. The city may seem calm one day, only for a state of chaos to descend the next. There are checkpoints everywhere. Explosions may occur at any time of the day. The US military conducts campaigns in the city on a regular basis. The worse thing is that curfews are imposed for several days running. Last month, the US and Iraqi forces imposed curfews three times.

In one instance, a curfew was imposed for an entire week. Because of this many of the main market's traders have moved to other parts of Iraq. Consequently, the residents could not buy the food they need, and are forced to consume their stored supplies. My father, who works for a drugs company, supports a family of seven people. When the curfews are imposed, he cannot go to work. Likewise, my brothers and sisters cannot go to their schools and universities. We don't feel any sense of security. If you are in town centre, a road bomb may go off without prior warning.

Walid Khalid, 36-year-old trader, Samarra

My small business has folded due to the deteriorating situation in Samarra. Checkpoints are everywhere. Sporadic explosions made movement inside and outside the city difficult. This applies to most of the city. Though Samarra is mostly an agricultural city, its farmers cannot take their crops to Baghdad to sell. Consequently, a significant number of Samarra residents have already emigrated but they could not go to Baghdad whose residents hold them accountable for the bombing of the shrine of the two imams. We are not afraid of sectarian violence - I'm a Sunni - as promoted by the media outlets. But we are concerned about the harsh living conditions we are living in. The Shia shrine which blown up in February has been in Samarra for 1,200 years.

At the same time, the Sunnis who are the majority in the city, have always maintained good relations with the Shia. Why was the shrine blown up now? Why have the sectarian problems surfaced only now? I think regional and foreign powers have attempted to trigger a sectarian war in Iraq. Things will not improve in the foreseeable future. There is no immediate prospect of that.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on the Humanitarian Consequences of the War and Occupation of Iraq
More Information on Atrocities and Criminal Homicides
More Information on the Occupation and Rule in Iraq
More Information on Siege Tactics and Attacks on Population Centers


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