Iraq Death Toll ‘Above Highest Estimates’ by Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail
Global Research, June 2, 2008
Inter Press Service

BAQUBA, Jun 2 (IPS) – The real number of the dead is far higher than even the highest declared in death tolls, many Iraqis say.

A study by doctors from the Johns Hopkins School of Health in conjunction with Iraqi doctors from al-Mustanceriya University in Baghdad, published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2006, estimated the number of excess deaths as a result of the occupation at above 655,000.

Just Foreign Policy, an independent organisation “dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy” offered an updated total of 1,213,716 at the time of this writing.

On Sep. 14, 2007, Opinion Research Business (ORB), an independent polling agency located in London, produced a figure of 1,220,580 deaths as a result of the invasion.

These estimates are above any official figures from Iraq, but they do consider the reported official figures.

Iraqis believe that the authorities are hiding these figures. “The U.S. military benefits from hiding the real totals,” said a political analyst who declined to give his name because of the atmosphere of fear within Iraq. “And the Iraqi government is a puppet of the Americans, so their figures are ridiculously low as well.”

The report published in The Lancet did not take into account many circumstances of death, say residents in Baquba, capital of Diyala province 40km north of capital Baghdad.

“All people know that a large number of bodies are dropped into the Diyala river,” said a local resident. “I was kidnapped and taken to a village called Huwaider, which is completely Shia and located on the Diyala River. Sunnis there are killed and dropped in the river by militiamen, but I was freed by the U.S Army.

“People in all the villages on the river have gotten used to seeing bodies floating in the river,” he added.

“I lived in Gatoon district, the volatile stronghold of the militants in Baquba,” Yasir al-Azawi, a 37-year-old truck driver told IPS. “Everyday I saw vehicles dropping bodies in the river. Everyone in my district knows this truth; that the river contained an extraordinary number of bodies to the extent that living in that place became impossible. We left our home and moved to live in the north of Iraq.”

An officer at the directorate-general of police for Diyala province said the number of dead is impossible to calculate exactly.

“When the new security plan began in Diyala, some of the arrested militants confessed that they were burying bodies,” the officer said. “Some of them led us to the places where they buried the bodies. We found hundreds by digging in the areas that are a stronghold of the militants, and sometimes in the gardens of the houses they were living in, or in a place nearby.”

An eyewitness at the Baquba morgue spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity.

“I was looking for my relative who was kidnapped and then killed, and I saw an ambulance moving the dead who were killed by militants,” he said, “I asked the driver about these bodies. He said that the Iraqi army found them in houses and in holes dug within the houses. I also saw a skeleton among the bodies.”

Many believe that the number of the dead is higher than these studies reflect also because the lack of access to areas controlled by militias and other fighters prevents police and army personnel from finding and collecting bodies.

“These militia strongholds have prevented access to police for over two years now,” Ali Hussein, a local vegetable seller told IPS. “Dozens, and sometimes hundreds were kidnapped everyday and taken to the militants strongholds. People heard nothing about thousands of them. Even today, thousands of families know nothing about their loved ones because they were not found in the morgue.”

A policeman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS that “we were moving the bodies from the main streets of the city through patrols. A body that may have been dropped in the street is a message for people. They dropped it purposely. But these are only a few; the bodies of most we believe were killed, were never found.”

“The morgue continues to receive bodies brought by the police or the ambulance,” said an employee at the Baquba morgue. “We used to receive many daily. The capacity of the morgue was not enough, so they were buried after certain procedures like taking photos or waiting for the families to ask about them and to take them. Sometimes, at times of bombing and disastrous accidents, we were receiving hundreds of bodies.”

Other officials also offered bleak assessments.

“Hundreds of families come to the provincial office everyday to ask about their loved ones who were kidnapped; they do not know whether they are dead or alive,” an employee at the governor’s office told IPS. “Often the Iraqi army finds records of the dead from the militants through their confessions. Every week there are new lists of names of those who were killed by the militants. People come to find out whether their loved ones are dead, in order to stop searching.”

New burial grounds are found often, and the dead are usually not recorded. Many residents told IPS that farmers commonly find bones in their fields.

Ali Ahmed, IPS correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East

© Copyright Ahmed Ali, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9150

Iraq: Unemployment Too Becomes an Epidemic by Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail
Global Research, February 23, 2008
Inter Press Service

BAQUBA, Feb 21 (IPS) – For a few, salaries have soared. For the rest, unemployment has

Many Iraqi workers enjoyed huge salary increases following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. But unemployment rose more sharply under policies introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

CPA head L. Paul Bremer decommissioned the Iraqi military, leading to overnight unemployment for hundreds of thousands of military personnel. And that was not all. The ministries of culture and information also saw drastic layoffs, some through privatisation.

Almost a year into the occupation, defence ministry employees, many of them ex-military, started to receive monthly payments of about 100 dollars as “donation of emergency”.

“This payment does not meet 10 percent of the monthly needs of many families,” ex-soldier in the previous Iraq army Muhsin Aboud told IPS in Baquba, 40 km northeast of Baghdad. “It’s unfair to leave us without jobs.”

Still, the unemployed are lucky. Many employees of the abolished offices were accused of being terrorists, and imprisoned.

“One day, a group of American soldiers stormed into my house while I and my family were sleeping,” Abd al-Joburi, an officer in Iraq’s former military told IPS. “They tied my hands and put a plastic bag on my head and forced me to lie with my face down. It was because I’m an ex-officer, and Sunni.”

Al-Joburi was imprisoned for nine months after the raid that took place in March of last year. “Nobody asked whether my family have any salary or income. Since I was released, I have not had a job.”

Now, the sectarian practices of politicians and the government are adding to unemployment for whole sections of people, particularly Sunni Muslims.

“I applied for a job in the directorate-general of police of Diyala province four times,” a former intelligence officer told IPS. “All of my applications were rejected. All the Shia ex-officers’ applications were accepted, regardless of their experience and specialisation. Now they are officers in the police and army.”

The ex-officer added, “I am now working as a grocer.”

Violence has made unemployment even worse; it has led large numbers of people to quit the jobs they had. Most people in Baquba are today either forced to stay at home, or to leave the city, and if they can, the country.

“I closed my restaurant,” said a local businessman in Baquba. “Two militants came and killed the owner of the shop next to my restaurant. We had no choice.”

“The owners of prominent shops, restaurants, car shops, rich people, heads of the offices, owners of buildings, traders, businessmen…all of them became targets of the militants,” said a resident, who like many others, did not wish to give his name. “As a result, all of them quit. Just think how many people could be employed in all these fields.”

Meanwhile, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects that could have employed some people have come to a standstill.

“I dismissed more than 50 employees in my company because of the stoppage of work,” a manager with the Dolphin company for general contractors told IPS. “Work has stopped for more than two years.”

The owner of a plastic pipes factory said threats forced him to close his factory. “I received a message asking me to pay 50,000 dollars, or I would be killed.”

Unemployment in Iraq has been between 60-70 percent over the last two years, according to the government in Baghdad. This is nearly twice what it was in the period of the sanctions in the 1990s.

Most worrying is what is happening in the food business. The Diyala Food Company, the largest in the province, closed last year.

“A group of militants came to kidnap the owner’s son,” former employee Aziz Khamis told IPS. “The son and two of his bodyguards were killed, and the father was wounded. This big company has closed its doors, and thousands of employees are now stuck at home.”

The reasons for losing jobs are endless. “I was fired for being a member of the Ba’ath party,” Nasir Uwayid told IPS. “After a period of occupation, low ranking members were allowed to get their jobs again, but heads of offices who were members of the party were forced to retire or leave the city.”

And sectarian displacement has brought its own unemployment. Tens of thousands of people have left their homes and jobs in Baquba because of the sectarian violence. Many have tried to start again in other cities, but few have been successful.

In 2002 Baquba had a population estimated at 280,000; in 2003, Diyala province had a population of roughly 1.2 million. Baquba is roughly 70 percent Sunni, while Diyala province is about 90 percent Sunni.

Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.
www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ahmed Ali, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8166

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In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail: Beyond the Green Zone (video; 07)

Where’s The Iraqi Voice? By Noam Chomsky

Fort Hood soliders breaking the silence in war in Iraq (video link)

Bush’s Dirty Secret: Bribing Iraq Insurgents Not to Fight By Paul Craig Roberts

‘US the Biggest Producer of Terror’ By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail
ICH
BAQUBA, Jan 25 (IPS)

Broken promises have brought a dramatic increase in anti-U.S. sentiment across the capital city of Iraq’s Diyala province.

Many people in Baquba, capital of Diyala 40 km northeast of Baghdad, had supported U.S. forces when they ousted former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But failed reconstruction projects and muddled policies mean the U.S. has lost that support.

“The Americans based their strategy in Iraq on certain Shias here who have direct enmity with Sunnis and allegiance to Iran,” resident Ayub Ibrahim told IPS. “This was the source of the gap between certain Shias which the U.S. backs, and certain Sunnis they back.” Shias and Sunnis are different sects within Islam.

The U.S. has also alienated people through its policy of extensive detentions. Many believe that raids that lead to arrests are based on motivated information given to the U.S. military by Shia militiamen who have infiltrated the Iraqi army and police.

“We never witnessed an attempt to arrest Shia people either by the U.S. army or the Iraqi police and army,” resident Abdul Sattar al-Badri told IPS. Most people see no reasonable basis for many of the arrests.

In November the International Committee of the Red Cross said that around 60,000 people are currently detained in Iraq.

“The Americans occupied our country and put our men in prisons,” Dhafir al-Rubaiee, an officer from Iraq’s previous army told IPS. “The majority of these prisoners have been arrested for nothing other than for being Sunni. Every one of these prisoners has a family, and these families now have reason to hate Americans.”

Others blame the lack of security and the destroyed infrastructure for the increasing anti-U.S. sentiment.

“The lack of security is a direct result of the occupation,” resident Abu Ali told IPS. “The Americans crossed thousands of miles to destroy our home and kill our men. They are the reason for all our disasters.”

Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity added, “We lived in need during the period of the Saddam government, but we were safe. We were compelled to work sometimes 20 hours a day to earn our living, but we were happy to see our children and relatives together.” U.S. forces, he said, have ended all that.

Abu Tariq believes the U.S. military intentionally destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. “The Americans destroyed the electricity, water pumping stations, factories, bridges, highways, hospitals, schools, buildings, and opened the borders for strangers and terrorists to get easily into the country,” he said.

The large number of Iraqis killed by U.S. forces has also hardly endeared the forces to the people.

“When targeted by a roadside bomb or suicide bomber, U.S. soldiers shoot at people randomly. Innocent civilians have been killed or injured,” Yaser Abdul-Rahman, a 45-year-old schoolmaster told IPS. “Thousands of people have been killed like this.”

The anti-U.S. sentiment in Baquba is now so high that people no longer hide their distrust of the U.S.

“At the beginning of the occupation, the people of Iraq did not realise the U.S. strategy in the area,” Abu Taiseer, a member of the communist party in the city told IPS. “Their strategy is based on destruction and massacre. They do anything to have their agenda fulfilled.

“Now, Iraqis know that behind the U.S. smile is hatred and violence,” Taiseer added. “They call others violent and terrorists, but what they are doing in Iraq and in other countries is the origin and essence of terror. America is the biggest producer of terror, and they spend huge funds for creating and training death squads all over the world.”

Despite the differing U.S. ways of dealing with Shias and Sunnis, the two sects seem one in their hatred of the U.S.

“Look at our country, it will need 30 years to get back again,” Edan Barham told IPS. “This has nothing to do with sects; all of us are Iraqis, and we should think of Iraq in a better way than sectarian lines.”

“People of Iraq of all sects now realise that it is the occupation represented by the Americans that has damaged the country,” resident Khalil Ibrahim said.

Political analyst Azhar al-Teengane says the only Iraqis who support the occupation are those benefiting directly from it.

“The occupation is good for politicians who have made money, militiamen, contractors and opportunists,” Teengane said. “These form not more than 5 percent of Iraqi people.”

Self-rule could help lower anti-U.S. sentiment, said resident Jalal al-Taee. “In order to improve the situation, the U.S. army should let the people of this city run it.”

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East) (FIN/2008)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Under Curfew, This Is No Life By Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail
After Downing Street
Inter Press Service

BAQUBA, Jan 24 (IPS) – Continuing curfew has brought normal life to a standstill in Baquba, capital of the restive Diyala province north of Baghdad.

Through nearly three decades of rule under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis witnessed only two curfews; for the census in the 1970s and 1980s. Under the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, curfews are commonplace, enforced whenever the Iraqi government and U.S. military fail to control the situation on the ground.

A curfew means all public utilities and services cease. Life becomes frozen, and nobody is able to get to work. Factories and other utilities close, the wheel of the economy and development stops.

“When the government imposes a curfew it does not think of those who have no salary,” 39-year-old labourer Adnan al-Khazraji told IPS. “A very large number of people like me rely on daily income for their living. On the contrary, government employees feel safe whether there is a curfew or not because at the end of a month they receive the salary regardless of stoppage of work.”

Members of the government and parliament receive big salaries, “and therefore they forget poor people at such times,” Khazraji added.

Not just economically, curfews have taken their toll psychologically as well. In Baquba, 40 km northeast of Baghdad, there has been a curfew every Friday since 2005.

“I feel imprisoned when I have to keep to my home,” Salma Jabr, a resident of the city told IPS. “It is the only holiday that we have to do things like visits, shopping, travelling.”

The Friday curfew has also hit peoples’ access to medical care. “When there is an emergency, we cannot go to a hospital, a physician, or even to a pharmacy because moving in streets is not allowed,” resident Abdul-Rahim Ghaidan told IPS.

“Travellers who come from outside Iraq have to stay outside the city if they come on Friday,” said a taxi driver who did not want to give his name. “They are not allowed to go to the homes of their hosts, so everyone plans their arrivals on days other than Friday. This kind of curfew is applied only in Diyala province.”

Friday is the Muslim holy day of the week. In Baquba, curfew is enforced on other religious occasions as well.

“The Shia have more than 30 religious occasions in a year,” Ali Hassan, a resident of Baquba told IPS. “On each one, curfew is imposed by the predominantly Shia Baghdad government over all the provinces for a day or two except during Ashura. This procedure is taken for protecting Shia people when they perform their rites and ceremonies.”

And, there are other reasons for curfews in Baquba. “A curfew may be imposed when a VIP visits the city,” a local resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “It is the only way to ensure protection for the visitor.”

Schools and universities are feeling the effects of these curfews. “Curfew has a direct effect on education not only in Diyala but also in Iraq,” a university professor told IPS. “Pupils and students are obliged to keep to their homes and forget about going to school. We cannot give enough subjects to the students because of the repeatedly imposed curfews.”

The professor said it has become difficult to complete the syllabus within the academic year. “Sometimes, we wake up early to get to the college but we may be told to get back home because of curfew,” he said. “When we later ask the reason, we are told there may be a VIP visiting the city. We have to ask ourselves whether we need to stop life for such a trivial thing. The current government considers scientific process the last priority on their agenda.”

Besides the full curfew every Friday and on other days, there is a daily curfew in Baquba city everyday from 6 pm to 7 am.

“We have to finish our work before 6 pm,” a local engineer told IPS. “Long hours are lost from our time because of the curfew. We have to stop working, and stay home like animals. It is worth thinking how much work can be done during these lost hours.”

“We have to close our shops regardless how much work we have because it is curfew time,” said a local pharmacist. “It is a curse. We feel we are not free.”

“Once, my brother called me from the police station,” Jawadeldine Fakri, a local primary school teacher told IPS. “He was arrested because he was seen in the street at ten past six. He is a lawyer, and he was treated like a criminal by the police.”

“Curfew has reduced social relationships among people because people used to visit each other after they got back home from work,” city official Bahira Jabbar told IPS. “Visiting anyone is difficult now.”

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Interview with Dahr Jamail (audio) + Police & Army Getting Sidelined By Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail

Interview with Dahr Jamail (audio) + Police & Army Getting Sidelined By Ahmed Ali & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

After Downing Street

Jan. 23, 2008

Dahr Jamail on his book “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq” and Gene Baur – President of Farm Sanctuary on Cloned Animals in the Food Chain – recent FDA Legislation

by Adam Roufberg
Thursday, 17 January 2008

Free Range Thought in Media

Listen.

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Police and Army Getting Sidelined

By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail
January 21, 2008

Inter Press Service

BAQUBA, Jan 21 (IPS) – New military operations in Diyala province north of Baghdad have exacerbated a growing conflict between U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the one hand and Iraqi army and police forces on the other.

Continue reading “Police and Army Getting Sidelined”

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Caught Between the U.S. and Al-Qaeda By Ahmed Ali

Dandelion Salad

By Ahmed Ali*
Inter Press Service
August 20, 2007

BAQUBA, Aug 20 (IPS)

The major U.S. military operation in Baquba city north of Baghdad has ended, but it has left continuing suffering for residents in its wake.

The U.S. military launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba, 50 km northeast of Baghdad, on Jun. 18. Baquba is the capital city of Iraq’s Diyala province.

The stated goal of the operation was to eradicate al-Qaeda from the city and other areas in the province. The region has seen some of the highest number of attacks on U.S. troops.

Shortly after launching the operation, the U.S. military admitted that nearly 80 percent of al-Qaeda militants had fled the area.

Residents had been looking for an end to raids and abductions by criminal gangs and sectarian death squads, but the U.S. military operation brought no relief.

“People here feel afraid because the coalition forces always push al-Qaeda out of the cities, but unfortunately they return when the troops retreat,” resident Mohammed Hulail told IPS. “So the coalition forces can provide no solution.”

A Baquba city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS that al-Qaeda militants had already returned to parts of the city. “We are now sure that Iraqi police and army cannot defeat al-Qaeda who are well fortified in the streets and buildings.”

Residents have learnt to fear enemies on all sides. “People are the victims of this war because they are in the middle point between the American forces and the fighters of al-Qaeda,” Jabbar Ibrahim, a secondary school teacher in the city told IPS. “The fighters of al-Qaeda came to control the city, but when the U.S. troops came to fight them, they ran away, leaving civilians to face the shells and the bombs.”

Many residents complain of indiscriminate arrests through the U.S. forces’ search for al-Qaeda suspects. “Arrests are sometimes made wrongly; simple people who have nothing to do with fighting and violence were arrested, and those who were the real fighters ran away,” a resident who declined to give his name told IPS.

The Iraqi Islamic Party has accused the Multi-National Forces operating in the area of killing many people in Baquba in the early weeks of the operation.

“The operations led by the U.S. forces in western Baquba led to the death of more than 350 people, most of whom are still under the rubble,” the party said in a statement.

Many residents in this city of 300,000 say that operation Arrowhead Ripper has made living conditions worse. “We spent 12 days without water, electricity and food,” Hamid Shaaban, a 51-year-old retired city official told IPS, “And U.S. forces were of little help.”

“I have seven children,” said Shaaban. “I went to ask U.S. troops for food and water.” All he got, he said, was some bottled water. He was then sent away.

The shortage of water hit the city at the worst time of the year. “The temperature was between 45 and 51 degrees C,” an elderly woman said. “We have had very long days, it has been terrible.”

Most residents IPS spoke to said they would leave if they could, but they either lacked funds or simply did not know where to go.

“We do not have another place to go in order to leave this miserable place,” resident Kamil Abid told IPS. “All places are the same, and we have no money to start again.”

The U.S. military has often detained people who have stayed home during the attacks and searches. Several residents say a decision to stay on was often seen as a gesture of defiance.

Now almost everyone seems fed up with the violence and intimidation from all sides. “What people want is security in order to get back again to their jobs to earn their living,” said the owner of a local food store. “Providing this is the responsibility of the coalition forces and the Iraqi government.”

Suspicions abound that the U.S. forces do not really want to solve the problem. “U.S. governments always tend to create an enemy, and then fight him in order to show weak governments, like this one in Iraq, that they cannot do without the support of U.S. power,” said a retired army officer.

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Sectarianism Splits Security in Diyala By Ahmed Ali

Dandelion Salad

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali*
August 07, 2007

BAQUBA, Aug 7 (IPS) – Militia from the Shia organisation Badr have taken over the police force in Diyala province north of Baghdad, residents say.

The government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is believed to have backed such infiltration, and this has reportedly led to clashes with U.S. military leaders.
The Daily Telegraph in London has reported that Maliki and General David Petraeus, U.S. commander of the multi-national force in Iraq, have clashed over moves by the U.S. general to arm some Sunni groups. Sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims has grown amidst Iraqi government policies seen as supportive of Shias. Maliki is from the Dawa Party backed by Shia Iran.

In Baquba, 50km northeast of the capital, and capital of Diyala, residents say the Shia Badr Organisation, the armed wing of the politically dominant Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), has been dominant in the province since the early months of the occupation.

The Badr Organisation managed to fill leadership positions in city and province, while Sunni Iraqis remained largely unrepresented.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Baquba Denied the Healing Touch By Ahmed Ali

Dandelion Salad

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali*
July 25, 2007

BAQUBA, Jul 25 (IPS) – Diyala General Hospital in the provincial capital Baquba has been hit by severe lack of supplies amid ongoing attacks by militants.

Located 50km northeast of Baghdad, the city of Baquba has become known now for both the huge U.S. military operations and the presence of al-Qaeda.

The shortages coupled with a lack of basic infrastructure have left the largest hospital in Diyala province short of supplies, and staffed by terrorised doctors often unable to do their job.

Diyala General Hospital, built in the 1970’s, was never adequately resourced since the devastating Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and the dozen years of economic sanctions since the early 1990s.

When the U.S.-led occupation began in April 2003, administrators promised reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq’s healthcare system. It never came. This hospital, like countless others in Iraq, is in a far worse condition today than even during the sanctions period when more than half a million Iraqi children died from malnutrition, disease and lack of adequate healthcare.

The problems appear to begin and end with lack of security.

Continued…

Living Becomes Hard in a Dead City By Ahmed Ali


Dandelion Salad

By Ahmed Ali*
Inter Press Service
July 23, 2007

BAQUBA, Jul 23 (IPS)

Life in the violence-plagued capital city of Iraq’s Diyala province has become a struggle for day-to-day survival.

Heavy U.S military operations, sectarian death squads and al-Qaeda militants have combined to make normal life in Baquba, 50 km northeast of Baghdad, all but impossible.

Movement from the city to another destination is extremely dangerous. Kidnappings have become rampant in a lawless city where government control is only a mirage.

Lack of security and mobility have meant severe shortages of fuel, food, medical supplies and other necessities.

The central market in the city of about 325,000 has vanished. It is not just the shopping that is gone. People used to meet acquaintances in the market to socialise and sometimes do business.

The ongoing violence has ended all that. The market has become scattered around city districts. Many shop owners have reopened smaller shops within their houses, and abandoned their business locations.

About two or three persons have been killed or abducted in the market daily on average in recent weeks. This had started to happen even before the U.S. military operation Arrowhead Ripper was launched last month with the intention of targeting al-Qaeda forces. Now residents say it is much worse.

“The troops have closed all the outlets from the city, and never allow cars to move,” Amir Ayad, a 51-year-old assistant professor in the sciences college at Diyala University told IPS. “To get my college, I have to get a cart as other people do. It is five kilometres, and it is better than walking.”

“For the final examinations which were held unfortunately during this period of military operations, students had to walk hours to get to the exam centre,” Prof. Majeed Abid told IPS. “They were exhausted and sweating.”

Animal-drawn carts have now become a new business in Baquba. Most of these are drawn by donkeys, and each cart carries 10-15 passengers who pay two to three dollars a journey.

“Every day I bring vegetables four kilometres by cart and pay 25-35 dollars for this,” 29-year-old Adil Omran told IPS. “For this reason, the prices have increased tremendously.”

“A tomato, which is grown commonly in Iraq, is usually around six cents,” said Mahmood Ali, a retired teacher. “Nowadays, we buy it for 1.25 dollar. Families now tend to buy one or two bags of potatoes (30 kilos each) because they cannot afford the increasing prices of other vegetables.”

Complicating matters is the already unsteady disbursement of salaries due to the volatile security situation.

“Officials used to receive their salaries every month, but for a year and a half now we receive our salaries only every 50-70 days,” Kadhim Raad, a 44-year-old official in the municipality of Baquba told IPS.

“The staff at the Ministry of Education have not received their salaries for three months because no money is available in the banks,” Sara Latif, an official in the finance department of the Directorate General of Education told IPS.

People are now looking for ways to leave this city of continuing violence, delayed salaries, lack of jobs, lack of open markets, closed factories, no functioning municipal work, and very little farming due to lack of water and electricity.

The average house in Baquba gets one or two hours of electricity a day. It is not uncommon for three or four days to pass without a minute of electricity.

Most people have bought small generators, but lack of fuel often makes it impossible to run these. Before the U.S.-led invasion, a litre of petrol in Iraq cost five cents; today in Baquba it is nearly two dollars.

There are no functioning fuel stations. Instead, people buy 20-litre jugs.

“People have forgotten there is something called a petrol station,” Hamid Alwan, a 46-year-old taxi driver told IPS. “The owners of petrol stations sell the tankers of petrol before they are brought to Baquba to make more money.”

And all this is less than the biggest concern – to find a way just to stay safe.

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Mass Graves Dug to Deal With Death Toll By Ahmed Ali

Dandelion Salad

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali*
July 17, 2007

BAQUBA, Jul 17 (IPS) – The largest morgue in Diyala province is overflowing daily. Officials told IPS they have had to dig mass graves to dispose of bodies.

More and more bodies of victims of the ongoing violence are being found every day in Baquba, capital city of the province, 50km northeast of Baghdad.

“The morgue receives an average of four or five bodies everyday,” Nima Jima’a, a morgue official, told IPS. “Many more are dropped in rivers and farms — or it is sometimes the case they are buried by their killers for other reasons. The number we record here is only a fraction of those killed.”

Ambulances, now able to move again after weeks of restrictions, have been removing bodies of victims from the current fighting. But they have also found skulls and bones, evidence of other killings long ago.

Dealing with these remains is becoming difficult. Like the rest of the city, the morgue suffers from continuing lack of electricity. Over the last two weeks, two of its refrigerators have been shut down. The smell of decomposing bodies hits visitors 100 metres away.

Continued…

Al-Qaeda Escapes U.S. Assault By Ahmed Ali (Jamail)


Dandelion Salad

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali*
July 14, 2007

BAQUBA, Jul 14 (IPS)

Air strikes have destroyed civilian homes rather than al-Qaeda targets under the U.S. military operation in Baquba, residents say.

But signs have emerged of an al-Qaeda presence here earlier, and some residents speak of relief that al-Qaeda has been driven out of the city by U.S. forces.

Located 50km northeast of Baghdad, the volatile capital city of Diyala province is home to roughly 325,000 people. The region that has been home to fruit orchards and rural farming has been hard hit by the military conflict.

On Jun. 19 tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were deployed in Operation Arrowhead Ripper to attack militants in Baquba. The ongoing operation is one of the largest ever thus far in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Diyala province is inhabited by a mix of Sunni and Shia Arabs, as well as Kurds. The province has been openly hostile towards occupation forces, and attacks against U.S. forces have been commonplace since early in the occupation.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, Diyala province is the fifth deadliest of Iraq’s 18 provinces for U.S. troops, with at least 186 killed there thus far.

After several weeks of the siege in Baquba, people were allowed in recent days to go to work. Witnesses spoke to IPS about fierce attacks by helicopters, and shelling of houses by U.S. tanks.

“The U.S. military bombed houses that were completely uninhabited,” Kadhim Rajab, a 39-year-old city official told IPS. “Al-Qaeda had left the city before the operation even began because they knew what was coming even before we did.”

But residents did speak of an al-Qaeda presence earlier. “U.S. troops bombed a number of houses that were actually used by al-Qaeda,” Ibrahim Hameed, a 43-year-old secondary school teacher told IPS. “But there was no resistance at all, we heard no shooting.”

Ismail Aboud, a 51-year-old physician, said the U.S. military had deliberately avoided armed clashes with militants. “It seems that the forces allowed the terrorists to leave the battlefield in order to avoid direct military clashes,” he said.

Abu Mohammed, a 54-year-old grocer, said U.S. troops were now moving unarmed in the streets. “The troops appear absolutely sure that there is no resistance to face.”

Salma Waleed, manager of a primary school in the city told IPS that after 12 days of shelling by the U.S. military, some electricity and water supply has been restored intermittently.

Waleed said U.S. soldiers had been handing out water and MREs (meals ready to eat). “Now, we can move very freely in the streets since there is no random shooting or kidnapping.”

Professor Salim Abdulla, from the local university told IPS that U.S. soldiers claimed to have found a room in a house where prisoners were tortured, and also found barrels of chlorine. In recent months chlorine bombs have been used to blow up cars.

But Abdulla added, “What is disastrous is that before the members of al-Qaeda ran away from Qatoon (district of Baquba), they killed prisoners who had been kidnapped for getting money from their families as ransom.”

Others spoke to IPS of the damaging effects of the U.S. military cordon around the city that was denying basic needs like medical care, food, water and security.

An expatriate programme manager for an international organisation, who did not wish to be named, told IPS that “the military operations are still continuing and the roads are still closed. One of my sources said that on Friday in Qatoon quarter a house was bombed and an entire family was killed. Only a baby survived.”

The manager told IPS that tens of thousands have fled the Qatoon area. “Because of the closure (of roads and parts of the city) in Baquba the price of food has increased dramatically,” she said. “Earlier 50 kg of flour cost 11 dollars. Now it is 40 dollars.”

Only bicycles and animal-drawn carts are being allowed to bring basic supplies such as vegetables and fuel into the city, she said.

“Recently Iraqi police and ambulances have started removing the bodies,” Mahdi Ameen Azawi, a 47-year-old retired Iraqi military officer who lives in Qatoon told IPS.

“This quarter remained under siege up to now,” he added. “People suffered from the absence of electricity, water and food.”

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.