Comments On the Situation In Falluja

By A.

June 28, 2004

What follows are comments A., the collator of our Reports from the Arab Press made in response to the recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald announcing a Shia war on Falluja: Shiite tribes gather for war on Falluja, June 28, 2004

Regarding this story, I haven't heard or read about it anywhere in Iraqi web sites and press. The sequence of events raising recent tension between the Falluja rebels and some Shiite pro-occupation politicians began with the shelling of the headquarters of the Fallujah army regiment, killing a dozen soldiers and injuring more than a dozen. Then Fallujah resistance fighters arrested seven terrorists who did the shelling and announced that they possibly belonged to Chalabi's militia. Then families of the killed persons gathered at al-Fardaws square in Baghdad, opposite to the Palestine Hotel, to receive the coffins of their relatives. A leaflet written by Chalabi's party was distributed to the people present there, accusing Falluja people of killing "young Shiites who went to help Fallujans just because they were Shiites."

The story claimed that Sheikh Janabi told somebody that he urged resistance fighters to allegedly kill the seven people. Originally, this was a claim of Chalabi's. Janabi himself denied these charges to an Arab TV channel, stressing that he was at a Baghdad hospital for 20 days.

It should be noted that Chalabi was very critical of the formation of Fallujah regiment, and his deputy boasted of his militia participating in the American onslaught on Fallujah.

As a background material: It's a well-known fact to Iraqis that the vast majority of the Falluja population observe Islamic teachings, thus imposing a high degree of respect for religious and socially conservative traditions. It's even called the town of mosques. In this, they were helped by the fact that the town's community is tribally unified and socially inter-linked, even entangled.

In Falluja, for a long time, there have been no clubs to serve alcohol and no shops to sell it at all. In so closed a tribal community, with an overwhelmingly religious orientation, it's quite expected that Western music finds no audience there, especially now, when so many songs glorifying the feats of the Fallujah residents and their resistance were recently produced in the town and posted on pro-resistance web-sites, thus giving them wide circulation inside Iraq and in Arab countries.

The town is run by a Mayor appointed by the government. He is married to a Shiite woman. Though originally from Falluja, he lives in Baghdad and is far from being a Mullah. This mayor led Falluja's negotiations with the Americans. This is why I think that there is a rat smell in the whole story of the killings and many Iraqis. including myself, who think that Chalabi and pro-occupation Shiite politicians are behind this claim with the aim of breaking the bond of cooperation between resistance fighters groups in Falluja and Najaf -- which grew stronger in the recent fighting in the two towns.

Now the story seems to follow the typical model of western reporting of Iraqi social affairs. To talk about Taliban-style rule in Falluja and cases of floggings of alcohol drinkers or forced cutting of hair or closure of music record shops, amounts to sensational stereotyped reporting.

I would also tell you about a misconception that abounds in the Western media. It was originally and intentionally made by Iraqi pro-occupation figures, especially those with an Iranian orientation. They claim that the population of Falluja and other towns in the western province of Anbar (the biggest in Iraq) are fighting against occupation because they have lost the privileges they allegedly enjoyed under the former regime. This is simply not true. This province received the least in services, with the greatest number of unemployed as a result of a very small number projects in it. The number of key Ba'th Party members from this province were executed and persecuted by the former regime was by far bigger than that of any other province. A large number of Islamists in this province were also persecuted under the previous period.

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