Fallujah Tent City Awaits Compensation

Fallujah, Tent City, Awaits Compensation

Al-Zaman/ AFP: The Iraqi government has yet to pay out any compensation to the inhabitants of Fallujah from the funds dedicated to the rebuilding of the city, which was assaulted by the US Marines and Iraqi forces beginning last November 8 in order to root out guerrillas who were thought to dominate it. Most of its buildings and homes were damaged, such that most of its former residents still live in the hills southwest of the city in tents erected hastily in the wilderness. The Iraqi government had established committees to identify damaged buildings and to survey the damage in preparation for the payment of monetary compensation that would allow rebuilding.

Basil Mahmud Hamid, the engineer who heads the local committee for rebuilding the city said that the survey committee will finalize its identification of damaged buildings on Sunday. He said the payments will be made as soon as the survey is completed. Informed sources told al-Zaman that mines and unexploded ordinance are slowing down the survey work.

Liqa’ Fahd (25), cradling her two-month-old as she gazed at what was left of her home, said, “I lost my husband, my house, and everything beautiful in my life. I have nothing left but this little plot of land and this humble tent.” She explained that her husband had not escaped with her because he was the treasurer of an Islamic endowment in the city and responsible for its funds. “Since that time I have lost contact with him, and have not found his name either on the list of the dead or on that of the missing.”

Muhammad Fahd al-Hitawi, 38, has erected a tent above the ruins of his house, and lives there with his ten children. He said he was waiting for compensation so that he could rebuild. His house, which had measured 671 square meters (yards), was mere rubble.

Almost all the 300,000 inhabitants of the city fled during the attack. On 11 January, the UN High Commission for Refugees said, as summarized by AFSC:

‘ Approximately 85,000 residents have passed through Fallujah’s checkpoints as of January 9. However, only 3,000 to 8,000 people remain in the city overnight, due to the harsh conditions that include a lack of adequate shelter, electricity, water, and health care, as well as curfews and restrictions on movement. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that only 40 percent of the population in the city is receiving assistance.

Returning residents find a city that has been ravaged. Massive destruction to infrastructure and housing has been reported. It is estimated that 40 percent of the buildings were completely destroyed, 20 percent had major damage, and 40 percent had significant damage. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on December 23 that three of the city’s water purification plants had been destroyed and the fourth was badly damaged. The water distribution network was destroyed. It will take a long time to restore basic services. ‘

Hamid Fahd Su’ud, 40, the father of 7 daughters, said, “We now live off charity, since most of the shops and factories in the city are closed.” Su’ud lost his son, Omar, while attempting to flee the battles, but has never recovered a body. “I praise God that we have this tent, and all I want is for my son Omar to be alive and being fed.”

Iraqi authorities have increased security measures and patrols of the city to prevent the return of the guerrillas and a repeat of what happened in Fallujah.

Cole: Readers often write in for an update on Fallujah. I am sorry to say that there is no Fallujah to update. The city appears to be in ruins and perhaps uninhabitable in the near future. Of 300,000 residents, only about 9,000 seem to have returned, and apparently some of those are living in tents above the ruins of their homes. The rest of the Fallujans are scattered in refugee camps of hastily erected tents at several sites, including one near Habbaniyyah, or are staying with relatives in other cities, including Baghdad.

The scale of this human tragedy– the dispossession and displacement of 300,000 persons– is hard to imagine. Unlike the victims of the tsunami who were left homeless, moreover, the Fallujans have witnessed no outpouring of world sympathy. While there were undeniably bad characters in the city, most residents had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be made object lessons–which was the point Rumsfeld was making with this assault. He hoped to convince Ramadi and Mosul to fall quiet lest the same thing happen to them. He failed, since the second Fallujah campaign threw the Sunni Arab heartland into much more chaos than ever before. People forget how quiet Mosul had been. And, the campaign was the death knell for proper Sunni participation in the Jan. 30 elections (Sunnis, with 20 percent of the population, have only 6 seats in the 275 member parliament).

However much a cliche it might be to say it, the US military really did destroy Fallujah to save it.