Post-Saddam era: The oppressed Sunnis of Iraq

Falujjah after US bombing

Abu Hind Mohanned Al-Obaydi writes that the violent oppression faced by Iraq’s Sunni minority is ignored by human rights organisations and indirectly fuelled by the US.

On Tuesday 23rd April 2013, the Iraqi army attacked protesters in the northern rural predominantly Sunni town of Hawija in Iraq. The protesters had been demanding that their basic rights be respected. This was a direct attack where forces went in and began to shoot and indiscriminately using live ammunition, tanks and helicopters. Forces also brought in trucks with water hoses and hosed demonstrators down using hot water, causing serious burns and deaths. At least 50 demonstrators were killed, an additional 150 injured and more than 400 were arrested and later many of them died under torture.

Since then the six Sunni provinces in Iraq have been on fire. The people are subject to heartless attacks by the majority Shia army and Shia militia men. Cases of mass execution, rape, detention and sectarian cleansing have become the norm.

Not a week goes by without receiving news of a cousin, friend or acquaintance being killed by the US imposed regime in Iraq. Yet the entire world media rarely reports anything, unless it is perpetrated by the Sunni population who retaliate or defend their women and children from the deliberate use of rape as a weapon to humiliate the population. Where is the promised democracy for Iraq? Where are the human rights organisations? Where are the feminists who are always banging on about women’s rights? But then again if a Muslim woman is raped to further political interests, then she is not a woman.

Fallujah

The unreported situation in places like Fallujah, Hawija and Ramadi has become so terrible that even American military veterans are campaigning to stop the sale of weapons to Iraq.

This is a letter written by Ross Caputi, a former US marine who served in Fajjuah and the founder and director of Justice for Falujjah Project addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry:

Dear Secretary Kerry,

I am writing to you veteran-to-veteran, man-to-man. However, I have decided to write to you publicly. The issue that I am writing about is too important, too many lives depend on it, and I cannot take the chance that this letter and the linked petition will only reach the eyes of one of your aides.

Like you, I felt betrayed that my country sent me to fight an unjust war, though my war was several decades after yours, and in Iraq. I have spoken out against that war to the best of my ability, as you once did against your war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In recent years you have found yourself on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but your attitudes towards war have changed drastically.

You supported the war in Iraq, the war that I was deployed to as a Marine, where I participated in the 2nd siege of Fallujah. You were at the end of your Presidential run during the build up to this operation. The 2nd siege of Fallujah was compared to Hue City for its military character, and to the My Lai Massacre for its moral character. But you supported this operation.

Ross Caputi is a former US marine. He is the founder and director of the Justice for Falujjah Project.
Ross Caputi is a former US marine. He is the founder and director of the Justice for Falujjah Project.

Fallujah is currently under siege once again. You have stated that US troops will not be sent back to Iraq to assist in the current siege, but you have agreed that the US should send weapons to the Iraqi government. I am writing to implore that you do everything within your ability to stop shipments of US weapons to Iraq, whether they are sold, gifted, or loaned. Arming an oppressive regime so that they may better crush a popular uprising is not in the best interest of Americans or Iraqis.

During that 2nd siege of Fallujah we killed thousands of civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands, destroyed nearly the entire city, and brought immeasurable loss and hardship upon those poor people. Since then I have devoted my life to raising awareness about the suffering I helped create in Fallujah, and to assisting Fallujans in their struggle with a public health disaster and ongoing repression.

I feel a moral obligation to do whatever is within my power to help these people who I once hurt. But I was not a lone actor in Iraq. I had the support of a nation behind me and I was taking orders from the world’s most powerful military. The 2nd siege of Fallujah was not exceptional; rather it was symbolic of our military’s conduct in Iraq and the way that our mission impacted the lives of Iraqis. Our war and occupation took so much from them. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced, permanent environmental contamination, and a new repressive regime that most Iraqis regard as begin more brutal than that of Saddam Hussein. This is the legacy of America’s involvement in Iraq. The least that we can do at this point is to end our complicity in their suffering.

The current violence in Fallujah has been misrepresented in the media. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior asserted earlier in the month that al Qaeda had taken over half of Fallujah and the media parroted this assertion. However, journalists who have done serious investigations into this assertion found it to be false. The uprising in Fallujah is a popular uprising, not one lead by an international jihadist group. The Iraqi government has not been attacking al Qaeda in Fallujah. Their assault has been indiscriminate, killing dozens of civilians and wounding even more. Many of these deaths have been documented by human rights organizations within Fallujah.

I know that the US plans to send further shipments of Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles. If we continue to send weapons to the Iraqi government, we will be further complicit in this violence. Iraqis have long known the Maliki regime to be brutal and repressive. This is not a regime the US should be sending weapons to. Some of your colleagues in Congress have voiced this same concern.

When you spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, you spoke with compassion for the Vietnamese people. You sympathized with the suffering that our illegitimate war brought to them. I am asking you to do the same for Iraqis. Please end all shipments of US made weapons to Iraq.

I have attached a petition with 11,610 signatures. Most of the signatories are Americans like me who want to be able to feel proud of their country, but cannot do so while we are assisting the Iraqi government in its violent internal repression.

Since the oil is running and Iran has become America’s new best friend, it does serve US interests to give Iran the scraps of the corpse that is the Iraqi state as long as they continue to cause unrest in the region and act as the sword of Damocles over the heads of Al Saud. This is all done with the most thinly veiled excuse of the new buzz word “anti-terrorism” which has now become synonymous with “Sunni” in the Iraqi/ Iranian Shia parlance.

Abu Hind Mohanned Al-Obaydi was born In London and taken by his family to Iraq in the late 1960s. He was brought up in Al Hawija, went to school in Kirkuk and completed his Linguistics degree at the University of Baghdad. He settled in the UK in 1993 after he predicted the end of Iraq, as he knew it. Abu Hind Mohanned Al-Obaydi is a professional translator currently in the last stages of reading for a degree in religious studies.

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