November 6, 2005
It usually takes less than an hour from Alqaim (Husaiba,
as locals call it) to Haditha. We left at 8.45 am to be at the first Haditha checkpoint at 5
pm. We had to take an hour detour on the dusty desert road, on which we were lost last time, to reach the
cement factory check point, normally10 minutes away on the paved road. But that was the easiest part of the
story. Before we were there an American convoy stopped us. We had to go out of the pavement for a few meters,
turn the cars to face the desert until the convoy passed and was far away. We hardly moved again, when
another convoy came from the opposite side. We had to leave the pavement and face the desert again. When they
were away, inside the Cement factory, we began to move.
But the Iraqi National Guards prevented us. "Go back" they ordered,
at gun points. It was not too hot on that late October day, but the wind and the sun were not helping the
fasting people, it was still Ramadan last fasting days. We had to wait for 5 hours. The majority of the
people on the road were families, going back with their animals and furniture to Si’da, after the
latest attack was over, (or so they believed). Tens of trucks and small cars were waiting hopelessly in the
middle of the desert. A deaf old woman in her 80's was crying bitterly, wondering God’s wisdom of not taking
her soul and helping her out of this situation!! "the cold killed me" she could hardly talk.
young mother of 6 children, Ida Thiyab, was changing her baby’s diapers; she left her home when he was only
one day old. Now he is two months. A third was looking for clean water to feed her baby. Soriya, a
mother and grandmother of a big family, suffers from asthma, and in the refugee camp the doctor did not know
how to help her…etc.
it not dangerous to go back home now, while the situation is still not safe?" (One of the biggest attacks
eventually began on Nov 5, 2005 named Steel Curtain, 3500 American and Iraqi troops participated in
"What else can we do?" replied Ida. It is getting too cold especially at night in the wilderness; we
were living in a (tent) that we made of flour sacs for two months".-
that there is no chance of opening the road that day, the drivers
decided to move, and try another checkpoint. This one was open
allright, but the queue was so long that you could not see its end. The
search was so minutely that it takes at least 10 minutes for one car
from either side to move. Some families tried to talk to the American
soldiers to make it easier for the children and old people. He was kind
and promised to help "but I have orders" he said. Breakfast time was
approaching, all the people were fasting.
We drove at 150k/h; we had to go through 3 more check points to reach
the last one at Haditha gate. There, few humvees (American armored vehicles) surrounded us from 3
sides. Some of the soldiers went down, took the firing position and began shouting in broken Arabic: "get
down and leave the doors open". We did immediately. They told us to move forward. We did.
In one of the cars a woman became very angry, she did not obey,
began shouting at the soldiers: "I am a doctor, I am supposed to be at work now, while I spent the day here
in these queues, why do you not respect our time, can you not see that we are civilians, how many times do
you have to search us…etc". Another woman was very worried about her, tried to go back and help, but ordered
not to move "what is this? Are we arrested?" she complained, but did not get a reply. There was fuss,
wireless calls between the soldiers and officers, in the end two very big built officers came near and asked
who the woman was who was pissed off.
She did not stop shouting at them. "We are fed up" she said. The
officer, curiously enough, asked her calmly if she had any questions, and why she was angry, "it is for your
own sake, and ours too, this delay" he said. Her car was scrupulously searched, and let go.
The Iraqi soldiers, whose accent was clearly southern, asked for
badges. As we were not from Haditha, they told us that we had to go back "the road is closed in 15
minutes" he said. We decided to leave the car, cross the checkpoint on foot, and tried to get a car on the
other side. Haditha is now no more than 15 minutes away.
The situation here was different than it was in Al Qaim. The
American and Iraqi soldiers were everywhere in the streets. There was no more car searching, only
checking the IDs. Traces of the last attack could be seen everywhere on the buildings, the faces, and the
We heard the same scenario. Water, electricity, phones, roads were
all cut off. The city was besieged before the bombing began on October 5, 2005 and went on for 18 days. Many
houses were demolished, many families left to the refugee camps, many people were arrested, including the
Moslem Scholars Association secretary in Haditha and his son. The general hospital was occupied for 10
days; the hospital director and one of the doctors were brutally beaten and locked up for a week inside the
hospital. Many schools and offices were still occupied. All houses were raided, some twice a day. All weapons
were confiscated including the personal. There is no government, no offices, no schools, no work, no
markets…nothing. "Haditha is a fallen city" was sarcastically repeated.
Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, the director of Haditha
General Hospital and Dr. Jamil Abdul Jabbar, the only surgeon in the Haditha area, were
arrested for a week, very badly beaten and threatened to face the same treatment in the future by the
Dr.Walid said "they arrested me in my house in front of my
family, covered my eyes, and tied my hands to the back on Oct 5 2005 morning, during the last attack on
Haditha (360 kilometers west of Baghdad). They occupied the hospital for 8 days and made it their office.
The first day they beat me on my eyes, nose, back, hands, legs... My face was covered with blood. I could
not wash my face because bleeding would start again. When they removed the tie I could not see. They
investigated me until the afternoon. I realized later that I was arrested in the hospital store. Then they
tied my hands to the front, and left me for two days. I was moved then to the pharmacy department. They
accused me of treating terrorists, and asked for their names.
I told them that I treat patients regardless of their identity or
their political position, according to my oath as a doctor; if they were national guards (which they actually
were) or American soldiers. And anyway, if I do not want to treat the insurgents, I have no choice, because
they were armed and masked. I would do anything they tell to do. Few days later, one of the soldiers came in
the room, did not say anything, kicked me again on my face and left"
Dr. Jamil, a surgeon for 20 years, was also arrested and very
brutally beaten. When we met him, 22 days later, his face was still bluish. His nose was broken, and a big
opening in his head: "They beat me on my eyes and nose, kicked me with boots under my chin. One of them
threatened me if I didn't talk after he counts to three, he would shoot me. He began counting, after three he
turned the gun upside down and hit me on the back of my head with the gun. For days I could not move or see.
They threatened us of abused our families. For some reason they took my picture while I was bleeding, I
could hear the camera click"
Both doctors were threatened if they didn't talk, they would receive
the same treatment in the future. They were warned not to pass any information of the arrest to the media.
They were asked who wrote the hostile slogans against the American on the opposite wall of the hospital
(there were different slogans on that wall from opposite sides, the American soldiers –the F word- and the
insurgents). What are the names of the insurgents they treated? And what are the bodies’ pictures in the
Dr.Walid said he did not know who wrote on the wall outside the
hospital, what the names of the insurgents were, because they were masked. He explained that the dead bodies’
pictures were of unknown people whose bodies were found after the fighting. "We can not keep these bodies
forever; we do not have enough cold boxes. So, after two months, we take their pictures and bury them, so
that whenever someone from their families comes to ask we show the pictures of the dead bodies".
The UN, the international HR organizations, WHO,
Doctors sans frontiers…and all who it may concern are called upon to do something to help these, and other
Iraqi doctors, and to prevent similar treatment in the future. Dr.Walid and Dr. Jamil believe that
they may face the arrest and beating in the future. They demand that the American troops stop occupying the
hospital and destroying it every time they attack Haditha. They also believe that the Iraqi
authorities are incapable of protecting them.
The hospital became a center of almost everything after the attack.
Relief distribution, electricity and water pipes repairing, fuel…etc. Dr.Walid had to arrange for these
details and send workers in the ambulance. An officer asked dr.Walid what he thinks of the Americans, and he
replied "you are occupation troops, I wish that you were friends, but this way, things do not work"
"Is it not better that we are here?" he asked again.
"No" dr. Walid replied "look at you, heavily armed in your military
clothes, you frighten children. You create tension". Dr. Walid was offered $30 as an apology
compensation for beating and humiliating him. "I did not know what to do, I did not want to reject them and
create more problems, and I could not accept them, so I gave them to the cleaning workers". One of the
American soldiers whispered to dr.Walid, that the compensation they should pay if such an aggression happens
in the US, would buy the whole city of Haditha.
The troops are everywhere (in the hospital, the assistant room
became the investigation room) . They occupy any house for 2 or 3 hours. You find them in the house garden or
on the roofs at any time. They are occupying 8 schools now, the Education Office, the water project, the
municipality, the court…filling the windows with sand sacs, and turned them into hq's. Many people
whose stuff, money, documents…etc were confiscated during the house raids, were given small sheets of paper
saying that they could collect them in this or that school.