Iraqi Civilians Reveal Horrors of Being under ISIS Siege in Fallujah

Iraqi Civilians Reveal Horrors of Being under ISIS Siege in Fallujah
Tue Jun 28, 2016 17:49:15

When a five-year-old son asked her mother to kill him because he was too hungry, Umm Issam knew she would never return to Fallujah if she was able to leave.

Iraqi forces have declared the area free of terrorists from ISIS after a month-long operation.

The government said the destruction caused by the fighting was limited and vowed to do its utmost to allow the tens of thousands of displaced civilians to return to their homes.

But despite more than two years under the tyrannic rule of ISIS and months of a siege that starved the population, mother-of-nine Umm, 42, said she could never be happy in Fallujah again.

She explained: 'My son asked me to kill him because he was so hungry he couldn't take it anymore... By God that's what he said. He's five.'

Months earlier, she had a miscarriage in Fallujah hospital when an air strike hit a nearby building and caused panic.

She added: 'I was so scared, it was chaos, I miscarried. I was expecting twins. I lost my twins... I had gone to hospital because I had no food,' she said, holding one of her nine other children.

Behind her, in one of the ever-expanding displacement camps in Amriyat al-Fallujah, the Norwegian Refugee Council was conducting a delivery of basic goods for new arrivals.

The basic package, meant for a family housed in a single tent, consisted of six mattresses, a cooking kit, a camping lamp, a sheet of tarpaulin, an empty water container and brown tape.

'It's hot and dusty here, there isn't enough water or food, but we can survive,' said Umm.

'I don't want to go back. It has been through so much -- the Americans, Al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS), starvation... And I don't know what's next but this city is cursed, I'm not going back.'

Her husband has been detained for screening since they reached the camp on June 16.

And while military operations in the area are all but over, the humanitarian crisis is peaking and the number of displaced is continuing to grow.

Temperatures topping 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) combined with a lack of basic goods and even shelter for some of the displaced families have prompted aid groups to warn of an impending disaster.

Kefieh Saleh has been in the same camp 10 days and her family still does not have a tent to sleep under.

'My husband, as we speak, is working for the camp to help set up tents but we don't have one of our own. Can you imagine?,' she said.

She and her children share the grounds of the camp's prefab mosque and have been sleeping outside, sitting on a dirty black blanket with their backs propped up against the wall.

'Our area is not safe, and I don't believe it'll get better,' said the woman, from the Saqlawiya area northwest of Fallujah.

In his victory speech from central Fallujah Sunday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said a demining effort was needed before civilians could return.

'God willing, we will bring them back to their areas after we guarantee that the houses are safe and not booby-trapped,' he said.

Sectarian dynamics are also an obstacle to the return of displaced residents filling overwhelmed camps around Fallujah.

'In God's name I won't go back, I'll look for another place that's safe. Maybe Arbil or Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan.'

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