|Citizens of town in central Iraq take pride in their resistance to American-led occupation. By Wisam al-Jaff in Ramadi|
|"Nothing's happening. They haven't shown up until now," the former army officer muttered into his mobile phone, keeping his eye trained on the road leading to a former palace now used as a base by the local US Marine garrison. "We expect that at any minutes the Americans will enter," he explained. "And that's why we are now trying to protect our town. The Americans have nothing else to do here but arrest people."|
|After months of skirmishing with US forces, insurgents and citizens of this town say that they are preparing to drive out the Americans altogether. They are attempting to emulate their neighbours in Fallujah, where the US Marines have essentially abandoned the town to the insurgents. The two centres share tribal ties - both are dominated by the Dulaim tribe - as well as religious conservatism and a history of resistance to central authority that dates back to Saddam's day. Many citizens proudly point out that Ramadi is the hometown of Mohammed Madhlum al-Alwani, a military officer who was executed for attempting to lead a coup against Saddam. |
Today, however, the Americans are the enemy. Ramadi has been a centre of anti-Coalition activity since autumn 2003, but residents told IWPR they would intensify their activity - because though sovereignty has been transferred to Iraqis, foreigners remain. "We were patient. We waited for the handover. We told the mujahideen to be patient and to wait for June 30 [the original scheduled day for the transfer of power], but we were disappointed," said Hameed al-Fahdawi, 48, the owner of a stationary store. Attacks, he said, "will continue as long as the Americans stay in the town."
During the past three months, Ramadi has seen numerous fire-fights between insurgents and US troops, as well as the more common roadside bombs and mortar barrages. Although insurgents in the town did not have the same street presence as those in Fallujah, pickup trucks filled with weapons, their windscreens removed to enable occupants to shoot out of the front of the vehicle, could be found on the side-streets. For many in Ramadi, as in Fallujah, the fight is a question of religious injunction. "Jihad [holy war] is an obligation according to Sharia law. Any man or youth who can carry a weapon must defend the town when the Americans enter," said Uthman al-Dulaimi, 38, who owns a shop for religious books.
"Americans raided mosques and arrested many imams, and defiled the holy Quran," he said. "They have no fear of God, they don't respect our religion." For others, ejecting the Americans is a matter of pride. "They provoke us when they enter our town. We are Arabs and we have our tribal traditions," said Khalid al-Namrawi, a former captain in the Iraqi army. "We will not allow any stranger or foreigner to enter and wander among us, even on over our dead bodies." He added that some locals feel threatened by US forces in their town, expecting their homes will be raided and their money and gold stolen. "Nobody can stop them. They arrest suspects at will and release them after torture and humiliation in prison," al-Namrawi claimed.
Many in Ramadi are anxious to follow Fallujah's example. "The people of Fallujah made us raise our heads high, and became an example in resistance, and locals of Ramadi should emulate them," said Suleiman al-Asafi, 50. "It's a disgrace to us that we do not resist the occupier when they enter the town, while our brothers in Falluja sacrifice all they have. "We must sacrifice, and take Fallujah as an example. It's impossible to achieve our goals without sacrifice."
Wisam al-Jaff is an IWPR trainee.