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a balanced view of the 'resistance'

media man | 09.11.2004 14:02 | Sheffield

The Guardian interviews a number of those who are fighting the U.S in Fallujah

from the Guardain

We are not here to liberate Iraq, we're here to fight the infidels'

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Falluja
Tuesday November 9, 2004
The Guardian

A gun and the Koran in an Iraqi insurgent's base in Falluja
A gun and the Qur'an in an Iraqi insurgent's base in Falluja. Photo: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty

In the front yard of a half-built house in Falluja, a dozen fighters sat in a semicircle. With Kalashnikovs in their laps and copies of the Qur'an in their hands, they stared at us suspiciously.

The silence was punctuated by the sound of mortar shelling. With each explosion, the fighters would cry, "Allahu Akbar".

Eventually, the mujahideen started talking: "Who are you?" "What do you do?" "Why the big cameras?"

But mostly they were interested only in converting us to Islam. They were still describing the pains I would go through in hell when another fighter, a short thin teenager, appeared. He was still dressed in his white pyjamas and rubbed his eyes as he listened to the conversation.

"What are you doing?" he asked one of the fighters.

"We are preaching to them about Islam," said the fighter.

"Why? They are not Muslims?"


The young man looked with puzzlement at the other fighter and said: "But then, why don't we kill them?"

"We can't do that now. They are in a state of truce with us," the fighter said.

he fighters belonged to Tawhid and Jihad, the group that has claimed responsibility for most of the violence sweeping Iraq. Eradicating these men is one of the prime objectives of the US offensive on Falluja.

At first sight, they all looked and behaved the same; young men in trainers and tracksuits preaching Islam. As time passed, they became more relaxed and open about who they were and why they were there.

It became apparent that they were an odd bunch of people from different places and with different dreams.

There were two kinds of mujahideen bound together in a marriage of convenience. One kind, Arab fighters from the new generation of the jihad diaspora, were teachers, workers and students from across the Arab world feeling oppressed and alienated by the west; they came to Iraq with dreams of martyrdom.

The other kind, Iraqi fighters from Falluja, were fighting the army that occupied their country.

They were five Saudis - or the people of the peninsula, as they called themselves - three Tunisians and one Yemeni. The rest were Iraqis.

Most of the time, when they weren't reading or praying, they spoke about death, not fearfully, but in happy anticipation. They talked about how martyrs would not feel pain and about how many virgins they would get in heaven.

I asked one of them, a young teacher from Saudi Arabia, why he was there. He started reading the verses in the Qur'an that urge Muslims to commit jihad. He read about the importance of martyrdom. After 20 minutes, he directed me to another fighter, an older man with a beard and a soft voice who said his name was Abu Ossama from Tunisia.

"We are here for one of two things - victory or martyrdom, and both are great," he said.

"The most important thing is our religion, not Falluja and not the occupation. If the American solders came to me and converted to Islam, I won't fight them. We are here not because we want to liberate Iraq, we are here to fight the infidels and to make victorious the name of Islam."

He continued to explain his jihad theories: "They call us terrorists because we resist them. If defending the truth is terrorism, then we are terrorists."

Suddenly, there was a heavy burst of gunfire. The young Saudi teacher ran to fetch a machine gun. With ammunition belts wrapped around his neck, he and a young Tunisian carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher ran outside.

The Saudi reached a trench. Opening his Qur'an, he read for a while and then pointed his machine gun at the horizon, trying to release the safety catch.

He fiddled with the gun for a few minutes, then turned to me: "Do you know how to make these things work?"

Abu Yassir, a short, heavy-built, middle-aged Iraqi with a grey beard, was the "amir", or commander, of this group. He was a more experienced fighter and looked after the others.

When it was time to break their fast, the men poured food into a big tray and, exchanging jokes, scooped rice with their fingers. I had to keep reminding myself that these people blow up civilians every day in Iraq.

After the food, the amir told his story.

He was a retired military officer and ran a business making electric generators. He was happy to see the back of Saddam Hussein and to get rid of the Ba'athist regime.

But, he said, "as the time passed by and as the occupation became more visible, more patriotic feelings grew bigger and bigger. Every time I saw the Americans patrolling our streets I became more humiliated."

He described how locals from Falluja and other places started to organise themselves into small cells and to attack the Americans.

"We just wanted them to leave our cities. In the beginning I had a 'job' every month, setting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or firing mortars, and would go back to my work most of the time. But then I realised I can't do any thing but jihad as long as the Americans occupied my country."

He closed his workshop, sold his business and used the money to sponsor the group of fighters.

"The world is convinced that we people of Falluja are happy to kill the innocents, that's not true, even when we execute collaborators and people working for the Americans, I feel sad for them and sometimes cry, but this is a war."

We slept in one of the many empty houses, but every few moments we heard the sound of an explosion. Suddenly, there was a huge blast. We ran outside.

The fighters were already in the street, shouting "Allahu Akbar" every time they heard explosions, believing it would divert the missiles away.

We walked in the darkness until we reached a mosque, were we spent the night listening to the heavy bombing and the shrapnel hitting the walls.

The next day, the mujahideen left the house where they had stayed for the last few days, believing they had been spotted by the Americans.

There they took their final fighting positions and designated one of them, a young Iraqi, as the unit's martyr - a fighter whose task is to explode himself next to the Americans.

The amir told me: "All we want is the Americans to leave, and then everything will be fine, the Kurds will stop talking about seceding from Iraq, the Shias will stop talking about settling scores with Sunnis and each province will elect a council and these councils will elect a president.

"That is the election we see democratic, not an American one."

But, he said: "We are besieged here now. It is a great emotional victory, but bad strategy. It is very easy now for the Americans to come and kill us all."

media man


Display the following 4 comments

  1. Comment — Leila Mantoura
  2. similarities... — open mind hopefully
  3. Yep — LDT
  4. Please note that you can just give the relevent link... — King Amdo