UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: No end to violence in Saddam's home province
BAGHDAD, 24 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - In a series of articles, IRIN documents the levels of violence and consequent needs of the population in six different areas of the country. Scroll to the bottom for links to the other articles in the series.
Home of Iraq’s deceased former president Saddam Hussein, Salah ad-Din province has been rocked by anti-US insurgency, assassinations and sectarian violence ever since US-led forces invaded the country in 2003.
Situated some 200km north of the capital, Baghdad, and with a population of about 1.6 million, Salah ad-Din province is located in the heart of the so-called ‘Sunni triangle’. Nearly four years of violence in this province have claimed the lives of about 4,800 civilians, according to a local police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to release such figures.
"Sentiments against US and Iraqi forces are increasing daily in this province and that has led to an increase in the attacks against these forces by car bombs, roadside bombs and ambushes. Most of these attacks are inaccurate and cause casualties among civilians," the police officer said.
"There are at least 10 incidents a day in this province, including assassinations against political figures or those who cooperate with the US forces. And sectarian violence erupted after last year’s bombing of the important Shi’ite al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra," he added.
Samarra is a city which administratively belongs to Salah ad-Din. The city is about an hour's drive south of Tikrit, the capital of the province and Saddam’s hometown. On 22 February, 2006, the Shi’ite golden dome shrine in Samarra was bombed by extremists, widely believed to be Sunnis. The attack spawned days of reprisal attacks between the country's two major Muslim sects, Sh’ites and Sunnis, and was one of the main causes for an escalation of sectarian violence throughout Iraq.
Last October, the sectarian slaughter in Salah ad-Din reached its peak in Balad, a religiously mixed city on the province’s outskirts. More than 100 people, mainly Sunni Muslims, were killed in about four days of attacks by Shi’ite death squads, allegedly drawn largely from the Mahdi army of the Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
"Coalition forces and successive Iraqi governments should have dealt with this city in a different way after the [US] invasion. Most of its [Balad’s] sons held key positions in Saddam's regime - such as in the army and intelligence services - and suddenly they found themselves out of all this," said Taha Ahmed Fakher, a former general who served for nearly 23 years in the former Iraqi army.
"Now, the Iraqi government and US forces should contain this city’s anger, especially after the execution of Saddam Hussein and his half brother," Fakher added.
Following a year-long trial by an Iraqi government-appointed Special Tribunal, Saddam was hanged on 30 December 2006. He was convicted of ordering the killing of 148 Shi’ites in Dujail, near Tikrit and one of the few Shi’ite-dominated towns in Salah ad-Din province. The order came after an attempt on his life there in 1982.
Both the trial and the hanging of Saddam were mired in controversy. Many questioned the legality of the court and its real motives, given that it was appointed by a Shi’ite-dominated government. Saddam was a Sunni. In addition, the apparent taunting Saddam endured before his hanging enraged his supporters and provoked international condemnation.
Sixteen days after Saddam’s hanging, his half brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was also hanged on the same charge. His apparently accidental decapitation in the process further fuelled mounting tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq.
Displaced families and humanitarian needs
The violence in Salah ad-Din has caused the displacement of thousands of residents. Throughout the province there are about 2,850 displaced families – or some 12,000 individuals - living in abandoned government buildings, parks, mosques or staying with relatives, according to Thawra Baker Abid, director of the Iraqi Red Crescent branch in Tikrit.
"These families came from Baghdad and from the southern provinces of Kut [now known as Wasit] and Basra after the explosion at the Shi’ite shrine in Samarra. Others came from the nearby religiously mixed cities of Balad and Tarmiyah," Abid said.
"It's not easy all the time to get assistance from Baghdad or from NGOs because of the security situation. Because of that, we depend largely on donations from locals. We are in dire need of beds, warm clothes, blankets and the most important things are medicines for chronic diseases such as cardiac diseases, blood pressure disorders and diabetes," she added.
Mohammed Sahib Ali is a 48-year-old government employee who was forced to drive north with his five-member family after being threatened by Shi’ite militants in Baghdad’s Hurriyah area.
"We are dying here. Not enough food, not enough medicines. I can't go to work and my three sons can't attend their classes. We don't know what to do," said Ali, who for the past five months has been living in a school with his family.
Like many in other parts of Iraq, the residents of Salah ad-Din province have to make do with poor municipal services. They have electricity for about six hours a day, there are no sewage networks in most areas and they can only buy oil products on the black market.
Salam Hashim Salih, a 36-year-old taxi driver living in Tikrit, said he has to store his family’s waste and sewage in holes in the ground next to his house and then call the municipality to collect it.
"We have to call these tankers nearly every two months. Of course, we have to pay for them to come. I have to pay about 50,000 to 60,000 Iraqi Dinars [$47] and of course this is not official," Salih said. "Because of having to store our sewage, we have insects and a foul odour all over the house."
Local officials said the deteriorating security situation was preventing companies and contractors from doing their jobs.
"We can't attract contractors and companies as the security situation is getting worse day after day. And if they start their work, they can't do it easily and it often takes a long time to do simple things," said Amir Qandel, projects director for the province.
This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2007
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