Feature: 20 years after U.S. invasion, tragedy of Haditha massacre not forgotten by Iraqis

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Twenty years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the residents of Haditha, a city located on the banks of the Euphrates River in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, still recall with great pain and anger the massacre committed by U.S. soldiers against innocent civilians.

In the early morning on Nov. 19, 2005, a massive explosion occurred near his house in Haditha, about 200 km northwest of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, recalled Khalid Salman Rasif, a 49-year-old lawyer.

The blast killed a U.S. Marine and wounded two others in a convoy, prompting the surviving soldiers to go on a revenge raid on local civilians.

Hours later, Rasif managed to sneak into his uncle Salim’s house to check if any of his family were fine. There he met 11-year-old Safa, Salim’s granddaughter, who told him that eight of her family members were killed by American soldiers earlier and she was the only survivor.

Seven family members of Abdul Hameed, another uncle of Rasif, were also killed by American soldiers, including Rasif’s sister and her child, Safa told Rasif.

When Rasif reached the home of Hameed the next day, he “found something tragic and unbelievable” because blood was everywhere. “It appeared that the American forces had dragged the bodies before transferring them to the Haditha Hospital. The same thing happened in my cousin’s house, where I found blood everywhere,” he told Xinhua.

During the massacre, American soldiers also stormed the house of Jamal al-Ghurairi, driving her four sons into one room and shot them dead. Covered in blood, she rushed to knock on the door of the home of her neighbor, Aws Fahmi al-Shammary.

But when Al-Shammary went out of his home to see what was happening, he immediately received a shot by an American sniper in his hip.

“The shooting hurt me. My wife and I suffered a lot because I couldn’t move properly and I had to receive treatment regularly for about a year and a half,” Al-Shammary told Xinhua.

Victims of the massacre also include four students who were traveling to college in a taxi. The American soldiers stopped the taxi, took the students and driver out, and killed them all.

Jamil Ayada, the brother of two of the college students killed, described the day of the killing as “bloody” and “dark.” “After they searched them and took all their documents (ID cards), they horrifically executed them,” he told Xinhua, with tears in his eyes.

“The victims did not leave their homes to fight, they were living in peace when they were killed. They were children, women, men and elderly people,” said Ayada.

“We look at America with contempt, because the U.S. occupation forces are terrorists, killers, and creators of terrorism,” he said, adding that those American soldiers responsible for the massacre should be prosecuted.

However, Haditha’s tragedy did not end with the massacre, as local residents were constantly subjected to random arrests, detentions and torture by American troops.

In 2006, Dham Badr, a visual artist in the city, was arrested by U.S. soldiers and tortured without charges before he was transferred to the Bucca detention center in the southern city of Basra.

Badr said that, in addition to being stripped naked and urinated on his head and body, he was also punched, slapped, kicked and battered with sticks and metal rods by American soldiers.

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Iraqis were subjected to U.S. punishment if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ghassan Eyada Menshid, a resident of Haditha and a journalist working for a Baghdad-based private TV channel, was arrested by the U.S. soldiers on July 10, 2005 while driving with his friend, a police officer, near the town of Heet, some 160 km west of Baghdad.

Both Menshid and his friend were injured after they were caught in an exchange of fire between Sunni insurgents and U.S. forces.

After that, Menshid was detained for over a year and subjected to severe physical and mental torture. The American soldiers left him out in the sweltering sun for long hours and put him in a small iron cage for 23 days, allowing him only to go to the toilet twice a week and take a shower once a week that lasted no more than two minutes.

Menshid said he had spent eight months of his imprisonment in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where he was insulted and tortured. And American soldiers either blocked or deliberately delayed the visits by his family members.

He criticized the Americans for lying about their promise to turn Iraq into a democratic and free country.

“We have not seen anything. They turned over control of the nation to competing sectarian and ethnic parties, who divided the wealth while the Iraqi people are groaning in hunger and poverty,” he said. 

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