THE Sadr City region of Baghdad is facing a humanitarian catastrophe with tens of thousands of residents cut off from clean water, food and essential supplies, the United Nations children’s aid agency Unicef warned yesterday.
For the past seven weeks US and Iraqi puppet government forces have been bombarding the densely-populated area, where two million people live, but have faced determined resistance from Mahdi Army fighters.
The fighting has severely damaged water and sewage pipes, posing serious health risks, and hospitals are reporting shortages of medical supplies.
Unicef wants better access to those in need and said it is working hard to get water tankers into affected areas and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics.
The Iraqi puppet government estimates that 1,000 have been killed in Sadr City in recent weeks; aid agencies report that most of these were civilians and 60% were women or children.
Of the 51 American deaths in Iraq in April, more than twenty were in Sadr City, many in circumstances most feared by American commanders – block to block, house to house fighting in the warren of streets in a slum city.
The US military has wheeled in Abrams tanks, brought out 200-pound guided rockets, and called in air power in a major way.
Planes, helicopters, and Hellfire-missile-armed drones are now all regularly firing into the heavily populated urban neighborhoods in east Baghdad.
US forces often call in airstrikes or use guided rockets to attack ‘insurgents,’ ‘criminals,’ or ‘known criminal elements’, destroying whole buildings, even rows of buildings – in one case recently damaging a hospital and destroying ambulances.
Every day civilians die and children are pulled from the rubble.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that more women carried out suicide attacks so far this year than in the five previous years combined, and attacks by women are expected to increase again in the coming months.
Twelve women carried out suicide attacks in Iraq in the first few months of this year compared with 11 between 2003 and 2007.
Former US government adviser Farhana told the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington on Monday: ‘Between January and April, there were 12 suicide attacks by women in Iraq. That marks an exponential increase.
‘So long as this conflict continues, you will see greater instability in Iraq and women will be greatly victimized, you will see more women in Iraq choose suicide terrorism in the next few months.
‘Iraqi women, slowly, over the course of the conflict have been marginalised.’
Speaking of Iraq under Saddam he added: ‘Women were at the forefront of their society. They were in the Iraqi cabinet, in government, in NGOs. We stripped them of those opportunities.
‘Many have left but those who stayed behind are also victims of rape and torture and kidnapping. So they are being victimised twice.
‘Women use attacks as a protest. In Iraq, they are protesting at the loss of their men, the loss of their society and the loss of their country.
‘Some may have been coerced into carrying out suicide attacks, but the greater danger comes from those who choose to blow themselves up.
‘Iraq is a country of widows, when women are vulnerable and have to protect themselves and play the role of the man and woman of the household, they are easily exploitable.
‘But we can’t assume that all Iraqi women suicide attackers are exploited and recruited.
‘We have to ask how many women are doing this because they want to – that’s the more serious question.’