An 11-day curfew imposed by U.S.
occupation forces in the Iraqi city of
Samarra cut it off from the rest of
the war-torn country and left its
300,000 residents struggling to
survive as supplies of food, medicine
and fuel dwindle alarmingly.
"There is no electricity, no
water, no schools and no hospitals.
Samarra has turned into a city for the
dead," says Abu Mahmoud, a
65-year-old father of three.
The curfew was imposed in the mainly
Sunni city on May 6 after a bomb
attack killed 12 police officers,
including the police chief, Abd al-Jalil
al-Dulaimi. American and Iraqi troops
responded by sealing off the city,
closing all entrances with concrete
slabs and sand bags. They also imposed
very strict restrictions on the
movement of people and goods into the
The situation worsened after the
failure of the city’s power grid and
main water pipe – both were hit by
the bomb attack – triggering
electricity and water shortages.
Doctors in Samarra’s main hospital
say patients are dying due to lack of
fuel for generators. Ten people,
including seven infants, had already
died because of lack of fuel to power
generators and operate life-saving
"The young and the elderly are
most at risk. On one day, four
new-born babies died because there was
no energy to power incubators," a
doctor said on condition of anonymity.
Residents say people are using wooden
boats in the Tigris River to ferry
food supplies and the wounded to the
nearby town of Tikrit. Moreover, U.S.
troops turn back aid trucks, further
adding to the plight of the city’s
residents. Only one truck sent by the
provincial council packed by food,
fuel and medicine was allowed into the
city after intense security searches,
but many residents said they received
An Iraqi Red Crescent worker from
Tikrit said three of his
organization’s trucks had been
turned away. "The humanitarian
situation in Samarra is terrible. Many
have already run out of food and
hospitals have closed because of an
absence in power and medicine,"
An Iraqi humanitarian group, Doctors
for Iraq, expressed grave concern over
the situation in Samarra, calling for
the immediate lifting of movement
restrictions, and for local NGOs and
health workers to be allowed into the
city as soon as possible.
"Doctors for Iraq condemns in the
strongest terms any activities that
prevent civilians from accessing
healthcare or humanitarian assistance
by all actors engaged in the
conflict," it said in a
The U.S. army admitted that the curfew
made life harder for Samarra’s
residents, but claimed that the strict
measures were necessary. "This
curfew ... did cause problems for the
people and made living very
difficult," U.S. military Captain
Aydin Mohtashamian told Reuters.
"But it is important to note it
was because of the attack that the
(local) government imposed these
But residents say the historic city
has been almost forgotten by the
government since a major Shia shrine
was bombed in February 2006, an attack
that triggered the wave of violence
that has pushed Iraq toward a
full-blown civil war. Prime Minister
Nouri Malili has promised to build the
shrine’s golden dome, but
construction has not begun.
Residents now complain that they are
“victims of collective
punishment," as rebels stepped up
attacks against policemen and
civilians. "The city is dying and
the government is watching,"
tribal leader Mutashar Hussein said.
"This curfew will not help calm
the situation because it's a form of
collective punishment against innocent
residents who have nothing to do with
Abu Khalid, a 55-year-old businessman
and father of five who fled sectarian
violence in Baghdad to settle in
Samarra, now wants to move again.
"This punishment resembles a
death sentence against an entire
population," he said. "I'm
really thinking of leaving Iraq even
if I had to live in a tent ... at
least that's better than this