Thursday, 16 September 2010


Reporter Fouad Hady


A must watch





It is seven years since the invasion of Baghdad and only now is the US withdrawing its forces from Iraq, but the Iraqi people themselves, meanwhile, are having to deal with what appears to be a more immediate and devastating legacy from the war - stories are now emerging of increased deformities in the country's newborn babies as well as a dramatic rise in the number of children with cancer. Dateline's Walkley Award-winning reporter Fouad Hady, an Iraqi-Australian, went back home to investigate. As you know, Dateline always warns it’s viewers when they are about to show images or sequences that they think you might find upsetting. Well, George Negus had a long look at Fouad's piece and it's definitely upsetting - confronting, in fact. Nevertheless, he urges you to stick with it. It says a lot about the ethical dilemma of modern armed conflicts like Iraq.

REPORTER: Fouad Hady

I'm travelling to Falluja - about two hours drive west of Baghdad - the scene of fierce fighting between Sunni insurgents and US forces in 2004. My driver is Mohammed, a mechanic who lives here, he remembers a happier time.

MOHAMMED, DRIVER (Translation): This is our city, Falluja. Every Monday and Tuesday it used to celebrate weddings, happy occasions, newborn babies and young men and women getting married…..

He says that has all changed now.

MOHAMMED (Translation): They don't have very high hopes of marrying and starting a family because they are scared to have children. This is the stricken Falluja city.

Mohammed and his new bride stayed in Falluja throughout the fighting. They say there is a terrible legacy.

MOHAMMED (Translation): She was two months pregnant when the battles with the American forces started. They were fierce battles and the American forces moved into the houses. There was heavy aerial bombing and armoured vehicles came in. A while later Zahraa was born disabled –she has six digits in her hands and feet – here are her hands and here are her feet. They are the effects – the doctors would not give us reports. She also had general paralysis and obesity, an allergy in the trachea, asthma, cross-eyed and also has mild mental retardation.

MOHAMMED’S WIFE (Translation): I had high hopes when I was pregnant with her - I was expecting her to grow up, play, to guide her, play with her, take her out, enrol her at school... In two years, all kids her age will start school, except for her.

MOHAMMED (Translation): We had a baby boy after her and when he was three or four days old, he died. He had an opening in the crown of the head, from the effects. It's not the only case in Falluja - there are not hundreds but thousands of cases in Falluja.

Mohammad and many others believe US bullets and bombs - which spread depleted uranium - have made Falluja toxic. He wants me to meet some of his neighbours.

REPORTER (Translation): What is your son’s condition?

WOMAN (Translation): My son’s condition is from the effects of the war – I was pregnant with him when Falluja was attacked – I was pregnant during the first attack and he was barely 40 days old during the second. So that is why this happened to my son Abdul Rahman. It is the effects of war – the bombs the Americans dropped on us. In general, Falluja’s women are not happing children.

REPORTER (Translation): Do you know women, like neighbours, friends…

WOMAN (Translation): All of them.

REPORTER (Translation): Do they miscarry or can’t they fall pregnant?

WOMAN (Translation): She miscarries - then can’t fall pregnant – my sister miscarried as well.

REPORTER (Translation): The same condition?

WOMAN (Translation): Yes, the same condition.

REPORTER (Translation): Do you know any neighbours in the same condition – miscarry and so on?

WOMAN (Translation): All of them.

The fighting in Falluja filled the cemeteries, so people were buried here in the sports ground and the locals say the curse of Falluja continues

REPORTER (Translation): What is this?

LOCAL MAN (Translation): It's for children who were born with deformities and incurable diseases. They grow to about five or six months of age and don't survive any longer. This whole cemetery is especially for children. These are the deformed children.

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