Speech at Human Rights Defenders Forum


Samira Alaani





Meeting Name

Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity


First, salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,the greeting of Islam that means “Peace be upon you with God’s mercy and blessing.” Ladies and gentlemen, this year, 2013, marks the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq war. Since the invasion, the occupying U.S.–U.K.-led coalition forces and the Iraqi authorities have failed to fulfill their obliga-tion to protect people’s right to life and health, with devastating results for Iraq’s people. Grave human rights violations, against international law, have been reported during and after the Iraq war. Most of the alleged violations have not been properly investigated, nor have their perpetrators been brought to justice.

As a consequence of the use of inhuman, indiscriminate, and toxic weapons, many people have been killed, and many are still suffering physical harm without any reparations. Moreover, the devastating effect of the conflict will continue to victimize innocent children and infants who were not even born before or during the war and occupation.

Today, I am here among you as a messenger from Fallujah, or let me say, as a very close witness of the Iraqi Hiroshima. I have decided to tell today the life stories of the mothers in my city: aware of who did what, who encouraged, who kept silent, and who paid. I am a pediatrician, and I have worked in Fallujah since 1997. The story started in 2004 and has continued in a tragic series of events every single day until this moment. The mass use of dirty weapons in a city crowded with people has caused congenital malformations.

Women in Fallujah have different educational levels, different ideologies, and different ages, but they all share the same fear: congenital malformation. In the hospital where I serve, about 14 percent of the newborns come to life with various kinds of malfor-mations. About 5 percent of children die during their first year of life, with about 55 percent of those deaths being due to congenital malformations. With such a high rate of malformations, an integrated chain of social and psychological consequences has appeared and evolved to become a barrier between every couple and their dream to become parents one day.

As a part of Iraq, my city’s people never have had a proper chance to learn, educate themselves, and getenlightened, due to the wars, death, blood, sanctions, and poverty. In such a society, the mother suffers the blame either explicitly or implicitly for giving birth to a malformed child. This is what women in my city are going through every day: the dream of being a mother turned into a nightmare. Personally, I have witnessed the daily pain of watching children with no future and no hope in life. As a physician, I feel the pain. What about the mothers of those children? They would obviously die with every tear while they watch their sons’ and daughters’ tragedy with abso-lutely no recourse. The democracy of war has affected every one of us with no exception. Some have been killed, some orphaned, some widowed; some have cancer, some got malformed newborns, some lost their livelihood and became homeless. The least impacted person has become psychologically unstable and worried with fear of the future.

On behalf of the women of Fallujah, I would like to call on the U.S. and U.K. governments to disclose information regarding all types of weapons used during the occupation and to take the measures necessary to protect the right to life and health of the local people if a pollution problem is indicated. Finally, on behalf of the director of Fallujah Hospital and myself, I greatly thank Ms. [Karin] Ryan, His Excellency President Carter, and Mr. Jeremy Courtney for offering me the chance to share with you in this forum, to illustrate some facts and the experiences of the people I represent. I hope this forum will be a new start to make a suitable solution for the problems in Fallujah.


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