Al-Amiriya Shelter, Time and Again

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq Views: 5616

Imprints of hands of the victims of the al-Amiriya bomb shelter etched in the wall by the heat of the explosion. A US Bomb was dropped on the shelter in 1991 during the Gulf War, killing 403 civilians.

A few years ago, I stepped into the horror of the Gulf War. It was April 1999, and the place was Baghdad's al-Amiriya bomb shelter.

Living most of my life in a refugee camp in Gaza, where the murder of innocent people at the hands of Israeli troops is routine, I was little hesitant to walk into al-Amiriya. I was not braced for what I would witness. I already knew that hundreds of people had wasted there, during the Gulf War, in 1991, when an American 'smart' bomb shattered the giant compound. But that's all I knew.

It was cold, damp and dark. A few lonely florescent lamps were not working since the regular bombing of Baghdad's electric generators by US-British warplanes left the city without any power for most of the day, everyday. Ironically, the only light shed on the shelter came from the monstrous hole in the roof, made eight years ago by the American bomb. 

The shelter was designed to withstand a nuclear attack on Baghdad; it was solid and giant, and had the capacity to host hundreds of people. Among the scores of colorful pictures of the victims, there were a few photos of three Palestinians families. They were refugees, working and living in Iraq, and there, in this place, they died.

When the American bomb fell, the shelter's doors shut down, automatically. The doors were designed to do so, since the attack was never expected to target the shelter itself, but nearby areas. Those who didn't immediately die as a result of the massive explosion pounded at the door and screamed for help.

American officials at the time assured us that that the place was used for military purposes; as they always do, when innocent people are "mistakenly" killed.

The powerful explosion penetrated to the bottom floor where giant water tanks were stored. On that floor, families cooked and washed. Some of these tanks boiled with water. Seconds later, the tanks exploded and the boiling water rose to over three feet.

You could still see the mark of where the water rose, as well as the impression of the human flesh that melted to the wall due to the intense heat of the water.

"These are the marks of a woman's skin still holding her child," an Iraqi woman, who lost her entire family in al-Amiriya said. She left her husband and nine children and ran home to bring some food. She came back to find them all dead. Since then, she has lived in a tiny trailer in the shelter's backyard, escorting visitors with her black cloths and a candle. "These are my children", she points to a framed picture of happy looking children, neatly dressed and smiling politely.

As I stepped out of al-Amiriya's "tour", I could never escape the echoing voices of the Iraqi children, pounding at the door, pleading to God and to humanity to get them out of the inferno.

But al-Amiriya was neither the beginning, nor is it the end.

During the 1991 Gulf War to "liberate Kuwait", uncounted innocent lives were taken. Some estimates put the number of Iraq casualties during the war at over a million. Even the most moderate estimates are catastrophic.

The US has successfully liberated the oil fields in Kuwait, but the Iraq tragedy continues to unfold. Anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 Iraqi children have die every month, as a direct result of the US-led UN economic sanctions on Iraq that followed the war. Even United Nations' own reports testified to that.

The Oil-for-Food program, which came into effect nearly five years after the end of the Gulf War, was of little significance to assist an ailing economy and a ruined infrastructure. Iraq was still banned from importing many products using the little funds that the program provided.

Now the United States and its British allies began yet another war against Iraq, killing and maiming hundreds thus far, with the aim of "liberating Iraq", and "freeing the Iraqi people." It's appalling how such twisted logic can hold for such a long time.

An MSNBC commentator explained the reason why the first day of bombings in Iraq, was so concentrated and not widespread. "We have to keep in mind that in a few days, we will own this country," he said.

We need not examine such statements however, nor the provocative comments made by top US army officials, nor the desecration of an Iraqi flag and the offensive replacement of an American one, after the Umm al-Qasr battle. If this eagerness to invade Iraq was for the sake of the Iraqi people, why have we tortured and starved an entire generation of them for so long?

We can disagree on the reasons behind the war; whether it was for strategic control, the oil or Israel. But rational people should have no illusions, that saving the Iraqi people is not one of the reasons we are investing over $100 billion to finance this indefensible war. If you wish to have further proof, pay a visit to al-Amiriya shelter. Despite everything, it is still standing.

Baroud is the editor-in-Chief of and the author of "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq
Views: 5616

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
TO all you muslim religious ..conspiracy theory nuts:
I know how a lot of you freaks like to blame everything on Jews, on Americans, and the lot. You believe they became powerful and wealthy because of some secret evil alliance, or some other thing. Well you know what, there is a secret to their success. It's called democracy. It's called freedom. Once you release the individual from the chains of religion and dictatorships, they prosper. They build great cities and great technologies. And until you Muslim ..get this idea, you guys are just gonna be losers looking from the outside in, than winners looking from the inside out.

Brothers and sisters, be patient for ALLAH KNOWS BEST! The lier will pay his price toguether with his followers and whoever fails to see the truth after it has been revealed to them. Salam Alaikum

How sad.

The article is a bit bias and twisted. The oil for food program WOULD HAVE worked if Saddam would have spent the money on HIS people NOT on the Baath party buildings, private boats and other goodies.

So PLEASE, do not scorn the name of the innocent that died in the 1st Gulf War by using them to propogate your hate for the west.....that my brother...IS VERY JEWISH!

I do not know how to send this information to Arabic media channels but I believe, no I am sure, David Chadder from Sky news is either a spy or agent of some sort - I am not sure what branch, informing Coalition military about the location of Iraqi fighters and troops, especially informing them where to not attack from. If you are familiar with how they communicate you would have no doubt about it. American (western) news journalist are given visual codes to inform the interested parties if they are in distree or coerced.

Just thought you people should know.

'The International Jew' by Henry Ford, exposes the real agenda behind todays atrocities in ALL countries around the world. They obviously will stop at nothing -including millions of "dispensable" human lives - to achieve their end aim i.e. to control the world. Israel is already talking about diverting Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean via Haifa. Of course this war is NOT about liberating the Iraqi people

Why not have companies based in oil-importing Asian nations build factories in the Middle East? As I understand it, some of the royal families currently bring in, for example, Japanese construction companies for public works. Japan needs such construction projects as well as sales of Japanese products in the Middle East to avoid trade imbalances.

Japan, as far as I know, has been very careful not to interfere in Middle Eastern affairs. So why not have Japanese companies build factories that in turn provide meaningful employment for youth in the Middle East? Perhaps companies from Japan and other oil-importing Asian nations might provide good ideas for promoting economic development - and increased independence - throughout various oil-producing countries.

As Salaamu Alaikum.

Why did you start the war on Kuwait???

we unfortunatelly must lay the blame on the islamic states that are in bed with the usa and allow this things to happen they should get together and help one another after all they have what keeps the usa running ,oil, so if they let them conquer take their oil and bring christianity , they have no one to blame but their leaders. untill this changes the muslim world will come to exist .

I am completely startled and feel so powerless. I am an African-american and still feel like the subordinate citizen of my ancestors. No, I don't know what it's like to struggle and fight for my existence but somehow I have inherited the struggle. My heart pours out to any soul that faces any form of genocide. The interesting thing about media coverage in the United States is that is has the ability to shape the minds of its people. World politics is very foreign to the average civilian. May Allah (SWT) protect the true good and deal justly with the wrong doers. We plan and Allah (SWT) plans. And Allah (SWT)is the best of planners.

Dear Muslim friends, it is time to take control over your destiny. Do not buy products made in USA & UK. Do not deposit your money in their banks. Help your countries to develop industries, infrastructure, best education, research and best weapons to defend your countries.Do not immerse your self in the degraded western culture of clubs, bars, alcohol etc. Most important is to unite and help each other. I am certain that these actions will defintely collapse American empire. My prayers are with you and with Iraqi people.

dear brothers and sisters....assalam-aleykum

I was very saddened to read this article....I think there is one and only one reason why the Americans and Zionists are getting away with cold blooded murder...that is,.... the muslim Ummah has forgoten what is written in our Holy book...Unless we totally UNITE as commanded in Quran muslims would continue to suffer at the hands of those military powers...

The bond of Islam should be enough for us to put aside our individual differences...Once all the muslim countries one Ummah....only then we will be able to stop the aggretion being commited against all the muslims in todays world.

mahmood Alikhan

US is promising food, health and education to the Iraqi people. Its very good but world has to realise that Iraqi people are being deprived of all these things by US and British sanctions.

Also, how can we promise welfare to some members of a family while killing some of them. Simply, implicitly US is telling Iraqi people that We will give you food, health and education but after killing your families because you have a bad ruler.

One last thing, we, as a members of world, need to know that today's war can bring more casualities as compared to the war in the old days. The whole world has a very quick access to the current situation so it is impossible to hide the facts. The result of any bad action will be hatred means no peace.

May Allah aka God bless us with peace and happiness - Allah Hafiz

War is tragic. The troops are not welcome? Is Saddam's treatment of the Iraqi people welcome? Do we just do nothing? Is that the answer?

Beloved Iraqi people, America is coming there with full force to liberate you from your lives. Bush is paying heavy price to liberate you. The heavy price is Iraqi children infants and .young generation. Remember bush is liar; do not trust what bush is saying. Be aware, wolves are coming to invade Iraq in sheep's clothing. Remember he is best friend of Zoinist, bush cannot be your friend or "liberator" how Bush could be your well wisher? Goon party is coming there to posses' oil fields and your land. Remember bush is enemy of Islam he is fundamental and radical Christian crusader (Bush knows very well the definition of fundamental is Terrorist). He is just showing to you a rosy picture of the future, but reality is very cruel. Now Saddam Hussein is Saladin Ayubi. He is defending his motherland your motherland land Iraq. Be with him and fight for your land until you rid of the enemy from your land. If you will not defend yourself you will face the same situation as Palestinians are facing now.