Iraqis in the city of Ramadi and neighbouring towns held a general strike last weekend in a protest against a blockade by US troops. The strike was called as US troops mounted a major offensive on villages and towns along the Euphrates river up to the border with Syria.
Sheikh Majeed al-Gaood, of the Duleim tribe from Ramadi, spoke to Socialist Worker by telephone from the Jordanian capital, Amman. He said that on Friday 7 May, after US troops surrounded the city, “a call came from the mosques for a general strike in Ramadi and neighbouring towns. Schools, markets and offices shut down in protest at the blockade”.
“The civilian and military resistance distributed leaflets calling for the two-day strike,” he added.
Sheikh Majeed spoke on behalf of the Patriotic Forces Rejecting the Occupation (Wahaj Al-Iraq).
The Sunni city of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, is on a key junction along Highway Ten, which links the Iraqi capital with Syria and Jordan.
Reports from the Iraqi resistance say the US blockade started after an attack on US troops patrolling the southern edges of Ramadi. Soliders imposed a curfew and launched raids arresting dozens of young men.
According to a report in the Iraqi daily al-Zamman, US soldiers drove through Ramadi with loudspeakers urging people to break the strike. But they were ignored.
“There is no peace in Iraq,” the sheikh said. “The two-day strike is a blow to those who claim that ordinary people do not support the resistance.”
The US military claims the town is a stronghold of “Baathist remnants” and Al Qaida. But, according to Sheikh Majeed, the resistance is local and organised by tribes and the mosques.
Far from being a centre of support for the Baathists, Ramadi saw huge demonstrations against the Iraqi government in 1995. Over 2,000 locals were arrested and held without trial by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The city has continued its tradition of resistance by opposing the US-led occupation. In June 2003 residents demanded that US troops hand back the mayor’s office which they had taken over.
The protest turned into a full-scale revolt and the occupation forces have been battling to regain control ever since.
The two-day general strike in the city came as US troops launched Operation Matador, a major offensive against towns and villages near al-Qaim, which is on the border with Syria.
According to reports from the US military, the Marines have faced determined opposition from the resistance.
Hospital employees at Ramadi general hospital demonstrated after an overnight raid by US troops on 27 April. The doctors said that troops blocked access to the hospital and searched it for weapons after clashes between them and resistance fighters.
The Arabic banners read “Down with America” and “America — accept our demand for freedom”.
Samir al-Obeidi, an administrator at the hospital, told the Times that soldiers “came after the curfew without prior notice. They started searching all the wards, for men and women. Lots of people were horrified. They didn’t know what was happening. They kicked in any of the doors in the staff accommodation that were locked.”
Sheikh Majeed al-Gaood told Socialist Worker that the US broke an agreement with the resistance not to raid hospitals.
The agreement, brokered by religious leaders in the area, specified that neither the US troops nor the resistance would set up positions in or near hospitals.