Iraqis Ask - 'Who Will Give
Us Back Our Health?'

By Dahr Jamail

Back in the 1980's, nuclear armed Israel carried out a pre-emptive bombing of Iraq's Al-Tuetha nuclear power station which is located just south of Baghdad. While Saddam Hussein didnít posses nuclear weapons, his nuclear power station which was being constructed still had much radioactive waste stored in two large warehouses. The waste, stored mostly in large metal drums, sat dormant for many years.
After the Anglo-American Invasion last spring the warehouses were looted, and many of the barrels containing radioactive material were carted away to be washed out in the small stream which separates the tiny rural village from Al-Tuetha. After being cleaned in the water supply for the area, the barrels were then sold to uneducated people in the village to be used for storing their drinking water. Thus, the water and now food of the entire village is contaminated with radioactive material.
The health problems experienced by the people in the village are too numerous to track. Stories abound of strange tumors, rashes and illnesses.
I had come here today to visit a family with a baby who was born with a huge tumor growing out of his back, caused by his mother being radiated by the village drinking water and probably by eating contaminated food as well. The baby had since died from cancer, and the father was away at work in the village which has over 70% unemployment.
Just outside of this home, a man drives up in a beat up old maroon Volkswagen Beetle, and asks us if he can help with anything.
Adel Mhomoud, a 44 year old bee-keeper, invites us to his home. Driving down the bumpy dirt road, dust swirls about the beautiful rural countryside. Vegetable fields are lined with palm trees and small modest homes dot the area. To our right just a stones throw away is the bombed out Al-Tuetha nuclear station, now guarded by a few American soldiers, who werenít there to stop the looting in April. I wonder why they guard it now, too little, and most certainly too late.
A small, dirty stream which is the contaminated water source for the village runs between the dirt road and the fence of the nuclear storage buildings. The stream is the only water in this area.
After several minutes Adel pulls over near his home, and limps over to greet us into his home.
"I have cancer, and I know I'm dying. My white blood cell count is 14,000, and I don't have enough red blood cells. We are all sick; our joints ache, my hips are killing me, and my blood is bad. But nobody will help us here."
He has had hundreds of reporters come to record his story. He asked many of them to take samples of his honey to test for radiation, but nobody has returned him the results.
We follow the kind and soft spoken man down a dirt path lined with palm trees to where he keeps his bees. As we pass his home there are stacks of white bee boxes on his porch, dusty and unused.
We stand in the sun under the palms, talking. Adel tells us he used to keep 300 boxes of bees, and now he is down to 70, and each of these is only half full, with lethargic bees.
"Right after the invasion my bees went crazy. I never saw them so aggressive and strong in 20 years; this was when they were first contaminated. Then shortly after that they all began to die, and now this is all I have left, and as you can see they are very weak. I don't think they will live until the Spring."
He puts on his protective head cover and pulls out a tray about 30% covered with bees. Several begin to lazily fly about.
His bees used to produce one ton of honey per year. Now, they have yet produced enough for him to take to market.
Adel has a wife and two daughters, 14 and 19 years old. He fought in the Iraq/Iran War, and pulls up his leg to show me several gashes and indentations from injuries sustained.
"Everyone here is hurt or sick from something. You can see this in the village. Our water, land, food, and now all the people - we are all contaminated."
One of his young dogs died recently.
He thanks us for writing a story and filming a documentary about his situation. He wants the truth to get out about the plight of his family, his friends, his village. He says,
"I welcome anyone who comes to tell the truth-it will help us sleep better at night."
I apologize to him meekly for his situation. I tell him I hope people will read or watch his story, and try to help him and his people in some way. My friend asks Adel what he will do about his situation - is there anything else he can do, or that we can do to help him?
Adel says,
"We are all going to die. It just depends on if you are killed, or if you die naturally."
We stand talking with his family awhile as he shows us his loom. His wife brings out a handmade carpet and he offers it to us as a gift, and invites us back to his home anytime, Insh'allah (if God wills it).
Insh'allah, Adel. Insh'allah...



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