Above is a photo of a neighbor of the murdered al-Janabi family in their empty home. He is said to be pointing to the place where 15-year-old rape and murder victim ‘Abir al-Janabi’s body was found. Qasim Hamzah Rashid al-Janabi, ‘Abir’s father, was born in 1970 and worked as a guard at a state-owned potato storehouse. Al-Janabi lived in this house with his wife, Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, and their four children – ‘Abir (born 1991), Hadil (born 1999), Muhammad (1998), and Ahmad (1996).
Via Today in Iraq and JusOne News, following is what I believe to be this neighbor’s eyewitness account of the events surrounding the rape of ‘Abir and the murder of her family. This eyewitness is a member of the family ‘Abir’s mother had approached, asking that A’bir be allowed to stay with them because she feared for her, given the ongoing harrassment of U.S. troops at a checkpoint.
The neighbor of the martyred family told the correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam:
“At 2 p.m. a force of Americans raided the home of the martyr Qasim, God rest his soul. They surrounded him and I heard the sound of gunfire. Then the gunfire fell silent. An hour later I saw clouds of smoke rising from the room and then the occupation troops came quickly out of the house. They surrounded the area together with Shi’i ‘Iraqi National Guard’ forces, and they told us that terrorists from al-Qa’idah had entered the house and killed them all. They wouldn’t let any of us into the house. But I told one of the ‘National Guard’ soldiers that I was their neighbor and that I wanted to see them so that I could tell al-Hajj Abu al-Qasim the news about his son and his son’s family, so one of the soldiers agreed to let me enter.
“So I went into the house and found in the first room the late Qasim and his wife and Hadil. Their bodies were swimming in blood. Their blood had spewed out of their bodies with such force that it had flowed out from under the door of the room. I turned them over but there was no response; their lives were already gone.”
The neighbor continued his account: “Then I went into ‘Abir’s room. Fire was coming out of her. Her head and her chest were on fire. She had been put in a pitiful position; they had lifted her white gown to her neck and torn her bra. Blood was flowing from between her legs even though she had died a quarter of an hour earlier, and in spite of the intensity of the fire in the room. She had died, may God rest her soul. I knew her from the first instant. I knew she had been raped since she had been turned on her face and the lower part of her body was raised while her hands and feet had been tied. By God, I couldn’t control myself and broke into tears over her, but I quickly extinguished the fire burning from her head and chest. The fire had burned up her breasts, the hair on her head, and the flesh on her face. I covered her privates with a piece of cloth, God rest her soul. And at that moment, I thought to myself that if I go out talking and threatening, that they would arrest me, so I took control of myself and resolved to leave the house calmly so that I could be a witness to tell the story of this tragedy.
“After three hours the [American] occupation troops surrounded the house and told the people of the area that the family had been killed by terrorists because they were Shi’ah. Nobody in town believed that story because Abu ‘Abir was known as one of the best people of the city, one of the noblest, and no Shi’i, but a Sunni monotheist. Everyone doubted their story and so after the sunset prayers the occupation troops took the four bodies away to the American base. Then the next day they handed them over to the al-Mahmudiyah government hospital and told the hospital administration that terrorists had killed the family. That morning I went with relatives of the deceased to the hospital. We received the bodies and buried them, may God have mercy on them.”
The neighbor went on: “Then we decided that we must not be silent so we asked the mujahideen to respond as quickly as possible. They responded with 30 attacks on the occupation in two days, bringing down more than 40 American soldiers. But our blood was still not cooled, so we decided to go to al-‘Arabiyah satellite TV to tell them the story since it is a station that broadcasts in Iraq. But al-‘Arabiyah paid no attention to us and said we were liars. They told us that their policy was to rely on official announcements issued by the American army, and that they were not able to get into a story over which they had no power. This was told to us by the al-‘Arabiyah correspondent Ahmad as-Salih. So we went to local newspapers and they slammed the doors in our faces because we are Sunnis and the rape victim was a Sunni girl. But the Resistance fighters told us that God does not allow the blood of any Muslim to be lost, and they told us to patiently persevere and we would see such a punishment for the blood of ‘Abir and her family, for the violation of the honor of our sister, a punishment that would make people’s hair stand on end.
“I personally wasn’t surprised that Umm ‘Abir [‘Abir’s mother] came to me on 9 March 2006 and asked that ‘Abir be allowed to spend the night with my daughters. She was afraid because of the way the occupation troops looked at her when she went out to feed the cows. I agreed to that because there was an occupation forces’ command post just 15 meters from Qasim’s house, God rest his soul. But frankly I thought it unlikely that anything would happen to the girl because she was only something like 16 and she was just a little girl. But I agreed and she spent one night at our place and then went back to her home in the morning. We had no idea that the occupation troops would carry out their crime in broad daylight.”
The neighbor concluded: “The occupation troops came last Friday – that is, one day before the Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent visited the scene of the crime – and asked the people of the area to exhume the body of ‘Abir to conduct tests on it. And they also asked me to provide eyewitness testimony and I will go anywhere to make sure that justice is served.”
You know, I don’t believe this was the work of one young man, Steve Green, who had a “personality disorder.” I think the Army knew full well what went down here, I think more than one, or four or five soldiers were involved, and I think they concocted a story about this being all about a lone kid who was “dangerous to Iraqi civilians” to cover their asses. It’s easy for the world to hate and punish this thin, pale, sullen white kid, isn’t it? He’s the one. Let’s get him. If you read the stories in the latest news about him, you will find that he is being represented by public defenders, meaning he is unemployed. He has $6,000 in the bank, he says, and a 1995 Lincoln Towne Car, probably what he has to show for having served in Iraq. He showed up in court on two separate occasions in the same rumpled clothes, wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt and flip flops. Who is going to believe anything he has to say? Who is going to care what he says? He is expendable. Execute him, eh? Good riddance to bad rubbish. He’s a blotch on the reputation of the the few, the proud…
Except that I tend to believe what this neighbor wrote. The eyewitness reported that 10-15 troops surrounded the house. Not four or five guys. Not guys out of uniform with t-shirts over their heads. And the report is that young ‘Abir was raped by 10 soldiers, not one, or four or five.
What rings true to me is what this neighbor said. It would be really easy and comforting to pin it all one one now-unemployed, mentally disturbed American white kid, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t sound as though he has any family standing by him, supporting him, hiring attorneys on his behalf, making statements to the press. It sounds like he’s, above all, eminently expendable. Where are the other guys who were with him? Why haven’t they been charged? We know he didn’t do this alone; that we know for sure.
A U. S. government website describes one of the sources of this neighbor’s testimony, Mafkarat al-Islam, which I’ve quoted here, as one of “A trio of obscure Web sites and individuals (which) has combined to spread deliberate disinformation, particularly about U.S. actions in Iraq. The entities involved are Islam Memo (Islammemo.cc), Muhammad Abu Nasr, and Jihad Unspun (jihadunspun.net).”
There are at least three men who, not nearly, nearly quickly enough, but nevertheless, finally did the right thing: two young soldiers went to a counselor, and they told him what they knew about what happened to this family. It’s true that they only did it after the murder and mutilation of their buddies, believed to be in retaliation for the rape and murders of this family, but at least they did it. And the counselor reported what he knew to commanding officers. Had there not been at least this much decency, this much humanity, conscience, we would never know about what happened to this family. It would, as with, I am very sure, hundreds, maybe thousands of other similar atrocities, be dismissed as the work of terrorists, as collateral damage of war, as war, period. At least we know something about this. And we need to know.
UPDATE: Although the Marines have forbidden Josh Belisle, the writer and performer of the song “Hadji Girl” from performing the song, a conservative radio personality, Mike Church, not going to link to him, he can be googled, plans to record the song and possibly send royalties to Belisle.