I have a friend in Diwaniyah, and I emailed him to find out about yesterday's fighting there. Here's what he wrote:
"Hi my dear friend Owen,
Good day.I hope you and yours are well too.Thank you very much indeed for your interest in our situation.It is being long time from your last message. Iam really miss you.
What happened , Iraqi offcial forces (supported by the coallation forces at Diwaniyah ) attacked ( by tanks, planns..etc) Sallem street in attempt to arrest militia leader( Al Quradee) in that region.This person accused in killing( execution) 12 of iraqi soliders in the previous attack. Sallem street is part of Al Jumhooree region.About 99.99999999 of Al Jumhooree region inhabitants are members of this militia.So you can imagine what is the response.The response was aggrresive fire, fire ,fire.The battel ( yes it is a battel) started at 1a.m an continue to 8 a.m . After that curfew applied .During this period we are under fear.My childern ( like other childern) a waked and continue the crying untill the fire ceased .The total result was 2 tanks were fired and 20 killed and 10 injuired and many houses are distructed.
On the medical services, it is so so so bad.We have poor emergency response.The hospital have shortage in drugs , equipment and no EPs.The physicians struggled to do their very best but they can not.Diwaniyah hospital attacked by both the militia and official forces.Each one asked ,are other side come here to be treated?Each said if the doctors here treat injuired patients from other side, they will be??.
Al Jumhooree is about 2 km from my house.
Another different story.I lost one of my best friends and colleagues few days ago.In Najaf ( 60 km to west of Diwaniyah), at 6 p.m while he is coming from his priavet clinic, Dr.Safaa Amedee*, 3 masked armed persons stop and hit him 6 builets in head , abdomen and chest, he die and that is all.The killing process happened beside his home( while he entering). Who kill him? and why? we dont know.He was on of the expert hounest academic surgeons.
My dear Owen, could you imagine what we suffer?We are waiting the GOD MERCY.
Many of our colleagues had fled iraq. Inspite of these risks, we decide to stay here to save the life of the patients as we beleive our profession is huminitarain .We need to be trained in emergency medicine, but no one of our colleagues in the world hear this message.Please do pass these words to our colleagues in UK."
*This is Dr Safaa al-Obeidi, whose murder was reported by Reuters on Oct 1st. He had recently overseen the installation of cardiac monitors in his hospital that were donated through the US Army.
Anyone who gets messages from Iraq will recognise the two constant refrains: "My children aren't sleeping", and "God Help Us".
My friend's casualty figures are generally accurate, as he is the chief emergency physician at Diwaniyah University Hospital.
He notes that hospital staff were threatened by both sides about treating wounded opponents.
By the way, doctors at the Yarmouk in Baghdad went on strike last week, after emergency room physicians were held hostage and threatened by Iraqi soldiers who had brought wounded colleagues in for treatment. The soldiers claimed they were "authorised to kill" doctors who failed to give priority to patients from the Army.
The soldiers ran off after hospital security guards arrived on the scene, firing their guns in the air.
The strikers demanded a ban on weapons in the hospital, and a separate ward with Army doctors to treat soldiers and police, who routinely threaten and harass civilian doctors. They also wanted an apology from the Interior ministry - good luck with THAT.
Sixteen out of 150-odd doctors have quit the Yarmouk in the past two months, most to leave Iraq.
The Yarmouk's 24 ER doctors earn just about $135 a month, compared to $360 a month for an Iraqi policeman.