Prior to the transfer of protection of Ashraf from the U.S. government to Iraq, Ashraf residents were provided proper medical attention and adequate medical supplies at their own expense. A well-equipped medical center with physicians and specialists from residents themselves with assistance from Iraqi medical specialists managed this center and offered medical services to patients. The residents had free access to Iraqi specialists and surgeons who used to visit Ashraf and carry out various surgeries. The purchase of medicine, medical equipment, and paraclinical devices from the Iraqi market was not hindered in any way. In those years, Iraqi dentists and medical specialist visited Ashraf. In addition, patients in the camp freely visited private clinics or hospitals, private doctors, and pharmacies in Baghdad and Baquba.
Al-Maliki’s statement on Ashraf
Immediately following transfer of protection of Ashraf from U.S. forces to the Government of Iraq, then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview with al-Alam TV (the Iranian regime’s Arabic language TV station) that, “After this great development, we will force them to leave Iraq”.
Then National Security Adviser, Muwaffaq al-Rubaie – a well-known element of the Iranian regime –was designated as the official in charge of implementing this policy. Afterwards, in an interview with another TV station affiliated to the Iranian regime in Iraq, Muwaffaq al-Rubaie stressed: “Gradually, we shall make their presence in Iraq unbearable.” [Interview with al-Forat TV, 1 April 2009]
Medical care under control of Iraqi government
However, with the beginning of the siege, the Iraqi government insisted on managing residents’ medical services through the Diyala Health Directorate, aiming to destroy the independent access of residents to medical care. In return, in May 2009, the Ashraf residents prepared a minor 23-bed hospital with all its equipment outside Camp’s western perimeter near the main gate. All the staff was Iraqi nationals, but the cost of the equipment, the medication, the canteen, the water and power were paid by the residents.
“The New Iraq Hospital”
The Diyala Health Directorate assigned Umar Khalid al-Tammimi, an Iraqi intelligence officer as director of the hospital and named the hospital as “The New Iraq Hospital”. As soon as the Iraqi government took control of the hospital, the restrictions emerged; the Iraqi physicians who used to come to Ashraf were faced with harassments and humiliating measures including: insulting body searches, humiliating treatment, conducting irrelevant investigations, and threatening with arrest and persecution.
In summer 2009, Iraqi forces prevented entry of medical specialists who used to come to Ashraf for years to treat patients. The Iraqi government announced that only those physicians sent by the Diyala Health Directorate are allowed to enter Ashraf. However, in the subsequent one month period that followed, they even prevented entry of five groups of physicians who had been sent by the Diyala Health Directorate.
Blocking entry of physicians and medicine
In October 2009, the Iraqi government officially notified Ashraf residents that from now on no private or state physician will be allowed to enter the camp. On 25 November 2009, a representative of the Diyala Health Directorate informed Ashraf residents that upon orders issued by the Iraqi Prime Ministry, from this day forward, entry of all physicians and medicine to Ashraf is prohibited. Medical supplies were turned away. Lack of medicine caused serious problems for patients that were in need of constant medication. These patients included those suffering from heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Some medicines, including medication for MS, could only be obtained from the Ministry of Health.
Further harassments imposed on the patients
In the course of 2010 and 2011, daily harassments were even extended. Owing to the ban on physicians, the residents had to be sent to outside hospitals. In many cases, the patients were not allowed to leave the camp at all. Only after months of pressure, the patient was allowed to go out. However, Umar Khalid created deliberate long delays in such a way that the patients arrived in Baghdad after business hours which resulted effectively in missed appointments. It took months to be able to see physicians. Consequently, the patients sustained further harms and their diseases developed to an irreversible stage. Mr. Mehdi Fathi, suffering from kidney cancer, was one of those residents that were actually tormented to death by the Iraqi authorities.
The hospital director used to dispatch military forces as security guards for female patients while visiting hospitals outside Ashraf, entering the doctor’s office with their weapons while the women’s specialists are checking their patients. They had time and again prevented the purchase of necessary medication. At times, they had even aimed their weapons at the patients.
As it is noticed, the al-Maliki government turned “New Iraq Hospital” into a center for torture of the patients. The issue went beyond the “free access” of individuals to medical care and it was rather using medical services as a tool of torture and finishing off the patients through gradual torture.