The Justice for Fallujah Project:
Ross Caputi joined the US Marine Corps in June 2003. A year and a half later, he found himself participating in the 2nd siege of Fallujah, one of the most destructive operations of the entire occupation of Iraq.
After he returned to the US, Ross began educating himself about how US military operations in Fallujah impacted Iraqis. When he came to understand the scale of the harm he helped bring to Fallujans, Ross founded the Justice for Fallujah Project in 2010. Through that project he helped raise awareness about human consequences of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
But after years of speaking out, Ross realized that something more was needed. Truth-telling alone was insufficient if Fallujans never saw justice for what was done to them. Ross wanted to do more. The concept of reparations brought him to more direct action, not only for Fallujans, but for so many others impacted by American empire and its wars.
When the US invaded Iraq for the 2nd time in 2003, Debra and Kali made every effort to stop the invasion. Of course, they failed, but they continued to speak out against the occupation. By 2007 they felt it necessary to give voluntary reparations to the Iraqi people for their complicity in the occupation.
They wanted to go to the Middle East, bear witness to the atrocities experienced there, and offer their labor and expertise. One Iraqi friend living in the US challenged them. He said: “If you can keep just one child alive for one year, only then do you deserve to face the Iraqi people. Until then, you have not proven to Iraqis, or even to yourselves, that you can have a material impact.”
He pointed them to a dire medical case: Amani. She had a rare blood disorder that was too expensive for the UNHCR to pay for, and her family had already spent everything they had. Amani was dying.
The Santa Cruz community, and friends from other parts of California, crowd-sourced over $10,000. With help from contacts in Jordan, they sent money for Amani’s medication and received photos of Amani being treated each month. Those acting in the spirit of Islah kept Amani alive for a full year. Meanwhile, advocates worked to expedite Amani’s resettlement. She and her family now live in Michigan, where Amani’s health is maintained.
In 2009, Debra and Kali took a leave of absence from work and college to live in Jordan and Syria. There, they asked their Iraqi friends and neighbors for the opportunity to give reparations for their complicity in the US occupation of Iraq. Those who accepted asked for different things:
Medical cases abounded during this year of reparations. But for many other families, the primary concern was resettlement. Debra and Kali found that by approaching the UNHCR on behalf of individual families, they were able to sort out longstanding stagnation in the settlement process. Institutional representation became a critical form of reparations they did not expect. Their reparations work has been ongoing ever since.
When Debra and Kali connected with Ross and Cam, they realized their reparations efforts had outgrown their small family and needed to become an organization that took on larger projects of repair.