Iraqi student in U.S. speaks her mind about the U.S. war

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Nov 20 20:49:05 MST 2002


This  is one of the voices from Iraq that Washington's new security measures
against Iraqis in the United States are aimed at silencing.
Fred Feldman

I saw this Tufts University student, an
Iraqi-American, speak at a forum last Thursday, 11/14.
Here is her speech that I found very insightful and
powerful.

Amanda


Rana Abdul-Aziz
Student at Tufts University, MA

If one learns anything from living under a
totalitarian system it is how to decipher the news and
sift through official propaganda. I think my
skepticism with the information and news I get
developed because of this background.  When I was in
Iraq, my parents always got our news from other
sources, other than those fed to us by the Iraqi
regime.  And later on when we lived in America, we
knew that what we heard on the news regarding Iraq was
not true. Contact with our family there revealed to us
what was actually happening.

I am not really here to try to convince anyone of
anything.  I am here to share with you my own story.
It is unique but I think it will also illustrate how
the Iraqi people have been affected by history.

I was born in Iraq in 1981.  The majority of my
childhood involved war, the Iran-Iraq war.  It was a
war Iraq fought until 1988 where more than one million
young men perished along many other civilians.  In
addition to this, Iraq had a dictator for a president.
 We were the game pieces he played with and
terrorized.  At that time, to the West, to America,
Iraq's leader was the called the moderate man who was
going to lead the most promising nation in the Arab
world.  But we went on living our lives with this man,
and with this war that was in many ways supported by
America.

In 1990, my life changed completely.  My father was
invited by the international company he worked for to
come for business for one month to the states.  We, my
mother and my sister and I were also to join him.  It
was going to be my first time out of Iraq.   We packed
our bags and prepared for our vacation.  We arrived to
Boston, on August 1, 1990.  I do not know if you all
remember, but it was  on August 2, 1990, that Iraq
invaded Kuwait.

My parents had no other choice but to stay.  The
international company offered that we stay until
things calmed down.  After all, we were all used to
instability and wars.  I had at that time known only
one year of my life, war free.  In Iraq, war had
become normal.  But I do not think my parents
anticipated what happened next.  The Gulf war, one of
the most uneven wars ever fought, a big massacre,
where Iraq was bombed back to the pre-industrial age,
did not really end in 1991.  Iraq then faced
sanctions.  For my parents, it meant unemployment.
International firms, including my father's in Iraq
left before the Gulf War and did not return after.  My
mother is an architect and artiist.  It was clear that
a country completely devastated was not going to be
buying art and building new homes.  The country was
barely able to pick up the broken pieces of what
remained.
So our one month trip lasted until now, as I am
speaking to you 12 years later.

We left everything in Iraq.  I left everything.  Our
home, our clothes, our memories, and the most precious
thing of all.  Our family.  My grandparents, my aunts,
my uncles and cousins.  Until my return in 2001, I
never had any closure with this abrupt departure.   I
never got to  say goodbye to that country and the
people I loved.  My teenage years were different from
anyone else's because this longing burned so deep in
me.

We are thousands of miles away from our family who
live in Baghdad, but the troubles of Iraq are what I
lived and live until now.  For the 12 years I have
been here, our family still telephones Baghdad every
week.  The only time we stopped, was during the Gulf
War when the telecommunications in Iraq were destroyed
and we waited for weeks of word of whether or not our
family was alive.

In the news, there was little ever said about the
economic sanctions toll on the Iraqi people.  But the
majority of those in my family, doctors, engineers,
architects were unemployed along with 50% of Iraq's 23
million people.  Our family asked us for books and
medicines for 12 years: items difficult to find due to
sanctions.

We heard on the telephone the stories of the breakdown
of Iraq's social fabric due to these difficult
conditions.  Children dropping out of school, beggars
on the streets, crime and even prostitution.  What can
one expect?  A country that was at war for 8 years,
facing another war where its entire infrastructure was
targeted and destroyed, then slapped with economic
sanctions which hit only the people.  Until now, my
family, who is fortunate enough to live in the good
side of Baghdad does not receive 24 hours of
electricity.   Imagine this in Iraq's 126 degree
weather.  Imagine how the elderly like my grandfather
can deal with this??  In 2001, when I went to Iraq,
all the images that I had heard about over the phone,
in letters and emails were a disturbing and shocking
reality.  I would not wish on anyone the pain of
seeing  one's homeland in such a devastating state.

Now there is talk of another war.  Oh god!  My one
dream in life is that one day Iraq can wipe this thing
called war from its memory.  I do not want an Iraqi
child to go to sleep in fear or to think that life
under sanctions and fear of an attack has become
normal.  Something present in his existence along with
breathing and eating.

People in Iraq today are afraid.  I speak to my family
these weeks and they are terrified of what is going to
happen.  Last time in 1991, after all, they were the
ones who suffered.  And it is clear, they will be the
ones who will suffer this time around.

People in Baghdad, months ago, since this talk of an
attack started have been preparing for an attack. They
bought containers to store water, stocked up the house
with cans, flour, sugar, gas canisters, batteries and
flashlights: lessons from 1991.  And children do not
know whether to study for an exam or worry about being
killed.  I find it disgusting that they have been
living each day waiting as they have been.  Sometimes
they write saying they wish that this inevitable thing
happens.  It is the waiting and worrying that seems
maddening to them.

Now many people claim that this war will be fought to
liberate the Iraqis and democracy will come and this
terrible man will be gone.  While we, as Iraqis and
Iraqis who are in the diaspora, have all been yearning
for Saddam's demise (since we are the ones who have
tasted the fear and terror of Saddam Hussein), most of
us are aware that our liberty and a democratic future
are not at the top of the U.S. wish list in Iraq, if
there at all. We have seen and heard too much to fall
for this line. If a war is waged, let's be honest and
say that it will be for oil and American dominion in
the Middle East, and not to liberate us Iraqis. The
list of the potential men who will be Iraq's leaders
are criminals.  They make Saddam Hussein look good!
We see the gap between words and deeds among those who
proclaim to be our champions and potential liberators.


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