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Milan Rai's talk

Milan Rai from ARROW (Active Resistance against the Roots of War) gave a
talk at Cambridge last night about his recent trip to Iraq. Here is a
brief report of what he had to say, written on behalf of CASI.

Mil travelled to Iraq on 14 February 1998 along with Martin Thomas. They
co-ordinated their trip with the American group Voices in the Wilderness,
who made the sanctions breaking trip for the eleventh time.

British Customs and the Mysterious Mr Duval:
ARROW had decided to make the trip to Iraq in violation of the sanctions
rules, which require anyone taking aid to Iraq to apply for a licence that
often takes months to secure. They informed the Department of Trade and
Industry of their decision the day before leaving, and arrived at customs
early on the 14th, expecting some difficulties. They had with them a bag
containing 400 worth of antibiotics for children.

They were not detained at Heathrow. However when they collected their bag
upon arrival in Jordan, they found it empty. A few days later they did
actually find a hand written note inside informing them that their
medicines had been confiscated. They were given two names(a Mr Jeel and a
Mr Duval) and a contact number. They phoned several times but there was no

On arrival back in Britain Mil did actually receive a form from the Customs and
Excise Anti-Smuggling Division. He rang them asking to speak to Mr Duval, they
said if he gave them his number they would ring him back with Mr Duval's
number. When Mil persisted they hung up on him. He is due for an interview
with Customs next week. One wuold hope that they apologise for their
mysterious, erratic and unacceptable behaviour. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn MP
has filed a paliamentary question on the debacle. Mil expressed his doubts
as to whether Mr Duval actually exists!   

The Amariyeh Shelter:
 They visited this one time bunker on the 7th anniversary of the
attack (during the Gulf War)
which killed 400 civilians sheltering inside. The care taker there, who
has built a shrine in the centre of the shelter to her daughter who was
killed in the attack expressed her desire to congradulate the West on
their values. "We used to think a degree from America was a big thing. Now
we know what your values are", she said.

Al Mansur Teaching Hospital:
Mil told us some frightening stories of what the sanctions mean to doctors
and to mothers caring for their dying children in this hospital. Whilst
the group were in the ward, a half month old baby died. It was then
revived. They asked how long it was likely to live. Maybe another two
hours. The baby needed oxygen to survive but becuase of the sanctions
oxygen masks are in short supply. Try explaining that to the mother of
this baby.

Children with Leukeimia had a 98% survival chance before the sanctions.
Now it is lower than 20%. In desperation doctors are substituting the
required medicine with Immuno-Suppression drugs. This could be killing the
children more quickly because of the fall in hygeine standards in the

Felusha General Hospital:
One doctor here decribed the sanctions as 'biological warfare'. One could
argue this from two standpoints. Firstly a lot of the diseases people are
dying from in Iraq are water-borne infections. The water purification
systems were bombed during the Gulf War and they have not been fixed since
then (lack of spare parts). Secondly the trickle of medicines is so small
that doctors no longer do medicine scientifically. For example they can
not give a course of antibiotics if there is only enough for one day.

Mil also spoke of the inadequecy of the oil-for -food programme and of the
sadistic policy of Britain and the US in being so tight about what to
allow into Iraq.

His observations only served to confirm what many of us have suspected for
a while now. His thoughts and his stories illustated vividly and truthfully
what sanctions were doing to ordinary people. What amazed me the most was
how he was able to remain so calm in the face of so much injustice. 

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