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Dear all An edited version of this interview is carried in the latest Voices UK newsletter, available from firstname.lastname@example.org Voices in the Wilderness UK organises sanctions-breaking delegations to Iraq. Our website is http://www.viwuk.freeserve.co.uk Cheers Milan Rai Joint Coordinator Voices in the Wilderness UK email@example.com (for November) Interview with Matt Barr, Sun. 4 Nov. Matt is representing voices in the wilderness uk on the voices us- organised ĎWalk for Healing and Peaceí from Washington DC to New York at the end of this month (see page 3 for more details). He will then be taking part in the joint US-UK delegation to Iraq in Dec. 2001. Matt: Iíve just turned 21 [two nights earlier!]. Currently Iím a student, doing a sound recording course. Interests are music-based, obviously, though politics and activism is my first love behind music. voices: What drew you to take part in a sanctions-breaking delegation? Matt: Initially, it was because I was so horrified by what was happening in Iraq, and in my name as a member of the British public. I felt almost powerless in what I could do as a persuasive measure in government, and so I felt this was a very positive way to show the Iraqi people that though this was handed out by the British government, it wasnít necessarily supported by the British public. But also because I felt that by going to Iraq and witnessing whatís happening, I kind of felt that it might in some way add an element of credibility, that there were eyewitness accounts, and people had seen it for themselves, and it wasnít all based on statistics, and reports from the UN. I felt it was important to have personal accounts of individuals in Iraq, individual families, individual children, who have stories of their own. Because that way you could humanise what was going on, rather than it being Ďcollated dataí. Iím a great believer in accepting responsibility for oneís actions, and I feel that our government are strongly denying any responsibility, so just wanted to act, I guess, in whatever small form an individual could. voices: After September 11, the sanctions-breaking delegation was postponed indefinitely, and a new kind of delegation was proposed, which is now going to take place in December. How did you feel about that sequence of events? Matt: My initial reaction was disappointment, because my prime focus was a sanctions-breaking delegation. But, increasingly, as the reaction to September 11 in Britain and the US has occurred, it has become more and more important to focus on peace-related means of action. I guess, initially, my reaction was: do I still want to go? Do I want to put myself in that position? Am I willing to put myself in that position? And it took me a long time from being absolutely determined to go on a sanctions-breaking delegation to all of a sudden the context of the delegation changing. I was unsure whether or not I was willing to put myself in that position. I was still adamant that I wanted to go, and that I believed in the delegation, thought it was vitally important that it go ahead. But whether or not I could really put myself in that position, I had to sit down and really question and work out whether it was suitable for me at that point in time to go ahead with it. It took me a couple of weeks to get my head around the potential connotations of military action while I was there. I came to the conclusion that I felt so strongly about what was going on in Iraq, and what has been going on in Iraq, that that almost became a secondary issue. Because it was out of my control. I donít have control over what may or may not happen while Iím there. I have control over whether I choose to go. And the reasons for wanting to go, the reasons I feel I need to go, didnít change, despite the fears and the doubts about the possibilities of actions that might happen while I was there It was, it still is, a very frightening prospect. But when I think about the fact that this delegation will last ten days that weíre physically in Iraq, itís nothing compared to what it must be like to live under these conditions, and to have to exist, survive, with such knowledge that these things might happen. Itís nothing compared to having to actually get on with life and deal with it, which the Iraqi people do, and they donít have a choice in it. I kind of felt that it was a risk that I was willing to take, and accept the consequences of it, because Iím appalled - and outraged - by what is going on in Iraq. If any military action were to happen, whether Iím there or not, I would be strongly opposed to it. Like the sanctions policy, it would affect the civilian population more so than anybody else, and that resonates with me very strongly: there is an innocent population in Iraq that have all but been forgotten about. voices: There is a real risk of death, and injury, perhaps even incarceration, on this delegation. How do you feel about that? Matt: I feel terrified really. And petrified by the possibility of death. Itís a very very daunting and ral prospect. When I sat down and thought about it, it was one of the worst experiences Iíve gone through, thinking of leaving my family and my loved ones behind, and how they would cope, what it would be like for them. It was gruelling, and a very painful experience. It was actually horrendous. It was a very hard thing for me to get through. The thing that did get me through, and to a certain extent surprised me, was the fact that even after Iíd acknowledged the possibility of such things happening, my desire to actually go hadnít decreased or been diluted whatsoever. There was no wavering in my desire to go. I still am very fearful about going, and will be throughout the delegation, I am sure. But my willingness and determination to do this burns so much brighter than my fears that I feel as though I have to follow my heart and stand up for what I believe in. Though my fears are very real, I donít want them inhibiting doing what I believe in. I have absolutely no desire to die in Iraq. Itís the last thing I want to happen, be it a US or UK delegate, or an Iraqi person. Itís the last thing I want to happen, and Iím sure itís the last thing my family want to happen. voices: How do you feel about joining the Walk for Healing and Peace in the US? Matt: When I was asked to do it, I was overjoyed. To be able to take part in something as significant as that, for me personally, the emotions and the energy that Iíll get out of it. Itís such a needed thing to be done, and to be part of that, will be a wonderful thing, to stand up and be counted in a peaceful movement, trying to find peaceful resolutions. It will be really overwhelming, and Iím honoured actually to be able to actually take part in this, and itís something that will never leave me. Even though I havenít done it yet, I feel proud of itís happening, regardless of my participation or not. And to be part of it is a very special thing. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.