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[casi] article from Iraq

see below article written by jo wilding, in Iraq just now about a march in
Baghdad feb 18th

The gang of lads asked my name, then dissolved in giggles, slapping each
other's shoulders, when I told them mine and asked theirs. Overcoming their
shyness, they asked where I was from, how old I was, what I thought of
Baghdad, and we danced down the street together to the clatter of drums and
hand clapping.

It was an anti-war march, organised by the students at the Non-Aligned
Students and Youth Organisation (NASYO) conference. A Japanese group carried
a banner saying "Japan - Iraq. Peace and Friendship" in both English and
Japanese, chanting "No to war. Yes to Peace." The Nigerians were in national
costume. The Belgians were out in force. Australians, Estonians, Swedes,
Turks, Mauritians and a plethora of others were there. Conspicuous by their
absence were the 27 US students who had registered to attend the conference
but withdrew at the last minute, apparently under persuasion from the US
State Department. It remains illegal under the US sanctions for its citizens
to even travel to Iraq unless as journalists or UN personnel. Ah, the Land
of the Free.

I marched with a group of young Iraqi women, clapping their hands and
chanting. The students we met in the colleges were roughly half and half men
and women. Probably around two thirds covered their hair, but many wore
trousers and make-up. Like their male counterparts they ere shy at first,
then friendly and welcoming, keen to practise their English and eager to
know what I thought of their city.

I bounced up and down clapping hands with a mixed group, to the bugling of
an old man behind us, once we halted outside the UNDP building, and a small
boy dived into the middle of the melee and began break dancing. Over the
noise we exchanged names and favourite English football teams - mainly
Liverpool and Manchester United for them; Brighton and Hove Albion for me.
Julia Roberts is popular here, with both men and women, as are Westlife,
N-Sync and the Backstreet Boys but even so, there's no excuse for bombing
these people.

A tribe of young men were jumping up and down, going round and round in a
circle, chanting, arms raised punching the air. The rage against Bush was
tangible as they chanted "Down, Down Bush" and "Down, Down USA". Their glee
was genuine as I expressed my view that Tony Blair was a muppet. Many of
their chants and banners praised Saddam and there was a large banner saying
"Saddam is our Choice.". Like the pictures in every shop and office, this is
perhaps more a matter of expediency than political preference.

People talk when they know no one else can hear. The feeling is that they
would prefer genuine democracy, greater freedom, but if the choice is Saddam
or the USA, they will take Saddam. They do not believe, even when they speak
freely, that the US and UK will be "liberating" them. Some are angry at the
way weapons inspections have been carried out. They tease, says one. They
tip out bins in colleges as if that is where the evidence of a weapons
programme would be hidden. They are aggressive.

It was as intense an experience as any in my life, to march with the Iraqi
students and to feel their anger and their powerful energy. During the march
it started to rain, despite the bright sunshine. The sun was over the river
Tigris, and I looked for a rainbow opposite. I couldn't see one. If it was
there, it was hidden by the UN building.

sign the pledge of resistance to the "war on terrorism"

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