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[casi] Rana's Story

Perhaps someone could send this to Mr. Blair - he
who considers killing an "act of humanity".

--Elga S.
Statement by Iraqi-American Student

Speech made at Tufts University

by Rana Abdul-Aziz

December 1st, 2002

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 artist. 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

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