'Women of Iraq' come to campus

    Two Iraqi women spoke on Nov. 20 about their experiences in their home country and fielded questions from skeptics and supporters of the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

    Victor Ha

    Amal Al-Khedairy, an expert on Iraqi art and culture, and journalist Nermin Al-Mufti are on a national tour to “”dispel assumptions about Iraq,”” according to event co-sponsor Global Exchange’s Web site.

    Over 100 people attended the program in Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Great Hall, including about 10 people representing the Kurdish Human Rights Watch.

    Both speakers expressed animosity toward the U.S. coalition that ousted former dictator Saddam Hussein and “”invaded”” Iraq.

    “”You wouldn’t be able to imagine the destruction of all our universities,”” Al-Khedairy said. “”It affected our very individual lives.””

    Al-Mufti said that students at Baghdad University, including her son, were recently forced to study for midterms without electricity.

    Al-Khedairy, who operated an arts and culture center in Baghdad before the 2003 war, said that the center was completely destroyed by coalition bombs earlier this year.

    When asked about Saddam Hussein, Al-Mufti said that while Hussein was bad, he was still Iraqi.

    “”If the past was bad, this is worse,”” Al-Khedairy said. “”The problem is that we are now under occupation.””

    Al-Mufti said there is a need for international peacekeepers led by the United Nations, not the United States. She also said she would have liked to see the Iraqi people overthrow Hussein without outside intervention.

    “”Why doesn’t the U.S. go occupy Great Britain because, for 300 years, they haven’t solved the Irish problem?”” Al-Mufti said.

    While most of the people who asked questions during the program were UCSD students, some non-UCSD attendees asked lengthy questions regarding Hussein’s treatment of the Kurds in northern Iraq.

    At one point, a yelling match ensued between Reber Taha, a Kurdish student from Grossmont College, and the panelists.

    Taha demanded that the panelists “”tell the truth”” about Hussein’s past use of chemical weapons on Kurds.

    In response, Al-Mufti reiterated that Saddam was “”terrible,”” but that he was still Iraqi. She also pointed to U.S. violations of the Geneva Conventions in both wars on Iraq.

    “”I didn’t like the speakers because they were biased, they work for Saddam’s regime, and their propaganda against the occupation of Iraq is wrong,”” said Alan Zangana, program director of the Kurdish Human Rights Watch. “”Those ladies, both of them, work for Saddam Hussein.””

    After A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher and other moderators quieted the confrontational members of the public, the panelists thanked the audience for expressing opposing views.

    “”We like to hear from you,”” Al-Khedairy said. “”It is a challenge for us and for you.””

    Some students said they were disturbed by the lack of respect shown by people who argued with the panelists.

    “”It’s a little disappointing that some people decided to take out their personal ambitions, their personal conflicts, their personal strifes with these women, who’ve obviously had a lot of issues going on,”” said ERC freshman Heather Sipan.

    Before the lecture, Gallagher showed the panelists a copy of “”Jizzlam: An Entertainment Magazine for the Islamic Man,”” a publication of The Koala distributed at UCSD twice in the last year.

    “”It is an ugly people who do this,”” Al-Khedairy said.

    While Al-Khedairy said that such a publication “”serves nobody, helps nobody,”” she added that it should not embarrass or intimidate students. University students, she said, should be able to distinguish between facts and lies.

    “”They were kind of floored at the idea of how this can be allowed, how can you let this happen,”” Gallagher said. “”We explained that it’s unconstitutional for us not to allow it to happen.””

    A.S. Public Relations Director Shahdeh Ammadi, who was involved in organizing the event, said that “”Jizzlam”” might have led to a larger turnout for the program.

    “”Actually, now I’m thinking it’s a good thing we have the Koala,”” Ammadi said. “”It’s actually giving [students] a reason to come to these speaker programs to see what the truth is about.””

    The last person to ask a question was a Gulf War veteran who apologized to the panelists for his involvement in what he considered an “”immoral war.”” He later embraced both speakers.

    “”It’s very painful,”” Al-Mufti said. “”I wish nobody would have this feeling, ever.””

    The A.S. Council organized and funded the program with $750 in response to a resolution in support of the UCSD Principles of Community it passed in June.

    “”I’m sure everyone that was in that room left with something,”” Ammadi said. “”That’s what makes it special.””

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