Forum addresses impact of U.N.

by Jessica Hampton

When Layla Asamarai visited her fiancÇ and family in Iraq, she witnessed firsthand the devastation that people in Iraq experience due to U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions.
“Teddy bears are not allowed,” the College of Liberal Arts senior told about 50 students in Coffman Union Monday afternoon. “Medicine is not allowed. Food is not allowed. Chlorine is not allowed.”
Asamarai spoke as part of the “Women in Iraq: The Impact of the Sanctions” presentation held by the Progressive Student Organization and University YW. Presenters said the sanctions withhold essential goods from Iraq, like food, medical supplies, chlorine for water purification and fabric for elementary school uniforms.
The conflict with Iraq flooded international news outlets over the weekend after a letter from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein caused the United States to narrowly abort an impending air strike. The letter, in which Hussein yielded to global demands that U.N. inspectors be allowed to examine key weapons sites, was later rejected by American leaders.
Hussein’s letter asked the United Nations to lift the international economic sanctions because Iraq has complied with key conditions, such as the removal of prohibited weapons.
Asamarai and other speakers at the University urged students to take a proactive stance on issues they felt have been oppressing the men, women and children of Iraq for more than seven years.
“We need to demand the lifting of the sanctions,” Asamarai stated bluntly. “This issue is purely humanitarian.”
She said the sanctions particularly affect women and children. When women in Iraq attempt to work or find jobs under the current conditions, they are paid $3 per month — and the cost of living in Iraq is comparable to the United States.
Such financial conditions not only contribute to malnutrition in children, but to an overall feeling of hopelessness in the people of Iraq, Asamarai said.
“Be proactive in your disgust with this … be very noisy about it,” she said, emphasizing that American citizen involvement is the key to lifting such sanctions.
Jessica Sundin said Iraqi college students also suffer from the sanctions. Iraqi schools have not received current textbooks or academic journals in the last eight years, she explained.
“Women need the power to study and learn,” Sundin said.
She also said the University of Baghdad’s biology department was denied a much-needed computer for their department. Students in Baghdad are still without computer facilities and Internet access.
Marie Braun, a therapist and spokeswoman for Women Against Military Madness, also traveled to Iraq. She said she witnessed the pain that the death of children brings to Iraqi parents.
“We are responsible for the anger and rage in the Middle East because of our policies,” Braun said, criticizing the sanctions.
Progressive Student Organization representatives urged students to attend a demonstration in front of the federal courts building in downtown Minneapolis at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Sundin insisted that word of protests here in the United States is the only thing holding some Iraqi citizens together and involvement from University students is essential in the overall fight for peace.
“The only way to end the war in Iraq is to end the sanctions,” Sundin said.
— Information from Wire Services contributed to this report.