|I saw this Tufts University student, an Iraqi-American, speak at a forum
last Thursday, 11/14. Here is her speech that I found very insightful and powerful. Amanda
Student at Tufts University, Massachusetts
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
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
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 artiist. 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
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
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