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`Remembering Omran Bus Tour' Makes Stop at UNC

The "Remembering Omran Bus Tour," a campaign to end U.S. sanctions against Iraq, is making stops in the Triangle beginning Sunday and ending today. Tour participants will present arguments against sanctions at 5 p.m. today in 8 Gardner Hall and 7 p.m. today in Union 211.

The tour group contacted Students United for a Responsible Global Environment, a campus organization that promotes human rights, and the Raleigh-based Iraq Action Coalition to arrange programs in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

The tour has already visited several area churches and Duke University.

According to a press release, the tour's namesake, Omran Harbi Jawair, was a 13-year-old Iraqi shepherd boy killed last May in a U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq's southern no-fly zone.

The tour, which is now on its second leg, will make 80 stops in 18 states during a 10-week period ending in May.

The first leg of the tour covered the western United States between October and December.

"It's going really fabulously well," said Simon Harak, a speaker with the tour. "We've had a wonderful reception on the West Coast, and the East Coast has been every bit as good, if not better."

Harak said he hopes those attending the events will learn the realities of life in Iraq, become aware of misinformation and see the potential within themselves to advocate policy changes.

For one of the speakers, learning about the sanctions in Iraq led him to postpone his college education and eventually join the tour.

Joseph Proulx said he decided to leave school when members of Voices in the Wilderness, which was leading a campaign against ending United Nations sanctions against Iraq, spoke to his peace studies class at Columbia College in Chicago.

"(Voices) told me about the stories they had seen in Iraq and that not only was the embargo blocking medical and food supplies, but also education supplies and knowledge," Proulx said.

"One family had a magazine -- it was something like Reader's Digest -- and they read it over 100 times because they just had a thirst for knowledge."

Harak, who is a Jesuit priest, also left his job as an ethics professor to devote his time to protesting the sanctions.

This decision came after he visited Iraq and delivered sanctioned pencils to a bombed schoolhouse. Some of the children had to be taken home because they were frightened by the presence of Americans.

Harak said this experience led him to want to educate others about the situation he observed.

"I see a nation of the United States teaching a whole other nation of fear, bombs and starvation."

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