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Tour Pushes Awareness of U.S.-Iraq Sanctions

The speakers are traveling as part of the "Remembering Omran" bus tour, which is circling the country to raise awareness about Iraq's state since the Gulf War in 1990-91. The tour was named after a 13-year-old Iraqi shepherd boy killed by an American bomb on May 17, 2000.

The UNC student activist group Students United for a Responsible Global Environment, sponsored the event in cooperation with Raleigh's Iraq Action Coalition.

Panel speaker Ellen Barfield said the purpose of the discussion was to increase Americans' awareness of the situation in Iraq.

Barfield said she has traveled to Iraq three times and is sure the American people are still in the dark about the Gulf War and its aftermath. "That is why we are here, to let folks know that there is tremendous suffering going on (in Iraq)," she said.

Barfield said the bombing during the Gulf War intentionally targeted Iraq's infrastructure, ruining its water treatment plants, hospitals and power plants.

Simon Harak, a Jesuit priest, was also on hand to voice concerns about violence against Iraqi people. Harak said he thinks the American government is to blame for the situation in Iraq.

He said the government tries to manipulate the media to hide the truth. "(On television during the Gulf War), you were not allowed as Americans to see more than one dead Iraqi body at a time," Harak said.

He also said the only bombing aired on television was a small percentage of bombs dropped on Iraq. "Every city, every village was bombed in Iraq," Harak said. "I can't hide from you what your government tried to hide from you."

Harak also showed two videos depicting gruesome images of charred Iraqi bodies and deformed Iraqi children -- all results of American bombing.

Harak engaged audience members in conversation throughout the discussion, asking them to think about the consequences of not having suitable water to drink, food to eat or decent medical care. "More than 500,000 children under the age of five are dead as a direct result of the sanctions," he said.

One audience member, Rajaie Qubain, president of the North Carolina chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said he was appalled by the sanctions imposed on Iraq because they are killing innocent people. "We are essentially wiping out a generation of Iraqis," Qubain said.

Other audience members said they gained a greater understanding of the current situation in Iraq.

"The issue popped up last week with Bush's bombing of Iraq, and this was an extremely valuable opportunity to inform myself on why those bombings are wrong," said Elizabeth Ferris, a freshman from Apex.

Harak said the overall purpose of the bus tour and speeches was to create a voice against suffering in Iraq.

"I not only want folks to know about (Iraq), but I want to form a community of compassion and empowerment."

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