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Iraqi civilian to speak about country's condition Friday

Talk aimed to educate people on health, erase misconceptions

Posted: Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rana Al-Aiouby, like many in Iraq, saw her life dramatically change after the United States began a bombing campaign in her country in 2003.

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The private French tutor in Baghdad is now the founder of a group that rushes medical supplies and basic provisions, such as food, clothing and water, to refugee camps.

Al-Aiouby will speak about her experiences in Juneau at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Alaska Southeast Egan Lecture Hall. The event is sponsored by the Northern Light United Church and the University of Alaska Southeast.

"I will mostly be talking about the health situation in Iraq," Al-Aiouby said.

Thousands are now homeless or seeking refuge in temporary camps due to airstrikes and evacuations of cities. In some areas, the U.S.-led coalition troops laid siege upon the local hospitals and medical clinics, she said.

Also, her goals while in the United States are to dispel myths that many Americans hold about pre-invasion Iraq, for example, that Iraqi women did not have any rights under the Saddam regime, she said.

"I never needed any soldiers to free me," Al-Aiouby said.

Before the invasion, Iraq offered free education and health care to women, netting some of the most educated and modern women in the Middle East, she said. Now, women with master's degrees are living in the "Stone Age" because they cannot leave their homes for fear of being kidnapped by insurgents.

"(Iraq) is the most dangerous place in the world," Al-Aiouby said.

This is Al-Aiouby's first trip to America and Alaska is her first stop. She was invited by Anchorage-based reporter Karen Button, who blogs on the Iraq War.

Earlier Al-Aiouby visited Homer and Kenai. She spoke in Anchorage Wednesday, and she plans to stop in Seattle and San Francisco next week.

"We hope that her speech will open people's eyes to the Iraqi civilian perspective," Amy Paige, a member of Juneau People for Peace and Justice.

The relief worker also presented her firsthand experiences to the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul; the World Social Forum 2006 Karachi, Pakistan; and the World Peace Forum in Vancouver, which also was held this year.

Her countrymen view the United States as a nation that is in pursuit of Iraqi oil, Al-Aiouby said.

"Their opinion is Americans came to exploit our country," she said.

In 2005, Al-Aiouby founded the International Peace Angels, a nongovernmental organization that delivers humanitarian and medical relief to areas of conflict inside Iraq.

"It's so unique to hear from an Iraqi who has experienced the Iraqi invasion and occupation," Paige said.

Juneau People for Peace and Justice are inviting two speakers to the capital next month to discuss similar topics, Paige said.

Sgt. Camillo Mejia, a Florida national guardsman who refused to be redeployed to Iraq and was court marshaled for his actions, will speak on Oct. 6. Later next month, Juneau will hear from Kathy Kelly, who delivered medical supplies to Iraq after the Gulf War while the embargoes were in place and went to Lebanon after the bombing began there this summer.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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