For many students, Iraq is synonymous with Saddam Hussein or victimized citizens. But for some students, Iraq means family and heritage.
Iraqi-American students on campus hold a host of opinions regarding war between Iraq and the United States, but many agree that something should be done to change the situation in Iraq.
LSA sophomore Areej El-Jawahri, an Iraqi American, said she thinks there is broad consensus among Iraqi students regarding Saddam Hussein’s rule. “Personally, I think a lot of Iraqi students support a regime change in Iraq,” she said. “We’re worried about Saddam Hussein really hurting his own people and people in the region.”
LSA senior Paul Gabrail, who moved to the United States from Iraq a few months after he was born, echoed El-Jawahri’s sentiments. He said that 2,000 Iraqi children die each month from lack of basic medical care like antibiotics. “It’s hurting the Iraqi people the longer we stay with (Saddam),” Gabrail said.
While El-Jawahri and Gabrail said they support a war against Saddam, other Iraqi-Americans on campus in favor of regime change were against an American-led attack. University alum Hiba Ghalib said she does not believe all other means have been exhausted yet. “I am not in any way supporting Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. But at the same time I don’t believe that war is the way to deal with the situation,” she said. “I just don’t see the justification at this point.”
She said that her family in America feels the need to take a low-key stance and not be too vocal against the war because they are worried about being labelled anti-American. “When I take active stances for or against anything in the government, my parents are really wary,” she said.
LSA freshman Sayf Al-Katib said he thinks Saddam should be removed because of the harm he does to the country, but he does not support war. “Under the current situation in Iraq I don’t feel that there is the opportunity for the country to prosper under Saddam’s leadership, under the current economic sanctions,” he said. “Now whether or not a war is the solution – I don’t have the answer to that but I feel that there are other alternatives to war.” He said he worried that war would lead to strained relations between countries and cited French disapproval of war as one example.
Gabrail, who has family in Baghdad, said he doesn’t have a single family member who is against the war. “I want people to realize that Iraqi people’s concerns are how to get rid of Saddam,” he said.
El-Jawahri said Iraqis are preparing for war. “A lot of my family don’t feel threatened – they have seen a lot of war in the past 27 years of Saddam,” she said. She added that her family members are trying to stock up on food, gas and supplies for war.
She said many Iraqi youth are being deported to southern Iraq to fight against the United States. “There is a lot of talk among youth that when they see U.S. troops they will drop their weapons,” she said.
Gabrail said it is hard to tell what the people of Iraq actually think because of restrictions on speech in the regime. He told the story of his father’s medical school professor in Iraq who spoke out against Saddam Hussein and disappeared overnight.
“If you try to say something in Iraq, it’s dealt with immediately,” Gabrail said.
Ghalib said it is difficult for her family to get information about life in Iraq from relatives still living there. “They’re not really allowed to speak about anything political. We don’t really know what’s going on,” she said.