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iraqi people plead for regime change

  1. cpecan1

    1,200 posts.
    From Lateline interview last night, good to see some balanced reporting for once.

    [Source Lateline website]
    [http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/s792903.htm]

    Australian Broadcasting Corporation
    LATELINE
    Late night news & current affairs

    TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
    LOCATION: abc.net.au > Lateline > Archives
    URL: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/s792903.htm

    Broadcast: 25/2/2003
    Shiites fight for Iraqi regime change
    Joining Tony Jones is Zainab Al-Suwaij, one of the rebels that survived the fighting in Karbala. She's now in exile in the US, where she's the executive director of the American Islamic Council.


    ---------
    Compere: Tony Jones
    Reporter: Tony Jones



    TONY JONES: Joining me now from Boston, is Zainab Al-Suwaij.

    As I've said she was one of those rebels in Karbala.

    She was very lucky to escape the carnage that followed.

    She's now in exile in the US, where she's the executive director of the American Islamic Council.

    She joins us now from Boston.

    TONY JONES: Zainab Al-Suwaij, do you have any idea what happened to those people who took their last stand in the shrine of the mosque of al-Hussein?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ, EXEC DIRECTOR, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: Well, most of them they got killed by Saddam Hussein's soldiers and many of them, the women there outside, they had been raped and taken to jails afterwards.

    TONY JONES: Do you have any idea at all of the numbers that we're talking about?

    Speaking to the Iraqi opposition at that time, they were estimating more than 100,000 people were killed in Karbala alone.

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: That's right.

    The estimation the Iraqi Government gave was about 300,000 Iraqis been killed in the south only, this is not the Kurds in the north also, and how many thousands of people have been killed there.

    After the uprising, they started asking the people to leave the city and as people are gathering with 100 or 200 people are leaving, the Government threw a bomb in the middle of them and left them all dead in the street.

    And refused --

    If anybody sees any relatives or friends dead in the street, they are not allowed to take that body and bury it.

    So they left the bodies in the street for several months and they burned the bones.

    TONY JONES: One of the extraordinary things when you see how the Republican Guard was sent in to do such terrible damage, not only to the people, but to those Islamic shrines, it's extraordinary to think that Saddam Hussein himself paints himself as an Islamic hero these days.

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: That's right.

    After the uprising had been failed and the Republican Guard came and they damaged the shrines very badly and we all know these are very sacred for Shi'ite Muslims, not only in Iraq, but all around the world, and at the same time I saw the helicopters were bombing both shrines.

    TONY JONES: I know you couldn't see the pictures there in that report filmed by someone who was involved in that rebellion.

    I know that also you did some filming yourself at that time.

    They indeed could be your pictures, but could you give us a sense of what it was like in the middle of that rebellion inside the mosque?

    What it felt like when you thought this rebellion might actually succeed?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Well, it was like big celebrations, like a big wedding.

    We are all discovering one another and the people there were just excited to find out about their neighbours and their friends who they are sharing the same idea.

    All of us under Saddam Hussein's regime.

    We don't believe in him, we don't want Saddam Hussein, but we are forced to live in police state, living in this regime.

    I didn't know about my neighbour who I saw there and I ask him, 'So why you are here?"

    He said , "For the same reason you are here."

    He thought I was with the Government and I thought he was with the Government.

    We had the same ideas, but in the end we all sharing that we want to be free, we want to live peacefully in Iraq.

    We don't want to fight against any other country and we don't want to be killed definitely in one of the jails of Saddam's.

    After the uprising succeed in the beginning, we opened the jails and we saw so many people who they are not only Iraqis, but many people who are from all over the world inside the jails.

    And we saw the torture chambers where there is human meat grinders and chemical baths to torture people and also a lot of torture tools that they use and a lot of many rooms that they use for sexual abuse.

    TONY JONES: Just go back for a moment if you can to the relations between people under the days when there was no uprising.

    You seem to be saying that even neighbours could not talk openly to each other, that there was distrust everywhere.

    How was that system imposed on people, and I imagine is imposed today?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: This is the same system imposed today has been there for more than you can imagine, since Saddam started being in power, 30 years ago.

    Saddam tried to use people against each other, to separate these people and get as much information.

    He used to reward fathers who they come forward and they say, for example, their sons deserted from the army.

    He used to reward them and kill the son at the same time.

    This kind of strategy that Saddam has been using with the people to make them and give them high acquisition and rewarding them by informing other people who are against the Government.

    This is how he controlled them.

    TONY JONES: Let me ask you a slightly different question.

    How do you feel these days looking back at the encouragement that the then President Bush gave you and your people to rise up in what ultimately was a doomed rebellion that led to so many deaths?

    Do you blame him for that?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Well, the thing is, we felt very betrayed after this.

    We wished the job was finished 12 years ago and we didn't need to go back again and do it right now.

    I think it was very difficult and that's what makes a lot of people very angry.

    Do I blame him?

    I mean, probably there are many other reasons that I don't know of they didn't -- probably the American Government was not ready to deal with Iraq issue and their main focus was to liberate Kuwait only.

    They didn't want to deal with the Iraq situation at that time.

    TONY JONES: Zainab Al-Suwaij, you've been watching what has become a very passionate international debate over whether or not it's right or wrong to go to war with Iraq at this time.

    The peace marches in their millions, for example, throughout the world in recent weeks, what do you say to them?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Well, I say it's about time to stop the war inside Iraq.

    Saddam has been killing people, torturing people for more than 30 years and it's about time for them to gain back their freedom and to enjoy and liberate their own country.

    Iraq has a lot of wealth, a lot of potential and it's about time to stop the war inside Iraq to save thousands and thousands of lives inside the country.

    So Iraqis right now are eager to gain back their freedom and they want Iraq to be liberated, to be free again.

    So for all of these people, I understand their concern, but as much as we give more time, more Iraqi innocent people inside Iraq will be killed by their own government.

    TONY JONES: As we know, you're a Shi'ite, as are some 60 per cent of the population of Iraq.

    If there's ever a real democracy in your country, the Shiites would effectively be in control, wouldn't they, just by virtue of being in a majority?

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Maybe.

    We're hoping for a democratic government that include everybody, whether Shiites, Sunni, Arab, Kurds, Christians and everybody inside Iraq who belong to that soil.

    We're hoping for a democratic government and we're hoping that is going to happen soon.

    TONY JONES: Some say, and I'm wondering what sort of message you give to the US Administration on this, because some say that the Americans don't want a democracy in Iraq precisely because they're worried it will be a Shi'ite government.

    They're worried about another fundamentalist Islamic cleric taking over, as happened in Iran.

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Well, Iraq is different.

    Even at 60 per cent of the population are Shiites, but most of them are secular so this is really different than Iran.

    I don't think even with a religious group in Iraq, it's going to be fundamentalist.

    I think it's going to be democracy and everybody's voice will be there and I think many people are preparing themselves for that.

    TONY JONES: I'm afraid that's all we have time for.

    Zainab Al-Suwaij, thank you very much for taking the time to tell us your story.

    ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ: Thank you for having me.

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