Iraqi Eyewitness Speaks
A continued U.S. military presence in Iraq has done considerable harm to the country’s infrastructure, according to Iraqi writer and human rights advocate Eman Ahmad Khamas, who delivered a lecture titled ‘Everyday Life and Citizen Peace Building in Iraq,’ at UC Irvine on Thursday, April 13.
After the overthrow of the Iraqi government in 2003 by the U.S. military, Khamas began helping detainees, refugees and other Iraqi civilians. Her background as a writer and translator led her to begin recording abuses against the Iraqi civilians by U.S. military and Iraqi insurgents.
Khamas began a speaking tour of the United States, supported by international human rights and peace groups Global Exchange and Code Pink, to create awareness of the condition of the Iraqi people and to deliver her plan for peace and security in Iraq.
Khamas said that ongoing U.S. military occupation of Iraq is leading to increased unrest, and that most Iraqis wish that the U.S. forces would leave.
‘People who are hurt by occupation would join the insurgents,’ Khamas said.
Khamas presented a weary and pessimistic view of U.S. political involvement in Iraq, saying that claims of democracy in Iraq are untrue, and that the country has been without any form of government for four months.
‘Democracy can’t be established in Iraq because we don’t have any institutions, traffic [or] police,’ Khamas said. ‘We don’t have a state. We have chaos, insecurity.’
Khamas spoke of the current conditions in Baghdad, the city where she was born and raised. Many Baghdad residents have been displaced from their homes. People are unable to find their family members who have been detained. Houses, schools, hospitals, hotels and other buildings have been bombed and need reconstruction. Schools that have not been bombed have been converted to temporary homes for families whose homes were bombed, forcing students to attend class in open fields or in tents.
Khamas blamed the U.S. military for careless mistakes that led to Iraq’s devastation, such as the accidental bombings of Iraqi hospitals.
Khamas also spoke about the mysterious assassinations of Iraqi intellectuals. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 200 doctors from the Ministry of Health and more than 500 university professors have been assassinated. Khamas does not know who killed these people or why, or what the victims had in common, other than being intellectuals.
One of the causes of the chaos is the detainment of many Iraqi civilians and their subsequent detainment in U.S. military prisons. Khamas claimed that many of these men were arrested and abducted from their homes for no reason. Family members are unable to find their detained relatives because many prisoners do not have identification.
As a mother of two children, Khamas is particularly concerned with the rights of Iraqi women.
‘You cannot liberate [women] outside of their social context,’ Khamas said. ‘Social problems are dealt with through dialogue [and] through education, not through bombs.’
Khamas has a grave outlook for the future of the Iraqi people.
‘Every day is worse than the day before,’ Khamas said. ‘We have nothing now.’
Even the country’s oil industry has been destroyed, according to Khamas, with 95 percent of oil being smuggled out of the country.
For many Iraqi families, the only thing they have left is fear.
‘Families are buying guns, pistols to protect their families,’ Khamas said. ‘Because American troops are there, the chaos won’t end.’
Ryan Cadry, a fourth-year international studies major, disagreed with Khamas’ pessimism regarding the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq.
‘I thought she oversimplified the issue,’ Cadry said. ‘Iraq is in a politically and socially fragile state. Right now is not the time to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Different religious and political factions disagree on which path they should take. I guess you just need a moderator. [Khamas] failed to take into account the long-term ramifications of withdrawing.’