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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Thursday, May 30, 2002 at 10:56AM :

MAY 24, 2002

American Quakers Challenge US Role in Iraq

PHILADELPHIA - May 24 - On May 30, a delegation of Quakers will leave for Iraq, defying US restrictions on travel to that country. The delegation was organized by the Campaign of Conscience for the People of Iraq, a multifaith effort to end the economic sanctions. The trip will call attention to the devastating impact of sanctions on the civilian population and will raise concerns about the threats from the United States of another attack against Iraq.
"Through personal experiences we want to change the way Americans view Iraq" said Peter Lems, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) program assistant for Iraq. "The sanctions have extracted an unacceptable and tragic human cost.

According to UNICEF, 106,000 children under the age of five die in Iraq each year as a result of the sanctions, which translates to twelve children who die every hour or a child every five minutes.

Lems said that vast areas of the country have no potable water and that contaminated water is the number one killer of children under five. He also stated that the sanctions on Iraq violate provisions of the Geneva Convention, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The delegation will visit sites where water purifiers, sent by the Campaign without permission of the US Treasury Department, are in use. The seven-person delegation will fly to Amman, Jordan, on Thursday, May 30 and will travel to Iraq on June 2, spending a few days visiting partners and projects in the Baghdad area before traveling south to Basra. The delegation returns to Jordan on June 11, and to the United States on June 13.

Lems said the delegation will visit a new project area where the Campaign will rebuild the Al Naour Water Treatment Plant outside the city of Baqooba in an agricultural region known as "the citrus basket of Iraq." The plant will serve five schools and more than 9,000 people in many scattered villages.

In addition to Lems, the delegates include: Joanne Comerford of the AFSC Western Massachusetts office in Northhampton; Massachusetts; Michael Cooper of Birmingham Monthly Meeting in West Chester, Pennsylvania; John Humphries of Hartford Monthly Meeting in Hartford, Connecticut; Debra Johnson of Memphis Monthly Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee; Wendy Vasquez of Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa and guide Rick McDowell from Voices in the Wilderness - an international organization working to lift the sanctions against Iraq.

Started in 1999 by AFSC and the New York-based Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Campaign of Conscience for the People of Iraq works to end the economic sanctions and engages in projects that attempt to avert human tragedy in the region. Recently, the Campaign of Conscience launched a peace pledge to oppose another attack against Iraq. With 6,500 signatures, the pledge will be delivered to every member of the US Congress during coordinated lobby days in Washington DC from June 15-19.

"The sanctions are the most comprehensive economic blockage imposed on a nation in modern history," said Lems. "UN resolution 1409, passed earlier this month, has modified the sanctions, but presents no substantial change to the structure of the sanctions regime." Lems pointed out there is no allowance for badly needed foreign investment, and no mechanism to introduce revenue into the economy.

Tun Myat, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq has stated that "no matter how much you try and modify [the existing program], it is not designed for - and it will never be - a substitute for normal economic activity."

"Twelve years of sanctions have led to an almost complete breakdown in economic, medical, social, and educational structures," Lems stresses. "The US Government has used Saddam Hussein as an excuse to justify the horrific number of deaths caused by the sanctions."

For additional information about the Campaign of Conscience, please visit the web site

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

-- Lilly
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