Sophia's Peace Work

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Please go to and get a small taste of what has happened in Fallujah.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It's the people who die ...

I've been watching the new coverage on Iraq here. It's full of talk about Fallujah and martial law in Iraq ... when they aren't talking about sports or cutting to a commercial. It's hard to watch the military experts they interview on the news here ... they talk about precision strikes and the professionalism of our troops. It is so sanitized and they never show anyone dead or dying on T.V. That's one major difference between the news coverage in the U.S. vs. the Middle East. It's so frustrating because people here are so completely ignorant as a result.

They say many people have left Fallujah but there was one report that said that atleast some of the civilians who are still in the city are poor people who had no means of getting out. There is a quote that I know (I can't remember who said it) that goes, "In the battle of good against evil it is only the people who die."

I remember my friends who traveled into Fallujah during the fighting last April ... they came back with stories and pictures of children, women and old men shot dead by coalition troops, shot-up ambulances and people stuck inside the city.

I just pray for the safety of the people who are caught in the middle.

Dir Ballkum (Be careful) to all my friends in Iraq. Stay safe!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Hello from Bushland!

I recently wrote to an Iraqi friend who is traveling around the East Coast on a speaking tour ... here is an excerpt from my letter:

Hello dear,

I look forward to seeing you soon in Washington, D.C.!!! Maryland is not without its charms and well, you will get to see the Seat of Power ... Bushland ... the so-called (in some circles) Evil Empire ... in all its glory! I'm giving it quite a build-up, aren't I?

I was somewhat surprised but then pretty resigned to the news that Bush had won the election. I couldn't face any of the news coverage about it with all the crowing and strutting about that the Republicans would do. Yeesh!

I'm curious what you thought about the whole crazy thing ... an Iraqi watching an American Election take place ... I know that you can't help but be at least a little influenced by your friends here in the States. Most of us are all true-blue Bush-haters ... but then he did "liberate Iraq from Saddam." Well, he didn't do it, the U.S. and British soldiers did it ... Bush couldn't liberate himself from corn-maze after a frost!

For me there is this disheartening realization that my country men and women knowingly voted for someone that I consider to be a bald-faced liar. Alot of people deny this but I think, looking back on this time period from a safe distance (i.e. when everyone who could be politically hurt by the proof of this allegation are dead and buried), my view will be borne out.

To bad I probably wont be around to see it.

"Remember Fallujah!"

The following is a recent communication that I sent to the State Department and the British Consul concerning Iraq. There is information at the end on how you can send your comments.

I am writing in concern over what seems to be an almost irreversible desire by some in the Bush Administration to solve every problem with a hammer. I spent about 9 months in the Middle East this year, most of which was spent in Iraq living in Baghdad (in what people living in the Green Zone refer to as the “Red Zone”). I worked independently with Iraqi NGO’s on environmental projects and also taught English at the University of Baghdad. During my time there I spoke to people in squatter and refugee camps, in homes, in hospitals, at universities and government ministries, and on the Baghdad streets. I believe that I had a unique opportunity to gauge the sentiments of ordinary Iraqis. I also saw a lot of behavior by the CPA and the international forces which I felt were ... to be charitable … misguided.

The decisions by the U.S. to lock up a huge section in the center of the city for the Green Zone, residing in the same structures as Saddam and the Baath Party and to take the Iraqi Presidential Palace and turn it into an American Embassy are certainly at the top of this list. How many lives have been and continue to be lost because we fail to see the disastrous symbolism in these acts?

And now the build up to attack in Fallujah. The U.S. will fail even if it pulverizes Fallujah into dust … the resistance will simply move elsewhere and the hearts and minds of Iraqis will be further hardened against the U.S. by the results of such an attack. These issues in Fallujah as in the Sunni Triangle in general may be difficult but they are not insolvable. You have a disenfranchised population that has been offered no assurance that its needs and rights will be respected in the new Iraqi state. Playing on these fears are international resistance fighters with a grudge against the U.S. (that have some legitimate roots that our government is never unwilling to face) and old-Baathist who resent their loss of power.

Attacking Fallujah does nothing to address these fundamental issues. They will simply rear their head up in another city with perhaps a different face and will likely be only more intractable to solve because now the resistance will have a new rallying cry to add to the ones they use already, “Remember Fallujah!”

United States: Secretary of State Colin Powell
State Department
Phone: 202.647.4000

United Kingdom: Rt Hon Edward Chaplin
British Consul, Baghdad, Iraq
(964) (0) 790.192.6280

Friday, November 05, 2004

This was just sent to me from Drishtipat, a human rights group in Bangladesh. Now that I'm in the U.S. I hadn't even heard of this particular kidnapping of two truck drivers (one from Bangladesh and the other from Sri Lanka) and it illustrates a rather insidious problem about Iraq. It has become so dangerous in Iraq for workers from the coalition countries (not to mention workers from the surrounding countries like Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey), that there is an employment gap. Goods and equipment still need to be brought into the country and someone will bring them in. Many who are willing to take the risk and fill this employment gap are people from the poorest countries who have come to the Middle East in the hopes of supporting their families back at home.

But what will the kidnapping of men like Abul Kashem Faruk and Dinesh Dharmendran Rajaratnam bring to the Resistance in Iraq? Certainly in the U.S., given our general unwillingness to even pay attention to the deaths of Iraqis, they'll be luckly to get a footnote on the back pages of a few local papers that were scrounging around to pad out their papers. I'm sad to say I wonder if they will even get that.

My prayers go out to Mr. Faruk, Mr. Rajaratnam and their family. And my prayers also go out to those that have taken them. Perhaps they have good reason to resist the occupiers but punishing the poor and the weak for the mistakes of the wealthy and the powerful seems more than pointless ... it seems impossibly cruel and sad.


We earnestly appeal to all Iraqi groups for the release of our compatriot, Mr. Abul Kashem Faruk. On behalf of the Bangladeshi people and ourselves, we urge and plead for the release of Mr. Faruk in the name of our common humanity and brotherly compassion.

We call upon various Iraqi groups to have mercy on Mr. Faruk and release him because he is a civilian who had neither any intention of nor had any part in harming the Iraqi people in any manner.

We believe that the kidnapping of an innocent Bangladeshi civilian does not serve the cause of Iraqi resistance or the country's freedom from foreign occupation. Mr. Faruk is a truck driver from Bangladesh. He went to Iraq in search of a livelihood so that he could support his family in Bangladesh with his meager remittances. Unfortunately, he is reported to have been recently kidnapped by some Iraqi group.

We urge the Iraqi people and Iraqi civilian groups to exert themselves for the release of Mr. Faruk. We request all those involved in this matter to do their utmost to have Mr. Faruk released as soon as possible and end the anxiety of his family and friends.

We also urge all Iraqi groups to end the kidnappings of civilians. These bring bad and hurtful publicity for Iraq's rightful bid for freedom from foreign occupation.

We like to point out that the people of Bangladesh, in solidarity with the people of Iraq, have consistently and vigorously opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the cultural and historical pride of us all.

Our country, Bangladesh, is a member of the Non-aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Conference. Bangladesh is one of the world's most important Muslim-majority countries.

Bangladeshis of all religion and faith have served in the past as professionals, military advisors, doctors, engineers, and workers in Iraq and have made their modest contributions in the service of and to the development of Iraq.

The people of Bangladesh have always favored peace and understanding among the nations of the Middle East and have resolutely opposed unjust wars and illegal foreign occupations. The government of Bangladesh, for its part, had also worked for resolving the Iran-Iraq conflict years ago. It has vehemently opposed foreign aggression during both Gulf Wars and the genocidal UN sanctions against Iraq.

The people of Bangladesh wholeheartedly support Iraqi people's struggle for freedom from tyranny of occupation and their claim for adequate reparations and full reconstruction of Iraq.

Bangladeshis believe that it is the Iraq people who rightfully ought to exercise sovereignty over their country and have full control of their rich resources.

We hope and pray that the concerned Iraqi groups will release Mr. Abul Kashem Faruk and all other civilians kidnapped in accordance with the pledged values of Arabs and Muslims that civilians should never be harmed.

The release of Mr. Faruk would be considered a magnanimous humanitarian gesture by the Bangladeshi people.

Therefore, we urge the concerned Iraqi groups to release him and earn the gratitude of us all who stand with Iraq shoulder to shoulder in its hour of crisis.

We pray for the safe return of our compatriot.

- Drishtipat

Monday, November 01, 2004

I've been, to on degree or another, sick ever since I returned ... flu, cold, something else that's got me run down. I think it's been coming on for awhile (which would explain my rather insipid and spotty posts of late). I've lots to say but until I feel up to snuff, I'll leave you with an update on the village of Tuwani in the South Hebron hills.

At-Tuwani Villagers Meet For First Time With Senior Occupation Official
November 1, 2004

CPTers were present in at-Tuwani Sunday morning when village leaders met with an Israeli official, who said he is the head of the Israeli Civil (Military) Administration for the southern West Bank. One of the villagers present at the hour long meeting said that the official asked to be told of "your needs."

The villagers listed these concerns:

*Water: Villagers must gather it in buckets from a small spring that only provides enough for drinking and cooking. Poorer quality rainwater trapped in cisterns is used for washing. The Ma'on settlement's water line passes only sixty meters from the village. The village wants to tap into it.

*Clinic: The village wants to finish building their clinic, currently under an occupation stop-work order.

*Safe passage to the at-Tuwani primary school for the children of Tuba: The children are afraid to use the direct one-mile path because settlers from Ma'on have been attacking them and the accompanying internationals; so theyare forced to follow a circuitous hilly five mile route.

*Electricity: The Ma'on settlement's power comes from a grid, while at-Tuwani must get its power from a diesel generator, which it can only afford to run for a few hours each evening. At-Tuwani wants to connect to the grid.

*Road access to Karmil: The villagers want the Israeli military to remove three dirt barricades blocking the road from at-Tuwani to the larger Palestinian population centers of Karmil, Yatta and Hebron. These barricades prevent access to the hospital, secondary schools and stores located there.

*Improvement of the road to al-Mufakra and villages to the south: Residents of small villages south of Tuwani must travel through it by a very rough path in order to reach those larger Palestinian centers described above. Five years ago, Israeli authorities said, "No" to villager requests to improve the path.

Describing their complaints, a village leader said, "These are humanitarian needs [which] under occupation, the Israelis are responsible for." Continuing, he said, "the civil administrator asked us to provide engineering drawings for connecting our village to water and electricity. He told us to go ahead and build the clinic, but," the leader added, "We still don't have a permit in writing."
The leaders said that they were also told that the questions about the roads would be studied, and Israeli soldiers would be assigned to accompany theschool children. The leader also told CPT that the visit by such a high ranking occupation official has never happened before in at-Tuwani.

"This meeting today didn't just happen. We have had these problems, and many attacks by settlers for years, but no one outside knew. Thank you for being here, you have brought us attention. Please thank all the people who have helped us, the media, the US consular officials who visited, and the Israeli and international peace groups. Your help made this visit happen."

CPT intends to remain in at-Tuwani monitoring the situation.