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Iraqi pleads for U.S. withdrawal

'People suffering more than before'


When she spoke in public, Iraqi pharmacist Rashad Zidan was so passionate that she often seemed to be yelling; sometimes she was yelling.

For Zidan, who has been touring the United States to plead for an end to the three-year occupation of her country, the promises of George Bush of a better life for the Iraqi people have not been realized. Zidan was among a delegation of Iraqi women who came to tell a far different story of the U.S. occupation than the one being trumpeted by the Bush administration.

Zidan, whose trip was sponsored by the peace group Code Pink, spoke in Raleigh and Fayetteville on the third anniversary of the war's start. In the Triangle, Zidan also visited Congressmen David Price and Brad Miller.

With many Iraqi cities crippled by U.S. bombing raids, many people are still without water, electricity, medical care and schools, Zidan said during a lecture to more than 130 people at N.C. State's Dabney Hall.

In addition to the lack of basic services, Zidan said bombing raids continue as war rages against insurgents opposed to the occupation. U.S. jets frequently miss their targets or hit civilian targets, she said, and told the story of an Iraqi child she met who lost her entire family when an F-16 bombed the family's house.

"They don't know if they're bombing a house or a hospital or a mosque," she said. Families are afraid to send their children to school for fear they will be killed in a bombing attack. "You are afraid you will not see her again," said Zidan, who has four children.

Many Iraqi women have lost their husbands, and employment prospects for the widows are slim, Zidan said. The numbers of Iraqi dead are greatly underreported, she said.

If the United States leaves Iraq, she said, so will the insurgents. "They are staying to fight the U.S."

Zidan's trip also included stops in South Carolina, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Chicago, places where she says she saw plenty of poverty and homelessness.

"I was very surprised," she said. "You have all these problems. You have to solve your problems before you come to give us democracy."

In an interview following her lecture, Zidan said her message is "very brief and simple: You have not to be afraid from us; just try hard to stop the suffering for both of our nations.

"You just destructed. You never improve it. Everything has been destroyed and the people are suffering too much, more than they were before," she said.

At the start of the war, most Iraqis believed Bush, she said. "They were thinking that he was really speaking the truth, and he was just coming to pull Saddam Hussein and give us freedom and democracy and help us. But after three years of destroying everything, of not rebuilding, of no security, no electricity, no medication, no education, bombing everywhere, they now believe that all that has been promised was not true."

Zidan said she wants all Americans to work to stop the war.

"I think it's the duty of good people to look after the truth and share it with others," she said. "Unless we share with each other our feelings, we would not be a human beings. I hope you can work hard to end this suffering and work for peace. I'm sure God will help us."

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