Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Activists for Iraqi Children Crash Albright's Party

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Activists for Iraqi Children Crash Albright's Party

Article excerpt

Activists for Iraqi Children Crash Albright's Party

Five human rights activists made sure the confirmation of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state didn't go completely unchallenged Jan. 8 by voicing their opposition to United Nations sanctions against Iraq. Members of the group Voices in the Wilderness interrupted Albright's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by holding up signs and shouting, "One-half-million Iraqi children have died because of U.S./U.N. sanctions. You could do so much."

Members of the Chicago-based organization dedicated to ending the sanctions pled for Albright and Congress to end the embargo that they charge has led to the deaths of more than half a million Iraqi children in the six years since the Gulf war. As former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Albright has been an ardent supporter of the sanctions meant to keep Iraq from rebuilding its military forces.

Kathy Kelly, a founding member of Voices, was the first to jump up and shout her protests. The others followed and all were led out of the hearing room by police. Committee Chairman Sen. Jesse Helms (RNC) told one protester, "Come on lady, you have freedom of speech, but not here." Despite being hurried out of the building, Kelly was pleased that the protest brought some attention to the plight of Iraqi children. "I think we accomplished more in those 12 seconds then we did with month-long trips to Baghdad," she said.

The subsequent coverage in major newspapers and TV newscasts of the protests did bring greater attention to Voices, whose members have faced possible prison sentences for breaking the U.N. embargo and bringing medical supplies to help Iraqi children. According to UNICEF statistics, 4,500 children die each month from starvation and disease in Iraq. "This is clearly the most egregious human rights abuse in this decade," Kelly said, "and no one seems to care. …

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