Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Eyewitness Report on Iraq

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Eyewitness Report on Iraq

Article excerpt

EYEWITNESS REPORT ON IRAQ

Iraqi-American Emmanuel Ashoo gave an eyewitness account of the current situation in Iraq at the Arab Cultural Center of San Francisco on Aug. 16. Emmanuel and his wife, Faiqa, traveled to Iraq in May to attend a Christian ecumenical conference. At the conclusion of the 3-day conference in Baghdad, which was attended by 300 people from 20 countries, the Ashoos traveled independently to northern Iraq and to Basra in southern Iraq.

Ashoo reported that the average Iraqi's horrific living conditions have not changed substantially since his last visit in 1998. In Basra, his hometown, there is no electricity during the day. Many people have aging generators which need to be refueled hourly in order to keep functioning. With daytime temperatures over 100 degrees, with high humidity, people suffer miserably during the summer months. Since tap water, if there is any, is contaminated, the wealthier residents buy bottled water or filtration systems. If people drink tap water, they are prone to illness or death from water-borne diseases resulting from lack of chlorine and replacement parts for water purification plants. These items are not allowed into the country because of the U.N.-imposed sanctions which have been in place since Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990.

One change since Ashoo's last visit to Iraq, he said, is that hospitals, which were free in 1998, now charge patients for treatment, placing an additional burden on workers earning only $3 or $4 a month. …

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