Lorraine Al-Rawi: One woman's views on Iraq

Category: World Affairs Topics: Iraq Views: 1040

What follows is an interview with Mrs. Lorraine Al-Rawi. Lorraine is a convert to Islam. Her husband is Iraqi and she is the mother of six children, the youngest a daughter only a few months old. Lorraine has travelled to Iraq, and has reported on conditions in that beleaguered nation -- specifically the disastrous effects of the United States sponsored embargo.

Lorraine has toured Iraq extensively. She and two of her daughters, Kouthar, 12, and Marwa, 11, have initiated a campaign "One Million Postcards for Iraq" that has received national publicity.

Susan: Lorraine, will you tell us how many times you have visited Iraq since the imposition of the embargo?

Lorraine: I have visited Iraq three times since the embargo and have spent a total of three months there.

Susan: Were any of the Iraqis you met reluctant to speak out?

Lorraine: None of the Iraqis we met were reluctant to speak out. They were actually happy that someone wanted to hear the stories they had to tell and that their voices could be heard.

Susan: Will you tell us with perhaps some illustrations about how the embargo has affected the infrastructure? How the embargo has affected schooling? How has the embargo has affected the diet of the population?

Lorraine: The embargo has affected the infrastructure in many ways. One example would be contaminated water. Iraq is unable to purify all the water that the society needs. The power plants are in a poor state of repair, and the electricity is cut on a regular basis. Believe me, when the temperature is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it is not pleasant. The air stands still, and breathing becomes difficult. Imagine a person who suffers from asthma and has no access to medicine. Medicine -- even non-prescription medication that we take for granted -- is virtually non-existent due to the embargo.

As for schooling, Iraq had a 90 percent literacy rate before the embargo. Now it stands below 50 percent. Children have been forced to leave school and sell trinkets and personal items on the street in order to survive. I attended a high school chemistry class that was experimenting, with no success, with chemicals more than 10 years old. Not surprisingly, they could not achieve results.

As for diet, I know and know of children who have never tasted meat. The current oil-for-food rations provide a very basic diet of rice, tea, flour, beans, oil and sugar. There are virtually no fruits, vegetables, eggs or meat included. The rations last an average of three weeks, and on the last week, many of the families literally starve. With many of the salaries in the neighborhood of $3.00 a month, families still have to take care of all normal necessities and extra food, if at all possible.

Susan: Before the embargo, Iraq had a medical program free to all its citizens. It was on a par with Western nations and was considered by many to be a model. How has that changed since the embargo?

Lorraine: That system has collapsed. It has deteriorated to the level of a third world country. Iraq still has an educated population of doctors, but they have very limited equipment and very few drugs. One of my aunts through marriage died of a gastrointestinal ailment that could have been successfully treated by items we can purchase in any drugstore in the West.

Susan: Can you, after your numerous trips to Iraq, trace the descent of that nation?

Lorraine: As I answer these questions, Iraq is flourishing in many ways, yet dying as a nation in others. The people there have faced extreme hardships in life, and they continue to survive.

The Iraqis fix things in incredibly creative ways. In this country when an appliance is broken, it is replaced immediately. In Iraq, a generation of very ingenious problem solvers is being born. The loss of 250 children a day would devastate any nation.

Susan: People in a nation effectively under siege must suffer in their family relations. What have you observed in that arena?

Lorraine: I have seen first hand how family relations suffer. My sister-in-law's husband has been out of the country for four years working abroad to support his family in Iraq. She has been forced by this situation to raise two teenage sons and a daughter by herself. During the important formative years of their lives, they had essentially one parent. And, of course, families suffer psychological damage every day from the incredible stress brought on by the effects of the embargo.

Susan: During the Spring of 1999 you returned from Iraq with a young child who could not receive the medical care she needed in Iraq. Could you tell us something about her, her condition and how she is faring now?

Lorraine: The child is scheduled for surgery on March 3 of this year. Her name is Maha, and she is 11 years old. She faces several serious surgeries before she can get back on her feet. Her condition, which is congenital, could have been treated at an early age had the medical system present before the embargo still been operative. She could have been spared so much suffering. As for her daily life, she has learned English and is first in her class in school. Maha was born with scoliosis, which resulted in severe deformity in both feet and stiffness of all joints.

Susan: Please tell us about your postcard campaign.

Lorraine: The postcard campaign is going strong. Two of my daughters are collecting one million postcards to give to the President [of the United States] to protest the economic sanctions. The postcards come from all over the world and are largely, but not exclusively, from children. We will continue to collect them until the sanctions are lifted. Everyone is invited to submit a postcard. One may join the campaign by sending a card to: One Million Postcards Campaign, P. O. Box 1141, San Pedro, CA, 90733. The card may contain a message opposing sanctions or a picture or both. More information can be found on our website at: http://member.aol.com/hamzaha/iraqichildren.

Susan: Do you have plans for expanding it?

Lorraine: Yes, we do have plans to expand it. We would like to travel more on behalf of the program and to have more people join our efforts.

Susan: If you had a message for the readers about the Iraqi embargo, what would it be?

Lorraine: The message I have for readers is that children are never responsible for adult actions. No matter how much governments disagree with each other, children should not be the victims of subsequent hostile actions. Children have rights, and the rights of Iraqi children should be acknowledged. End the embargo for the sake of the children! I wish and pray that the sanctions are removed promptly and that the new millennium will bring renewed hope for the children and people of Iraq and for all the world's suffering children.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Iraq
Views: 1040

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