exiles take hope in war buildup
marches? Iraqi businessman Ali al Bayati, 46, dismisses
them as PR fodder for Saddam Hussein and points to
his TV. Sure enough, Hussein's satellite station is
showing scenes of last month's huge marches, again
Bush? Europeans may disdain him, but he's "a
great man," says Iraqi maintenance engineer Hayder
Hamid, 40. "I feel he wants to do something for
the Iraqi people this time."
looming invasion of Iraq by a massive Western war
machine? "I see it as... the glimmer of hope
we've been waiting for," says medical student
much of world opinion opposes war, there is an almost
opposite point of view among those with a very personal
stake in the outcome - the ordinary Iraqis who left
their homeland because of Hussein's brutality.
estimated four million have fled Iraq because of Hussein;
350,000 of them are in the United Kingdom.
through their eyes, and Hussein is an unspeakably
evil murderer and torturer who must be stopped.
a way he is worse than Hitler, because in addition
to killing others, "he fights his own people,
kills his people, every day," says former Iraqi
teacher Alya, 52, a London community worker who asked
that only her first name be used.
was imprisoned for 40 days in Iraq because she and
her husband were active in Iraq's Communist Party.
points to the false front teeth that replaced real
ones punched out by police, points to her damaged
left ear, and finally to her left hip and leg - broken
when, after she was released from prison, Hussein's
people ran her down with a car.
she and others admit, war is a difficult choice and
not to be applauded outright.
all Iraqi people feel like me - they want Saddam gone,"
Alya said in a west London community center this week
as other Iraqi women engaged in energetic aerobics
nearby. "But if the war happens, it will kill
innocent people. But Saddam needs to go. How? How?"
will pray for a minimum of casualties; war is never
clean," said Yasser Alaskary, 22, a London medical
student. But still, he said, the prospect of U.S.
and British forces invading Iraq and toppling Hussein
seems "too good to be true."
his fellow medical student Hadad and other young Iraqis
formed a group called Iraqi Prospect a year ago in
an attempt to get the exile point of view across to
Manchester, businessman Bayati has done the same,
leading a group called Iraqi Exiles in Britain that
has sent its concerns to British Prime Minister Tony
here are distressed to see that as the issue of the
war fills newspapers and television screens every
day, nearly all groups but Iraqis are asked their
opinions about it.
is hurting and disturbing and not pleasant that someone
other than your own people" is debating your
country's fate, says London fashion importer Kawa
the efforts to inject exile and refugee voices into
the debate have had some success. In speeches, Blair
has begun citing exile concerns when stressing the
humanitarian argument for an invasion of Iraq.
750,000 antiwar marchers massed in London on Feb.
15, the prime minister told a Labor Party conference
in Glasgow: "There will be no march for the victims
of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children
that die needlessly every year under his rule, no
righteous anger over the torture chambers which, if
he is left in power, will be left in being."
Wednesday, as Blair faced a politically crippling
debate and vote in Parliament over the war, Sama Hadad
could be seen on British television delivering a petition
to No. 10 Downing Street "urging the international
community to remove Saddam by any means necessary...
. [I]t is hoped that the voice of Iraqis will make
an impact on the ministerial vote and will shift it
in favor of military intervention and will pressurize
the prime minister to commit to democracy post-Saddam."
are as diverse as any other people, though, and despite
a generally shared hatred of Hussein, the exiles'
support for the war varies, as do their opinions about
President Bush's intentions.
fashion importer Besarani agrees with many that peace
marchers saw only one side of the argument. While
they were genuine in saying stop the war, he said,
"you need to have a balance. I could call this
the most brutal regime the world has ever seen, and
sometimes they miss that point."
Besarani, who fled Iraq as a young man when his opposition
work put him in mortal danger, desperately wants an
alternative to war - perhaps U.N. "humanitarian
inspectors" who would roam Iraq like weapons
many who support war, he said, question Bush's motives.
"They think the U.S. approach is not necessarily
to help the Iraqi people," he said.
Alaskary of Iraqi Prospect agrees. "It's for
American interests, not our interests, and we all
know it's that. But the result is the same - Saddam
Hadad, 22, left Iraq when she was 12 hours old. Police
came to her family's home with guns drawn and ordered
her mother, who had just given birth, and other family
members to leave immediately.
crime: They were deemed suspicious for being too religious
and attending mosque too often.
family fled to Iran and finally to London, one grandfather
dying on the way. Hadad dreams now of returning to
a post-Hussein Iraq as a doctor, to help her people
recover and rebuild from the death and destruction
caused by a monster.
favors war as the only apparent way to end Hussein's
rule. Her hatred for him is so deep, she says, that
"there are no words to describe it. The most
horrific words would not be descriptive enough.