6 - 12 July 2000
Issue No. 489
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
It's called genocide
Iraq may no longer be in the media spotlight, but its slow and certain destruction continues. Rasha Saad heard the former UN humanitarian coordinator describe the sanctions as premeditated murder, while photographer Khaled El-Fiqi captured images of the suffering that accompanies even survival
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Dennis Halliday, former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, says the word "genocide" best describes the situation in Iraq 10 years after the United Nations imposed economic sanctions following the country's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. "In fact, the UN Security Council is sustaining sanctions that are killing about 7,000 Iraqi children each month and they know that. That is intentional; that is genocide."
At a two-hour seminar at the Egyptian Press Syndicate Halliday, who resigned in 1998 in protest against the sanctions, said that before they were imposed the biggest problem for healthcare services in Iraq was overweight children. "Today, the average weight of newborns is two-and-a-half kilos, an indication of famine."
He said there was widespread malnutrition especially among children. In 1989, around 35 children out of every 1,000 born died in Iraq. Today it is 131 deaths for every 1,000.
He said the sanctions had also damaged Iraq's social fabric with 30 per cent of all children dropping out of school, divorce rates increasing and marriage rates decreasing, and art and cultural affairs collapsing. He added that young Iraqis are now isolated from the rest of the Arab world and the West: they cannot travel, or go overseas for studies; they cannot read what they want nor see or hear overseas radio and television programmes.
Halliday also criticised the UN oil-for-food programme, describing it a failure. He said it had not met the needs of the people of Iraq and had instead sustained high mortality rates. "Today many people live in terror that if their child gets a cold and the cold becomes bronchitis and the bronchitis becomes pneumonia, that would mean death because penicillin is not available." He deplored that such deterioration had happened in a country that 10 years ago "was rich and similar to much of Europe."
Halliday said responsibility for the crisis should be shared by Baghdad, Washington and the UN. However, he focused most of his attacks on the US, calling on Arab countries to stand up to what he called "colonial domination." "This is about America's imperialistic need to control the Arab economy, money and oil. The invasion of Kuwait was an invitation to [then US president George] Bush to destroy Iraq."
Halliday said the sanctions have had a negative impact on Arab countries and the UN's image. In fact, he believed the UN itself was a victim of its own decisions. "The UN Charter talks about the well-being of mankind. But the charter has been corrupted by the sanctions. The fundamental human rights of the Iraqi people -- rights to employment, healthcare, education, jobs, housing, the right to live -- all have been destroyed by the UN," he said.
He warned that "the whole Arab world is going to pay the price of this damage to a very important member of the Arab community. I believe the situation in Iraq is causing disharmony throughout the Arab world. It is draining the region's financial resources."
Halliday, who was invited by the Egyptian Committee Against Sanctions On Iraq, urged the Egyptian and other Arab leaderships to push for ending the sanctions by speaking out clearly against them.
"We cannot remain silent and allow the UN to kill the children of Iraq. In the Arab world you cannot allow the US to dictate the conditions and the needs of the Arab people and the people of Iraq. You cannot afford to have the UN further corrupted."
Halliday cited Hizbullah's victory following Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon "as an example of what can be done in the Arab world by those who are persistent and dedicated to having change."
He said Iraq deserved to have the sanctions lifted because it had cooperated with UNSCOM and had destroyed hundreds of thousands of tons of military equipment.
Halliday demanded that the West and the UN reopen a dialogue with Baghdad and stop "demonising" Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "If you isolate a government then you cannot communicate and you cannot influence. And we have to remember that Saddam Hussein was a friend and an ally of the US in the past."
Attack on Iraq- 24-30 December 1998
UN office of the Iraq programme