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Iraqi-Americans Demand Iraq's Liberation - 2003-02-05

Iraqi-Americans converged outside the United Nations Wednesday to demand what they call the liberation of the Iraqi people from the regime of Saddam Hussein.

A small group of demonstrators hoisted signs emblazoned with the words, stop Saddam's war on the Iraqi people, indict Saddam for war crimes, and Saddam is a criminal and my brother's killer. They also held pictures of victims of Saddam Husseins's mustard gas attack that killed 5,000 Kurds in 1988.

Ten-year-old Huda al-Massiri held a picture of two men in her hands. "These are my two uncles. Saddam killed both of them," said Huda al-Massiri.

The New York police presence was heavy, but Aziz Altaee, Chairman of the Iraqi-American Council, said the demonstration would not exceed the 50 person limit allowed by permit. He says it will be enough, he hopes, to make their point. "The United Nations has been silent," he said. "They have taken no action against Saddam's crimes against humanity. He tortures people, he's used chemical weapons against us. There's pictures of many victims here. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, 200,000 are missing. What did the United Nations do about it? They issued two resolutions, 688 and 1441, and they did not implement them. The United Nations is in material breach of its own Security Council resolutions."

The day long demonstration began as Secretary of State Colin Powell, inside the U.N. Security Council chambers just across the street, was making the case for the use of military force to disarm Iraq.

But Zainab al-Suwaji, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, says the Iraqi people are being forgotten in the quest for disarmament. "Everybody's focusing so much on the weapons that Saddam has, and kind of denying, not focusing on the torture and suffering of the Iraqi people inside Iraq," she said. "They have been suffering for more than three decades. It's about time to stop it and gain their liberation."

Ms. al-Suwaji, who fled Iraq 11 years ago, says disarming Iraq without liberating the Iraqi people will be a hollow victory.