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Anger Seen in the Arab World Against War in Iraq - 2003-04-01

Since the war began there’s been growing resentment in Arab countries to the U.S. led military attack on Iraq and efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more on how Arab Backlash to the war is playing out.

The anger among Arabs and Muslims can be seen in places like Amman, Jordan. Here young Jordanian and Iraqi men pour on to buses for a trip to Iraq and a call to arms. They say they want to fight in the war. Since the conflict began Arab men from a number of neighboring countries are doing the same thing. They see the invasion of Iraq by U.S. and British forces as a war against all Arabs and their religion Islam. While some of these Iraqis say they have no love for Saddam Hussein, they believe they must fight for the future of their country and the whole Arab region.

“I will fight and be one from the army. Are you worried for what might happen? Yes, very worried, very much. And yet you feel a duty to go back (to Iraq)? That’s my home and my country, and she need me.”

Images broadcast on Arab language television has also fueled anger among Arabs. What they see are scenes of Iraqi civilian casualties, the American flag being raised by a U.S. soldier at an Iraqi base and pictures of Iraqi prisoners of war. Fawaz Grges is a professor of Arab Studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

“The images of humiliation, the images of the destruction of the habitats, the bombing of civilian areas, the civilian casualties. Arabs and Muslims are getting an entirely different narrative than their American counterparts.”

Analysts say that as resentment grows more people from places such as Jordan, Syria and Algeria will want to fight in Iraq. Iraqi Embassies across the region have been packed with people applying for visas. There’s even a waiting list.

Iraq’s foreign minister claims there are more than five thousand Arabs from the area already in Baghdad answering the call to Jihad or holy war. The calls for Jihad are even coming from religious leaders some moderate, from Internet chat rooms and from massive demonstrations in Arab capitals.

Political leaders are speaking out too. In a recent speech Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak predicted that a drawn out war in Iraq could create hundreds of Osama Bin Ladens, referring to the al-Qaida terrorist leader. And at the same time, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisel says he’s concerned about the long-term consequences of the War with Iraq.

“We had hoped for a peaceful solution. We still work for a peaceful solution. And from the opening of the war we can see that our conclusion was correct. That this war can only lead to strife, to bloodshed and to increase hatred and increased anxieties in the region.”

Anti-war and anti-American demonstrations continue to grow in the Arab and Muslim world. But U.S. and British policy makers hope the voices of those Arabs who support the war with Iraq will not be drowned out by those who oppose it.