Break the Silence!

by Rania Masri (rmasri@leb.net)

Aug. 2, 1997

During the First World War, the Turkish army imposed a blockade on Lebanon. Lebanon was not self-sufficient, and was deprived of the importation of food. Then the locusts came for two years, and ate everything from the smallest blade of grass to the old oaks. The people died of starvation on the roads and sidewalks and inside their houses. Had the war lasted longer, the extermination may have been complete ... leaving no one to tell the story.

Many decades later, in the same region, another war is being imposed ... and has lasted, so far, for seven years. Once again, people are dying of starvation. Thousands of children are dying out of lack of food every month. Throughout this country, more than 4 million people -- more than the population of Lebanon -- are suffering from severe malnutrition.

Over the past seven years, between one to two million people have died ... died from insufficient food and easily treatable diseases. The horror is not merely that such immense suffering is taking place, but that this suffering is being forcefully imposed. Their country is rich, yet they are prevented from utilizing its wealth to feed themselves. Their land is fertile, yet they are prevented from maintaining their agricultural supplies and irrigation systems to feed themselves. The locusts that attacked their fields were military planes that burned the lands with nuclear weapons. (Yes! Nuclear weapons -- specifically 300 tons of depleted uranium!)

Iraq has been suffering. Iraq continues to suffer. The children of Iraq cry out in pain.

History does not merely repeat itself; it intensifies its horrors, it deepens the suffering. We must not allow it! The children of Iraq do not cry out in silence -- they cry out to us! We hear their pain, and we must give strength to their voices so that the whole world will hear their pain, so that the conscience of the world will awaken to their cries.

What can we do? What can you do? Here are some brief suggestions...

1. First of all, we must educate ourselves about the impact of the blockade on the people of Iraq, and about the international movements struggling to lift the blockade. How? Simple -- join the Iraq Action Coalition Mailing List (E-mail: IAC@leb.net), and you will receive news and action alerts directly to your e-mail account. Also, refer to the Iraq Action Coalition website (http://leb.net/IAC/) for detailed information on the effects of the illegal blockade.

2. Gather signatures for the latest petition-campaign, sponsored by the ADC-Task Force for Iraq (E-mail: IAC@leb.net or adc@adc.org for a copy of petition). The goal is to raise 100,000 signatures to demand the immediate end to the blockade on the people of Iraq.

3. Write letters to the media (as letters to the editor or guest columns) and to your representative and senator in government. (Sample letters and addresses are available on the IAC website - http://leb.net/IAC/)

4. Organize a fund-raiser to send relief to Iraq. Send the money via the International Relief Association, the largest relief organization working for Iraq. (Call: 1-800 827-3543, or E-mail: reliefusa@aol.com)

5. Support organizations opposing the blockade, such as the International Action Center and Voices in the Wilderness. A detailed listing of active organizations is available at: http://leb.net/IAC/organizations.html

6. Organize an educational event about the impact of the blockade on the people of Iraq, and raise awareness and activism locally. Potential and experienced speakers include:

** Voices in the Wilderness (Kathy Kelly & other delegates) E-mail: kkelly@igc.apc.org; Tel: 1-312 784-8065; Fax: 1-312 784-8837 ** International Action Center (Ramsey Clark, Sara Flounders & other representatives) E-mail: iacenter@iacenter.org; Tel: 1-212 633-6646; Fax: 1-212 633-2889 ** International Relief Association (numerous representatives throughout North America) E-mail: reliefusa@aol.com; Tel: 1-800 827-3543; Fax: 1-810 772-3159 ** Iraq Action Coalition (Rania Masri) E-mail: IAC@leb.net; Tel: 1-919 848-4738; Fax: 1-919 846-7422

For a more detailed list of additional speakers, please contact one of the four organizations listed above.

7. Show documentaries that vividly portray the effects of the blockade on Iraq. Two excellent documentaries are: The Children Are Dying, and The Children of the Cradle. To order "The Children Are Dying," contact the International Action Center at (212) 633-6646; to order "The Children of the Cradle," contact the International Relief Association at 1-800 827-3543.

8. Contact local churches, mosques, human-rights organizations, local peace movements, and the media. Invite them to your educational event, or send them a copy of a video-documentary or a powerful, informative book on the blockade, such as "The Children Are Dying" book. (To order this book, which is the accompaniment of "The Children Are Dying" video, contact the International Action Center at (212) 633-6646.)

Throughout your activism, remember the words of Gibran Khalil Gibran when he lamented the starvation in Lebanon. He wrote, "My people died with their arms stretched toward both East and West and their eyes seeking in the darkness of the skies. They died in silence because the ears of humanity had become deaf to their cry."

It is our obligation, our obligation to the pursuit of humanity and justice, our obligation to our people, to break the silence. Together, we can ... and we will.

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Published in The Free Arab Voice, August 2 , 1997

The Free Arab Voice" <ebal@sprintmail.com>