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State Department Rolls Out "Iraq's Voices for Freedom"

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2003 – The State Department rolled out a collection of horror stories in a new publication called "Iraq's Voices for Freedom" during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center here Feb. 26.

The powerful publication features a compilation of statements by Iraqi professionals on the situation in Iraq, according to Stuart Holliday, coordinator for international information programs.

He said people who care about human rights and the dignity of man, particularly Iraqis, came forward to tell the story of their experiences in Iraq and with the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

The first edition of Iraq's Voices for Freedom is loaded with interview excerpts from late 2002 with Iraqis outside Saddam's "brutal control."

The introduction to the publication notes, "These voices represent but a few of the millions of Iraqis whose hopes for the future have been silenced by tyranny."

"These are personal accounts -- they're illustrative of the type of oppression and harassment and torture, rape, et cetera, that are the hallmarks of this regime," Holliday said.

This publication is available electronically throughout the world in six different languages on the Internet at http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/iraq/voices/.

Noting that they have too many individual stories to tell during the briefing, officials showed a short video clip of Iraqis telling their stories.

One Iraqi in the video said, "The Secret Police came to my grandfather's house after midnight. They knocked at the door. He knew that this is the secret police there. He refused to open the door for them, but they entered the house by force.

"They arrested him at the age of 80 and in that process they were beating him and he was bleeding, according to the neighbors who saw that. And they took him to the headquarters of the intelligence service in Baghdad, and then to Abu-Garib prison.

He recounted how about 14 family members were arrested and jailed for political reasons between 1980 and 1991. He said two were executed in prison, and the fate of the others is unknown.

"The youngest one was 14 years old. So in Saddam's prison we have the youngest one who was 14 years old and the oldest one, who, at the time of his arrest was 80 years old."

Another video with accompanying translation said, "This regime's hatred and resentment do not stop. It's a regime that commits crimes, executes people, and shuts down schools, mosques and charities. It uses explosives to tear down public libraries and burns all the books."

Many voices have been silenced for a generation, said James Larocco, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. "Iraqi voices that are stating their stories, their personal stories, of the tragedies, the abuse, the tyranny, the impression tales of abuses of human rights that in many cases are just much too stark for many of us to be able to even endure," he said.

Larocco said a videotape not shown was "particularly gripping." He said it's a tape of a young Iraqi woman who was reading from a letter from her younger sister who was taken away to jail. She was hung by her feet and subjected to electric prods.

Noting that the girl endured this treatment for 11 months, Larocco said, "Those tapes were shown to the family."

"These are the voices that need to be listened to," he said. "Listen to these voices. They're very profound and they tell a story of people who want to be free, but are denied that every day."

Larocco said if America goes to war in Iraq, "this will truly be an act of liberation and not an act of occupation. There will not be another dictator in Iraq if we are forced to go to war now. We will not replace another dictator with the dictator that is there right now."

He emphasized that "the territorial integrity of Iraq will be preserved."

In addition, Larocco said the United States expects a commitment to basic democratic principles a representative government, a government that's free of weapons of mass destruction and a leadership that will not threaten its neighbors.

Three Iraqi professionals participated in the briefing, Hussain Sinjari, Steve Sharrif and Muhammed Ihssan. More Iraqi professionals participated from London via video.

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