April 16 podcast. Fawzia Afzal Khan on parallel Muslim agendas in America-- diverging or supporting? BN Aziz reads from The First Muslim, by Lesley Hazelton.
March 26 podcast. Celebrating women on Youm el-Oum, Arab Mother's Day--Baghdad resident Souad AlRadi (from our 2003 archive), and poems by Lamees AlAthari
March 8, podcast Women's Day special: poet and author Mohja Kahf on western representations of the Muslim woman (a 2000 archive production).
Jan 15 podcast Hassen Abdellah and BNimri Aziz review advances and setbacks in our communities. Marking his 85th birthday, we look at the work of civil rights attorney Ramsey Clark. (see our Jan 26 blog)
Jan 8 podcast ALGERIA: Ammar Kessab comments on Algerian government control of ‘culture’; Simone Fattal examines the role of democracy philosopher deTocqueville in Algeria; nuclear scientist Al-Aboudi details France’s nuclear tests in Algeria & longterm affects
Jan 1 podcast New Year special with Sarah Malaika
Dec 25 podcast. Year end broadcast hosted by BN Aziz, with listener calls
Dec 18 podcast. Tahrir revisits Algeria's Rai music tradition in a 1997 archival production by Anissa Bouziane, then an update with Arab music aficiando Dawn Elder. B N Aziz reviews the work of Arab filmmakers Yasmina Adi and Ruba Nadda.
Dec 4 podcast SF activist Alice Nashashibi (archive); “Existence is Resistance" NYC HipHop Festival supporting Gaza. Algeria: Pt 1:Ammar Kessab on the Algerian government's hegemony on cultural (civic) expression.
Nov 27 podcast Before the the UN vote on Palestine, an early commentary by Fouad Moughrabi on land seizures; also scholar Walid Khalidi on Jerusalem history. Book review: "The Time Remaining" by Samuel Hazo. Poems: Suheir Hammad and Lisa Majaj.
Nov 20 podcast from Tahrir's 2005 archive: Salma K Jayyusi on modern Arabic literature; also the NY Arab Comedy Festival.
Sept 25 podcast 'The stupid film' everyone is mad about: Wayne State U Middle East specialist Abdullah Al-Arian offers strategies for American Muslims. Ramallah-based Palestinian artist Taiseer Barakat (Tahrir archive)
Sept 18 podcast American Muslims: advances and setbacks, with author Stephan Salisbury, attorney Fahd Ahmed, DRUM-NY and Adem Caroll of ICNA. From 1991 Tahrir archive, Sayyid M. Sayeed discusses Islamophobia 13 years ago.
Sept 11 Ethiopia's Muslim history, past and present with Nejib Muhammad US Islamic Community of Ethiopians.
Aug 21 podcast "From Cordoba to Baghdad", Arab Music with virtuoso, Simon Shaheen. From our Tahrir archive.
Aug 14 podcast Naif Al-Mutawa creator of “The 99”and CEO of Teshkeel Media speaks about his challenges, his vision, his plans for this international superhero young people's project. From our 1994 Tahrir archive, an excerpt from The City of Cairo with Kadry Al-Arabi, and some Ramadan poetry.
Aug 7 podcast Mustafa Davis California-based filmmaker & photographer producer of “Deentight” an award winning film talks about hip hop artists and Islam. And productions by this summer’s Tahrir interns-- Weaam Wali and Omar Ammar.
July 3 see podcast. Attorney Omar Mohammedi assesses Congressman King's hearings and Islamophobia; interview with London based S. Asia fusion vocalist 'Najma' ('94), and Farid Esack ('97 Tahrir archive)
June 12, podcast. Ilyasa Shabazz, author of "Growing Up X", and daughter of Malcolm Al-Hajj Shabazz.
June 5 podcast, Muslim students talk about their experience after revelations of infiltration by US intellegence agencies of their student assemblies. Also, a Tahrir archive profile: the early 20th C. Egyptian feminist Doria Shafiq
May 14 2 hour special: The 'Nakba', 64th anniversary of the expulsions from Palestine in 1948.
May 1 podcast Tribute to Brother Ghazi Khankan 1934-2012.
April 24 podcast Actor/film-director Newark-born Usman Sharif talks about his career, his productions in progress and the politics of making films.
April 10 podcast Iraq--an economic model? From our archive on pre-1990 Iraq--economist Rashid Yakob. Also: Tuareg of the Sahel and crises in Saharan areas of Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya-- a commentary by BNAziz.
March 27 podcast "Water in the Middle East"-a radio documentary from our archive, with updates.
Mar 13 podcast Muslim Responses to Unlawful Surveillance: Sharifah Salaam, NJ & Imam Ramadan, NY
"Men have singled out women of outstanding merit and put them on a pedestal to avoid recognizing the capabilities of all women" — Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947), Egyptian political activist and feminist
Jan 31 podcast Turkish TV dramas in the Arab World: with Aydin Baltaci and BN Aziz. An excerpt from RNasr's interview with journalist/author Ashraf Khalil-- Liberation Square. (full interview podcast Feb 11)
Sept 27 podcast. Mohammed Ghani Hikmat ,Iraqi sculptor (1929-2011); and BN Aziz' report on her 1993 visit to Gaza at the time of the Oslo Accord (archive)
Sept 6, podcast Our civil rights and entrapment of Muslims by US security agencies. Attorneys Asaad Siddiqi and Lamis Deek.
August 9, see podcast What Ramadan means to me.
Aug 30, see podcast Prophet Mohammad: a third in our series on "the prophets", with Muhammad Jaaber.
- Gravesites: Environmental Ruin in Iraq
- by Barbara Nimri Aziz
The chain of death created by the Gulf War is a scary thing. I'm not talking about black skies over the blazing oil wells of Kuwait, or charred remains of soldiers on the sand or the incinerated families who had sought protection in a bomb shelter. Those are familiar images of death, recognizable, and however painful, they are finite. With the end of hostilities, they disappear.
The really scary part comes later--now--when we find that things which looked alive are really dead or doomed.
I refer to a chain of deadly pollution, the kind that creeps up on us, first with vague complaints, then with the persistence of strange illnesses, then with more testimonials of similar symptoms. We slowly recognize that disparate efforts which first appear unrelated are, in fact, connected.
We have the sickening sense of something spreading, without limits, of something embedded so deep within the system that it's unreachable. Our inquiries are met with denials. So, to begin, all we seek to do is confront it. We just want to stand on the gravesite as if it were a known, finite place.
This is our feeling, I think, as we hear more and more documentation regarding Gulf War syndrome and its link to the use, by the Pentagon, of depleted uranium weaponry during the 1991 war. Evidence is mounting, and those soldiers who find themselves stricken are growing in number, networking and uniting in a swelling movement of people who refuse to accept government disclaimers that these soldiers might be the victims of some new dangerous materials the Pentagon used. A public movement to ban depleted uranium is growing and attracting more media attention in the U.S.
Many Iraqis were killed outright by the weapons that blew apart their vehicles and their bunkers. Those who survived the onslaught and fled must have ingested and carried with them the fumes and toxic dust created by the bombardments. There is also the uranium waste--three hundred tons of it, according to reports--left on the battlefield.
Today the entire population of Iraq is besieged by diseases. We know that waterborne parasites and bacteria and malnutrition in Iraq are responsible for many recognizable diseases, and for wasting and death. But there are also reports of a sharp rise in spontaneous abortions, cancers, and other "new diseases" The Iraqi Ministry of Health is systematically documenting some of these health problems. Dr. Siegwart Guenther of the Austrian Yellow Cross International is also studying evidence of possible Gulf War syndrome inside Iraq and the high incidence across the country of abnormal births.(endnote 1)
Iraqi Scientists Most Concerned about Radiation
Those most concerned about radiation and other kinds of pollution are Iraqis. Their entire population is probably afflicted. And essential empirical evidence of strange illnesses in the Iraqi population is being gathered by their own scientists. Iraq still has a highly trained community of biologists, environmentalists, energy specialists, cancer researchers, etc., most of whom earned advanced degrees in the U.S. or Great Britain. With access to the entire country, they are capable of conducting the needed research.
Until the embargo and war, these scholars were in the international scientific community; they published widely and they took part in international scientific gatherings.
Because of the embargo, however, their careful on site work and their disturbing findings are not as widely known as they should be, partly because these men and women are now denied professional contact with their peers overseas and are therefore unable to offer comparative statistics and work together with concerned scientists worldwide to find solutions and recommend treatments.
This is happening when health and environmental conditions inside Iraq are deteriorating, and bad conditions generated by the war are spreading, creating a catastrophe of accelerating proportions and unknown ramifications.
The Pentagon, which has been trying so hard to suppress information about the extent, occurrence, and possible source of Gulf War syndrome among its own personnel, would doubtless want to keep any Iraqi source silent on this matter as well. Even a highly qualified scientist researching the hazardous effects of the war finds herself or himself effectively blocked from reporting important relevant findings.
Dr. Huda Ammash is one of those Iraqi scientists who should be speaking to her international colleagues. She is presently an environmental biologist and professor at Baghdad University, having undertaken graduate studies in the U.S. where she obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.
Working with governmental departments of agriculture, health, and environment, Ammash is now undertaking research in Iraq. When I met her in 1995, she kindly shared her report with me. She is most concerned with the enormous energy emission and light energy from the massive bombing in the forty days of war in 1991 and the resulting ionization. [endnote 2]
"We know that ionization causes radiation," she said. "It is now diffused throughout the entire airspace of Iraq and has likely spread to our neighbors as well, possibly as far north as the southern border of Russia."
Dr. Ammash calculates that "the prolonged effect of this ionization is, over a period of more than ten years, equal to one hundred Chernobyls."
Dr. Ammash and others note that "an outbreak of meningitis in children concentrated in one Baghdad locality is highly unusual and may be a manifestation of high ionization levels. It has never been seen in Iraq before and, under the circumstances of the embargo, Iraq can provide no immunization against it." She notes the alarm among doctors she interviewed who report that "ninety-nine percent of the victims of this disease are children." Ammash accumulated reports that show cancer increasing at rapid and abnormal rates; child leukemia is especially rampant with some areas of south Iraq showing a four-fold rise in these few years. Breast cancer in young women (age 30 and under) is also many times higher than in 1990 in certain parts of Iraq.
In addition, the Iraqi environment is subject to a mass of other chemical and microbial pollutants released into the atmosphere because of indirect results of the war. Ammash points out, for example, how "damage to bombed and crippled industrial plants resulted in the leakage of millions of liters of chemical pollutants--black oil, fuel oil, liquid sulfur, concentrated sulfuric acid, ammonia, and insecticides--into the atmosphere. Fumes created by the bombardment of more than 380 oil wells produced toxic gases and acid rain."
Bombardment of chemical factories damaged their gas purification units and thus created tremendous air pollution as well. If these filters can't function, dangerous gases are allowed to escape from cement factories. Up to the present, the imposition of sanctions prevents the repair of these industrial filters. Untreated heavy waters from industrial centers are the media for growth of microbes, mainly typhoid, malta fever, and other pathogenic bacteria.
Ammash also reports fourteen crop diseases--including covered smut, sazamia moth, yellow crust, spickulated drought disease, gladosporium disease, and epical bent--which were never before recorded in Iraq's history. These are now infecting date trees and citrus trees.
When I arrived back in Baghdad, I followed up my research in Mosul with discussions with agriculture officials and with visits to small, local farms engaged in mixed agriculture. I spoke with experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a U.N. agency in Baghdad since before the Gulf War. Their mandate is to assist any nation to increase its food production and they are trying to help Iraq in this area.
Now, more than ever, with food imports from abroad limited due to the UN sanctions, Iraq is obliged to reverse its rather neglected agricultural policy with active food production schemes. Since the imposition of the embargo [ADD in 1990], Iraq has been trying to do so, bringing more land under grain production and improving irrigation.
Iraq Could Be Self-Sufficient
FAO officials were unequivocal about prospects. "Iraq could be self-sufficient in grain," said director Amir Khalil. "It has the water; it has the land; it has the expertise." Yet, despite efforts and the growing food crisis, production was declining. Why?
For agriculture experts and farmers alike, the explanation is simple: "No herbicides, no pesticides, no fertilizer, no improved seed." The animal husbandry and poultry situation is as severe as the grain crisis. Without vaccines and other medicines, all of which Iraq cannot furnish itself, animals--like people and plants--cannot survive.
According to a 1995 FAO report, dairy herds were down forty percent since 1990. Before the war, dairy cows numbered 1,512,000; by 1995, their number fell to only one million. Water buffaloes suffered an even worse fate, and goat herds have declined from 1.3 million to fewer than a quarter of a million. Iraq's poultry system with 106 million hatching hens was virtually wiped out overnight by the bombing when electrically run poultry sheds across the country--8400 units--shut down. Without vaccines and specialized, treated food, moreover, hens cannot survive long.
Why this devastation? Largely because agricultural imports, all essential in food production in any modern state today, are unavailable.
If we are to believe FAO's own reports, it seems that another weapon in this cowardly secret war is the denial of agricultural essentials--a kind of sabotage--to ensure Iraq cannot become food self-sufficient.
It is ominous that it was also during my field observations in a farming community that I found the first shocking evidence of a little discussed plague in the human population.
In the course of extended conversations with local farmers after my inspection of the fields, we spoke about social life. One farmer remarked that marriages were fewer now. "Why?" I asked. The answer was straightforward. "Young people fear the birth of malformed fetuses and still births." How was this?
"We look around our village," they said. "Everyone knows couples in the village who had deformed babies in the last four years."
With the help of these farmers and the local schoolteacher, I took an ad hoc survey. They had 160 houses here, and among these, they counted 20 households where malformed babies had been born. My hosts noted that most of the fathers of these still born and abnormal births in their village are men who served in the army during the Gulf War. They noted many spontaneous abortions, but we did not include these. I had heard in Baghdad that more spontaneous abortions are reported across the entire country now than were before 1990.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health could not provide me with any statistics about this development at that time. But my inquiries at five hospitals (in Mosul, Baghdad, and Kerbala) revealed that the number of abnormal births recorded in hospitals had dramatically increased. Recalling their personal experience, all doctors with whom I spoke estimate they see ten times more such births today than five years ago. One doctor in Mosul said she saw two cases a year before 1991; she now sees four or five cases a month. The symptoms?
"Babies born without ears, without eyes, without limbs or with foreshortened limbs, without formed genitalia, with cleft palate, club foot, enlarged heads." One doctor reported her first knowledge of a case of congenital leukemia.
"How Can I Have Any Plans?"
A professor of poultry science had accompanied us to the fields in Mosul.
From seeing how he walked and stood, I already suspected he himself was unwell. Nevertheless, I inquired about his plans for further research. I still remember the bewildered look on his face when I asked him this.
"Plans? Madam," he said softly, "I am trying to feed my family; I am looking for medicine for my ill father. How can I have plans?"
I asked Dr. Ammash the same question. "It is difficult for anyone to have a plan," she quietly explained. "You have a plan when you have a settled situation--known circumstances. We don't have that anywhere in Iraq. My immediate plan is to provide tomorrow's means for life for my children, to help my students into another successful day. After that, I don't know."
1. For more information on depleted uranium and its effects, see Siegwart-Horst-Guenther, "How DU Shell Residues Poison Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia" in Depleted Uranium Education Project (eds.), Metal of Dishonor (2nd Edition) (New York: International Action Center, 1997). See also Akira Tashiro, Discounted Casualties: The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium (Hiroshima: Chugoku Shimbun Press, 2001).
See also "La Guerre Radioactive Secrete" ("Invisible War: Depleted Uranium and the Politics of Radiation.") Feb. 2000, French--Director, Martin Meissonnier; Exec. Producer, Paul Moreira. A film produced by Canal+ and available at (www.canalplus.fr/emissions/90mn/contact.asp): US distributor: Damacio Lopez, 1322 Lopezville, Socorro, NM 87801, Tel: 505-838-0263, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Huda Ammash “Toxic Pollution, The Gulf War, and Sanctions, ” in Iraq Under Siege, edited by Anthony Arnove. 2000 South End Press. Also see “Targets –Not Victims” by Barbara Nimri Aziz, in the same volume.
- Published in "Anthropology Goes Public", 2004, edited by. Roberto Gonzalez, U. Texas Press. This essay is an abbreviated version of an article of the same title originally published in Metal of Dishonor: How the UN Military Irradiates Iraqis...., by International Action Center, NY. www.iacenter.org
"The extent to which you resist is the extent to which you are free. Allah says in the Qur'an that Allah does not change the condition of a nation unless they change what is in their own selves."
Imam Jamil al-Amin
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