By Sutton Eaves
More than 14 years after he left Iraq, it is difficult for Salar Rasoul to watch the United States prepare for a second war against his home country.
“It’s my homeland. My family doesn’t support Saddam Hussein, we don’t like what he stands for. But there has to be a diplomatic resolution to this conflict, and war is not an option,” says Rasoul, a fourth-year electrical engineering student.
To protest the U.S. threat of intervention in Iraq, Rasoul, who is the vice president of the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association, has become involved in the anti-war movement on campus.
Since September, the RMSA, RyeACT and the International Socialists have worked together to rally opposition to the potential war. Weekly meetings are held at Oakham House, and anti-war petitioning has become a regular fixture on campus.
During Iraq’s war with Iran, Rasoul’s family fled their home in the Northern Iraqi province of Kurdistan to Turkey, where they lived as refugees. They immigrated to Canada with the help of a United Nations sponsorship.
“We moved for education and a better life,” says Rasoul, who now enjoys a life many Iraqis dream of — one characterized by peace and prosperity.
“Most people in Iraq want to move out, but because of the sanctions, no one can — unless you do it illegally, and that’s very dangerous.
“People are frightened. They don’t know when or how but every day, they are waiting for [an attack] to happen,” Rasoul says of his extensive family still living in Kurdistan.
“[Hussein] didn’t bring ay good to Iraq, but whenever there is a war it’s not him that gets affected. We have family there and innocent lives will be lost in this war,” he says.
Dave Wightman has been helping to arrange petitioning efforts at and around Ryerson. “There’s an anti-war sentiment out there,” he says. “There’s a mood. The difference between a mood and a movement is organization. At this stage, we’re just beginning to get organized.”
The campus anti-war movement is calling for America to lay down its arms, leaving a blinding trail of fluorescent paper in its wake. The neon posters and leaflets advertising teach-ins, petitions and rallies are similar to those that were found at Ryerson in 1991, during the first American war with Iraq.
“We had an anti-war committee that was students, faculty and staff interested in the cause. There were weekly, even nightly demonstrations,” says Colin Mooers, chair of the university’s school of politics and public administration. When President Bush led American into a war in Iraq in 1991, Mooers was one of about 25 regular anti-war protesters on campus.
“You can’t measure how important [the student involvement] is,” says Mooers, who has been at Ryerson since 1998. “In my generation, the students movement played a terrific role in the anti-Vietnam war movement.”
Anti-war organizers are recruiting volunteers for a rally this Saturday in front of the U.S. Consulate. In preparation for the International Day to Oppose War against Iraq, they will also be promoting afternoon lectures on topics such as whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and whether the UN can bring peace to Iraq.