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3 February 2005 Edition

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From Bogside to Basra


Addressing the theme of the 2005 Bloody Sunday commemoration, Time for Truth: from Bogside to Basra, a number of speakers came together in Derry's Gasyard Centre last Thursday to discuss the illegal occupation of Iraq by the US and Britain and the flawed, US controlled election process which was gearing up for polling day on 30 January.

On the panel were Dr Abdul Al-Jibouri, an Iraqi physicist now living in Crumlin, Eddie Cherry, a former British soldier, originally from Scotland, who was stationed in Derry in the early 1990s, and Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry.

Dr Al-Jibouri told his audience about his opposition to the occupation of Iraq and said that he had not registered to vote in the elections in his country because he did not believe them to be credible or fair, particularly in places like Mosul and Fallujah, where people were effectively being denied a vote.

Thirteen unarmed civilians were killed in Fallujah by US marines on 30 April 2003 and thousands more have since been killed in two, full-scale US military assaults on the city. He also spoke passionately about the personal sense of anger he had felt when he had learned about and then seen pictures of the abuse of Iraqi detainees by British and US soldiers. "No community, no religion could tolerate such a thing," he said.

As well as speaking about his organisation Ex-Soldiers Against the War, former British soldier Eddie Cherry spoke about his own experiences in the British Army and particularly of being part of the "economic draft". He was one of the thousands of young men without much prospect of employment, he said, who found themselves lured into the army with promises of a career, travel and regular pay, only to be dumped almost immediately in the middle of a conflict zone.

One day in Derry, he explained, "I had a moment of clarity. I had only joined the army to learn Russian and here I was, crouching terrified behind a wall in the Creggan, wondering how I had ended up like this". Gradually, he said, he came to the realisation, that as someone from a working-class background, "I had more in common with the people of Derry than I had with those who had sent me to oppress the people of Derry".

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