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attack, murder Kurdish aid workers,
relief groups charge.
by Terry Atlas
Chicago Tribune, Thursday, October 31, 1996, p.10.
WASHINGTON - Saeed
Mustafa, a driver with the American-funded aid group Concern for the
Kids, was beaten, stabbed and burned with gasoline two weeks ago in the
northern Iraqi city of Dohuk.
He was then taken from
the hospital by agents from a Baghdad-backed Kurdish faction, who
arrested him on charges that he burned his own vehicle and harmed
The young wife of another
Concern for the Kids worker was taken into a field and shot, five times
in the heart and once in the head, with a .38 caliber snub- nosed Smith
& Wesson pistol, the preferred weapon of the Iraqi secret
As alarmed humanitarian
relief groups recounted the stories on Wednesday, they said that far
from being cases of random violence their Kurdish workers are being
singled out for threats, attacks and even murder.
Concern for the Kids
director Robert Anderson, who spent the last several years with his wife
in northern Iraq, said President Saddam Hussein's agents and their
Kurdish allies are targeting people they regard as traitors for
cooperating with Americans.
"Those agents are there
now, they are stalking them, and they are looking for a chance to blow
them away," he said.
Since the collapse of the
U.S. guaranteed Kurdish refuge two months ago, thousands of fearful
Kurdish aid workers and their families have abandoned their homes, sold
their possessions and waited for word that they would be evacuated and
resettled in the U.S.
The U.S. pulled its
personnel out of northern Iraq two months ago as Hussein defied
Washington and sent his army to support one Kurdish faction, the
Kurdistan Democratic Party.
In the following days,
the U.S. evacuated 2,140 Kurds who worked directly for the U.S.
government and their relatives, plus 600 Kurds associated with the CIA-
financed Iraqi National Congress.
From the Turkish border,
they were flown to Guam to be processed for political asylum.
Administration officials said their resettlement in the U.S. will begin
administration hasn't decided what to do about the more than 4,000
stranded Kurdish relief workers.
Washington director of the International Catholic Migration Commission,
said the agency's Kurdish employees have been followed, threatened,
attacked, and robbed at gunpoint. A driver was shot in the head and
paralyzed after complaints to local authorities, she said.
Other groups recount
similar stories. "Without the umbrella of Operation Provide Comfort, our
staff is really in imminent danger," said Donald Aaker, director of
Wells of Life, which digs water wells for villages.
"To abandon them now
would be unconscionable," Rep. John Porter (R- Ill.) said in a letter he
is circulating for signatures by other House members before sending it
to President Clinton.
The Justice Department is
concerned about the difficulty in screening out evacuees who may be
Kurdish fighters, Iraqi spies or criminals. And while the
administration has an evacuation plan, some government officials contend
it may not be necessary to use it.
"We're not aware that
there's any imminent threat to these people," said State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns. "We're aware of two cases of drivers being
attacked, but we don't see from that, given that we're talking about
4,000 or 5,000 people, any pattern that would lead us to believe that
there's a threat to this particular group of people."
The administration is
trying to negotiate a cease-fire between rival Kurdish factions to
stabilize the situation in northern Iraq, and it has asked leaders from
both groups to ensure the safety of former aid workers.
But American humanitarian
aid groups warned that the ability to conduct dangerous relief efforts
in the future will become more difficult if the U.S. is seen as
abandoning aid personnel.
"It's a terrible
precedent," said Laurent La Brie of Northwest Medical Teams. "Our government loses its
integrity and our organizations, affiliated with our government, lose
U.S. relief groups have
given the State Department the names of about 4,500 workers and their
relatives for possible evacuation. Representatives from the aid groups
appealed for action in meetings this week with White House and State
Department officials, including, Leon Fuerth, Vice President Al Gore's
national security adviser.
Addendum: On 10
December 1996, these personnel, including 260 from Northwest Medical
Teams, were evacuated and are now on their way to the United States.
Any employee who works for us there in the future signs a statement
acknowledging that the "Safe Haven" is not in place and they will not
be evacuated. Thank you to Leon Fuerth and all members of the Justice
Department, Department of States, and Congress for listening and
fulfilling promises made to the Iraqi people. Thank you also to my
brothers, sisters, and colleagues in other relief organizations who
joined me in presenting our cases so eloquently. Ultimately, thank You
to the God of Moses who gave me the words to speak when we declared,
"Help our people go."---LJL
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