Bush to meet Free Iraqis

By ANWAR IQBAL  |  April 3, 2003 at 8:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush will meet with a group of Iraqi dissidents on Friday who had earlier opted to receive military training to fight Saddam Hussein's regime.

On Monday, the Pentagon suspended the military program for Iraqi expatriates in Hungary after two groups had gone through the four-week training. U.S. military officials said the program was suspended because it was difficult to do background checks on the aspirants.

They also indicated that the program had become redundant after the U.S.-led military offensive against Iraq began almost two weeks ago.

"Once the conflict started, it became less attractive to move them where we had to move them," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers told a briefing on Tuesday.

But on Thursday, the White House released a lit of Iraqi-Americans and Free-Iraqis -- a term used for Iraqi nationals willing to fight for freeing their country from the Saddam regime -- Bush is scheduled to meet Friday.

The list includes:

Rahman Al-Jebouri

Rahman was a prolific writer while attending Baghdad University in the 1980s.

During his sophomore year, he was apprehended and jailed after writing a fictional story that was interpreted by Saddam's regime as criticism of the war with Iran. Rahman spent four years in jail and was released only after signing a pledge of allegiance to the regime and a promise not to write again. In 1991, he joined the uprising in southern Iraq but fled to Saudi Arabia as the revolt failed. After living in a refugee camp for four years, he was transferred to the United States by the United Nations in 1995. Rahman now lives in Washington.

Zainab Al-Suwaij

Born in southern Iraq, Zainab was 20 years old when she joined the 1991 uprising against Saddam in Karbala. During the revolt, Zainab explored the city jail and saw firsthand the instruments of torture used by the Iraqi regime. As the uprising began to fail, she fled Iraq by car and drove to Jordan. Zainab now lives in Boston, where she heads the American Islamic Congress, an organization dedicated to building interfaith understanding.

Dr. Adil Awadh

Adil was an intern in a military hospital in Southern Iraq in 1994. While there he witnessed numerous disfiguring medical atrocities performed by physicians under orders from the Iraqi regime. As a result of these experiences, he joined an opposition group in northern Iraq in 1996. His unit was pushed back to the Turkish border by the Iraqi army and was eventually evacuated to the United States. Adil now is a practicing physician in Washington.

Jacob Bacall

Jacob fled Iraq when he was 18, studied in the United Kingdom, and settled in Michigan. In the early 1980s, he and his brother-in-law Napoleon Bashi, who lived in Detroit as well, published a weekly newspaper critical of the Saddam regime. In 1983, Bashi was warned to stop his criticism by men claiming to be acting on orders from Saddam. Soon after, Bashi was shot and killed in a Detroit convenience store by men suspected of working on behalf of the Iraqi regime. Bacall's brother, now living near him in Detroit, was a general in the Iraqi army and took part in the invasion of Kuwait. Shortly after the end of the Gulf War, his brother sought a discharge from the army and fled to join his family in the United States.

Emad Dhia

In 1970, Emad's aunt was accused of being a member of a group plotting to topple the Baath government. Though she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Baghdad School of Medicine and a prominent doctor in Iraq, she was apprehended and put in jail. The next day Emad's father was arrested, but was released after three weeks. After spending two years in prison, his aunt was finally released. Less than a year later, she was assassinated while working in her clinic in Iraq. Emad lives in Plymouth, Mich.

Dr. Ramsey Jiddou

Ramsey was a government official in Iraq but not a Baath party member. He was interrogated by the Iraqi secret police about his lack of affiliation with the party. Anticipating arrest, he escaped from Iraq with his wife in 1978, using a variety of ruses. After spending two weeks in Cairo, he was brought to the United States to join family members. After his departure from Iraq, his family continued to endure interrogation by the secret police about Ramsey's defection. Ramsey now lives in Plymouth, Mich.

Sam Kareem

Sam tried to escape Iraq several times, and eventually succeeded in February 1982. In 1989, his father was abducted from a bus station by the Iraqi intelligence service. In prison, his father was tortured and abused to the point that, when he returned home years later, his family did not recognize him. His father eventually lost the use of his legs and died from wounds received in prison. Sam now lives in the Detroit area.

Ibtisam Latif

Though born in Baghdad, Ibtisam moved to Kuwait in 1971 when she got married. In 1983, Ibtisam's brother was expelled to Iran with his family as part of the campaign against Shiites of Persian ancestry. With his wife and two daughters, he was forced to cross the mine-filled border with Iran in the middle of the winter. His 20-year-old son was held in Iraq and imprisoned. Ibtisam and her family do not know his fate to this day. Fearing they would face the same fate, Ibtisam's five other brothers fled, leaving everything behind. In 1991, Ibtisam was still living in Kuwait when Iraq invaded. The Iraqi army told her husband and 16-year-old son to fight for the Iraqi regime or be killed. Ibtisam and her family decided to flee, leaving everything except the clothes they were wearing. As they fled to Iran, they witnessed people being shot by the regime for disobeying orders. Many friends and distant relatives were imprisoned throughout the 1980s in Iraq and have since disappeared. Ibtisam now lives in Nashville.

Nadia Mirza

Nadia's grandfather was arrested by the Baath party in the mid-1960s for his family's opposition to the party. He was kept in solitary confinement for six months, where he was tortured. After his release, he continued to be harassed and threatened. Under Saddam's regime, Nadia's parents were pressured to join the Baath party. Realizing that they were in danger of being arrested, her parents fled Iraq. Her family that remained in Iraq continues to be interrogated regarding the activities of Nadia, who now lives in Chicago, and her family in the United States. One of Nadia's cousins disappeared when she was 17 years old after voicing anti-government opinions at her Iraqi school. She did not come home from school one day, and to this day they do not know her whereabouts.

Esra Naama

Esra's father was a colonel in the Iraqi army and one of the instigators of the 1991 uprising against Saddam in southern Iraq. After the uprising failed, Esra fled Iraq with her mother and four siblings, not knowing the fate of her father. Her escape from Iraq led her through numerous safe houses as she crossed the desert by foot, finally reaching the Rahafa refugee camp in Saudi Arabia where she was relieved to be reunited with her father. The family was eventually granted asylum in the United States in 1992. Esra now lives in San Diego.

Raz Rasool

Born and raised in Baghdad, Raz is the daughter of an Iraqi dissident who was imprisoned for his opposition activities. The family escaped to the Kurdish safe haven, where her father is now a member of the Kurdish parliament and head of the Kurdish Writers Union. She worked with Kurdish victims of the Saddam regime in the early 1990s. In 1996, she fled to the United States with her husband when Saddam entered the Kurdish safe haven to attack opposition members. Raz now lives in Fairfax, Va.

Dr. Maha Hussain

While attending the Baghdad University School of Medicine in the late 1970s, Maha witnessed the disappearance of many fellow medical students. After graduating in 1980, she and her husband left Iraq as fears of border closures mounted in advance of a possible war with Iran. Shortly after leaving Iraq, many of her family's neighbors in Baghdad were expelled from their homes and forced to flee to Iran. Two of her cousins that stayed behind were executed in the late 1980s for arranging to hide a Kurdish friend that was evading the regime's security forces. The male cousin who arranged for the hiding was shot and killed. The sister whose house he was hiding in was beaten to death, mutilated, and then paraded naked through a public area. Maha now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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