By Amy HendersonJordan Times
October 31, 1999
Amman â€” Political activists launched a campaign against U.N. sanctions on Iraq, coinciding with the arrival in Jordan of a travelling campaign against the embargo and the return of a five-year-old Iraqi victim of cancer to an Amman hospital.
"This is the only time in history that we have witnessed the punishment of an entire nation," said Hamzeh Mansour, who spoke on behalf of the Jordanian National Mobilisation Committee in Defence of Iraq during a press conference on Saturday. "We look forward to meeting British Member of Parliament George Galloway, who has taken it upon himself to pursue a just cause."
Galloway, a British MP, is spearheading an intercontinental campaign, known as the Mariam Appeal, named for Mariam Hamzah, an Iraqi child suffering from cancer. Galloway, two years ago, took the child from an Iraqi hospital during a visit to Baghdad and flew with her to Scotland, where she was treated.
She returned to Iraq last year, but last Tuesday, she arrived at the doors of Amman's Al Amal Cancer Centre, where doctors say she is now suffering from neurological disorders such as blindness and seizure. "Mariam is an example of the suffering of the Iraqi people and she is only one of millions of cancer cases resulting from the ten-year-old sanctions," Tareq Tahboub, president of the Jordan Medical Association, told reporters convened outside Mariam's room. "We demand the immediate lifting of sanctions on Iraq so that the Iraqi government can resume its duty to provide the necessary care to which its people are entitled."
The decade-old sanctions on Iraq have wrought a humanitarian crisis that is now raging out of control. According to the United Nations, nearly 5,500 children under five year of age die each month, mostly from entirely preventable diseases that were non-existent or rare before the sanctions regime. The United Nations Children's Fund estimates the number of child deaths to be over one million. The number of cancer cases has skyrocketed, due largely to the "fallout" caused by the allies' use of depleted uranium, doctors believe.
Abdullah Khatib, Al Amal director, told reports that more than 30 Iraqis are being treated at the hospital for cancer, but that the hospital must turn away the 15 plus cases that arrive at its doors every day. "We receive a minimum of 15 Iraqi cancer cases each day," Khatib was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "but they aren't admitted because the hospital lacks enough facilities."
Galloway's campaign was expected to arrive on Saturday evening in the Aqaba Port.
Big Ben to Baghdad, as it has been named, left from the seat of British government, London's Westminster, on Sept. 9. Since then, the red double-decker London bus laden with medical supplies has travelled through Europe and North Africa en route to Iraq to campaign against deadly sanctions.
The campaign has been received by heads of state, parliamentarians and deputies and prominent religious clergy. The bus arrives at Aqaba from Egypt, where Galloway met Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa and Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi of Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest authority, Secretary General of the Cairo-based Arab League, Esmat Abdul Meguid and Egypt's most famous actor Adel Imam.
The bus trip which has taken Galloway from Britain through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, aims to raise awareness of the crippling effect of the sanctions. Organisers have said the campaign has received overwhelming support in every country.
During its tour of Jordan, it will pass through Karak, Madaba, Amman, Irbid and Mafraq. Events are planned in every city. The bus arrives in Amman on Nov. 3 for a meeting with Parliament at 12:30 p.m. and a general debate at the Professional Associations Complex in Shmeisani at 6:00 p.m.
Organisers said Galloway will visit Mariam on Thursday.
Members of the National Mobilisation Committee in Defence of Iraq said that Speakers of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament Zeid Rifai and Abdul Hadi Majali have agreed to greet the campaign. Other British politicians and prominent Arab personalities are expected to arrive in Amman this week to proceed with the campaign to Iraq.