Iraqi exile calls for peace
LONDON, England -- With UK Prime Minister Tony Blair determined that Iraq needs to be disarmed by force if necessary, CNN's Rida Said speaks to one Iraqi exile to gauge her feelings on the anti-war movement in Britain.
Nidhal al Shibid is a 47-year-old Iraqi living in north London. Her father was a journalist and a member of Iraq's communist party in the 70's.
Nidhal, born and educated in Baghdad, was 21 when she got a job working as a ground hostess for Iraqi Airways -- and her troubles with Saddam Hussein's rule began.
She was approached by the secret service and asked to inform them of the movements and activities of the Communist party. When Nidhal refused to help them she was threatened with jail.
Nidhal escaped in 1979 first to Kuwait and then to Italy. She has lived in Britain for the last seven years.
She said: "I would have been proud to help my country against its enemies but I cannot work against my own countrymen."
During the anti-war demonstration in central London she was "overwhelmed" by the support for the Iraqi cause. Her own protest board read: "I am an Iraqi and I thank you for your support."
But she was also shocked at the suggestion that many Britons thought Iraqis were pro-war -- particularly the argument that more will die under Saddam if there is not a war.
As someone who grew up in Iraq, Nidhal strongly rejects the idea of war for peace. "A lot of people in the UK believe that Iraqis support the war -- this is simply not true."
Over the last few years she has repeatedly made it clear that the Iraqis hate Saddam but do not believe the way to get rid of him is through military action.
She insists that the only way to help the Iraqis rid themselves of their cruel dictator is by ending sanctions which, she says, are hurting everyone but Saddam.
"People will never be able to fight Saddam if they are constantly looking for a piece of bread to eat.
"If you lift the sanctions then the Iraqi people will be strengthened and they themselves will be able to oust him from the inside."
Suspicion of the U.S.
Nidhal argues that her countrymen do not trust the U.S. and do not believe it has their country's best interest in mind.
She believes supporters of an American war on Iraq are looking only to help themselves obtain more power.
When asked about the Iraqi National Congress leader, Ahmad Chalabi, she said, "If you say the name Ahmad Chalabi in Baghdad people will shout thief and liar."
She also asked: "How can the Iraqis trust the U.S. when we know it is a country which is 100 percent in support of Israel, a country which hates Arab countries."
Nidhal fears that Israel would take advantage of a weak Iraq and push the Americans to send Palestinian refugees into Iraq.
When asked how she felt about Iraqis who were pro-war, she said: "These are ignorant people, who are misinformed and who want power -- I feel betrayed by them."
"We are not a religious people [Nidhal is a Shi'ite], many of us are married to Christians and have no real concern with religion.
"We do not want to become another Iran. We are a people who want to be free and live like people in this country.
"Ninety percent of those Iraqis in London who are pro-war are looking for power. Most haven't even been to Iraq, they are simply looking for power."
Nidhal is desperate that her voice be heard -- "Iraqis do not want war" -- and dreams of the day when Saddam will leave Iraq, forced out by the Iraqis, not by anyone else.
"I would like free elections -- from free Iraqis inside Iraq -- not people from outside like those calling themselves the Iraqi opposition abroad."