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August 11, 2004

Hands Off Najaf


Voices in the Wilderness

Our country's military now declares preparations to attack the Shrine of Ali in the city of Najaf in Iraq. Our country stands on the precipice of declaring war on Islam. An attack on the Shrine of Ali is an attack on the heart of Islam and must be nonviolently resisted in our country.

The U.S. military is urging civilians to leave Najaf. We take this as a signal that our country is preparing to turn Najaf into a free-fire zone, in which all who move, civilian or not, are targeted for attack. A free fire zone and an attack on the Shrine would significantly escalate the violence throughout Iraq, increasing the danger for all Iraqis.

Voices in the Wilderness calls upon all U.S. government officials – elected or appointed – to publicly declare their opposition to any attack by U.S. military forces against the Shrine of Ali. We further call upon U.S. military forces to withdraw from the holy city of Najaf and to cease all military operations against the city, its citizens and at the Imam Ali Mosque.

Voices calls for citizens of the U.S. to demand that their congressional representative, U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Kerry publicly call for an end to U.S. military actions in Najaf, against its citizens and against the Imam Ali Mosque. If there is no response or a negative response, Voices calls for nonviolent actions at their offices, such as: an office occupation; a vigil outside their office; a fax campaign to their office; or a phone call campaign to their office. Voices further calls for the establishment of vigils in public spaces throughout the country.

The Shrine of Ali is the holiest of shrines in Shia Islam. It is the burial place for Imam Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. The shrine is sacred to both Shia and Sunni Muslims. Attacking the Imam Ali Mosque is akin to bombing the burial site of Jesus for people of the Christian faith or the Western Wall for people of the Jewish faith.

An attack on the mosque would also replicate the history of oppression of Shia under Saddam Hussein. In 1991, Shia rose up against Saddam Hussein, at the urging of the first President Bush. As U.S. warplanes flew overhead, not intervening, Saddam's helicopters massacred Shia on the ground below. Saddam attacked the Imam Ali Mosque during this time, killing those inside.

As U.S. citizens we must say "no" to this threatened attack on the heart of Islam. We will use all nonviolent means available to us to resist it.

The violent overthrow of the Iraqi government and the subsequent military occupation of Iraq have not lead to freedom, security, and prosperity for the Iraqi people. Neither have they created the conditions in which freedom, security, and prosperity can be sown and nurtured. Quite the opposite: the threat and reality of violence is commonplace. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured. To this threat of violence, add the increased threat of water-borne disease and the weight of a collapsed electrical grid.

The Iraqi people are our sisters and brothers. Our humanity demands that we begin to act as if the livesofIraqisandtheirfaithtrulymattertous.As U.S. citizens we must respond without equivocation and act to end this war and occupation.

Contact: Jeff Leys or Safaa Abdel-Magid at 773-784-8065; info@vitw.org

Voices in the Wilderness was formed in 1996 in response to the U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq. Voices has sponsored over 70 delegations to bring humanitarian supplies to Iraqi citizens despite U.S. law. Voices currently faces a $20,000 fine for delivering medicine and other humanitarian supplies to Iraq.


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