Everyday life in Iraq is becoming increasingly dangerous, an Iraqi American told the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
"Iraq is becoming unlivable," said Andy Shallal, who has many family members living in the country.
The Board of Church and Society passed a resolution in 2005 calling on the United States to withdraw troops from Iraq. Shallal spoke to the board's Peace with Justice/United Nations and International Affairs work area during the agency's April 20-23 meeting. He is with the Iraqi American Alliance, a Washington-based group working to strengthen relations between Iraqis and Americans.
"One hundred and ninety-two professors have been killed since the start of the war," he said. "Three more have been killed in the last three weeks." Those who can leave are leaving, he said.
The violence has touched Shallal's family. One of his nephews was abducted while going to school. The 15-year-old was held captive until his parents could pay $50,000 for his return. He came back "bruised, cut and emotionally scarred. These acts are so brazen, and it does no good to go to the police," Shallal said.
He described how general living conditions have deteriorated. The price of gas is astronomical in a country that only a few years ago paid 10 cents a gallon. "The country is one big gas station," he said. "No one understands why the prices are so high."
The lucky people get electricity for about six hours a day, and in a country that once had one of the best health care systems in the Middle East, getting medical care is almost impossible, he said.
"My uncle who has asthma went to the hospital during one of the bad sandstorms. There were 200 people waiting to use the one oxygen tank," he said.
A change in U.S. policy is needed, according to Shallal.
"Americans can play a role," he said. "Cities shouldn't be put under siege. Instead, air drop in supplies of food, water and generators. The United States has to change its policy toward Iraq."
Jim Winkler, top staff executive of the Board of Church and Society, told board members "it is a sad fact that the people of Iraq are now worse off today than they were prior to the U.S.-led invasion. Perhaps as many as 250,000 Iraqis have died from violence or the breakdown of basic health care and other infrastructures."
The Board of Church and Society is the social action and advocacy agency of the United Methodist Church.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].