The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Speaker shares experiences in Iraq

Lyssa Beyer

Sami Rasouli, founder of the Muslim Peacemakers Team, presented “Eyewitness: Iraq” at the inaugural peace and justice memorial lecture in honor of Eberth Alarcón on Monday evening in the Council Fire Room of Davies Center.

“Salaam, shalom, peace,” Rasouli said as he greeted the audience.

Rasouli was born in Iraq, but moved to the Minneapolis area and opened Sinbad’s Café and Market, 2528 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, which was not only a restaurant, but a cultural center, said Mike Miles of the Northwoods Peace Initiative and friend of Rasouli’s.

According to a university press release, Rasouli left Sinbad’s and moved back to Iraq four years ago and founded the Muslim Peacemakers Team in 1986. He also has dual citizenship and speaks both languages.

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“He’s 100 percent Iraqi. He’s 100 percent American,” Miles said.

Touching topics such as the recent events in Basra, Iraqi casualties and his personal experiences in the country, Rasouli, talked about the Iraqi people throughout the lecture to demonstrate his main point – that the U.S. occupation is not working for Iraqis.

“Is the surge good for the Iraqis?” he asked. “Absolutely not.”

Another point Rasouli spoke of was trust. For example, in the food service area (in the Green Zone), there are no Iraqi workers, he said. The Iraqi police force is used as a shield for American soldiers and does not have the proper equipment. This, Rasouli said, is because there is a lack of trust for the Iraqi people, and said he hopes the war will end as soon as possible.

“(When the) war stops definitely, people will evolve . when they get responsibility and their country back,” he said.

According to the Muslim Peacemakers Team Web site, its goal is to unite the Iraqi people through peace while helping them become self-sufficient. Current goals include teaching about peace and human rights as well as assisting the Iraqi people with their physical health and sanitation education.

Alarcón, who passed away in September 2006, was a mathematics professor at UW-Eau Claire and a member of the UW-Eau Claire Staff and Faculty for Peace and Justice, one of the groups that sponsored the event.

Dr. Asha Senn, Alarcón’s wife and an English professor at Eau Claire, opened the lecture speaking of her husband, saying that it was not only for mourning but for commemorating and coming together.

“That’s what love and life is all about. Coming together,” she said.

Following Senn’s introduction, seniors Cassandra Lawler and Liz Wilson presented a video clip from a movie created in honor of Alarcón before Rasouli began his lecture.

Freshman Bryna Rabehl attended because she is a member of Amnesty International, an organization that will return to campus in fall 2008, she said. Rabehl said that she felt Rasouli had a powerful effect on the audience and as a speaker.

“We were all enlightened from it,” she said. “He was very into what he was saying.”

Karen Pope, an associate professor in library services and member of the UW-Eau Claire Staff and Faculty for Peace and Justice, first met Rasouli three years ago when he came to the Eau Claire area to speak.

For the inaugural session, the group had originally planned to focus on heath care, she said, but then the opportunity to host Rasouli came up. Pope also said she hopes that students found it worth their time.

“I hope that students understand what going to war and occupying another country means for its people.”

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Speaker shares experiences in Iraq