When Baghdad was occupied six years ago American military forces set up a base in one of most prestigious high schools in Baghdad. They had a Military tank right at the gate of the School and they prevented students from entering the school. My son Ali was one of those students.
I would stop at the school every two days and ask “When are you going to leave the school so that our kids could continue their education?” I kept getting the same answer from the Gunner on the tank “we are not leaving”!!! There was no sense in arguing with a high school dropout about the value of education, he has the big Gun and he just wouldn't understand.
I was escorting Aljazeera TV to document that Iraqi Universities have restarted classes 2 weeks after the occupation. On our way we stopped at the Baghdad College High school (BCHS). The gunner on the tank refused to allow us to take pictures of tanks at the gate in the school.
I went to CNN bureau in Baghdad and talked to a producer “Linda Holt” who agreed to meet us at the gate of the school the next day. Again the Gunner refused to allow CNN to take pictures of the tank at the gate. CNN was able to talk to the headmaster of the school who told her that the teachers are ready to resume teaching if American forces would allow them. She also interviewed few students who were near the school. I personally do not think that “Big brother” in Atlanta allowed that report to be shown.
I talked to CBS Baghdad bureau and again the CBS were not allowed to take pictures of the tank at the gate. They talked to a teachers who was coming to work. Three students and their parents were interviewed also.
All these efforts did not convince the US military that they should “end their occupation of schools”. As a last resort to liberate our school we issued this press release. It was distributed to almost every Journalist in Baghdad, a simple thing since almost all of them lived at the Meridian and Sheraton hotel. It was posted at the notice boards and entrance of the hotel.
When: 9am, Saturday, May 3rd, 2003
Where: Baghdad College High School
Baghdad College High School was established 70 years ago by the Jesuits, to be an excellent educational institution. The school was nationalized, but remained an excellent high school.
1750 students attend this school from grade 7 to grade 12. The American Army has occupied the school and converted it to a military camp with tanks inside the school, and refused to allow students to attend classes. The U.S. army, while occupying the school, destroyed the school’s library and the school’s laboratories and classrooms.
We as parents have asked the Americans to vacate the school so that our kids can go back to school-so far unsuccessfully. Those of us who were permitted to visit inside our school were shocked at the destruction inflicted.
At 9:00am, Saturday, May 3rd, 2003, we are taking our kids back to school and demand the end of the American Occupation of the school. We will demand that the school should be opened to students and journalists so that the whole world can judge whether the destruction was caused by vandals or by the American forces.
How can the Americans condemn Saddam Hussein’s regime for using schools as military bases, and then turn around and do the very same themselves?
On May 3, 2003 we took our school back and our kids resumed their education. Many media outlet were present to witness the American destruction of the school laboratories and the school library.
Regrettably most American media did not come to cover the event. They were more interested in finding achievement after May 1st Bush. mission accomplished speech. Our simple mission was accomplished.
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