- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

They come from different places and religious backgrounds, but their stories are a lot alike.
"Every Iraqi person has a story to tell," said Tanya Gilly, a member of the Kurdish opposition whose family was forced to leave northern Iraq in the 1970s because of political repression.
A diverse group of Iraqi women, who call themselves survivors, told stories of terror, murder and oppression during a session with reporters yesterday hosted by Rep. Deborah Pryce, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Republican Conference.
They met privately earlier with Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
"I have many relatives and friends who have been executed by the regime," said Raz Rasool, the daughter of an Iraqi dissident who was imprisoned for political activities.
Mrs. Rasool said almost every family in Iraq has lost someone in the fight against the regime, and many Iraqis lost their homes or were forcibly displaced as the government wiped out thousands of Kurdish villages.
"I can't describe to you the expression on my kids' faces when we arrived in America," said Sabria Naama, a Shi'ite from southern Iraq. "It seemed they felt safe for the first time."
Mrs. Naama, who lives in San Diego, had to flee Iraq after a failed uprising against Saddam Hussein in southern Iraq in 1991. Her husband, Iraqi army Gen. Abbas Kareem Naama, was one of its instigators.
Mrs. Naama and her children nearly lost their lives while crossing the desert by foot to Saudi Arabia.
Mrs. Rasool suffered similar hardships in northern Iraq, where she had to flee the government's persecution despite being eight months pregnant.
"I had to run from house to house, to hide, and many of my friends were killed," she said. She fled to the United States in 1996, when Saddam's forces entered the Kurdish safe haven, as designated by the United Nations, to attack the opposition.
For the first time in years, the exiles say, they now can dream of going home.
"A lot of Iraqis are already gearing up," said Mrs. Gilly, who was forced to leave but who wants to raise her two children in Iraq. According to her, there are 4 million Iraqis living abroad.
The Iraqi women said they don't see any hope for the future of Iraq without liberation from Saddam. "This is not a war; this is liberation," Mrs. Rasool said.
Despite their different backgrounds, the Iraqi women said they believe in building a democratic and federal Iraq, which would be ruled by a constitution and where all ethnic and religious minorities would have a voice. They also believe that women will get equal rights as soon as the dictatorship is over.
"Thousands of Iraqi children were born in jails and have never seen the light," said Mrs. Rasool, who asked Americans to help liberate Iraq.
The women, many of whom keep in touch with their families in Iraq, said they don't think U.S. troops will meet resistance from the Iraqi people.
"People are waiting patiently for American troops to walk in and liberate the country," Mrs. Naama said.

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