Cindy Sheehan Arrested at the U.S. Mission to the U.N.

State Department calls protest a P.R. stunt

And in fact, the arrests drowned out the voices of the Iraqi women the protest was intended to highlight. Before marching to the U.S. Mission, Sheehan and five Iraqi women held a news conference outside U.N. headquarters, when they blamed the presence of U.S. troops for fostering unrest in their country, and asked the U.N. to intervene to prevent a civil war from breaking out.

The Iraqi women denied that a civil war was already under way but said things could devolve quickly if terrorists and Islamic extremists continue to use the presence of U.S. troops to justify bombings of civilians and other targets.

Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin holding up their  
women's petition for peace, just moments before they were arrested.
photo: Sarah Ferguson
Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin holding up their women's petition for peace, just moments before they were arrested.

"The resistance forces are using the occupation to provoke differences," said Nadje Al-Ali, a writer and founding member of Act Together: Women's Action on Iraq, which was formed in the late '90s to oppose U.S. sanctions on Iraq. "The longer the occupation continues, the greater the danger of a civil war happening."

Faiza Al-Araji, a civil engineer and mother of three, went further. "They are pushing the people to be in a civil war to justify their existence there," she said of the U.S., voicing a theory now common among Iraqis. "It is so they can build their bases and continue with their efforts to dominate the region. Who cares about the Iraqis?"

Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist at one of Baghdad's largest hospitals, broke into tears as she told reporters of the deaths and hardships she witnessed daily.

"U.S. occupation has destroyed our country, made it into a prison," said Ariabi. "Schools are bombed, hospitals are bombed."

She cited a report by the chief coroner in Baghdad who estimates they receive 1,600 dead bodies a month in the city, with perhaps 10 times as many injured. "Many of the injured don't survive because of the shortage of medical supplies," she said.

"Bush said he liberated Iraq. Well, thank you for liberating our country from Saddam. But now, go out! Please go out!" she pleaded.

With Sheehan and other activists still in jail, the Iraqi women and Code Pink organizers proceeded to Washington, D.C., where they will spend Tuesday lobbying Congress members against the occupation. On Wednesday, which is International Women's Day, they plan to deliver their petition to the Iraqi Embassy and then march to the White House.

The Iraqi delegation was sponsored by Code Pink and Global Exchange. It includes Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish women—some secular, some not. Two Iraqi women whose families were killed by U.S. forces were denied entry by the U.S. consulate, which claimed they had "insufficient family ties" in Iraq to guarantee that they would return home if they were let into the U.S. Two others are still waiting in Amman, Jordan, to see if their visas will come through. The women plan a 60-city tour to speak out about what's happening in their country.

"It's going to be the women who are going to lead us out of the violence and toward peace," declared Sheehan, speaking prior to her arrest. "We have the mother in us. And I'm calling on everyone, whether they're mothers or women or not to follow us."

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