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Filed February 15, 2003 By Jeremy Scahill

BAGHDAD—Tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them brandishing Kalashnikov rifles, marched through Baghdad today chanting, “Hey Bush, listen well, we love Saddam.” Security at the march was tight and snipers stood on rooftops. In a different twist to the generally secular protests in Iraq, some of the demonstrators chanted verses from the Koran. Several Iraqi tribes also participated in the rallies, dancing traditional dances while holding rifles above their heads. Similar demonstrations took place in other cities throughout Iraq. The marches were broadcast live on Iraqi television.

Baghdad - February 15, 2003. Photo by Jacquie Soohen.
Meanwhile, in a separate action, some 200 international activists marched past UN offices along the Tigris River. Many of the signs at the demonstration stressed the international calls for a continuation of UN inspections. The international march included the US-based Voices in the Wilderness, the Italian group Bridges to Baghdad, dozens of activists who say they have come to Iraq as “Human Shields,” as well as drummers and dancers from Okinawa, Japan. Activists also came from Sweden, Slovenia, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Some of the marchers processed silently through the streets, others chanted antiwar slogans in their native tongues. The march wrapped up with a long human chain across the Al Rasheed Bridge over the Tigris River. The activists coordinated their action with the worldwide day of protest against Washington’s drive toward war. On the bridge, they called on people around the world to, “Stop for a minute, stop the war.”

Baghdad - February 15, 2003. Photo by Jacquie Soohen.
New groups of activists have been pouring into Baghdad from countries around the world in an attempt to stop the war. Over the past week, there have been regular vigils at civilian infrastructure sites that activists and others fear will be targeted by Washington in a war against Iraq. Voices in the Wilderness has also set up a tent across from the main United Nations compound in Baghdad. A massive banner outside the tent reads: “UN Inspections Yes, US Invasion No.”

From Baghdad, filmmaker Jacquie Soohen and videographer May Ying Welch transmitted videotaped messages from two Iraqis to the US where they will be played at demonstrations in New York and other cities. They will also be broadcast at other international demonstrations, as well as on Free Speech Television in the US.

[Editor's Note - other videos from Iraq by May Ying Welch can be seen at the Free Speech TV website.]
Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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Audio related to this journal is available in the following formats:
MP3 File Size: 7.1 MB
Click here to watch the international protest in Baghdad. Filmed and Edited by Jacquie Soohen.

Click here to watch a videotaped messages from Basra resident Um Heider and Archbishop Gabriel Kassab to protesters across the world.

Um Heider is a primary school teacher in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra. On January 25, 1999, her eldest son, 6 year old Heider, was killed by a US missile as he played in front of his home. His only crime was that he lived within the so-called no-fly zones unilaterally imposed by the US and UK governments. Her other son, Mustapha, was severely wounded in the attack. He lost two fingers and lives with shrapnel in his back.. Photo by Thorne Anderson.
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