[KH: A link to a video of the event will be posted as soon as it is available.]

Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General and Head of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq 1997-98, spoke at an evening panel discussion at Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship on Thursday, June 28th at 7p.m. The event was titled, “The Iraq Sanctions and the Case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir: Criminalizing Compassion in the ‘War on Terror.’” Other speakers on the panel were, Magda Bayoumi, a community activist and member of the Central New York Muslim community, and Katherine Hughes, a court watcher at the 17-week trial of Dr. Dhafir. About one hundred people attended and many people joined the speakers and members of the Muslim community for supper at the mosque after the event.

Halliday spoke about the UN, the sanctions, and their effects on the Iraqi civilian population. He resigned, after a 34-year distinguished career with the UN, because the policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined “not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” He criticized the “five corrupt permanent members” of the UN Security Council who have managed to corrupt the UN’s own charter and International law. As coordinator of the UN Humanitarian Program, Halliday talked of meeting with former Iraqi trade union workers (representing 7 million people), who told him, “Please tell the Security Council that we would prefer to be bombed than slowly killed by sanctions.”

Halliday also criticized a U.S. justice system that allows such miscarriage of justice whereby Corporate America, which made a lot of money during the sanctions, is left alone, and Dr. Dhafir, who founded “Help the Needy” (HTN) and sent food aid and medical assistance to the Iraqi people, is prosecuted and sentenced to 22 years. Halliday encouraged members of the audience to tell others about the case to spread word of the injustice. He is honored to be associated with Dr. Dhafir and believes it is only a matter of time before Dr. Dhafir’s courage is recognized.

Magda Bayoumi spoke as a member of our local Muslim community; 150 Muslim families were interrogated in their homes on the morning of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest because they had donated to HTN. Bayoumi described how different government agents were sent to individuals according to their immigration status. As an American citizen, Bayoumi was interrogated by FBI agents; INS agents interrogated Muslims who were non-citizens; and Muslims who had their own businesses were interrogated by IRS agents as well as FBI. Bayoumi said, “They had come, not to arrest me, but to intimidate me, and put fear into my heart.” Bayoumi is one of the few members of the Muslim community willing to speak out about her experience on the morning of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest.

Katherine Hughes filled in for Dr. Dhafir’s trial lawyer, Joel Cohen, on the panel. Cohen was unable to fly to Syracuse from New York City because of bad weather. Hughes attended virtually all of the 17-week trial and talked about her experience.