Iraqi refugee, Gulf War veteran to speak at Bethel College

?Inside Iraq: Accounts from an Iraqi Refugee and a Gulf War Veteran? will be presented at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 16 in Krehbiel Auditorium at Bethel College.

Speakers are Wafaa Bilal, a refugee from Najaf, Iraq, and Erik Gustafson, Gulf War veteran and current executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

The program will include a spoken word performance, slide presentation, short lecture, and question-answer session. Bilal and Gustafson will discuss the United States government?s policy toward Iraq as well as recent United Nations efforts to ease sanctions and return weapons inspectors to Iraq. In addition, the speakers will describe the effects that the economic sanctions have had on the lives of the Iraqi people and stress the urgency of the anti-sanctions movement.

During the Gulf War, Wafaa Bilal was one of the Iraqi people who survived 42 days of bombing by the United States and coalition forces.

Following the war, as suspected dissidents were rounded up and massacred, Bilal joined several hundred thousand refugees who fled Iraq and spent years in refugee camps. Granted political asylum, he now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., and works as an artist and writer. His family remains in Iraq.

Erik Gustafson served eight months in the Gulf War before returning to the United States. In 1997, he returned to Iraq on a humanitarian mission and now is executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center. He opposes economic sanctions and is currently working with members of Congress to promote legislation to lift the sanctions.

The Bilal-Gustafson program is sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College, with additional funding from Manfred Menking, M.D., Mennonite Central Committee Central States, and Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas.

The North Newton presentation will be the only Kansas location on the Bilal-Gustafson speaking tour this spring. Admission is free and open to the public.

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