The Public Square

Gary Storm of Urbana on opportunities to hear from local community members from Iraq


AWARE, an anti-war anti-racism effort in Urbana-Champaign, is creating opportunities to widen the audience that hears about the effects on individuals and families of current U. S. foreign policy and the war in Iraq. It is doing so by calling the public's attention to Anthony Shadid's extraordinary book "Night Draws Near: Iraqi People in the Shadow of America's War (Henry Holt, 2005)and by having community members who have family in Iraq and/or who have recently visited there and others tell their stories in local venues.

Anthony Shadid is the Islamic Affairs correspondent for the Washington Post based in the Middle East. Among the awards he has received is the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. He is an American of Lebanese descent who speaks and reads Arabic and who first traveled to Iraq as a reporter in 1998. AWARE is arranging interviews with Shadid that will be printed and/or aired locally in the months ahead and hopes, with the aid of several academic units at the University of Illinois and other community organizations, to bring him to Urbana-Champaign in 2006. His own interviews with Iraqi citizens at various stages of U. S. involvement with the current war ("Before", "The American Invasion", "Aftermath", "The Occupation" and "The Insurgency") paint a vivid and powerful human face on the conflict.

During November, AWARE has scheduled two panel presentations by local community members from Iraq and a member of Christian Peacemakers, all of whom have personal experiences in Iraq to share. Each presentation will set aside time for questions and comments from the audience. Attendees are encouraged to come a little early to enjoy Middle Eastern refreshments and to browse through books and other materials on Middle Eastern history, culture, politics, etc.

The first presentation is scheduled from 7:00-8:45 PM at the Urbana Free Library on Wednesday, November 16, and the second from 7:00-8:45 PM at the Community United Church of Christ on Tuesday, November 29. Both are free of charge andmembers of the public are encouraged to attend.