Mina Sahib is a university student of Iraqi decent, busy with her school work and “trying to keep up with all the war rhetoric on the news.” She delivered this speech on March 8, International Women’s Day, to a packed auditorium in Toronto.

In Iraq, the family unit is central to society. And Iraqi women are of central importance to the Iraqi family: when the Iraqi woman ails, society ails along with her.

Some of the most progressive and educated women in the Arab world are native to Iraq. However, because of war, and especially the U.S.-imposed sanctions, Iraqi women have found themselves in circumstances that have shattered many of their dreams and ambitions.

Before the Gulf War, there were constant violations of civil and political rights under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, but now they also have no economic and social rights as a result of the economic embargo.

The young are now dreamless and preoccupied with their struggle to regain some sort of hope for the future, while the older generations are placed with the responsibility of creating an environment that can create some sense of inspiration for the generation of troubled youth.

The effects of depleted uranium from U.S missiles during the Gulf War has had a staggering affect on Iraqi women. The exposure of depleted uranium to Iraqis has increased cancer rates, especially breast cancer in women. It has increased the number of miscarriages enormously, and it has produced birth defects in newborns.

For the Iraqi family, the every day struggles of meeting expenses for food, housing and other costs also place great pressure and stress on the Iraqi home. Unemployed men, depressed and frustrated with their situation, only make life more miserable at home. Domestic abuse, alcoholism and divorce have all increased in Iraq.

The American administration armed, funded and supported Saddam Hussein for years, all throughout his terror campaigns against the Iraqi population. When he committed genocide against the Kurds and the Shi’as, there was no concern from the Whitehouse. There were no cries for regime change. It’s amusing to see how many U.S. and British officials speak with such dismay at the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein, because I know it is a façade.

If Saddam Hussein was ever a threat to any nation, it would have been in 1991 when he invaded Kuwait. So then, why is it that when Iraqis rose up against Saddam Hussein in 1991 after the invasion of Kuwait; and thirteen of the eighteen provinces in Iraq were proclaimed Saddam-free that the United States assisted Saddam in crushing the uprising?

Let us not fall for the propaganda stunts of the U.S. administration. We all know that Saddam Hussein is a dictator and a criminal that should one day pay for his crimes against the Iraqi people. But why must the Iraqi people have to suffer once again in these chess games between Hussein and his previous allies, where Iraqis are merely pawns of the U.S. administration that seeks to gain a stranglehold on the region and its oil reserves?

We must understand that this war is an attack on women, not just Iraqi women but all women. In the war that Mr. Bush wants to wage against Iraq, it is estimated that within the first forty-eight hours, 10,000 lives will be taken. Women are life-givers on this earth; those deaths should be considered an attack on all women. This is why we must stand together in opposition to this war.