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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
UK Iraqis demand help to find relatives
By Jenny Matthews
BBC News Online

British Iraqis are protesting that the UK and US are not doing enough to help them find relatives who vanished under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Several hundred people were expected to rally in Parliament Square in London on Friday, urging the government to do more to help.

Iraqi men cover their noses against the stench as they find bodies at the Abu Ghraib Prison, outside Baghdad
Bodies and graves of some Iraqis who vanished have been found
Faiza al-Khateeb, who lives in London, has a father and brother who have been missing for more than 20 years.

"We were living in the Saddam City area of Baghdad," she told BBC News Online.

"My father was quite religious, he was a cleric in a mosque.

"At the time you had to join the Baath party or they would take you away.

"One day they came and took him. It was in the late 1980s. I haven't heard a thing since. Not a thing."

One day they came and took him. It was in the late 1980s. I haven't heard a thing since
Faiza al-Khateeb

Mrs al-Khateeb said just three or four years later the same thing happened to her 26-year-old elder brother.

"One day they came round the house, knocked on the door, and took him away. They were Baath party officials.

"If you went to ask about him they would just say 'go away or we'll take you as well'.

"I don't know if they're dead, alive or anything. I've heard nothing whatsoever.

"I'm so eager to find out their fate, just to know where they are or what's happened to them."

Fears for family

Mrs al-Khateeb still has a mother and five sisters living in Saddam City.

But she has not heard from them since the telephone network went down during the war, and is worried about them as well.

The al-Qarah cemetery, thought to contain about 1,000 unnamed graves holding political prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison

Mrs al-Khateeb said it appeared the needs of the Iraqi people were being ignored by coalition forces, who were more keen on following their own political ends.

"They seem to be pretty busy making the oil fields work again," she said.

"But I've heard there have been sounds coming from underground in some of the prisons but they're not helping to dig to find if there's anybody there.

"There's prisons they haven't even visited yet. There's mass graves. We want to identify everybody, but nobody's doing anything."

Mrs al-Khateeb said she had serious concerns about the security situation in Iraq.

'Not paying attention'

"I'm happy that Saddam's gone but you don't know what tomorrow's going to bring.

"There's no safety, there's all the looting, everyone's trying to get into power.

"I'd be scared to go back at the moment. There's still Baath party members on the streets. They don't know where Saddam is. There's no government."

The actual power in Iraq is British and American now, and we hold them responsible for finding the prisoners
Falah Sharif

Friday's rally was being organised by the Dar Al-Islam Foundation, which says it has been contacted by 200 other families in the UK whose relatives vanished under Saddam Hussein's regime and have not been heard of since.

"The actual power in Iraq is British and American now, and we hold them responsible for finding the prisoners," said spokesman Falah Sharif.

"We are unable to celebrate the fall of Saddam Hussein until our relatives are found.

"We feel the government is not very much paying attention to this issue."

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