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EDITIONS
Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 14:24 GMT
For and against: The Iraqi exile
Rania Kashi
Rania Kashi supports the UK government's case
It started out as an impassioned e-mail sent to a handful of teenagers.

But, days later, Rania Kashi's plea for military action in Iraq was being read out in front of the world's media during a key speech given by Tony Blair.

If there is no war, more will be killed under Saddam

Rania Kashi

Nineteen-year-old Rania, an exiled Iraqi now studying at Newnham College, Cambridge, had written in an effort to persuade friends going to London's anti-war march of the need for Saddam Hussein to be toppled.

Her note struck a chord with the UK prime minister when he was handed it by Iraqi exiles, during Labour's spring conference in Glasgow this weekend.

"I am still totally shocked about the reaction to it, everything has just snowballed," she admitted to BBC News Online.

"I am amazed Tony Blair published the whole thing because it includes a lot of criticism of the west's policy towards Iraq in recent years."

Saddam persecution

In her e-mail, Rania, from Wembley, north London, acknowledged Iraqis were distrustful of the Americans, but argued Saddam was the greater evil.

She wrote: "You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion.

"I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq.

"Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis?"

Rania was born in Kuwait after her family - who are Shi'ite Muslims - fled Saddam's persecution.

She arrived in Britain at only three months old.

On reading her email, Rania's father, Hesham, decided it deserved a wider audience and began to forward it relatives and friends.

The note then spread like wildfire through the inboxes of the UK's Iraqi community, before eventually landing in Tony Blair's hands.

Rania said she was delighted at the widespread publicity her e-mail had caused.

"The whole Iraqi community in exile has been so supportive," she said.

There is no point bombing Iraq if we are not going to replace it with a democracy

"Its opinion doesn't get much opportunity to be voiced in public and, if you were to ask most of them, they would say they back intervention."

Rania said one friend had even mailed her back to say she was right to point out many in the UK were ignorant of the situation in Iraq.

"A few of them still went to the march," she admitted, "and I totally understand the sentiment but, if there is no war, more will be killed under Saddam."

Tony Blair had a copy of Rania's email distributed to all delegates in Glasgow after his speech.

He told them to "read it all" adding: "It is the reason why I do not shrink from action against Saddam if it proves necessary."

However, Rania sounds a note of caution - warning Mr Blair to also focus on what replaces Saddam's regime.

She said: "There is no point bombing Iraq if we are not going to replace it with a democracy.

"America and Britain must support a transitional government.

"Only then is there hope for the future."


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Rania Kashi, pro-war Iraqi student
"As a child to Iraqi refugees I had a duty to explain from an Iraqi perspective"
We ask Britons from a variety of walks of life for their view on war with Iraq

See also:

11 Feb 03 | Europe
11 Feb 03 | Talking Point
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
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