New Internationalist

Voices In The Wilderness

Issue 316

new internationalist
issue 316 - September 1999

Voices in the wilderness
Nikki van der Gaag speaks to the sanctions-busters.

They call themselves ‘Voices in the Wilderness’. Their aim is to draw attention to the plight of the Iraqi people by breaking the sanctions; taking medical supplies and toys to Iraq and hand-delivering them to children’s hospitals.

They do so despite the risk of prosecution – the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment in Britain and 12 years plus a million dollars in fines in the US. Voices in the US has already been threatened with such a fine. On 3 December 1998, the US Treasury Department informed the organization of its intention to impose $163,000 in penalties for breach of sanctions. They had 30 days to pay, although to date nothing has happened.

I met the latest delegation – two Americans and three Brits – in a hotel in downtown Baghdad. The lobby reeked of petrol; cheaper than water and less precious, it was being used to clean the floor.

Andrea Needham, from the British delegation, explains how they work. ‘We always make it very public that we are going to Iraq to break sanctions. We delivered a letter to the Prime Minister before leaving explaining exactly what we were going to do.’

Voices are welcomed by the Iraqis, but face a more mixed reception back home.

‘People in the US aren’t always friendly,’ said Soyun Kim, a US delegate. We did a Peace Walk for Iraq in January. Along the way some people showed their support but others threw things at us. Two young men shouted “Bomb them!”’

All five said they would be prepared to go to prison in order to bring the plight of the Iraqi people to the attention of the world. Andrea and a colleague, Gabriel Carlyle, have already been arrested and imprisoned for protesting against the bombing of Iraq last December. In the US, six people were arrested on 15 June when they protested against the awarding of an honorary doctorate of law to Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State. They argued that such an award should not be given to someone who administers a foreign policy that violates international law and has caused the death of so many Iraqi civilians.

The delegation in Baghdad. From left to right: Andrea Needham, Soyun Kim, Jeff Guntzel, Joanne Baker, Simon Emdin.

Voices in the US:
1460 West Carmen Ave, Chicago, IL 60640. 
Tel: 773 784 8065 
Fax:773 784 8837
email: [email protected]

In Britain:
12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ 
Tel/Fax: 0181 444 1605 
email: [email protected]  

previous page choose a different magazine go to the contents page go to the NI home page next page

This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Voices In The Wilderness

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.