Bit of a Biography
06 Dec 2003
Brief details of who I am, what I'm doing here and what I've done before.
A quick biog:

I’m a 29-year-old activist, writer and trainee lawyer from Bristol, UK.

My involvement with Iraq began with campaigning against the economic sanctions – a speaker who had visited Iraq twice came to talk at an information café which a group of us had set up and I felt that I could not ignore the situation.

I first came to Iraq in August 2001 with Voices in the Wilderness to break the sanctions as an act of civil disobedience and to get a perspective on what was happening for the purpose of advocacy work in the UK. In November 2002 I forced the UK Customs and Excise to take me to court for breaking the sanctions. It was the first time that the legality of the sanctions had been considered directly by a British court.

I returned to Iraq as an independent observer in February 2003 and stayed for the month before the war and the first 11 days of the bombing, before being expelled by the Iraqi foreign ministry as part of a purge of independent foreigners.

During the war I was interviewing civilian casualties in the hospitals, taking witness statements and medical reports and, wherever possible, visiting the scene of the bombing to take statements from witnesses and damage reports in order to have a record of what happened to people and to file some legal cases against the UK and US government, some of which are ongoing. My writing about the situation for ordinary people here was published around the world: the Guardian online, the New Zealand Herald, Counterpunch (US and internet), Australian radio and in Japan, Korea and Pakistan.

Prior to coming to Iraq in February 2003 I was working as a mental health advocate for Bristol Mind and in the Immigration Department at Bristol Law Centre, as well as studying part time for my law diploma. I completed the diploma in June 2003 and will start studying for the bar qualification in September 2004.

My current projects are funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and Funding for Change as well as by donations from people attending the talks I’ve given in the UK since my return in April 2003. They are as follows:

1. Writing about the current situation from the perspective of people I meet here and about what happened to them during the war, the sanctions and in the years when Saddam was in power with UK government support. Compiling an oral history of that time in order that there should be a record of the harm done by UK foreign policy

2. Setting up twinning links between schools, universities and hospitals in the UK and in Iraq which will help the rehabilitation of the education system, especially the libraries, help Iraqi doctors make up for the 13 years of isolation from technical progress and build solidarity and an information exchange between the countries.

3. Bringing a small group of performers over in January to work with children traumatized by the war.

4. Filing suitable cases in the European Court of Human Rights against the UK government for breaches of human rights committed in Iraq by it and its allies.

5. Supporting various grass roots Iraqi organisations, for example, by helping to write funding proposals in English and doing advocacy work on their behalf with the ministries and administration, such as requesting the payment of unpaid wages and helping to pursue claims for compensation.

6. Representing the UK organization Child Victims of War in Iraq, by talking to paediatric doctors about what equipment and assistance they need and attempting to access that.