More Canadians are preparing for a peace mission to Iraq later this month after a Vancouver group returned from the country recently with tales of fear and bombing.
The antiwar activists plan to leave from Ottawa on Jan. 30 as the U.S. military continues its buildup in the Middle East for a war that many observers anticipate will begin in February.
"Each of us goes with the understanding that we might not leave any time soon," said trip organizer Mary Foster, who works for the Ottawa-based Nonviolent Peace Force Canada.
Five activists will join several others from the U.S. and Britain, co-ordinated by the Chicago-based peace organization Voices in the Wilderness.
In Baghdad yesterday, about 30 activists from the organization held a demonstration at the compound of the United Nations weapons inspectors.
Ms. Foster is confident that if war does break out, she won't be a target in her Baghdad hotel.
Her group will send the "strongest message that the lives of Iraqi people are not less important than the lives of Canadians."
About 40 Canadians, including aid workers, are currently in Iraq. The Foreign Affairs Department has issued an advisory against travel, but Canadians are not prohibited from visiting Iraq.
Four Vancouver women returned in the past week from their antiwar crusade. Jennifer Ziemann said she had heard U.S. and British planes drop bombs while she was visiting a hospital in Iraq's northern no-fly zone.
"We could hear 20 or 30 bombs," Ms. Ziemann said. "It was in the distance, but I could almost feel it going right through me."
Iraqi citizens told her this is what they go through every day, she said.
Fellow activist Irene MacInnes was having a late Christmas dinner with her family last night, after returning from Baghdad on Dec. 27. She had visited Iraq in 1999, and said she was pleased to see some new construction cranes in what's otherwise still a "derelict" city.
"So it's really sad that they may be bombed again," Ms. MacInnes said.
Many of the Iraqis she spoke with are terrified of the threat of war, some so frozen with fear that they can't even take steps to prepare for a bombing campaign, she said.
© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc