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Detroit Chaldean Community March Streets to Protest War

February 25, 1991

DETROIT (AP) _ More than 200 chanting Iraqi-Americans blasted President Bush as a ″butcher″ Sunday during a march to denounce the start of the ground war in the Persian Gulf.

About 100 people carrying placards with such slogans as ″U.S. Out of the Middle East″ marched along a main street through the city’s Chaldean neighborhood. Chaldeans are a Christian minority in Iraq.

″Bush is the butcher and he shouldn’t be in Kuwait,″ Samir Barka, 39, a Baghdad native, shouted above the chants.

″Bush is a murderer 3/8″ people in the crowd shouted.

About 150 other Chaldeans lined the one-mile march route, waving banners in support of the demonstration while they stood outside family-owned stores, restaurants and other shops.

The mood, said one Chaldean, is ″fierce anger towards the U.S. and President Bush.″ The man, who refused to give his name for fear of endangering family members still in Iraq, said he hasn’t been able to contact his loved ones since a few days before the Gulf War began.

Among Kuwaitis living in California, joy over the possibility that Iraq would be ousted from their country was tempered by concern about the fate of their compatriots at Iraqi hands.

″I have to tell you I am jubilant that the war against Kuwaitis and humanity will end pretty soon,″ said Anwar Almudhaf, a member of the Kuwait American Friendship Council in Covina. ″But I am concerned about the suffering of my people.″

Summoned by a Muslim call to prayer, 300 Christians, Jews and Moslems gathered Sunday at a Methodist church in Omaha, Neb.

″Allahu akbar 3/8 (Allah is the most great 3/8). Hayya’alas-salah 3/8 (Come to prayer 3/8),″ chanted Hazem Kabbara of the Islamic Center of Omaha to open the interfaith prayer assembly at the First United Methodist Church.

Muslim women in veils, Catholics, Protestants and Jews sat side-by-side and sang songs like ″Ain’t Gonna Study War No More″ and ″We Shall Overcome.″

The nation’s largest Chaldean population is on the north side of Detroit, where there are at least 45,000 Christian Iraqis.

Since Aug. 2, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Detroit Chaldeans have been reluctant to talk about the occupation and war, citing fears for their families in the Persian Gulf.

On Sunday, their fear had intensified, but many protesters wanted to voice their opinions.

″All of my family is in Iraq and I have no idea how they are,″ said Steve Zetauna, 27, who added that he has relatives in the Iraqi army. ″I don’t support this war and when it’s over, they won’t be able to justify it. Where was the United States when Iraq and Iran were at war?″

Barka said he not only supports Saddam, but ″any ruler of Iraq.″

″I don’t support anyone who kills innocent people,″ he said. ″And that’s what Bush is doing, this is none of his business.″

″I don’t support Saddam, but I definitely don’t support the United States’ involvement either,″ said Mike Shaarak, 27, of Detroit.

″They are killing innocent people, civilians are being used as targets,″ he said. ″If you just watch TV, all you see are women and children suffering and without food and water.″

In Dearborn, where the large Arab-American population is mostly Lebanese and Palestinian, people on the streets refused to discuss the war.

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