CAIRO — It’s not that they like Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. In fact, most of them probably don’t.
But Arab showbiz personalities are demonstrating their support for the Iraqi people who are widely seen in the Arab world as the real victims in the largely U.S.-sponsored international sanctions against Iraq.
A number of top Arab film stars recently turned up in Baghdad with a truckload of medical supplies donated by Egyptian businessmen.
The delegation, which visited hospitals and sites bombed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War that followed Saddam’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait, was led by veteran film director Youssef Chahine, recipient of a lifetime achievement award at last year’s Cannes fest.
Among the film stars in the delegation were Egyptian actors Nur el Sherif and Khaled Nabawi, along with Syrian actress Raghda.
“We are here for the sake of the Iraqi children,” Raghda said on arrival at Baghdad’s Rasheed Hotel. “We wanted to see what’s happening for ourselves.”
Because there are no international flights in or out of Baghdad airport (one of the numerous sanctions against Iraq), the delegation had to endure a long, rough and wearisome taxi journey across the desert from the Jordanian capital of Amman.
In Baghdad, the group said nothing in support of Saddam, thus making it clear that their motives were strictly humanitarian.
Accompanying the group was outspoken Egyptian feminist author Nawal Suadawi who blasted the sanctions as “illegal and inhuman.”
Time for change
The showbiz show of solidarity with the Iraqi people reflects a growing feeling in the Arab world that the U.S.-led sanctions have long since outlived their usefulness — if indeed they ever had any.
It is felt that it if their rationale had been to bring down Saddam, then the sanctions have proved a complete flop, as the Iraqi dictator still is in place after seven years of punitive measures.