Local News

Iraqi Chats Up Regular Folks on U.S. Tour

Posted June 14, 2007

— An Iraqi student touring the U.S. to meet Americans for a cable-television show got some positive feedback Thursday outside the Cumberland County Library.

Haider Hamza, 23, lived through the 2003 invasion of Iraq with his family in the Babylon province south of Baghdad. He came to the U.S. in September to attend college in New York City as a Fulbright Scholar.

Hamza said the only Americans he had encountered were soldiers in Iraq and some New Yorkers, most of whom were anti-war. So, he decided to travel around the country to talk to people about the Iraq War.

“The only perspective that was actually missing was the U.S. civilian perspective, what the U.S. civilians think of this,” he said. "I didn't want people on the West Coast and East Coast telling me what they think and feel. I wanted to see for myself."

Fayetteville was his first stop, and a camera crew from Showtime's "This American Life" filmed Hamza's encounters with people as he sat at a booth outside the library under the sign "Talk To An Iraqi" while wearing a traditional black-and-white Iraqi scarf.

He said he doesn't want to be confrontational or speak about whether the war is right or wrong. He said he just wants to have some candid conversations with Americans.

“I know our lives as Iraqis are literally changed forever because of what is happening. It’s all our lives are about, basically,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Tori Allen said he had been waiting for three years to apologize to an Iraqi citizen.

"We shouldn't have walked in there like that. We should have asked them what they wanted to do. Iraq wasn't the one who attacked us," said Tori, who said he plans to run for president in 2032.

Hamza said people in New York told him pro-war sentiments would be strong in the South and Midwest.

"I didn't know to what extent that was true. I know when things go wrong, nobody wants to be a part of it anymore," he said. “Just because you’re not for the war doesn’t mean that you don’t support the troops. I know people don’t understand that.”

But Elizabeth D'Herde, a teacher from Erwin, drove 40 miles just to speak with Hamza and let him know that not everyone in the South is for the war and that Americans are misunderstood overseas.

"We're caring people," D'Herde said. "We're not the terrorists we're sometimes portrayed as."

Hamza, who said he's a fan of country singer Faith Hill, sweet tea and barbecue, said he plans to head next to Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. He said he hopes to visit Atlanta and other Southern cities before traveling across the Midwest.

Next year, he plans to return to Iraq, where he wants to live and work, perhaps as a journalist.


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  • Scarecrow Cow Jun 15, 2007

    I would love to have the opportunity to speak with an Iraqi citizen, not just about the war but about daily life over there. It upsets me that I know so little about how people in other countries live, especially becuase it's something that has always interested me. I hope Haider Hamza feels welcomed wherever he goes in America and that he learns how Americans don't want to see his people hurt in this war regardless of whether they support it or not.

  • gopanthers Jun 15, 2007

    Its a Trick!!!

  • bpjamesncsu Jun 15, 2007

    We certainly can't financially afford to overthrow all the oppressive dictators of this world, even if we could all agree we should. We can't even afford this war. Besides, as oppressive as Saddam may have been, there are many, many others who are just as oppressive, if not more so. (China? Other Middle Eastern countries? Many African countries?) Perhaps diplomacy could save lives and money.

    May God bless the entire world, including America.

  • dadof2 Jun 15, 2007

    This is just another example of the liberal view of the media. Nobody wants war, noby wants to see familes apart, BUT nobody wants to live in a country where a lawless dictator rapes, murders and monoplozes every citizen. I spoke with a solider recently, he called me from Bagdad, he said that the people there as a whole were pleased with the soliders. Bottom line, media says what media wants!

  • the alliance Jun 15, 2007

    I don't think asking Saddam can we invade your country and overthrow you was a good approach or much of an option. I don't believe we should have gone in there unprovoked, and stirred up the hornets nest. America used to be if you attack us, you may get attacked back, but I never thought we would just off the cuff invade a country without being provoked.

  • GWALLY Jun 15, 2007

    .....so exactly what are HIS views ???? Sound bites for Squirrelywood or the news media don't count.
    .....apology to and Iraqi citizen......sorry we rid your country of a murderous dictator, and by the way we are really sorry some of your countrymen choose to help the terrorist still there, there by prolonging our stay there...!

  • wstarhawks Jun 15, 2007

    After rereading the article, don't see anywhere that it says Hamza did not like the US coming in, It just seems to me he wants to get an idea what average citizens in the US are like and their thoughts on Iraq. it is tough to know what Americans would think of Iraqis when all they saw were soldiers. It would also be helpful to know if hamza is Sunni or Shia. That might also affect his view of the war.

  • InTheWind Jun 15, 2007

    This is not the opinions of a young Iraqi man. This is propaganda by the Hollywood factions as usual. Notice that this is a "Showtime" special? Probably something by Michael the Great trying to slam his own country again. The only opinions they will show are anti-war opinions. That is the purpose of the tour. My son is in Afghanistan now and has been to Baghdad twice. It's a shame that the Hollywood and the media will not show support for our troops instead of those who are against us. God bless America for being free enough that these people can spread their poison.

  • MadBiker Jun 15, 2007

    I'd like the chance to get together and talk with this guy too.

  • bpjamesncsu Jun 15, 2007

    Pro- or anti-war, maybe we could all learn something from talking to an Iraqi. I know I, personally, could stand to stop and listen sometimes before speaking.

    "Before his downfall a man's heart is proud,
    but humility comes before honor.
    He who answers before listening—
    that is his folly and his shame."
    -Proverbs 18:12-13