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MARCH 17, 2003
11:11 AM
Nico Pitney, Shawn Tallant, Leah C. Wells, Lizette Gomez, Josh Hoffman, Michelle Zimney, Senita Slipac, Leron Kattan, (805) 965-3443
American, Iraqi Students Bridge Communication Gap Via Radio Dialogue
SANTA BARBARA, CA - March 17 - In a conversation lasting nearly two hours, students at UC Santa Barbara, CA and students in Baghdad reached out to promote communication between civilians of the two countries, exchanging questions and concerns about the international crisis in Iraq. It was a spirited and sometimes demanding dialogue as students expressed their desires to hear one another at this critical time when international channels are shutting down.

After a brief period of introductions and information about their daily lives, the participants quickly engaged more difficult issues such as weapons of mass destruction, the liberation of Iraqis and the human costs of war. The conversation ended on a positive note, with students sharing personal mottos, poetry and jokes. Not surprisingly, after hearing such passionate individual voices from each side, students were reluctant to bring the exchange to a close and had a hard time hanging up.

The recorded dialogue will be available at on Monday, March 17th and will be broadcast on KCSB-FM 91.9 from 8:00-10:00 AM, PST on Monday, March 17th and Wednesday, March 19th. For rebroadcasts on non-commercial radio stations, contact Keith Rozendal at or (805) 893-2426.

JOSH HOFFMAN, Hoffman, 24, a grad student in Middle Eastern History, is active in campus groups dedicated to raising awareness about the United States' role in Middle Eastern affairs. "One critical aspect of this dialogue is that they put a human face on Iraqis. Contrary to the Bush administration rhetoric, a military invasion of Iraq won't just get Saddam but will kill thousands of people, just like the ones we spoke with today."

MICHELLE ZIMNEY, Zimney, 34, a volunteer at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, is a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara studying Islam and political movements in the Middle East. Zimney said today: "I was struck by how clearly and forcefully our counterparts communicated their frustrations and fears about the imminent war. For us, it was refreshing to hear the humanity of Iraqi voices. For them, it was a matter of life and death, not sure if they'd live to have another chance to communicate with us."

SENITA SLIPAC, Slipac, 21, is a Global Studies senior at UC Santa Barbara and is currently an intern at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Slipac pointed out today: "There are great things happening in the United States to resist this unjustifiable war. There are educated, concerned and active people in the U.S. who are praying for the Iraqis and that this war can be averted."

LERON KATTAN, Kattan is a 23-year-old student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in English. "I am dedicated to working to abolish war. I see these types of discussions as the solution to international differences that can bring about a world without war."

LIZETTE GOMEZ, Gomez, 19, is a second year student at UC Santa Barbara pursuing a career in law, hoping to work for a Muslim non-profit organization focusing on educating Muslims about their rights. As president of the Muslim Student Association, Gomez actively participates in groups like H.O.L.A. (Honor y Orgullo en Latino America) and SAFME (Student Action Forum on the Middle East). About the dialogue she said, "I heard the terror in the voices of the Iraqi students. How can the American people not hear it in mine?"

LEAH C. WELLS, Wells, 26, serves as the Peace Education Coordinator for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Recently returned from her third trip to Iraq, Leah remarked about today's dialogue: "Our governments are not talking, so it is up to the students to bridge the cross-cultural gap through dialogue and goodwill."

SHAWN TALLANT, Tallant, 22, an activist, writer and peace educator, seeks to harmonize U.S. and international interests through cultural exchanges and strengthening personal relationships globally. He said, "Hearing the voices and opinions of individuals helps me sympathize with their situation. If more Americans had friends in Iraq, we would realize the consequences of sanctions and war. Nobody wants to kill civilians, especially if they're like our friends and family. Behind the casualties are faces and real stories."

NICO PITNEY, JDS, Pitney, 21, a fourth-year philosophy major at UC Santa Barbara, is an active member of the Student Coalition for Peace and the Student Action Forum on the Middle East (SAFME). "I can't imagine the shame that I'll feel if the bombs begin dropping in Iraq," he said. "I wonder whether the students whose voices I heard and laughed with will be silenced in my name."


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