Canada Lets Iraqi doctor speak
by Jonathan Woodward - the Globe 14th April
VANCOUVER — A highly regarded Iraqi epidemiologist who wants to tell
>Americans about an alarming rise in cancer levels among Iraqi children
>will come to Canada instead because he couldn't get a visa to the
>Unable to travel to the University of Washington, Riyadh Lafta -- best
>known for a controversial study that estimated Iraq's body count in
>the U.S.-led war in Iraq at more than half a million -- will arrive at
>Simon Fraser University in B.C. this month to give a lecture and meet
>with research associates.
>"The University of Washington wanted him, but the U.S. denied his
>entry," said his colleague at SFU, Tim Takaro. "They need to be able
>to collaborate, even if his results are unpopular with the Americans.
>Now he's at SFU, and the best they're going to get is a video feed."
>Once in Canada, Dr. Lafta will present estimates that paint a damning
>portrait of the war's ravages on children: that birth defects are on
>the rise since the war began, and that the number of children dying
>from cancers such as leukemia has risen tenfold.
>Dr. Lafta had tried for six months to get a visa into Seattle to speak
>in Washington, and was ignored a half-dozen times, Dr. Takaro said.
>The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services couldn't be reached for
>comment. But a spokesman for Seattle Democratic Congressman Jim
>McDermott said he couldn't understand the decision. "Jim's certainly
>more than a little unhappy about it. We don't know whether this was a
>snafu or more than that," Mike DeCesare said. "Certainly with the
>doctor not able to be on the campus, and engage directly with people,
>you've got to believe that's a net loss for everybody."
>Dr. Lafta was born in Baghdad in 1960, was trained as a physician at
>Baghdad University College and then worked for 14 years for the
>Ministry of Health under Saddam Hussein. He became the head of the
>communicable disease department and then the primary-care department
>of Diyala province in northern Iraq.
>Dr. Lafta, who is still in Iraq, couldn't be reached by e-mail
>yesterday. But Dr. Takaro shared a message from his personal
>communication. "The main point is that people outside Iraq do not
>realize the real disaster we are suffering," Dr. Lafta writes. "Only
>the Iraqi people know that, simply because the foreigners are
>listening to the news while we are living the events on the ground."