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Cambridge Student to be human shield in Iraq

Tom Ebbutt, Varsity, 24 January 2003

Tomorrow morning Shane Mulligan will set out on a journey to Iraq. When he arrives there in just under two weeks time he will go to a place that he sees as being worth protecting - maybe a power station, a water works or a hospital - and stay there. Then Shane will wait for the bombs to come. He hopes that the planes will avoid him but there is every possibility they won't.

The Jesus student will be one of approximately one hundred human shields that will be leaving London at 2pm on Saturday. They will travel across Europe on two double-decker buses collecting other activists en-route before arriving in Iraq on 8th February More convoys will follow at a later date, the largest to coincide with the international day of protest on February 15th.

In an exclusive interview with Varsity on the day reports suggested that a mid-February date had already been set for start of the war, Shane spoke of his fears for what may result from an attack upon Iraq, and voiced hopes that the presence of the shields would help to avert the war or alternatively limit the damage done to civilians.

"There are a lot of people who think I must be pretty confused by going this route but I don't think that; I think I'd be pretty confused by not going this route. I hope our presence there will have a shielding quality and if enough people come with us, if this becomes a big enough movement, then the pressure will be on to stop the war."

The third-year PhD student knows what he's doing and understands the risks but believes that he needs to do this for himself and for the Iraqi people. He accepts that he may not survive the action but insisted, when challenged, that what he is doing is neither pointless nor reckless. "If this war is going to go ahead, hatred and resentment amongst different states is going to increase drastically; there is going to be some kind of clash of civilisations. Modem war is brutal on civilian populations, and in the past the Americans have shown no restraint and absolutely destroyed civilian infrastructures. I hope that we'll put pressure on our leaders to come to a peaceful resolution."

He admitted that one of the hardest things had been telling his family: "My Mum's having a tough time over this. I'm not going to allow her to talk her sense into me because my sense is very different. She knows I'm stubborn, when I set my mind on something I do it."

The Canadian, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday whilst in Iraq, says there are three reasons for his actions, beyond the obvious wish to avert the conflict

"I want to show the Iraqi people that not everyone here is against them and in fact that some of us will go a step beyond complaining and show that we're real people and we know they're the same as us.

"The second would be the experience of life in Iraq; I don't have any grasp of that, and if I go it's to see what the hell is going on, what's life like? What are the people like?

"The third thing is to encourage others to do something about it. Governments aren't listening to protests or letters, and I hope it encourages others to put more into it. A lot of people are feeling threatened and depressed by Bush and Blair and their proposed actions and if people really don't want a war then they have to do something."

And he's confident that his activities combined with that of the other volunteers will make a difference: "I'm pretty certain there are few things that the British and American governments want less than for us to do this action. I don't know what we're getting into. I don't know what's going to happen when we arrive. I don't know what the effect is going to be back here, or what the effect is going to be on policy. I can't predict that, but I'm hoping that it'll be fairly significant. "If I'm there then at least I won't have to sit here feeling helpless, having to take the media's word for what's happening, and despise being a part of everything the media tells me the West is proposing to do.

"I'm really quite scared that this is endless war that we're being promised and I'm scared what that does for us, people, the environment, the world we live in. It all seems to be going right out of control."

He also candidly admits that this action is to some extent selfish. "Its such an unusual experience that most of us won't get at home. There is a selfish element to that, I want to see for myself, it's precious because its rare."

He expressed his frustration the apparent apathy amongst the people of Britain and of the world and said he hoped that the actions of human shields will be the catalyst for a campaign that will force our leaders to sit up and take notice. "We're hoping its going to become that much of an international phenomenon that those that really want to pursue peace will see this as a viable possibility I know this is a stupid phrase, but you could see us as sort of moral refugees."

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