Canada offers forum for lecturer barred from
By Jonathan Woodward
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
and Mail" 04/11/07 -- -- 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 United
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
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.
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."
Special to The Globe and Mail
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