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International students shed new light on U.S. politics

By Monica Warren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 18, 2004
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Students from Afghanistan, Iraq speak for education week

A panel of international students discussed the war in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy and other topics yesterday as a part of International Education Week.

More than 50 people attended the discussion, which featured students from Brazil, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Taiwan and Iraq.

One of the discussion's major topics was the current war in Iraq and the international community's opinion about the role of the United States across the world.

Ali Mohammed, an Iraqi who received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the UA, said in his opinion, the U.S. invasion and occupation of his country should have come sooner. He said in order to establish and maintain security in the country, the number of U.S. and foreign troops in the country should be increased.

Antonio Ferreira, a physicist from Brazil who is studying English at the UA, said the United States invaded Iraq under the pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction. Since WMDs were never found, he said he finds the whole situation "a little strange."

"The people of Iraq say they didn't have a good government," said Frozan Asifi, a Fulbright scholar from Afghanistan. "For them, (U.S. invasion) was the right choice."

Asifi and Mohammed said there have been benefits and disadvantages to U.S. military occupation of their country.

"When U.S. troops intervened, people in Afghanistan were free, especially women," Asifi said.

Asifi said before coming to the United States, she worked with women and children and was able to experience first-hand the negative role the Taliban played in her country. She said American soldiers have worked in her country to build schools and mosques and also to train the Afghan army.

Asifi said since Afghanistan has previously been occupied by foreign powers, like Russia and the United Kingdom, many Afghans are fearful that the Americans will remain once their mission is completed.

The panel also discussed the American and international media's coverage of the war in Iraq.

"I think the media has never and will never address these things fairly," Mohammed said. "Most of the time they show the negative things, but never the positive things: rebuilding, people helping each other. I feel sorry about that."

The panelists discussed how American media and pop culture shape stereotypes around the world.

Yuan Chao Fu, a Taiwanese student studying English, said his experience in the United States has been very different from what he has seen in movies.

"We think (Americans) like heavy metal and ride motorcycles," he said. "It surprised me that not everyone likes rock or rap."

The panelists said American stereotypes of people from their countries are just as inaccurate.

"Due to the actions of the war, I think some Americans think we're all Islamic extremists and terrorists," Mohammed said. "We're a diverse people. We have different religions and ethnicities."

The panelists all agreed the education provided by U.S. colleges and universities is considered to be the best in the world.

"It's a really good opportunity," Mohammed said. "When I got the scholarship, my friends were like, 'Oh, you're so lucky.'"

"They don't consider themselves experts," said Al Stover, CESL assistant director of outreach and development, about the panelists." They're simply people who have an opinion about what's going on in the world today."

Suzanne Panferov, director of CESL, said it's important for U.S. colleges and universities to take the time out once a year to focus on international education.

"Education is not just about your hometown; education is about the world," she said. "In these difficult political times, it's important to know what's going on around the world."

International Education Week events across campus continue through Saturday. The Honors College will host another panel discussion today for international students in the Slonaker House at 4 p.m.

There will be an International Education Week fair Friday on the UA Mall sponsored by CESL, the office of Study Abroad and the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration.

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