“What I wrote in Iraq was based on firsthand experience of talking to Iraqi people with whom I lived and worked. They informed me about their afflictions during 13 years of severe UN sanctions.”
Originally motivated by political demonstrations, Jo set off to the Middle East to advocate peace and justice in Palestine, Israel and Iraq, sometimes risking her life in these vulnerable areas. She has constructed a cyber website where she writes extensively about people who are physically and mentally traumatized as a result of of armed violence. She also took a small circus, in which she herself plays a clown, to Iraq in an effort to bring laughter and healing to the traumatized people, especially the children. Now Jo is receiving legal training to become a human rights lawyer.
One of the most haunting things Jo has done was to bring a circus to Iraq. A few circuses were deployed to politically troubled areas, in the Balkans and East Timor, only after the bloodshed there was ended. There have also been clowns deployed to Nepal, Mongolia and India performing for street children and refugees, but what makes Jo’s work unforgettable is that she moved a circus with its full troupe to an area where fighting is still at its zenith. Not only did Jo take the circus to Iraq, but also she has participated in its shows as a clown. The circus group did not just perform for the people, they also taught the children how to perform some acrobatics. Jo was enormously affected by the awful condition of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. They had been severely traumatized by the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, 13 years of privation during the UN sanctions following the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait, and outright frustration and terror during the US-led war against Iraq with even more shortages of basic needs of life and suffering. I met children who had not smiled in over a year, she wrote. The words of one old man, as he stood earnestly observing his grandchildren watching the performance of the circus troupe, say it all: I never thought I would see the day when my grandchildren would laugh again. Thank you for returning them to the real world. Words cannot describe the smiles that Jo has brought to these traumatized people. No wonder they have great memories of her. In the midst of their terrifying experiences, she has managed to bring joy and breathe hope back into their lives for a better future.
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