The main attraction at the foot of the stairs in the University of Utah's A. Ray Olpin student union building Monday was a 20-minute videotape.
Screened on a monitor anchoring a table in the union's booth area, the tape opened with aerial shots of Kuwait City taken before the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Then came shots of tanks rolling, missiles firing, people taking to the streets in protest, a graffiti artist painting a message on a wall while a nearby companion hopped about anxiously. Next, the face of an adolescent filled the frame as he recounted torture at the hands of the Iraqis.The images whip by, looking as though they were shot from the hip at a dead run. The color is grainy, the editing choppy, the sound track incomprehensible to those non-fluent in Arabic. But somehow, these very flaws make its message more compelling, especially when a Kuwaiti student explains that the videotape is made from snippets of home videos, smuggled from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia and then to the United States, where the clips were edited and distributed to universities all over the country.
The U. is one of the very last to get a copy, perhaps because there are but eight Kuwaiti students enrolled, said Jasem Albedaiwi, a 22-year-old U. senior majoring in communications. The Kuwaiti students set up the booth Monday to show the video, narrate it for interested passers-by, hand out stacks of printed information and, yes, sell T-shirts.
"We have been planning to do this for the past two weeks," said Albedaiwi. "The media is doing a good job of showing what's going on in Kuwait. But the most important message is to hear from the Kuwaitis themselves."
All of the U.'s Kuwaiti students have family still in their country, and though communication has become difficult if not impossible, news has leaked out, Albedaiwi said.
Most disturbing have been the accounts of a concerted effort to change totally the face of Kuwait, either by encouraging citizens to leave the country or by killing them. "What (Saddam Hussein) is trying to do is kick Kuwaitis out and replace them with Iraqis," Albedaiwi said.
Reports from those still in the country have indicated the Iraqi army's morale is slipping, Albedaiwi said. He has heard that the soldiers are hungry, are not being resupplied and so are stealing from the Kuwaitis, who continue to resist the invasion even though to be labeled a resister is to receive a death sentence.
The Kuwaiti students are aware of a growing opposition to U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf. They point, smiling, to another student booth no more than 10 feet away, staffed by Socialist Workers calling for a U.S. pullout.
"We tell them we are seeking help from all over the world, not just the U.S.," said Albedaiwi when asked if there was dialogue between the two booths. Further, that the United States and Soviet Union have agreed on the issue and that the U.N. acted so quickly to condemn the Iraqi invasion "shows how serious the situation is," he said.
Albedaiwi said that most of the students who stopped by the booth Monday expressed support for the Kuwaitis. "Most of the students here are too busy to read news or watch TV," he said. "We'd like them to support what their government is doing."
The T-shirts, however, are another story. Emblazoned with a colorful map of Kuwait and bearing the slogan, "Kuwaitis Are Fighting Back," the shirts aren't moving.
"We'll have to reduce the price," Albedaiwi said.