Ephrata Doctor takes on world crisis

By Matthew Erlich
of the Herald

An Oct. 20 speech is the latest effort by Ephrata Dr. Mohammed Said to promote peace in the Middle East.

Said (pronounced: Sah-eed) spent 15 days in a self-paid trip to the embattled region last month. He met with what he said were high-placed Iraqi officials and videotaped interviews in the after­math of Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

He said he has been scheduled to speak in Seattle later this month at a meeting of the Northwest Coalition against the War. Said has been the subject of newspaper articles distributed nationwide. “The main thing is to rally public opinion against the war and get support for nego­tiation,” said Said, 50. The Haifa, Israel, native moved to Ephrata from North Dakota and has relatives in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Said stayed in Baghdad, Iraq, from Sept. 2-12, where he said he had meetings with a deputy foreign minister and minister of information. From Sept. 12-17, he visited Kuwait where he shot a 35-minute video, at least a portion appearing on Cable News Network.

On his return to the United States, Said faced a National Press Club news conference. The media blitz has included articles last week in the Columbia Basin Herald and other local newspapers. The coverage has been “sometimes disappointing,” according to Said.

“When you are interviewed, you’re never able to say everything on your mind,” he said. “You can’t blame them (television news reporters), they only have one or two minutes.”

In Iraq, he said people there felt Americans weren’t getting the whole story. Most Iraqi resentment is more against the British than the United States, he pointed out.

“Always they think Americans aren’t getting the right news,” he said. If tensions are still high in the next five to seven weeks, Said could plan another trip to Iraq. What will happen in the Gulf crisis? Said said he thinks there could be an adjustment to Kuwait’s borders and an agreement over Iraqi access to an ocean port reached.

“I expect some compromise which will allow Kuwait to have a sympathetic government towards Iraq,” he said. More importantly, Said hopes war can be avoided through negotiation. This is not the first time Said has been involved in personal diplomacy on the international level. Two years ago, Said traveled to Geneva, Switzer­land, to help draft and promote a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also went to Iran to plead for an end to the Iran-Iraq war. With the creation of Israel in 1948, Said’s family fled to the West Bank. He studied medicine in Spain and Canada before taking a job in North Dakota. He is a political activist and an advocate for Arab Americans in the state Democratic Party.

“Being in a small town does not mean you’re a small person,” he said. Said said people who may think he is anti-American are wrong. “I am an American, my kids were born here,” he said. “This is the only country you have a chance to speak your mind.”

“When you are interviewed, you’re never able to say everything on your mind.” — Dr. Mohammed Said