Invasion has politicized student at Goucher

September 19, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Jamal Dashti attends accounting, marketing and computer science classes at Goucher College, but his attention is focused thousands of miles away.

The 20-year-old finance major, whose name means beauty in Arabic, is the only Kuwaiti student at the small liberal arts college of 900 students in Towson.

He was a political novice 40 days ago, but has been transformed into a human rights activist who hands out leaflets, T-shirts and petitions on campus in hope of sparking his fellow students into action.

"Here I am at age 20 and I feel like I'm worrying about things like I'm age 60," Dashti said. "I'm aging every day.

Since the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Dashti has been glued to the television and the front pages of newspapers, wondering about the health and safety of his father and four brothers who live in Kuwait City. He last spoke with them Aug. 4 but then lost contact after their telephone was disconnected soon thereafter.

His sister and mother live here, and he tells them daily about what he learns of his besieged country through the group Citizens for a Free Kuwait.

Because they relied on subsidies from his father, Dashti and his family members here are broke. Lately, Dashti has relied on financial support from the Kuwait Embassy in Washington and a network of other Kuwaiti nationals living in the United States to pay such things as rent and tuition.

At Goucher, which started admitting male students in 1987 and now enrolls 195 men, Dashti's story is well-known. He set up a table outside the student union last week and distributed bright red T-shirts. He is trying to arrange a prayer service on campus next week as part of Free Kuwait Day on Sept. 24.

"I have food, I have clothing, I am safe," he said. "But what about those people over there? It is hard to think that once I had a country and a place I can go. Now I can't go back, and it is as if don't belong to anything anymore. We are basically stranded."

Dashti studied in the United States during junior high school. He attended college classes at University of California-Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University before he transferred to Goucher. His education is important, he said, but he is prepared to quit school at a moment's notice to return and fight for his country.

"When that day comes, that they say I can come in and fight, I'm gone," Dashti said. "I am willing to put my blood before anybody else's to free our country. We have to do something for our families, our land and for our freedom.

"I feel like I am sitting on the edge of a needle or a knife," he said. "You don't know what to do."

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