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US students in Switzerland call for peace

Students at the American school in Leysin swissinfo.ch

Young Americans living in Switzerland say they are opposed to the United States waging war against Iraq.

This content was published on February 16, 2003 - 23:06

swissinfo gauged the mood of a group of American teenagers at an international school in the alpine resort of Leysin.

The result was surprising considering a previous poll carried out by swissinfo (see related item), which found that Americans working in Switzerland were divided along party lines over Washington's policy on Iraq.

Americans represent the largest single group among the 350 students attending the Leysin American School, but the student body is made up of teenagers from more than 50 nations.

Students from the US who spoke to swissinfo said the contact and friendships with people from different countries and cultures provided them with a more global perspective on the Iraqi crisis.

Global view

"My political views have changed," said one teenage girl. "I guess I just know more now about other cultures and I'm more open minded than other people."

"Some of the patriotic Americans show their thoughts and views [on why they support the US government's policy on Iraq], but most people are opposed to it like I am. It seems to be the general consensus," added a senior student.

"Friends stay friends even if they're Iraqi or American," he continued. "Just because their governments disagree it doesn't mean they have to."

"It's [the Iraqi crisis] talked about a lot," said another senior, who said she did not want the US to go to war.

"You hear so many different opinions according to different backgrounds, so it's good to be in such an international environment."

Open debate

Doris Ott, the head of the school administration, said the faculty encouraged discussion, fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the topic among a student body which includes Americans, Arabs and Israelis, some of whom are the children of diplomats and oil industry employees.

"We had to reaffirm the philosophy of the school which promotes international understanding and tolerance for all different cultures," she said.

"We've also had to show support for certain nationalities who may have felt they were in the spotlight [due to the Iraqi crisis]."

"Among the students, there's a bit of discussion and I think that's healthy," said Sim Huang, a science teacher from the US.

"It affects a lot of students here who come from different countries: the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

"I think it would be worse if they didn't want to communicate, then problems might arise."

No animosity

"Everybody gets along here," said one of his students. "The relationships between people at the school haven't changed."

One of her friends refers to herself and many of her fellow US students as "international Americans", since they have spent many years living in foreign climes.

"It affects me differently than Americans who have spent their whole life in the States," she said.

"Because I've lived around so many cultures I tend not to just direct the blame on a particular people as America is doing right now."

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

In brief

According to a swissinfo poll, American students at the international school in Leysin are opposed to a US-led strike on Iraq.
A previous swissinfo survey found that Americans in Switzerland were split along party lines, with Republicans convinced that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to world security.
Democrats and independents tend to oppose war, particularly without UN backing.

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