In the news: Matt Barr

September 13, 2002

Matt Barr is prepared to die. The 21-year-old art student at Brighton and Hove College is a peace protester, part of a British delegation preparing to go to Baghdad, where they intend to act as "human shields" in a bid to avert a war against Iraq.

"I am not going there with the intention of becoming a martyr," he said, "but the fact I have chosen to go means that I have to 100 per cent accept that death is a possibility."

Barr's passion for human rights and humanitarianism is long standing. He gave up his A levels after his first sixth-form year in his home town of Falmer, East Sussex, and began work with Oxfam. "At the time, I felt there was a lot more I could do with my life than going into higher education," he said.

Subsequent work with Voices in the Wilderness, an organisation set up in opposition to the sanctions against Iraq, convinced him to join a delegation of sanctions-busters in December last year, where he witnessed at first hand the humanitarian crisis that has emerged since the last Gulf war.

"The humanitarian impact of another war on Iraq has not been highlighted or debated," he said. "If the Iraqi infrastructure is damaged even further, after 12 years of sanctions, there will be catastrophic repercussions. There will be mass starvation, with tens of thousands dying, and water-borne diseases - already the biggest baby killer - would get worse."

Barr hopes, in his heart, that he does not have to go to Iraq at all - "that would mean an onslaught had been avoided". He is a budding artist. Having just completed a music technology course at Chichester College of Art and Technology, he has enrolled at Brighton and Hove for an art foundation degree - the first step, he hopes, on the way to a career as a sculptor.

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