On Thursday April 6, 2017, the Unites States launched more than 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. This direct assault against the sovereign country of Syria was carried out under the pretext that the US government was punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical bombs against their own people. In reality, the US government carried out this attack before there was any investigation at all into the source of the chemical bombs, a fact that was even recognized by the United Nations. This direct assault was an illegal expansion of the US-led proxy war against the people of Syria, and of the US-led campaign to overthrow the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad.
The escalation of US attacks on Syria, a country that has faced the full force of US imperialism for more than six years, was a call to people in the US, Canada and around the world to go to street in emergency actions against war. In the 24 hours immediately following the assault, there were more than 50 demonstrations held in the US and Canada alone.
In the two days following the cruise missile attack, Vancouver’s peace coalition Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) called two emergency actions in defense of the people of Syria. On Friday, April 7, the day after the attack MAWO called on peace-loving people in Vancouver to join them at a rally and picket action at the US Consulate in downtown Vancouver.
In recognition of the both the urgency of the action, as well as the importance of uniting common struggles against US imperialism, MAWO’s protest for Syria was combined with the protest and picket action demanding US Hands Off Venezuela, organized monthly by the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Together, MAWO and Fire This Time demanded that the United States immediately end its threats, sanctions, and all forms of imperialist intervention in Syria and Venezuela.
On Saturday, April 8 MAWO called people to the streets of Vancouver again for an emergency action demanding “Stop Bombing Syria! US Hands Off Syria!” at the Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver. Through a dynamic program of speakers and chanting, passers-by on the busy street were encouraged to get more information about the US-led proxy war in Syria, as well as the government of Canada’s gross complicity. They were also invited to sign a petition demanding that the government of Canada end its intervention in Iraq and Syria, which includes both military intervention as well as political and financial support for so-called moderate rebels.
Both of these urgent actions began with an opening from Indigenous leader and organizer Gordon August. His powerful words and song were followed by a diverse range of speakers including: David Whittelsey, long-time civil rights and antiwar organizer; Nita Palmer, writer and researcher on Syria and member of the Fire This Time Editorial Board; Azza Rojbi and Janine Solanki, MAWO executive members; Roud Laila, Canadian-Syrian activist.
The April 8 emergency action was also covered by Global BC News, which meant that tens of thousands of people were able to see that people in Vancouver were protesting US attacks on Syria, and the government of Canada’s support for these attacks, on the nightly news.
MAWO Continues to Educate, Organize and Mobilize Against the New Era of War and Occupation!
Less than a week after the US launched cruise missiles against Syria, the United States added another deadly bombing to its long list of the crimes it has committed against humanity. On Thursday April 13, the US government dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on the people of Afghanistan. The MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) has a destruction radius of greater than 1 mile and brought further devastation upon a people that have been facing US/NATO war and occupation for over 16 years.
Whether it is recent threats, attacks or bombings against Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, North Korea or Venezuela, the US war machine is showing no signs that it is slowing down. In fact, since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the world has been characterized by the new era of war and occupation, a period of escalating wars, occupations and destruction against poor, working and oppressed people all over Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
In response to this new era of war and occupation, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) has organized hundreds of rallies, pickets, forums, film showings and film and music festivals against war and occupation in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland since their founding in 2003.
In addition to the emergency actions organized against the US bombing of Syria, MAWO also held two community forums in April. The first, a forum titled “Hands Off Yemen! Why Yemen is Under Attack,” was held on Friday April 7. This forum brought together a panel of local and international speakers including: Khaled Al-Seragi from the Yemeni Community; Azza Rojbi, an executive member of Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO); Mohammad Alwazir, the Director of Legal Affairs at Arabian Rights Watch Association, Washington, DC and Kim Sharif, a lawyer, human rights campaigner, and Director of Human Rights for Yemen, based in London, England. The forum also premiered a new educational video about the US-backed Saudi Arabian bombing and siege on Yemen called, “Restoring Illegitimacy Illegitimately” produced by the Affairs at Arabian Rights Watch Association.
The diverse panel was followed by a lively discussion that focused on the depth of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as well as the significance of the government of Canada’s support for the government of Saudi Arabia, including the $15 billion arms deal between the two countries. The forum also received coverage on Yemeni nation-wide television.
Throughout April, MAWO also continued to build their education and action campaign against US’ attacks on Syria with a forum and discussion on Tuesday April 18, as well as a rally and petition drive on Friday April 28.
The community forum featured a dynamic panel of two speakers: Nita Palmer, the author of "War and Occupation in Afghanistan: Which Way Forward" and member of the Editorial Board of Fire This Time Newspaper and Ali Yerevani, a participant in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, social justice activist for more than four decades and the Political Editor of Fire This Time Newspaper.
The speakers expanded on the recent US escalation against Syria by examining the balance sheet of US intervention in Syria over the last 6 years, the role of Russia and Iran in Syria, the response of the government of Canada to the expanding US war drive, the new era of war and occupation and, most importantly, how the antiwar movement in Canada and the US must respond to this increasing war drive with a united campaign of consistent actions and evens against all forms of US and imperialist intervention in Syria.
This same call for consistent actions was carried through with MAWO’s monthly antiwar rally and petition drive on Friday, April 28. This rally focused on the demands of “US Hands Off Syria!” and “US/Saudi Arabia Hands Off Yemen!”
The antiwar rally was a loud and energetic action in the busy streets of downtown Vancouver, calling attention to the crimes committed by the United States, Canada and their allies in Syria and Yemen. As just one example of the devastation, in the last six years, over 12 million people in Syria have been displaced, and 7,400 schools have been closed. Over two years of bombing and the inhuman air, naval and land blockade imposed on Yemen have created a humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes in Yemen.
At the protest, passers-by were encouraged to sign petitions demanding that Canada end its intervention in Iraq and Syria, that Canada end the $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and that Canada leave the NATO military alliance. The MAWO information table was constantly busy with people wanting to learn more and discuss Canada’s role in the US war drive.
MAWO Joins in Vancouver Rallies for the Environment
April was also an important month for actions centered on Mother Earth and the environment. The US military not only destroys all human life and civilization that comes into its deadly path, it also devastates land, water and the air. Whether through nuclear weapons, chemical weapons like Agent Orange and white phosphorus, or with its other murderous artillery, every part of the US military machine is a force of human and environmental destruction that will persist for generations to come.
Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) organized antiwar contingents at three large rallies for the environment in Vancouver: the April 22 March for Science, the April 22 Earth Day march and the April 29 Climate Convergence rally for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. At these demonstrations MAWO brought the demand of “No to Wars and Occupations! No to Environmental Degradation!”
Looking over the last month of the US’ expanding war drive it is clear that now more than ever, it is the time for peace-loving people in Vancouver and around the world to come together. We must stand with the people of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain and all across Latin America, the Middle East and Africa in the fight against imperialist wars and occupations!
Find out more about how to get involved with MAWO at www.mawovancouver.org
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