On May 20th, 2017, US President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia, the first stop on his first foreign trip as US president. This trip signified the priorities of the new US president, especially as Trump made a deal to sell $110 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia. In US interventions and dangerous meddling in the Middle East and Africa, Saudi Arabia is often the US ally doing much of the dirty work for the US government, including over two years of war and bombing in Yemen with US support. By strengthening this alliance with his trip and arms deal, Trump is letting the world know that more war and destruction are coming.
For the antiwar movement this tells activists and peace-loving people around the world that now is a critical time to increase antiwar events and actions and to build the antiwar movement. In Vancouver, Canada, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) organized two events in May to both discuss the tasks of the antiwar movement, and to protest the current wars and occupations.
May 23 Forum
On May 23rd, MAWO held a forum and discussion titled “Escalating Imperialist Aggression & the New Era of War & Occupation: The Urgency of Building the Antiwar Movement”. The forum started out with a series of video clips bringing the participants up to date on issues of war and occupation in the world today, including US President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and the US war on Syria and Iraq. The first speaker was Alison Bodine, MAWO chairperson, who spoke about the overall new era of war and occupation, starting from its beginning with the war and occupation of Afghanistan, and continuing with the invasion and war on Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Syria, as well as threats and sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. The next speaker was Azza Rojbi, a social justice activist from Tunisia and executive member of MAWO. Azza went into detail on the hypocrisy of the elaborate events in Saudi Arabia for the visit of Trump, which celebrated their work together “for peace and against terrorism” when it is well documented that Saudi Arabia has been behind the funding of terrorist organizations, and is not only supressing its own people violently but also protesters in Bahrain and bombing the people of Yemen. MAWO executive member Janine Solanki spoke next to emphasize the importance of building the antiwar movement, given the critical situation of increasing wars and occupations discussed by the previous speakers. Janine also gave examples of MAWO’s work over the last 14 years of organizing, with a focus on consistency, creativity and collaboration with other groups and communities, locally, nationally and internationally. The discussion after the talks raised more questions, including going more in depth on the industry of war and why imperialist countries are destroying humanity in favour of profit, new markets and cheap resources.
May 26 Antiwar rally and petition campaign
While education and discussion are cornerstones in antiwar organizing, so is action. Every month MAWO organizes an antiwar rally and petition campaign in downtown Vancouver. On a sunny May 26th, activists and organizers setup banners and held picket signs in the busy Vancouver streets. The focus of this month’s rally was against the wars on Iraq, Syria and Yemen, but so against US threats and interference in Venezuela and North Korea. Organizers went out in teams asking people passing by to take a moment to sign the petitions, directed towards the government of Canada to stop their military actions, and any interference in Yemen and Syria. This action brings antiwar politics onto the streets of Vancouver, where people going about their day go home knowing there is an antiwar organization actively opposing war and occupation, and that they can also get involved!
As May came to a close it was with the planning for the next month of antiwar actions. MAWO has already planned the next rally and petition drive for June 23rd, 5pm outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery in Downtown Vancouver. MAWO encourages all peace-loving people to come together and join us, to fight against war and occupation and for a better and more just world!
US Hands Off Syria and Iraq!
Saudi Arabia: Stop Bombing Yemen!
No to war and occupation, yes to self-determination!”
Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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