On July 8th, 2012 a new wave of protests began in Saudi Arabia, sparked by the shooting and arrest of a prominent cleric and the killing of protestors by the repressive monarchy. The people of Saudi Arabia are inspired by the wildfire of resistance of those fighting against U.S. backed regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, the continuous protesting by the people of Bahrain and Yemen and the victorious overthrow of U.S. backed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
Here in Vancouver and in Canada, the major media has virtually ignored the courageous people in Saudi Arabia and their struggle. They have chosen instead to help the U.S. government and other colonial powers to beat their drums of war against Syria and Iran. Whether coming from the mouths of reporters, or of politicians, it is clear that in this era of increasing wars and occupations, manipulation and distortion of facts is one of the tools used by world powers to convince people that more sanctions, bombings and wars are necessary.
Because of this, we as poor, working and oppressed people in Canada need to educate ourselves about what really are the facts on the ground. Not only because it is the tax dollars of people in Canada that go towards sending bombs, fighter jets and soldiers, but because of the tremendous cost to humanity that these increasing wars and occupations bring; crippling sanctions, the destruction of infrastructure, environmental devastation and loss of human life.
This education cannot come through only the sharing of information, we must also come together for open discussion and debate. Every two weeks, Vancouver's antiwar coalition, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) organizes free public forums to do just this and to put our ideas to the test.
On Tuesday July 24th peace-loving people in Vancouver gathered for “Saudi Arabia: Mass Movement for Democracy and Independence!” The first speaker of the forum was Nita Palmer, author of the book “War and Occupation in Afghanistan: Which Way Forward” published by Battle of Ideas Press. Nita spoke about the history of Saudi Arabia and gave more information about, not only the more recent protests, but also the protests that had begun over one and a half years ago. Next to speak was Aaron Mercredi, organizer with the Indigenous Rights and Action Project (IRAP). Aaron brought the struggle in Saudi Arabia within the context of growing imperialist wars and occupation in the region. Discussion following the presentation by speakers focused on the main question of the event – What is the significance of protests in Saudi Arabia for the antiwar movement in Canada? Though by the end of the event, the answer to that question was not complete, the debate and discussion that was generated helped us all to better understand and learn from people in Saudi Arabia and to bring their struggle here to Canada.
The need for education and to arm ourselves for debate is especially true when it comes to countries that stand in the way to complete U.S. domination in the Middle East- Iran and Syria. Syria faces constantly increasing sanctions, covert foreign intervention and non-stop rhetoric from colonial powers for the overthrow of the President of Syria, Bashar al Assad. The MAWO public forum “Syria: Is There a Revolution or Counter-Revolution? Fact or Fiction?!” organized on August 7th exposed the lies and distortions of imperialist governments and the mainstream media. The main presentation by Janine Solanki, Co-chair of Mobilization Against War and Occupation generated a lively discussion about what is really happening on the ground in Syria and why there is so much confusion about Syria's civil war.
Alongside free public forums MAWO also organizes a monthly antiwar rally and petition campaign, picket actions, conferences and cultural events.
The next rally and petition campaign is this Saturday August 21st, at 1pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery. We will be joining together for an afternoon of raising our voices and petitioning for Hands Off Syria! Hands Off Iran! and Free Bradley Manning Now!
MAWO is also organizing the 8th International Hip Hop 4 Peace festival, bringing together dozens of artists from all over the world for two days of concerts and workshops here in the Lower Mainland. The festival is taking place on September 15th and 16th (for more information see the Hip Hop article on this issue of FTT).
More about MAWO's events can be found at www.mawovancouver.org
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