The month of May was marked by protests, with activists joining together against increased imperialist attacks in the Middle East. In particular, U.S. attempts to divide Iraq and the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen called for a strong response from antiwar activists. Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) joined with the Iraqi, Yemeni and Muslim communities in three protest actions in May, and together are continuing to organize and mobilize for an end to these criminal wars and occupations.
While the U.S.-led war and occupation of Iraq has devastated the country since 2003, a new war on Iraq has sprung up from within a war on Iraq which never actually ended. Since a year ago, in June of 2014, the U.S. started sending more troops to Iraq, and soon after started launching airstrikes on Iraq with the support of their imperialist allies, including Canada. These attacks have come with the claim of fighting ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). However the terrorist group ISIS did not appear out of nowhere. Over a decade of U.S. war and occupation in Iraq created and enforced sectarian policies, while in Syria over four years of U.S. fomented civil war saw U.S. funding and arming of mercenaries and so-called “moderate rebels” which directly or indirectly has included ISIS. Essentially, the current crisis is the result of the “divide and conquer” policies employed by the U.S. Now the U.S. government aims to divide Iraq even further, with the proposed U.S. Congress bill that would see Iraq as three separate countries, in order for the U.S. government to fund and arm different groups in Iraq separately!
In protest of the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq and against this outrageous new plan to divide Iraq, MAWO joined together with the Iraqi and Muslim community in Vancouver for a picket action in front of the U.S. Consulate on May 10th. Protesters chanted energetically throughout the picket and held signs that said “Iraqis are United!” and “Stop USA's Plans to Divide Iraq!”. Mamdoh Ashir, Iraqi-Canadian and Muslim community activist, MC'd and led the protest and invited up speakers from both the Iraqi and Muslim community as well as from MAWO.
The protest was observed by hundreds of pedestrians who were walking to and from the waterfront area and many of them either stopped, picked up fliers and brochures or joined the protest. Protesters had a great surprise when one of the hundreds of passersby was the world-renowned British comedian, actor and social justice activist Russell Brand! Without hesitation Russell Brand greeted the protesters and joined in holding a picket sign, spent some time with protesters and also shared some supportive words over the microphone in solidarity with the Iraqi people and against U.S. intervention in Iraq.
On May 23rd activists joined together again in protest, this time at MAWO's monthly antiwar rally and petition campaign in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver. MAWO joined with the Yemeni, Iraqi and Muslim community to protest over two months of a brutal and devastating Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen. With banners, picket signs and an information table, the protest called attention to the devastation that the U.S.-backed Saudi bombing has caused Yemen. The impact of the protest reached well beyond Vancouver, with articles, photos and video of the rally reflected in many Arabic newspapers and online news throughout the Middle East as well in Yemen, showing how activists are standing up against this criminal war on Yemen.
The rally speakers included Yemeni activist Asaad, who spoke of the destruction caused by the Saudi bombing of Yemen, as well as Mamdoh Ashir, Iraqi-Canadian and Muslim community social justice activist who spoke out against the attacks on Yemen as well as against the new U.S. war on Iraq. Azza, Tunisian social justice activist and MAWO executive committee member, encouraged people to stand side by side in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Yemen against the brutal attacks. Thomas Davies, editorial board member of Fire This Time Newspaper, spoke about how the U.S.-backed Saudi war on Yemen is part of a new era of war and occupation that has encompassed the U.S.-led war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the military interventions, sanctions and meddling in Libya, Syria, Iran, and many other countries in the region.
On May 29th, MAWO joined once again with the Iraqi community to picket in front of the U.S. Consulate in downtown Vancouver. Iraqi protesters and supporters called on the U.S. to “hear the Iraqi voice!” which called for the U.S. to leave Iraq, and proclaimed that the Iraqi people will not allow the U.S. to divide their country. Protesters also issued a “U.S. Out of Iraq Exit Visa” which was posted to the U.S. Consulate door. Both Iraqi community speakers and MAWO representatives spoke from the microphone and vowed that the resistance of the Iraqi community and antiwar activists around the world will continue to fight against war and foreign intervention in Iraq.
For information on upcoming antiwar events and actions, please visit www.mawovancouver.org or follow MAWO on twitter @mawovan
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