More than 1000 activists from five continents gathered in London today for an International Peace Conference organised by the Stop the War Coalition in Britain. Speakers from Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon joined anti-war activists from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Poland, South Korea and, of course, Britain.
Highlights included Hassan Juma from the Iraqi Oil Workers' Union talking about his members' continuing struggle against the attempted privatisation of the Iraqi oil industry. Ibrahim Mousawi, the editor of al-Intiqab, the Hezbollah publication talked about his tour of Ireland, including a meeting with the Irish government and the subsequent refusal by the same Irish government of his visa application on the grounds that he is now considered a 'security risk'.
Hamaden Sabahy, the Egyptian MP spoke movingly about the struggle against Mubarak and told the conference our aim should be not just to stop this war or that war but to stop US imperialism altogether. John Rees, introducing the Cairo Conference, spoke about how for many activists around the world, war and globalisation are two sides of the same coin. Various speakers pointed out that we have many reasons to be hopeful. The US is losing morally and economically as well as militarily.
Khaled Hadadah, the General Secretary of the Lebanese Communist Party spoke about the unity his party and Hezbollah were able to maintain in the face of Israeli aggression in the summer of 2006 and subsequently. He said "the key question is not whether you are an Islamist or not but whether you support the 'war on terror' or whether you resist it". He went on to say that sadly there are still those on the left in Lebanon that refuse to work with 'Islamists' and end up in a position where they effectively support imperialism. Oli Rahman, Tower Hamlets Respect Councillor echoed these remarks in talking about the unity between the left and muslims in Britain. He said "I am a socialist and I am a Muslim. I am proud to be a part of this anti-war movement. I call on all my Muslim brothers and sisters that are not already part of the Stop the War Coalition to get involved because some non-Muslims have done more for your people than you have".
During the conference news was received that Turkish troops massed on the border with Iraq had carried out incursions into that country. Speakers pointed out that 100,000 troops were thought to be involved. This is a huge mobilisation when compared to the 170,000 troops that were involved in the original US-led attack on the country in 2003. The conference backed a hastily prepared resolution condemning Turkish intervention in Iraq.
The conference also backed a resolution declaring its 'opposition to the "endless war" prosecuted by the US government' and demanded 'an immediate end to the illegal military occupation of Iraq...a halt to the preparations for an attack against Iran...a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan...justice for the Palestinian people, and an end to Israeli aggression throughout the Middle East.'
Finally, the conference pledged to support a call for co-ordinated international demonstrations on the fifth anniverary of the invasion of Iraq next March.