Afghan children say: "Stop the war!" in The Hague at spirited peace demonstration, Sunday 4 November
While earlier peace demonstrations for the Afghan people in The Netherlands were either organized by big coalitions after national preparation, or purely locally, Sunday 4 November saw another type of anti war action. This one, in The Hague, was a spontaneous initiative by local Afghan refugees. Disgusted by the bloody results of the so called "war against terrorism" of the United States and British governments, they decided at very short notice to march though the city center of The Hague. They got the support of the executive of the Dutch National Platform Against the New War, in which over 200 organizations cooperate, and which organized, eg, a demonstration of 10-20.000 people in Amsterdam. However, this time it was too late for any big publicity or mobilization. It was a breakthrough for The Hague though: there, the mayor [a government appointee like elsewhere in The Netherlands] had a policy of not allowing peace demonstrations. This demonstration broke that ban, though like earlier demonstrations against NATO in the Balkans, police did not allow it to pass the United States embassy or Parliament.
Hundreds of committed activists gathered at the Malieveld. Dutch TV gave a ridiculously low figure of 200, though on the other hand it paid more attention to this demonstration than usually. Most demonstrators were Afghan men and women. Some of the preteen children wore national dress, giving some idea of the beauty of a culture being destroyed for twenty years by neo-colonial militarism. There were also Dutch peace activists, and other nationalities, including from the US. A middle aged Black man handed out flyers of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA. There were Ravage [squatters' paper], Woorden van Rebellen (anarchist), Rode Morgen and Manifest (communist), Grenzeloos (Socialist Labor Party), Anti Fascist.
Before the start, short speeches against the war and "Tony Blair, the English lapdog of George W. Bush" were made, including by an Afghan refugee and Wil van der Klift of the local The Hague peace platform. Then, the people marched behind a big red and #333300 banner saying: "Stop the war; Stop the cycle of violence." A cyclist played a sound recording of air raid alarm, like at demonstrations against the bombing of Belgrade, this time for the innocent citizens of Kabul and Kandahar. The slogans resounded against the nineteenth century inner city walls: "Bin Laden-terrorist! NATO-terrorist! Musharaf [military dictator of Pakistan]-terrorist! Blair-terrorist! Bush-terrorist!" "We want peace!" "Stop the new war NOW!", with lots of whistles'noise emphasizing the NOW.
A banner opposed any Dutch participation in the war. A sign showed a photograph of US opposition Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, holding up both a cluster bomb and food "aid" package: both from US war planes, both looking exactly the same bright #333300, attracting Afghan children. See http//www.indymedia.nl/2001/11/525.shtml for this picture. Other signs said: Stop the violence; Are you satisfied, Mr. Bush?; US go home. Afghans carried pictures of children and other civilian victims, with captions: "Are THESE terrorists?"
The march ended in front of the Vredespaleis, Peace Palace, seat of the World Court. Differently from the "Tribunal on Yugoslavia" that Court has been in The Hague for nearly a century. The organizers had chosen this site, as they want people like Bin Laden, Bush, and Blair tried for crimes against humanity there. From a platform on a big red truck, an Afghan spoke. He said the root causes of terrorism, like the gap between poverty and riches, should be addressed. He noted that US and British bombs hit mosques killing worshipers, but there was no confirmation of even one member of the Al Qaida network being wounded. One cannot wash blood away with blood!
Another refugee told how it distressed him to hear people on TV defending the war, while himself fearing for the lives of his family and friends, still in Afghanistan. Not one Afghan had anything to do with the terrible attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Now they were violently 'punished' for something they had nothing to do with, after many years of being used as a bloody punching bag for the US government against the Soviet Union. Now, one suddenly hears denunciations of the Taliban; the Taliban, "made in the USA".
Then came a very moving contribution by Afghan refugee children, whom distant relatives had managed to bring to safety in The Netherlands. However, their parents were still in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. All the time, these children had to worry whether the bombs of "Operation Infinite Justice/Perpetual Freedom" had already made them orphans, or not yet. It would not be easy to know: bombs had destroyed the phone connection to their families. A girl of about ten years old took the microphone: "Today, you hear a lot about terrorism. However, who are the two biggest terrorists? Bush and Blair!" A boy of about the same age read a beautiful Dutch language poem on wanting to see his mother and sister alive again.
Then, Jan Schaake, a member of Christian pacifist Kerk en Vrede and the National Platform against the New War, spoke on the manifesto of this Platform. After him, the chair announced many US citizens are starting to oppose the war. As an example, he introduced Ms Sasha Radin, a US citizen student in The Netherlands. She started saying all US primary school pupils every day have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag. The last words of the Pledge are "justice for all." Mr Bush, Ms Radin said, is bombing the innocent Afghans "justice for all?" The lives of over 7 million civilians are in danger, as winter comes. War planes drop cluster bombs. Already in Kosovo, it was found out only 33% of cluster bombs were "on target". Electricity plants were destroyed. The Afghan countryside people already suffer from drought. Now, US planes had damaged a dam for irrigation, which for hundreds of thousands of country people meant the difference between life and death. Is that Justice for all, Mr Bush? Mr Bush, you talk in black and white about a war between good and evil. War against terrorism? It looks more like a war for terrorism.
The next speaker, Wil van der Klift, said the war was really about control of strategic territory, including of neighboring countries like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, oil wells, and oil pipelines. They want new colonies, like Kosovo, Bosnia, and Macedonia. He invited everyone to join the local peace platform. Then came Ms Krista van Velzen. As a peace activist, she participated in Scotland in direct action against nuclear Trident submarines. Now, she is a candidate for Parliament for the Socialist Party. She also emphasized world wide poverty breeds terrorism.
Then came Ahmed Pouri, of the executive of refugees'organization PRIME. He remembered how he, with millions of other Iranians, had rejoiced when the bloody dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlevi fell. Then, Iranians wanted to discuss the future. Ayatollah Khomeini's supporters then said: "we will have lots of discussion as soon as the Shah is dead. However, we cannot afford it yet now. Be patient, it is only temporary." Well, the Shah is dead by now for over twenty years. And Iranians still cannot discuss freely. It reminds me of when people like Bush say: "We will make war for a short time, to have perpetual peace afterwards." If things depend on people like Bush, the "temporary" war will only become worse. Also, Bush's speeches as a whole remind me very strongly of my experience with the speeches of Ayatollah Khomeini, because of whom I had to flee Iran. Pouri reminded people on how the Vietnam war ended. It ended also because millions of people in the US and its European allies demonstrated against the war. That is why demonstrations like today, and continuing them, is so important. Let us continue, for a peaceful world.
Next came another Afghan refugee. He said Afghan blood is as precious as American blood. The US government could have dealt with terrorism through the United Nations, instead of usurping the role of the UN. Stop the cycle of violence!
Rob Boogert of the The Hague peace platform said only the armaments industry profits from this war. Dutch government politicians behaved like slavish cowards to Bush. Bush is mass producing new "Bin Ladens". On 11 September, there was the atrocity in New York. But there was also 35.000 people dying of hunger, like any other day. We have to further encourage the millions of people in The Netherlands, who already oppose this war.
Finally, an Afghan said: who made Bin Laden? The CIA, not the Afghans. The US government wants oil.
A petition to parliament and the US embassy was signed.
Photos of this demonstration are at http://www.indymedia.nl/2001/11/545.shtml Leaflets and posters for the next demonstration (Saturday 10 November, 2 pm, Zadkine monument, Plein 1940, Rotterdam) changed hands.
Met vriendelijke groet/Best wishes,