Unity for peace


Jody Betzien, Melbourne

"We are in the business of saving lives and our business is going to thrive", Anas Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain told the Unity for Peace Conference on May 27, at which some 300 activists discussed rebuilding the peace movement in Australia.

In the opening plenary, "The long war — Iraq and the US imperial project", Jarvis Ryan from Sydney's Stop the War Coalition argued for the movement to focus on both Iraq and Iran. Roya Sahraei related her experience of growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, saying, "Democracy is not a new idea for the Iranian people ... we've been fighting for democracy for a long time." She distinguished between genuine movements for democracy and the fake movements set up to serve US interests in Iran.

Altikriti argued against critics of the religious politics of some in the Iraqi resistance movement, saying: "It is reprehensible to equate the resistance in Iraq to the occupation. To do so is giving the green light to the US to strangle Palestine because they choose Hamas. Iraqis must choose."

Salam Ismael from Doctors for Iraq, who worked in a hospital in the predominantly Sunni city of Fallujah during the US siege, said the first assistance to arrive in that city after the bombing was from the majority-Shiite Sadr City. Asserting the unlikelihood of civil war, he said: "Sunnis, Shiites and Christians have lived together in Iraq for centuries before now."

Anti-war activist and mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq Cindy Sheehan told the conference, "The spread of corporate colonialism and killing innocent people is not a noble cause ... Bush is exploiting my son's death to justify more killing."

Civil rights lawyer Rob Stary, Maritime Union of Australia Victorian secretary Kevin Bracken, Keysar Trad from the Islamic Friendship Association and Anna Samson from Sydney's Stop the War Coalition also spoke. Conference organiser David Glanz reminded those assembled, "We do speak for the majority" and argued that rebuilding the peace movement meant building local peace groups and developing a national peace network.

The conference adopted a position statement that included agreement to coordinate activity during the global week of action against an attack on Iran (September 23-30) and to investigate linking anti-nuclear and anti-war demands in the annual Hiroshima Day protests to be held in early August.

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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