Winnipeggers demonstrate against mid-east violence

Community unites to organize rally protesting imperialism both within Canada and worldwide

Close to 100 demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Consulate in Winnipeg Saturday to protest escalating tensions and imperial violence on Iran.

Undeterred by temperatures falling below -20 C, organizer Esther Wolfe said the demonstration was planned by a number of community organizations to “protest the recent escalation of an ongoing racist, imperialist war against the nations of Iran, Iraq and their people.”

The rally was planned following the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3 by an unmanned aerial drone attack. Additional reports have suggested that the U.S. targeted another senior military official the same day in Yemen.

“This is an egregious and criminal act of war against two sovereign nations and it is only the latest in what has become decades of imperialist aggressions and war in the form of sanctions, active invasion and occupation [and] bombing,” Wolfe said to the crowd.

Wolfe connected the struggle against imperialism globally to movements against colonialism within Canada, calling settler-colonialism the basis for imperialism.

“Anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism are a united struggle,” Wolfe said.

“We stand here today with all people and nations oppressed by Western imperialism and colonialism. Iran, Iraq and the Indigenous people and nations of Turtle Island are not our enemy — our enemy is colonialism. Our enemy is imperialism. And our enemy is capitalism.”

Other speakers included organizers with Winnipeg Police Cause Harm, Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and former grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Association Terry Nelson.

Nelson — who said he visited Iraq and Iran while they were under American economic sanctions and saw firsthand their impact — said he does not condemn all Americans but pointed to the administration’s need for a foil to explain a military budget in excess of $680 billion in 2019.

“They have to have a bogeyman,” he said. “They have to have Americans scared. They have to scare them.”

Acknowledging the unintentional shooting down of Flight PS752 by the Iranian military last week — which killed 5 U of M community members, including alumni, a graduate student and an International College of Manitoba Student — Nelson said he feared the incident marked the beginning of “a lot of innocent people dying.”

Fariba Eghtedari, an Iranian who has lived in Canada for years, spoke in honour of “those who will never return home, those who will never embrace their loved ones.”

“We also extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the people of Iran and especially to the families of the victims of this horrific incident,” she said.

“This tragedy should not have happened,” she told the crowd.

“This is the bitter taste of what we’ve come to know from our previous experience during the eight year war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s in our country. This is a glimpse of the ugly face of war.

“Yes, we fear it is coming back.”