On March 18 2012, anti-war groups from around the Chicagoland area came together to march on Devon Avenue, a central area for the South Asian community in Chicago.
Starting at a parking lot across Gharib Nawaz restaurant, groups such as the Pakistan Federation of America, Pakhtun Jirga, Midwest Anti-War Mobilization, Chicago World Can’t Wait, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, etc, joined to mark the 9th anniversary of the Iraq war and to stand together in protest of wars in Afghanistan, possible war on Iran and Syria, and drone attacks in Pakistan’s Tribal regions.
Criticizing the American president’s policies for not being any different than the policies of the Bush Administration, the crowd called for “peace and an end to all wars” and for the United States to stop spending “tax-payers dollars on illegal wars.”
Before the protestors marched down 2100 West Devon Avenue, people gathered to speak to the crowd. From World Can’t Wait, Chicago Chapter, Jill McLaughlin spoke about threats against Iran and Syria.
“We all know that what the Syrian government and what
the Iranian government are doing to their people is wrong, we all know that, we all agree, but those people have a right to self determination and a right to determine what’s going to happen for themselves without interference from the US government. Interference only means domination. It doesn’t mean liberation for those people.”
Speaking about the G8 summit to be held later this year in May, Andy Thayer, organizer of the event, spoke about the G8’s agenda concerning war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“…they’re probably going to be proclaiming some sort of
plan to end the war in Afghanistan. Now after ten years of lies about Afghanistan and ten years, almost ten years about war in Iraq, are we going to believe President Obama when he says he’s going to be ending the war in Afghanistan?”
The Midwest Anti-War Mobilization also went one step further and announced that they had built up opposition to the US war on Iran and Syria. Neil Reznikov told protestors that his group had established an emergency response network if the United States or Israel attacked Iran in the coming months. Reiterating his stance, Neil Reznikov said,
“This is a culmination of a whole series of the US building up its empire, illegally and unjustly. There is a basic law that no country has the right to attack another country unless its been attacked first. The Afghanistan government had not attacked the US; it did not threaten the US.
Then to the mic came President of the Pakistan Federation of America, Dr. Said Umar Khan, also one of the organizers of the protest, to speak on behalf of his group.
“For the last many many years, Pakistan has been under
drone attacks. So far, more than 300 drone attacks have taken place and more than 3000 people have been killed, innocent people. And they say ‘we are going to kill the terrorists’, I don’t understand how the drone, from 20,000 ft above, can recognize who is the terrorist and who is innocent.”
But not wholly blaming the United States, Dr. Khan went on to say that the Pakistan government had a part to play in the death of Pakistanis who are killed due to drone attacks in the tribal regions.
“I understand that the Pakistan government, every successive government, is a client agent of the United States and they support them. But as far as the people of Pakistan are concerned, they condemn it.”
Dr. Khan went on to talk about military brutality and extra-judicial killing in Pakistan. He spoke about how 3,000 people had been kidnapped or disappeared by the armed forces for no reason.
Lastly he brought the topic to Balochistan and the Baloch Nationalist Movement. Although the most resourceful province, Balochistan is the poorest province in Pakistan.
Before the march proceeded, Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Nonviolence spoke about her missions in Afghanistan and the people she had spoken to in Afghanistan.
“Now I could mention one young friend, Mohammad Jan,
who said ‘what can we do to make people in your country hate us less?’ Maybe I could mention that Amnesty International has said that 400 people every day are displaced by the war in Afghanistan…”
Marching towards Devon Bank, the protestors held signs and chanted as they walked down cordoned off streets. Police barricades blocked traffic as onlookers either honked their horns and joined in the march or yelled “shame on you” to the protestors.
When they reached Devon Bank, a Skype interview was organized by the Pakistani groups to speak to Mrs. Amina Janjua, Defense of Human Rights Pakistan, and a woman whose husband has been missing since 2005. Struggling to fight for and find thousands who have gone missing in Pakistan, Amina spoke to the crowd for a few minutes, despite technical difficulties. Surrounded by people holding up pictures of their missing family members, Amina said,
“I am Amina Masood Janjua. I’m from Pakistan and I’m
really thankful to all of you. I hope you can see the camp where we are dwelling for the last 23 days, and the government is not concerned as to why we are bearing the cold weather, the rains…which we have to face all the time. We are asking for rule of law and for the return of our loved ones who are being picked up from Pakistan.
The crowd cheered her on and held up their arms in a show of solidarity.
For another look at the march, visit Joe Scarry’s blog.
All photographs have been taken by Frank Johnson.