Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vancouver Rallies in Solidarity with the Peoples' Struggles in the Middle East and North Africa

Vancouver Rallies in Solidarity with the Peoples' Struggles in the Middle East and North Africa: "

(Click on the first photograph above to scroll through all of the full images.)

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"No More Fear": Hope for the Future

by Sandra Cuffe

Many people from different communities, organizations, and other residents of Vancouver gathered outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library on January 29th to express their support for the people's movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Local organizers and residents from the Egyptian and other communities, as well as anti-war activists, addressed the rally with speeches and chants. Many children were in attendance, and many of the rally's messages centered on the struggles today for the future of their children.

Passionate chants kept spirits high despite the rain.

"We want democracy! No more dictatorships!"

"We worked hard for our kids! We worked hard for our future!"

"We want hope for our kids!"

"We want dignity! We want freedom!"

"No more corruption! No more fear!"

Rally speakers emphasized that "the new awakening in the Arab world has been noticed," and that the inspiration for the uprising of people in the streets throughout the region was the movement and victory in Tunisia. Other highlighted that the current movements demanding change are not happening through political parties, but in the streets.

The Vancouver rally was one of hundreds of actions taking place around the world in solidarity with the recent people's uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, and Beyond

by Masrour Zoghi

Another rally that took place in Vancouver on the same day was one organized by the Iranian community who gathered outside the Art Gallery to voice their disgust with the recent executions of workers, members of the gay and lesbian community and women.

The two rallies happened within an hour from each other, which was a reminder of the segregation that persists in the Middle East. Egypt and Jordan are, in some sense, the mirror images of Iran: whereas the former group consist mostly of religious populations, upon whom a secular government has been imposed, the latter is a largely secular society that is forced to tolerate a theocracy. It is these contradictions (together with the usual inability to see more than one facet of an issue) that have led to the disempowerment of the people in those parts.

Perhaps the most interesting part of both rallies was the repeated expressions of the fact that it is not grandiose ideals that motivate people to pour into the streets by the thousands, almost guaranteeing their own persecution, but simple needs like health care and jobs. One of the speakers at the first rally spoke extensively about the erosion of the welfare state in Egypt over the last 30 years, during which Hosni Mubarak has been ruling the country with an iron fist. Similarly, part of the current trend in Iran that is most alarming is the elimination of the subsidies that used to make life in Iran's dysfunctional economy moderately tolerable.

Dictatorships tend to be expensive to maintain because a substantial portion of the population needs to be bribed into complicity, while the rest are beaten into submission. And given the current food crisis and the more general economic turmoil, it is not easy to bribe an entire country.

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