The 5th Cairo anti-war conference, held in Egypt last week, was a demonstration of the growing resistance in the Middle East and its links to the worldwide anti-war movement.
Over 1,500 people crowded into the Press Syndicate in the Egyptian capital to discuss how to support resistance movements and build unity against the repressive regimes in the region.
The meetings brought together Muslim activists, Arab nationalists and socialists from across the Arab world with hundreds of international anti-war and anti-capitalist activists. These included an 80-strong delegation from South Korea.
The opening rally was addressed by representatives from the Egyptian opposition, the global anti-war movement and resistance organisations from across the Middle East.
Muhammad Mehdi Akef, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood – the largest Egyptian opposition movement – told the conference, “The democracy of George Bush is a false democracy.
“We must depend on ourselves to build our own political regime with our own hands.”
In Egypt opposition has erupted against amendments to the constitution that will make the country’s emergency laws permanent.
The changes, drawn up by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally in the region, will prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from standing parliamentary families.
Rima Fakhry is a member of Lebanon’s Hizbollah resistance movement.
She said, “Our resistance and all the resistance in the Middle East are working hard against imperialism and all those occupiers who are trying their best to deny us our freedom and keep us under their control.
“That’s why whenever the resistance wins, our societies and our countries are freer and more able to practice democracy.”
The conference came at a decisive time in Egyptian and Arab politics. The Iraqi resistance to the US occupation and the victory of Hizbollah over Israel in last year’s war has encouraged opposition throughout the region.
The successive Cairo conferences have helped unify the movement in Egypt.
John Rees spoke on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition in Britain. He said, “Since the first conference was convened five years ago many of the instigators of the invasion of Iraq have gone. Jose Maria Aznar of Spain was kicked out, Silvio Berlusconi has lost in Italy, Tony Blair is in his last days, and George Bush has become a lame duck president.
“However, we still have much to do to end the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. But we are moving forward while our enemies are moving backwards.”
Alex Callinicos, from the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, said, “While George Bush has suffered setbacks in Iraq and Lebanon, he has refused to accept that US imperialism is defeated. Bush has ordered a ‘surge’ in Iraq and is making threats of war against Iran.”
Callinicos called for a struggle to deepen the movement for democracy.
Sameh Naguib is a leading Egyptian socialist. He said the global anti-war movement has proved that, “the current battle is neither religious nor cultural, but a battle between the majority of the world’s poor and those who instigate wars, breed racism and enforce capitalist globalisation.
“The struggle against Mubarak’s regime is just beginning and will not end as the regime hopes. Their laws and dictatorial constitution will not deter us from fighting for freedom and justice.”
Rose Gentle form Scotland, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, said, “The people at the conference were glad that someone had come over from Military Families Against the War in Britain.
“Some of the mothers in Cairo thought the families in Britain hated the Iraqis. Now they know that I’m standing up for my son because our boys were sent to war on the basis of lies.”
Dr Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement, called for unity among Muslims in the Arab world and against those who want to turn the Arabs against Iran.
The threat of war on Iran, and the attempt to divide Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines, were big themes of the conference.
Some delegates at the sesion on unity pointed to Iran’s policy in Iraq “as mistaken” and suggested there was a battle between “Iran and the Arabs” as well as a battle against imperialism.
This idea was strongly opposed by the representatives of two of the main resistance organisations in the region – Lebanon’s Hizbollah and Hamas from Palestine.
Both called for unity among Muslims and with the global anti-war movement.
Dr Ali Fayyad, Hizbollah’s international secretary, stressed the need to fight sectarian divisions inside resistance movements across the Middle East.
He told Socialist Worker, “US attempts to dominate the Middle East are part of its attempt to dominate the rest of the world.”
“This new phase of neoliberalism is a phase of militarised globalisation and wars. It would be a mistake to restrict ourselves to an ‘Islamic front’ to confront this external challenge, because at this moment if we package it that way it will take the nature of a religious conflict.
“This is not a religious conflict.That’s why it’s so important to link with the anti-capitalist movement and use our strength and our solidarity to confront and hopefully defeat US plans in the region.”
In the week before the conference US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice attempted to rally Sunni Muslim regimes against Iran.
Last summer Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia denounced Hizbollah for provoking Israel in its month-long war on Lebanon.
They accused the Islamic resistance of wanting to create a “Shia crescent” stretching from Iran to Lebanon.
Their campaign backfired. The leading Sunni Muslim organisations in Egypt and Palestine threw their support behind the Lebanese resistance.
Some of the biggest applause came when Kim Kwang Il, an
anti-war activist from South Korea, said, “We have no choice. If we are against imperialism, whether Sunni or Shia, Muslim or non-Muslim we must denounce any attack on Iran.”
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