BETWEEN 24 and 27 March this year Cairo will host a meeting of activists from the Arab world and the international movements against war and globalisation.
Abdel Aziz al-Husseini and Yehia Fikri from the organising committee for the Third Cairo Conference told Anne Ashford why the international mobilisation for this year’s event is important.
“There is a struggle going on between the resistance in Iraq and Palestine and the forces of imperialism,” says Abdel Aziz al-Husseini of the Dignity Movement, an Arab nationalist opposition group in Egypt.
“This isn’t just a battle for the Iraqis and the Palestinians, nor even for the Arabs, but it is struggle for the whole of humanity against the US Empire and capitalist globalisation. When it was clear that war was being prepared against Iraq we organised the first Cairo Conference in December 2002. A large number of anti-war and anti-globalisation activists took part.
“The second conference was held in December 2003 after the occupation of Iraq. The number of participants was greater, including not only Egyptians and Arabs, but also delegations from Europe, America and Asia. Delegates agreed to mobilise for international protests against the invasion of Iraq. Three major activities were agreed by the first conference: days of international demonstrations against the war on 18 January and 15 February 2003, and to organise protests at the moment the attack on Iraq began.
“Those demonstrations took place, and on 20 March 2003 large numbers of Egyptians went out onto the streets and took over Cairo’s Tahrir Square. On 21 March, tens of thousands of Egyptians protested in the centre of Cairo.”
The first and second conferences helped to create a platform for common action among activists from very different political traditions in Egypt and also became a focus for rebuilding the left and the anti-imperialist movement across the Middle East.
Yehia Fikri represents the Centre for Socialist Studies on the committee. He argues that a large international mobilisation will be crucial to the success of the conference in two months time. He says, “International delegations give us protection. The more people who come from abroad, the more prominent personalities who sign up for the conference, the more difficult it will be for the Egyptian authorities to shut us down.
“We’re inviting political groups, activists, and organisations in Egypt to take part in the conference, but also to propose their own activities which will run alongside the conference. There is a committee which will organise an international forum of anti-war writers and artists. There is a group here which is linked to the international tribunal for war crimes which will organise a meeting in Cairo. Activists from the Egyptian trade union coordinating committee are going to set up an international meeting for trade unionists.”
Egyptian opposition activists now have more confidence than in the past to take their message onto the streets.
“Up until the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000, the regime was able to maintain some kind of stability, despite the pressure,” says Yehia . “The intifada released the people’s anger onto the Egyptian street. This anger has grown from opposing imperialism to direct opposition to the regime: against corruption, exploitation and oppression.”
For Abdel Aziz al-Husseini, the link between ideas and action is vitally important:
“Change can only come through the people, through the masses. We’re trying to bring together everyone who agrees with our ideas in order to create a democratic society, a society with social justice, without the oppression of the poor. We think this will only come about with the participation of the widest possible number of people.”
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For more information on the Cairo Conference, the Cairo Declarations and booking forms go to www.stopwar.org.uk