Friday, January 4, 2013
AIFC* REPORT ON DEC. 28 FORUM: GROWING RESISTANCE IN PAKISTAN and a REPORT ON SOUTHERN HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE
Eleanor Ommani, December 29, 2012
Two AIFC* members attended a NYC forum entitled: Eyewitness Pakistan – International Solidarity & a report on a special meeting called the Southern Human Rights Organizing Conference (SHROC) Report on Dec. 28, 2012. Both presentations focused on the importance of solidarity with working class movements and struggles for economic and social justice both here and abroad.
One speaker of the evening was Ms. Sara Flounders, Co-Director of the International Action Center (IAC), who was invited to Pakistan along with Ms. Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman, because of their organizations' on-going support and continuing efforts to pressure the U.S. government to repatriate Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan. The invitation and incredible rallies in Pakistan, are a shining example of genuine internationalism, with these American progressives in solidarity with the Pakistani people demanding freedom for Dr. Saddiqui, kidnapped in Pakistan, tortured in Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan, shot by F.B.I. agents and then falsely accused of being a 'terrorist' and convicted in a U.S. Court (of illegality and injustice!), and now languishing in a Texas prison with a death sentence of 86 years....
When Sara and Cynthia arrived at the Karachi Airport in Pakistan at 4:00 A.M., they were greeted by a crowd of nearly 100 people and showered with rose petals, in what proved to be only the first of many such welcoming crowds of tens of thousands of Pakistani citizens, young and old, in cities throughout the country – Islamabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar and Lahore – running along the motorcade with signs and flags with Aafia's picture and slogans such as "Free Sister Aafia" and condemning the U.S. government while thanking their American guests for their defense of Dr. Siddiqui.
It seemed that at whatever meeting they attended, people had heard that it was SARA who stood up in the U.S. Court and shouted out, "Shame on this court! Shame on this Court!", when the verdict was read out. Pakistani news agencies spread her words in the international media, which is a lesson we should take seriously: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY IS A NOBLE DUTY!! The tragic story of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, this young and brilliant Ph.D. graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and mother of three, became an international issue only two weeks after Press TV reporter Yvonne Ridley publicized the testimony of witnesses who spoke of being haunted by "a woman's piercing screams coming from Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. IAC's work with the Pakistan USA Freedom Forum (email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) is what brought news and information of this case to the entire New York progressive community. For background info about Dr. Aafia: http://muslimmatters.org/2011/01/15/dr-aafia-siddiqui-the-punishment-does-not-fit-the-crime/
The unjustified 86 year prison sentence has struck a deep emotional cord of anger in the hearts of millions of Pakistani people and Dr. Aafia's freedom has become a national symbol of resistance to the U.S. acts of aggression and the drone killings of innocents! Sara rightly noted that International Solidarity in these cases, as with the Cuban Five and others serves several important objectives:
1) Defense of political prisoners - publically standing up to the fear and intimidation –sends a message of outrage to the system that "We will not be silent!" and our struggle will go on.
2) It tells the human beings incarcerated that we support them, they are not alone and gives them strength to bear the pain they go through.
3) Links their individual struggle with the mass movement for change, strengthens the international struggle for an end to racism, inequality, and wars!
Ms. Flounders pointed out in her presentation that Dr. Aafia's case is only one of many unjustly incarcerated persons, and cases of Political Prisoners tried in these U.S. Courts of Injustice – Mumia Abu Jamal, the Peoples' Attorney Lynne Stewart, Palestinian University professor Sami Al Arian, the Holy Land Five, Native American Leornard Peltier, and more…The U.S. government hopes that these harsh prison sentences will instill fear and deter activists from challenging the economic, social and political injustices rampant in this system, and that is one good reason to support these political prisoners – we are NOT stopping our struggle!!
Monica Moorehead, one of the managing editors of the Workers World weekly newspaper, published by the Workers World Party, began her talk by showing a video of 200 activists picketing in front of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in support of nurses who have been illegally dismissed for filing grievances against MUSC, a private medical facility whose management has ignored the poor working conditions, low pay and racist attitudes. South Carolina is one of the "Right to Work" [for Less] states that hinders the ability of unions to freely organize new members, to automatically deduct union dues from the wages of their members, thus incurring costs to "get permission" for the deductions, and puts the employers in a stronger bargaining position when disputes arrive and can penalize the unions with fines and possible jail terms. Nurses in training are over-worked, not compensated adequately for the work they perform and are immediately subject to being fired when and if they protest working conditions. The factor of racism is real and present, since nearly all of the management is white and much of the nurse trainees are people of color – Black, Latino and Native Americans Indigenous workers.
Another very important issue brought out at the biannual conference of the SHROC, held Dec. 7-9 in S. Carolina, in addition to defending the nurse's human rights to decent working conditions was the current and on-going struggles of the East and West Coast Longshoremen's unions. The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), which represents thousands of dock workers on the East Coast have been on the verge of strike action over the Employer's attempts to eliminate the previously negotiated "container royalty payments", a fund that pays toward the loss of work by dock workers as a result of automation. U.S. port employers want to cut more jobs and weaken/destroy the unions, long known for their militancy in labor struggles, using the age-old "efficiency" cry. As reported in the World News section of the Financial Times in the Dec. 29/30, 2012 issue of the paper, a federal government mediator announced that a deal reached between the union and the employers averted a strike that had the potential of stopping goods and imports shipped from around the world from being unloaded and delivered to retailers. Please see Last-minute deal averts strike at east coast ports on Page 3 of Saturday, December 29, 2012 issue of Financial Times (USA) for the full article.
For background information in an article entitled see: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/451d1548-f085-11e1-b7b2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2GOtcKkTE
Following the two speaker's presentation, there were questions, answers and comments from the audience. Below are pictures of the REPORTER, Ms. Sara Founders, and Ms. Monica Moorehead.
*AIFC stands for the American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) www.iranaifc.com