Friday, September 2, 2005
Due to US pressure Italian government negates visas for Peace and Resistance conference
European peoples' quest for just peace in Iraq cannot be stopped by US
Emergency campaign to defend Iraqi resistance conference
Communiqué of the organising committee of the International Conference “Leave Iraq in Peace – Support the Legitimate Popular Resistance”
After having submitted an official request to the Italian embassy in Baghdad as well as to the Foreign Ministry in Rome in the morning of August 1 we received a message saying that “no problem for the visas” asking us even for details to proceed. Then the letter of the 44 US congress members became known. While the activities of the organising committee of the conference “Leave Iraq in Peace – Support the Legitimate Popular Resistance” were in full swing all of a sudden on August 8 the Italian representation in Iraq turned around signalling that “the Foreign Ministry negated your visa request”.
While our protest letter to the Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini (leader of Allianza Nazionale, the former Neo-Fascist Party), which was signed by influential personalities, remained silenced by the mainstream press, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s mouthpiece “Libero” launched a campaign to criminalise the conference and its organisers as “fund raisers for terrorism” along the line given by the US congress. The witch hunt climaxed in the demand to ban the conference, as well as to arrest and indict Leonardo Mazzei, the secretary of the Italian Free Iraq Committees, trying to apply the anti-democratic and un-constitutional laws passed under the guise of the “war on terror”.
Meanwhile in the regional parliament of Tuscany, the province in which Chianciano is located, Forza Italia, the formation of Berlusconi, has launched the initiative to also formally ban the conference while the local press is just joining in. There are rumours that the police is already exerting pressure on the congress centre to cancel the contract for the conference.
US dictate against dialogue with Iraqi people
The reasons for the US drive against the conference under the motto “with the Iraqi resistance for a just peace” are obvious. Washington wants to impede at any cost that high ranking representatives of all major political, cultural and religious forces opposing the US occupation enter into dialogue with the European people. While a political front of the resistance is not yet constituted the conference intends to bring together all its possible components. Not pretending to formally represent the Iraqi resistance nor the Iraqi people it is, however, clear that a legitimate government will be formed based on the forces represented by the scheduled delegates.
The conference organisers and participants firmly hold that a just peace is only possible by ending the occupation, withdrawing the troops and respecting the right to self-determination. Possible peace talks therefore must be conducted with the real representatives of the Iraqi people, i.e. recognising the forces opposing and resisting the occupation as only legitimate interlocutors, and not with the puppet regime set up by the occupants.
The US hegemonic interests clash with this democratic procedure which is in full accordance to international law based on popular sovereignty. That is why they need to discredit us as “terror supporters” against which their “Patriot Act” should be unleashed by intermediary of their European allies.
Contradictions within European political class reflects popular pressure
The European oligarchies and especially those of the countries which continue to participate in the US occupation and their crimes are faced with the overwhelming opposition of the broad masses. The latter want to desist from the US war of aggression for the sole sake of the American empire and they urge to end the occupation leaving Iraq in peace. Only in this way counter-attacks in the asymmetric global US war can be avoided and Europe’s security safeguarded.
So some rulers -- like Zapatero of Spain -- have understood that they cannot permanently trample the will of the popular masses without paying the price. Therefore also in Italy the leader of the parliamentary opposition and former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has announced the withdrawal of the Italian troops in case he will win the forthcoming elections. He went even beyond this calling the foreign armies in Iraq occupation troops.
But even within the governmental coalition there are forces who want to end the subordination to the US and withdraw from Iraq. They signalled that they will not obstruct the conference thus trying to send a veiled signal to the Iraqi and Arab fighters.
The US dictate, having become manifest in the letter of the 44 congressmen, is indirectly also targeting all those tendencies in the European ruling classes which want to stop the confrontation with the Arab-Islamic world. The conference as the most consequent expression of the will of the European people is used by the US both as a scapegoat as well as a prove of strength over their imperial dictate.
we will not give in as the Iraqi people is continuing its resistance
Every day we see that the legitimate opposition and resistance of the Iraqi people is increasing. We neither want nor will abandon the will of the European majority for a dialogue with the Iraqi and Arab people. But this presupposes to make their voice heard. Our conference is a necessary first step to a just peace from which we cannot cede. It will be held sooner or later – in Italy or if necessary elsewhere.
We call upon the democratic and peace-loving public to protest against the negation of the visas for the Iraqi civil society’s representatives and the attempts to ban the conference altogether.
The Italian Free Iraq Committees will stage a hunger strike from August 31 onwards in front of the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome to make the conference possible as originally scheduled and to get an answer for what reasons the Ministry tries to impede it.
We urge the international movement against war and occupation to protest in front of the Italian representations throughout the world. We invite to demand from the respective EU governments, who claim to democratically represent its people, to allow the conference in their country.
The right of the supporters of the Iraqi resistance to raise their voice is today the acid test for democracy. Either we defend it or we will be eaten up by the European version of the “Black List”, the “Patriot Act” and the “Homeland Security”. Our very freedom is at stake.
Furthermore we ask those forces within the system who speak of peace and withdrawal of the troops to let deeds follow words and not to back down before the US pressure. If the words of Prodi & Co are to be taken serious they have to intervene to make the conference possible and to open the dialogue with the real representatives of the Iraqi people. If we get a political guarantee we would be ready to move the conference to another country or postpone it to after the elections.
For Saturday, September 10, we call for an emergency meeting not only of the organising committee of the conference but the entire movement for peace, against occupation and in support of the resistance to take place in Florence. After weeks of the intensive struggle we will have to collectively decide how to proceed.
Full responsibility of Berlusconi and Co
Those who block the way to a just peace – to which the conference intends to contribute – will have to bear the full political responsibility in front of the Italian, European and international public. Subordinating to the US neocons they violate the will of the people, sell out national sovereignty and curb democratic rights. Furthermore they endanger our security as they align with the US war provoking asymmetric reactions from the aggressed.
The US imperial aspirations is dragging the world into a catastrophic war. Peace can only be established by stopping them aligning with the legitimate popular resistance which spearhead is today Iraq. They might be able to impede the conference now but their power is overstretched. They can be defeated and peace, democracy and self-determination established.
Defend the conference as a step to a just peace!
Repeal the attack on political freedom!
Safeguard national sovereignty as precondition of democracy!
Make the will of Europe’s people for friendship with the Arab world prevail!
Support the legitimate popular resistance against the US imperial drive!
Here is an article by John Catalinotto that explains the background:
Italy pro-resistance conference U.S. blocks Iraqis from speaking
A group of right-wing members of Congress close to the Bush administration has pressured the Italian government into interfering with an October conference -a gathering scheduled to build solidarity with Iraqis fighting to liberate their country from its occupiers. The theme of the Oct 1-2 conference is "Leave Iraq in peace -support the legitimate resistance of the Iraqi people." The Italian government has refused visas to the representatives of Iraqi civilian organizations who have agreed to address the conference. The Italy-based Free Iraq Committee, which organized the conference, has begun a campaign to reverse the government's decision. Among other tactics, organizers are circulating a petition demanding the Iraqis be allowed in to Italy. According to the Free Iraq Committee, Italy´s embassy in Baghdad had earlier agreed to issue the visas. Then, on June 28, 44 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Italy´s ambassador to the United States demanding that the Italian government stop the conference.
Six weeks after this letter was sent, the Italian Embassy in Baghdad said it was reversing its agreement, based on a decision of the foreign ministry. The U.S. members of Congress accused conference organizers of supporting "terrorism.' They especially focused on one of the Free Iraq Committee's coalition members: the Anti-Imperialist Camp, which two years ago held a campaign to collect 10-Euro ($12.50) donations for the Iraqi resistance. Aside from 2,000 Euros used to send a cargo plane of medical supplies to Iraq from Austria, the AIC says the rest is being held to provide political support for whatever Iraqi political front is formed representing the resistance. Among the more notorious U.S. politicians involved is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. She is tightly connected with ultra-right Cuban counter-revolutionary groups in the Miami area that helped George W. Bush steal the 2000 presidential election. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush managed her campaign in 1990. Ros-Lehtinen fully supported anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch, who was connected with Luis Posada-Carriles and the bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. President George H.W. Bush pardoned Bosch. Italy refused visas to Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; Ayatollah Ahmed al Baghdadi; Salah al Mukhtar, former Iraqi ambassador to India and Vietnam; and Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, international spokesperson of the movement of Muqtada al Sadr, among others. Among the prominent non-Iraqis on the conference speaker list are former Algerian President Ahmed Ben-Bella, philosopher Samir Amin and Philippine leader Jose Maria Sison. The International Action Center plans to participate from the United States.