S.F. To Join Global Protest Against War With Iran

Tensions with Iran are still high but anti-war advocates hope officials will listen harder during the election year.

The imminent threat of war may have subsided but tensions are still high weeks after the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander in Iraq.

To keep pressure on the Trump administration to de-escalate, San Francisco will take part in a global day of protests on Saturday against potential war with Iran. The protest begins at Market and Powell streets at noon.

“It is an egregious act and shouldn’t be taken lightly,” says Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Organizing Resources Center (AROC), which organized the protest with ANSWER Coalition. “This administration has been so reckless in their foreign and domestic policy.”

For the uninitiated: President Donald Trump authorized the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2 in what’s been recognized as an act of war that spiked tensions in the Middle East. Four days later, Iran responded by attacking bases occupied by Iraqi and American forces with no casualties and Trump signaled he would respond with further economic sanctions, not military action. The lives of 176 people on a commercial plane headed to Ukraine were taken in a mistaken strike during the retaliation by Iran.

Hundreds are expected in the protest supported by dozens of Bay Area groups like African Advocacy Network, Central American Resources Center (CARECEN) of San Francisco, Democratic Socialists of San Francisco, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Young Women’s Freedom Center. Sister protests will be held in several cities like Mobile, Ala., to Austin, Texas and in countries from South Africa to Venezuela.

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who was born in Iran, supports peace efforts like the protest. He introduced a resolution earlier this month backing Congress’ vote to invoke a war powers resolution and limit Trump’s military action. It passed in the House of Representatives and could have enough votes in the Senate, which Safaí urges. 

“Americans and Iranians do not want more war and misery,” Safaí tells SF Weekly. “On this day of anti-war action, collectively, the world is speaking and unequivocally demanding that there be no war with Iran; let’s give peace a chance.”

Modern tensions didn’t come from nowhere. Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran brought together under President Barack Obama in 2018, ramping up economic sanctions that have crippled Iranian livelihoods and even led to a public and humanitarian health crisis.

Assal Rad, a policy analyst with the National Iranian American Council, says this month’s conflicts are just what peace advocates feared would happen by retreating from diplomacy. But during an election year, officials and candidates are more prone to listen to constituents asserting that they don’t want war.

“That was the fear always,” Rad says. “We’re not in this full-scale war but we’re clearly in conflict. The doors to diplomacy have not been shut.”

As Kiswani and Rad point out, there’s a direct link to immigration from foreign policy, as seen in the now-permanent travel ban of Muslim-majority countries imposed in Trump’s first week that included Iranians. Several reports of Iranians and Iranian Americans being detained by Customs and Border Control from Washington to Massachusets have surfaced since the assassination of Soleimani.

In other words, the prospect of war may be concentrated in the Middle East but its impacts have rippled here in the United States, even for native-born people.

“That [imposed] sense of dual loyalty…really makes you feel isolated and in a situation where this is your country and you’re made to feel like it’s not,” Rad says. “It fits into a broad feeling of many minorities.”

Saturday’s global day of protest begins in San Francisco at noon at Market and Powell streets.

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