New York, NY - On Sept. 20, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted more than 200 peace and anti-war activists, religious leaders and journalists for a discussion to mark the eve of the International Day of Peace.
After a traditional Iranian dinner buffet at the Warwick New York Hotel, attendees were greeted by the Iranian president and three other Iranian officials. After apologies for the security measures imposed by the U.S. Secret Service, the Iranian delegation invited remarks from their guests. Speakers included Phil Wilayto, Ramsey Clark, Brenda Stokely of the Black is Back Coalition, Saladin Muhammad of Black Workers for Justice, Nihad Awad of Council on American Islamic Relations, Sara Flounders of International Action Center and several religious leaders.
All expressed their solidarity with the Iranian people, and voiced opposition to the U.S. threats of war, sanctions and other interference in Iran’s affairs. Many called for affirmation of the Durban Program of Action Against Racism and several raised the imminent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.
Jess Sundin, of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, addressed President Ahmadinejad saying, “Almost one year ago, my home was raided by the FBI, along with 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists. We are being targeted and criminalized for our lifetimes dedicated to struggling for peace and justice and our own fates are uncertain. We have spoken out against threats of war and sanctions on Iran and we will not be silent. Our silence is the only thing they can use against us. I urge everyone here to follow your example and not be silent in the face of U.S. imperialism.”
After 17 guests spoke, the president addressed the gathering. “Do you know of an animal that has killed one million of its own kind? In our time, we know of a being, that in order to line the pockets of the wealthy, invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and killed one million.”
He responded directly to many of the guests’ comments. Referring to the case of Troy Davis, he said, “We have heard today about someone who is not guilty of a single crime, that is being executed, and all of us feel attacked.”
President Ahmadinejad closed with these hopeful words, “The devil may seem scary, but in reality they are weak and vulnerable. 30 years ago, the U.S. government was unbeatable. They could tackle any problem and beat it. What position do they occupy today? They are weak; they cannot resolve even the most basic problems. Who today has hope they can save the economy and the financial system? They used to say Israel would extend from the Nile to the Euphrates, but now the Zionists are surrounding themselves with 20-foot high walls.”
The meeting closed with applause.