Subject: East Timorese protest Iraq occupation
More than fifty East Timorese, accompanied by a few international supporters, peacefully demonstrated March 20 against the continuing United States occupation of Iraq, as part of a worldwide day of protest.
The following statement, in Tetum and English, was read out in front of the United States Embassy in Dili, Timor Leste.
The United States Must Respect Iraqi Sovereignty and Global Peace
One year ago today, the United States, supported by the United Kingdom, Australia and so-called Coalition Forces, invaded Iraq to find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction which they claimed threaten the peace and stability worldwide. However by invading Iraq the United States and its allies refused to respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi people, especially the right of the people to determine their own future. The invasion and subsequent illegal occupation of Iraq took place after the U.S. and its allied forces ignored the cries of more than 10 million people around the whole who protested the impending invasion. They also defied the United Nations that did not agree to use force in Iraq, but suggested the continuation of peaceful negotiations and inspections to see if Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction.
Hans Blix, chief of the UN investigation team prior to the U.S. invasion, said his team had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, removing the reason the United States used to support their invasion. However the United States and its allies went on to oppress and kill the people of Iraq, especially their innocent children and women. Recently, U.S. president George Bush admitted that the occupying forces have not found any weapons of mass destruction, but he continues to argue that Saddam Hussein supported and protected terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, even though there is no evidence to support this statement.
After the occupation forces in Iraq arrested Saddam, Bush said that he had saved the people of Iraq from Saddam’s regime and therefore he assumed responsibility to free the people. But how can a war-monger liberate the people of Iraq?
The current situation in Iraq is that many people have already died from the occupation, and many more will die. The people who suffered with the invasion will suffer even more. In Iraq, the United States has killed with its economic embargo, which starved hundreds of thousands of children to death, and the current foreign occupation denies people their right to determine their own future.
The United States talks about democracy, liberty and human rights, but in reality the U.S. has installed and supported many dictatorships around the world, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Suharto in Indonesia, closing its eyes to human rights violations inflicted by these governments, including against the people of East Timor. For many decades, the United States trained soldiers from military dictatorships in Latin America, Indonesia and other countries how to better torture their people.
Because of all this, we understand the United States’ concept of “liberation.” Using this concept, the United States supported Suharto’s invasion of our country on 7 December 1975, and continued its support throughout the occupation by his brutal military regime until 1999. During 24 years of illegal occupation, more then 200,000 people were killed or disappeared; many children lost their parents and other members of their families. Today we see our friends in Iraq suffering the same fate.
Last year, we East Timorese joined people around the world who love peace and justice in our cry not to invade Iraq. The United States refused to listen, and pursued its disastrous invasion. Today, we again join with people worldwide to demonstrate that we are still against the illegal and deadly occupation of Iraq.
We are angry that the United States will not leave Iraq by June 2004, because we know that there will be many more victims. Therefore, in order to promote true democracy and peace in Iraq, and to stop the ongoing killing of Iraqi and other people, we demand:
Dili, 20 March 2004
EAST TIMOR SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE AGAINST THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ
La’o Hamutuk, Insitutu Sahe ba Libertasaun (SIL), Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), Perkumpulan HAK, Asosiasaun Journalista Timor-Leste (AJTL), Arte Moris, Hametin Sustainibelidade Agrikultor Timor-Leste (HASATIL), Dai Popular, Movimentu Nasional Kontra Violensia (MNKV), Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (AMKV), Forum Sekretariat, Lalenok ba ema hotu (LABEH).
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