No war with Iran: Protesters rally in Washington to call for end to US-Iran tensions
Despite President Donald Trump talking of peace with Iran earlier this week, hundreds of protesters rallied at the US Capitol on Wednesday evening to demand the administration not go to war with Iran.
It may have been a cold winter day in Washington, but that did not deter demonstrators from arriving in large numbers with signs proclaiming "No war with Iran" and chanting the same slogan.
Dan Gajewski said he was protesting because Washington's "relationship with Iran for the past 60, 70 years has been us constantly antagonising them and all it's doing is making things worse.
"They are not the bad guys in this situation. We are, and we have been for decades, and it needs to stop," Gagjewski told Middle East Eye.
The protest took place just prior to the House of Representatives passing the War Powers resolution, which aimed to "terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran".
Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee were all in attendance at the rally and spoke from a podium displaying the words "NO WAR" in block letters with neon lights.
"We know that when it comes to matters of war and peace, we should not wait to speak when it's politically convenient," Omar said. "We speak when it's right."
"The trauma of war is not only felt by soldiers on the battlefield, it is felt by the children who are huddled under beds as bombs go off outside their windows," she added.
On Tuesday, Republican Congressman Jim Banks had attacked Omar, an emigrant from Somalia, for saying that she had PTSD, claiming that it was a "disgrace and offensive to our nation's veterans".
In her speech, Tlaib attacked the president, saying that "Trump's rogue and unconstitutional act has led to instability globally".
As crowds huddled around the podium where the various speakers held forth, calling for no future wars with Iran, some protesters said they had come to mark their own experiences of the traumas of war.
"I come from Afghanistan; I know directly the impact of war and displacement, violence. Nothing good will come out of increased military engagement in the Middle East," Bilal Askaryar told Middle East Eye.
"It's time that we focus on peace and building a better relationship and a better future with our neighbours and countries abroad."
Baqir Mohie el-Deen, an Iraqi, also spoke, alluding to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US forces, in which "millions upon millions of innocent Iraqi lives were taken by American lies.
"Mr President, hands off Iraq. Hands off Iran. We don't need more death," Deen said.
'We will not be divided'
The protest was organised by a coalition of groups under the banner of No War with Iran.
Among the different organisations were Win Without War, a grassroots organisation advocating a progressive national security policy, the National Council of Iranian Americans and MoveOn, a progressive public policy advocacy group.
'Mr. President, hands off Iraq. Hands of Iran. We don't need more death'
- Baqir Mohie el-Deen, protester
"We've learned our lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and global endless war," No War with Iran said in a statement on its website.
"We will not be driven by lies into another war. We will not allow our Iranian-American and Muslim neighbours to be targeted by law enforcement. We will not be divided."
Hundreds of similar demonstrations and rallies took place across the country on Thursday.
'Not out of the woods'
After a series of escalating events between Washington and Tehran that came to a peak with the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds Force, Iran responded with a series of rocket attacks on two bases in Iraq housing US troops.
Trump on Wednesday addressed the US on TV, talking of peace and saying that Iran "seemed to be stepping down".
"We suffered no casualties - all of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything," Trump said. "The United States is ready to embrace peace with those who seek it."
Despite the ostensible easing of tensions, protesters still spoke of their anxiety about the prospects of war and their concerns the problems that had caused tensions between the US and Iran still existed.
"Let me tell you what we are not out of the woods yet," Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian Council, said at the protest.
"Ain't a damn thing changed with this administration. All the circumstances that led to this situation are still in place."
Protester Laura Atwood added that "a war with Iran is dangerous and unnecessary.
"The only people who can stop it are the public calling on Congress to act on their consciences," Atwood told MEE.