“Spilling blood in the name of peace must end, and it must end now!” said Wais Haider, event organizer for Saturday’s memorial in Fremont, honoring the 16 Afghan civilians murdered in the Kandahar province on March 11.
Afghan citizens from around the Bay Area, as well as those who wished to show their support, gathered in Fremont’s Centerville district, locally known as “Little Kabul,” to air grievances about the moral missteps of the conflict.
“We’re not here to promote a war and we’re not here to denounce a war,” event organizer Haider said in a speech to the gatherers.
Attendees lined the sidewalks of Fremont Boulevard, holding signs that read, “Honk For Peace” and “Enough is Enough.” American and Afghan flags were waving as cars, motorcycles and even a city bus touted their horns in support of the rally, as an occasional disagreement amongst passers-by and the rally members arose in the streets.
Speakers at the event recounted some of the most recent events in the war-torn region.
The most recent incident was the murder of 16 innocent civilians in their homes, in which U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is currently accused of being responsible for their deaths, allegedly being intoxicated and disturbed by his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East.
“We’re here to spread awareness about the loss of innocent Afghan lives taking place in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S. occupation,” Haider told The Pioneer.
The effects of the killings in Afghanistan were easy to see on the distressed faces of hundreds of participants at the rally in Fremont, many of whom were of Aghan descent.
Fremont is home to one of the densest Afghan populations in the Bay Area, which in total is comprised of roughly 65,000 Afghans.
“Why are people being killed?” asked event organizer Stara Rahmani. “Isn’t America [in Afghanistan] to protect the civilians?”
With U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan spanning more than 10 years, Bay Area citizens at the rally said they were growing tired of the carnage.
“We’ve lost so much blood, treasure, life, everything,” says Ramman Kenoun, a rally participant from Mountain View. “Not many people realize it, but this is hurting the U.S. just as much as its hurting them, and its time to stop this once and for all.”
With such a presence in the Tri-City area and indeed the entire Bay Area, the escalating Afghan population still holds very little representation in local and national government.
UC Berkeley student Saylai Mohammadi addressed this issue during her speech to the crowd.
“It is time for the Afghan community in the Bay Area to mobilize, politically,” stressed Mohammadi.
“We should have representatives in the city council, in the Mayor’s office, in the House of Representatives and the Senate,” she continued. “We should have members of Congress who stand up and say, ‘my Afghan constituents in Fremont demand the truth about these killings and want justice served.’”
The speakers stressed that this should not be a one-time event and expressed hope that the next gatherings would be under brighter circumstances.
Haider’s closing remarks summed up the sentiment across the Plaza. “No longer can the innocent suffer in turmoil.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 6:41 pm.