More than 250 activists gathered across the street from the U.S. Consulate in Toronto in a public call for peace amid heightened fears that the killing of a top Iranian general by an American drone strike could lead to war.
The grassroots event, called the No War With Iran Action, took over a square on University Avenue, north of Queen Street, for two hours on Saturday. Participants made speeches and held placards opposing further military action.
“We’re here to promote peace and to let the Canadian government know what Canadians want is peace.” said Amir Moazzami, one of the event’s organizers.
“We don’t want the casualties and don’t want our troops to have to make sacrifices again.”
Experts say the killing on Friday of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia commander, could further destabilize the volatile region.
In Baghdad on Saturday, where joint funeral services were held for the two military leaders, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian supporters took to the streets, chanting that “revenge is coming” for the United States.
In Toronto, the activists’ calls focused on conciliation and avoiding further conflict in a region of the world already riven by war over the past two decades.
“The world hasn’t gotten safer because of these wars. We see a rise in hate everywhere,” said Saman Tabasinejad, one of the event’s organizers.
“Life hasn’t gotten safer since the War on Terror began.”
Moazzami stressed that a war between the United States and Iran would be unlike other conflicts in the region, saying there would be many more casualties. “A war with Iran has no winners,” he said.
He rejected the statement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the intent of the airstrike was “to stop a war” as the Iranian general had been plotting “imminent and sinister” attacks.
Moazammi called Trump’s words “false self-justification” meant to “legitimatize their attack.”
“We all understand that when a nation attacks another nation’s general, that in itself is an act of war,” Moazzami said.
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A small group of counterprotesters, some carrying American flags, attempted to antagonize the peace activists with their own chants and placards. The counterprotesters moved to an opposing street corner, where they were flanked and outnumbered by police officers.
Organizers of the peace action urged the attendees to avoid the group so there would be no altercations.
“This way we can promote peace not just through our words but through action,” Moazzami said.
In North York on Friday evening, several dozen Iranian Canadians danced and cheered as they celebrated the death of Soleimani, which they hoped would spark a rebirth for Iran.
“We are in a great world now after Soleimani’s elimination,” Hamid Gharajeh, a spokesperson for the Iran Democratic Association of Canada, told The Canadian Press. “I feel wonderful because we really think this is long overdue.”