People in Halifax rallied at Peace and Friendship Park Saturday to show support for the people of Ukraine and Iran.
Hundreds of supporters held signs and called for action, across the street from defence leaders discussing pressing global security concerns at the Halifax International Security Forum.
Organizer Reza Rahimi said he wanted those leaders to hear their voices, especially because so many people living in those countries can’t speak to the media.
“We figured that today and this time would be the best time and day to gather people,” he said. “We asked people to come, gather here and be our voice. I was amazed at how many people showed up here.”
Rahimi said he is calling on western governments to stop negotiating with the Islamic republic.
His mother-in-law, Halifax dentist Shari Faghihi, was killed on a plane shot down by the Iranian military in January 2020.
“This trauma… We want to stop this so it doesn’t happen to other people in Iran,” he said.
Protestors said the rally for both countries aims to show how everyone can help draw attention to global issues.
“If you support human rights, you should unite and can make a stronger voice against the dictators,” said Mitra Mansouri, one of the demonstrators.
Kamyar Kokabifar, another demonstrator who recently made headlines for raising awareness for Iran at his high school, said he wants to show people living in those countries that they are supported.
“It shows that they are both in a kind of similar situation right now, and it’s just great for all of us to unite,” the 15-year-old, originally from Iran, told Global News.
Multiple officials from the Halifax International Security Forum left meetings to attend the rally, with some speaking at the event, including federal defence minister Anita Anand.
“We need a world free from discrimination, free from killing, and free from illegitimate governments that seek to repress minorities,” she said, referring to the women and children in Iran in particular.
“I want you to know that the government of Canada stands with you, and we will be there with continued sanctions and government policy to ensure that we are supporting repressed peoples wherever they are.”
Anand also denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the people of Ukraine has the government’s support.
“Why? Because peace matters. Rules matter. Sovereignty matters. Territorial integrity matters. And people’s lives matter,” she said.
During the Halifax International Security Forum Saturday, Lloyd Austin, the United States secretary of defence stressed the importance of maintaining support for Ukraine in a world he says is increasingly under threat from autocratic regimes.
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice” in Ukraine is a threat to the rules-based international order that was established following the Second World War.
— With files from Alex Cooke and The Canadian Press
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