A crowd of around 100 people gathered in front of the US consulate on University Avenue at 12:00 pm on Saturday, January 25 to protest American military escalation and intervention in Iran.
A small group of about 15 counter-protestors also gathered across from the demonstration. The two groups were separated by barriers put up by the US embassy and security guards were on patrol during the event.
On January 3, US President Donald Trump ordered a strike near the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq that targeted and killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. This sparked tensions between the US and Iran, and escalated an already strained situation between the two countries.
On January 8, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down a flight leaving Tehran for Ukraine, killing 176 passengers, including eight U of T community members. Trump gave a statement shortly after, saying that the US would not take further military action in Iran.
The protest was started by an organization called No War With Iran, and featured spoken-word artist Nasim Asgari. Asgari was born in Tehran and is currently living in Toronto, studying human rights and equity studies at York University.
“I am not here as an activist. I am not even here as an artist. I am here because I see it as a duty for us to be here, regardless of what identity we hold,” Asgari told The Varsity in an interview. When asked about the role that students play in addressing issues like this, she said, “It’s important that we realize that, as students, we have a say and we are powerful. If we continue to stay silent, they will continue to perpetuate what they’re doing, which is investing in weapons companies and continuing to silence certain bodies.”
Behzad Jafari, a political activist affiliated with the Marxist organization Labour Fightback, told The Varsity, “If you look at it, Trump actually cannot continue any military action; there is not enough support in it. I would say that precisely these types of events and mass actions show the ruling class that there is no support for the war.”
One of the co-organizers of the protest was Saman Tabasinejad, Chair of the Policy Department at the Iranian Canadian Congress, and the 2018 Ontario New Democratic Party candidate in the Willowdale riding. She spoke to The Varsity about the issues being addressed in the protest. “The Iranian people are upset because their sovereignty was violated,” Tabasinejad said about the effects of the strike on Iranians.
“I wouldn’t want a foreign entity to murder a Canadian general, and that has nothing to do with how I feel about what that general does. It’s an aggressive act of war.”
On the role of Canadians in this issue, Tabasinejad said that “our role is to put pressure on Canada and not be complicit with what’s going on in the United States.” During the interview, there was an altercation when a few of the counter-protestors tried to interrupt Tabasinejad by yelling profanities at her and the other organizers. Security was quick to step in and the situation did not escalate any further.