St. Petersburg Times Online
Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies


Antiwar Muslims take to streets

©Associated Press

March 31, 2003

CAIRO -- Egyptian university students called for holy war against allied "aggression" in Iraq, and Indonesians accused America of terrorism as hundreds of thousands around the world staged more rallies Sunday denouncing the war.

In Alexandria, Egypt, more than 15,000 students burned U.S. and British flags, demanded boycotts of goods from both countries and called for jihad, or holy war, "to deter the oppressive American aggression."

Egyptians have criticized their government for allowing allied ships to cross the Suez Canal on their way to Iraq. Three U.S. cruisers were crossing the strategic waterway Sunday.

"No to opening the Suez Canal to the enemies; Salute to the Iraqi steadfastness," the students said in a statement faxed to the Associated Press in Cairo.

In Spain, protesters condemned their government for allowing coalition forces to use Spanish air space and bases for refueling.

At least 25,000 people holding banners that read "No to War" and "Not in Our Name" marched to the edge of the Rota Naval and Air Base, which is shared with U.S. forces. Organizers estimated 60,000 people participated. Thousands more marched to military bases in Moron, Zaragoza and Albacete and Torrejon.

One of the largest rallies was in Jakarta, Indonesia, where more than 100,000 people chanted, "America imperialist, No. 1 terrorist!" and peacefully marched a mile from the British Embassy to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Some witnesses estimated the crowd was as large as 300,000.

Protesters, many dressed in Muslim garb, carried banners that read, "Bush, Iraq is not your killing field."

Outside the strongly guarded U.S. Embassy, speakers demanded the United States pull out of Iraq and said President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard should be tried as war criminals.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and its government has been a vocal opponent of the war. Sunday's was the country's largest demonstration yet.

Bush was also condemned in protests in Amman, Jordan -- where some 300 marching journalists chanted, "Bush, be patient, we will dig your grave" -- and in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where some of the more than 5,000 demonstrators held pictures of Bush with a Hitler-style mustache drawn in.

An estimated 100,000 demonstrators marched in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar in a protest organized by hard-line Islamic leaders.

It was the fourth in a series of large-scale protests in Pakistan's main cities organized by the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance, or United Action Forum, and dubbed the "Million Man March." Demonstrations of several thousand people also were held in the cities of Multan in central Pakistan and Quetta in the southwest.

Traffic came to a halt in many parts of Calcutta, India, where tens of thousands of activists marched 6 miles to the American Center, a U.S. cultural organization.

In South Korea, 30,000 workers protested the war and demanded that the National Assembly reject a government bill that calls for dispatching 600 military engineers and 100 medics to support the war. The United States is a key ally of South Korea, but amid rising antiwar sentiment, the assembly delayed voting on the bill twice last week.

An antiwar march in Rabat, Morocco, erupted when some of the 200,000 demonstrators began throwing stones, burning U.S. flags and tearing down posters advertising American products. About a dozen people were injured by stones and bottles before riot police broke up the march, hospital sources said.

Students at China's elite Peking University staged a quiet demonstration against the U.S.-led war, in a rare instance of campus political activism permitted by Chinese authorities.

About two dozen students set up signboards displaying photographs of wounded Iraqi civilians and passed out handbills criticizing the war. However, police dispersed antiwar protesters who sought to gather in other parts of Beijing, continuing a practice of forbidding most public demonstrations.

In Japan, more than 2,000 people formed the Japanese words for "No War" against the backdrop of a medieval castle in the western city of Osaka, then marched toward the U.S. Consulate.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.