Seven antiwar activists remain on a hunger strike in front of the Farnesina,
the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, to protest censorship. Leonardo
Mazzei, 49, employed by national electric company and spokesman for the Italian
"Free Iraq" Committee; Anika Persiani, 31, active in the "Free
Iraq" Committee; Lara Wintzer, 21, active in the "Free Iraq"
Committee in Germany; Ilia Montani, 20, philosophy student and activist in the
Umbria Student Movement; Jörg Ulrich, 38, student and former PKK militant
of the "Free Iraq" Committee in Germany; Roberto Gabriele, 66, of
the international Foundation "Nino Pasti" of Rome; and Emanuele Fanesi,
student-worker in Perugia active in the "Anti-Imperialist Camp" have
been on strike since August 31 to protest the refusal of the Foreign Affairs
Minister of Italy, Gianfranco Fini, to grant visas for six prominent Iraqi anti-occupation
activists to attend the "Leave Iraq in peace - support the legitimate resistance
of the Iraq people" conference in Chianciano, Italy. The condition of the
strikers remains stable as they enter their 3rd week without sustenance, prominently
displaying a banner in Italian that reads "We want to see the visas".
Among those denied a visa is Haj Ali, a survivor of the events at Abu
Ghraib. The photo of him hooded and attached to electrodes as he stood on a
box above a wet floor is one of the most horrific images of the torture and
humiliation committed against Iraqis under the American occupation.
After his horrendous experience, he founded in the "Iraqi Association of
the Victims of American Occupation Prisons". Haj Ali represents one of
many voices that Gianfranco Fini wants to prevent being heard by members of
the world anti-war movement, accusing him of "spreading hate".
The conference organized by the Anti-Imperialist Camp, a coalition of left
organizations in Europe, will bring together anti-war activists from Europe,
the U.S. and the Middle East on October 1-2. Through this gathering they hope
"to strengthen the unity between the peoples who are struggling for national
self-determination and the working people in the West who suffer under the yoke
of their own governments that are engaged in foreign adventures of war and plunder".
Speakers include Ben Bella, former President and Prime Minister of Algeria
and Jan Myrdal, Swedish author of "From anti-globalization to anti-imperialism".
Other activists that will address the gathering are journalist Haluk Gerger
of the Turkish Human Rights Association; Ahmed Saadat, General Secretary of
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi,
leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress , who supported the boycott
of the recent Iraqi elections; and Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, international spokesman
of the movement of Muqtada al Sadr.
The refusal of visas is only one part of a larger attempt by pro-was forces
within Italy and the United States to shut down the conference and slander the
Anti-imperialist Camp. On June 28, 44 members of the US Congress wrote a letter
to the Italian Ambassador, Sergio Vento, stating "concern" that "supporters
of terrorist activity are planning to meet on Italian soil to plan a campaign
of financial aid for terrorism".
In spite of these attempts, the strikers and the conference have received an
outpouring of support from around the world. A protest letter to Foreign Minister
Fini has been signed on to by hundreds of people including influential activists,
intellectuals, writers and members of religious communities. Sit-ins have also
taken place in front of various foreign capitals in the last several days together
with a protest in front of the Italian embassy in Damascus against the refusal