There will be more than 1000 delegates mainly from the Middle East, especially Egypt and the Lebanon. Ahmed Ben Bella, the man who led the Algerian war of independence, and that country’s first president is chair of the conference, and he has a following throughout the Arab world. This is a fantastic opportunity for peace activists to meet up with people from other countries who share the same concerns. Although Egypt claims to be a democracy there are very few civil rights in the country and it is illegal for 5 or more people to gather in the street. So we Western delegates are partly there as a human shield to guarantee the safety of the conference. But the size and strength of the anti-war movement in Britain has also had an international impact, and people are keen to hear about our experience. I am hoping to speak at the conference to explain about local opposition to the US air force using RAF Fairford to bomb Iraq. My biggest fear about the war in Iraq was that people would see it as a war between civilisations – a war of the West against all Arab and Moslem peoples. The politicians who supported the war were playing with fire that it could start a backlash, with increased terrorism and racial tension. This conference is another step towards overcoming these tensions.
The Cairo conference is the second meeting called by the International Campaign against US aggression. The Egyptian government tried to ban last year's conference but was forced to let it go ahead. Some 400 delegates attended including former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, George Galloway MP, and former senior UN representatives Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck. Afterwards delegates joined an unofficial 1,000-strong demonstration through the capital.
2nd Cairo Conference:
Ashraf El Bayoumi is one of the organisers of the Cairo conference. He is a campaigner based in Egypt who was arrested recently for joining an anti-war protest. He explains the importance of the event: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/1879/sw187914.htm