Candlelit vigil to be held for Afghanistan

Carly Hilts 21 November 2008

Cambridge residents and students are to hold a candlelit vigil this evening to protest against the continuing British and US military presence in Afghanistan.

The event, advertised as ‘Remembrance Vigil: Seven Years in Afghanistan – Bring the Troops out Now!’, has been organised by Cambridge

Stop the War Coalition as part of today’s National Day of Action on Afghanistan. Participants will assemble outside Holy Trinity Church on the corner of Market Street and Sidney Street at 5pm. Members of trade unions, political parties and faith groups are expected to attend and representatives will speak about the conflict.

Rebecca Holloway, Press Officer for Cambridge Stop the War Coalition, told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “Seven years ago, George Bush declared that the war was won in Afghanistan. However, the present situation clearly contradicts his belief.”

A press release circulated by Cambridge Stop the War Coalition said: “The recent election victory of Barack Obama has been hailed as a new positive development in our world… However, this hope does not spread to Afghanistan. As the world was watching the American election yet another 50 innocent Afghans were killed in yet another wedding party. Obama’s plan for Afghanistan is to send more troops… can only lead to more innocent deaths.”

A recent opinion poll has suggested that as much as 54% of the British population is now in favour of bringing home all troops currently stationed in Afghanistan. This attitude is thought to be motivated by a significant decline in living conditions in Afghanistan since the occupation began.

An email advertising the vigil that was forwarded to members and supporters of the political organisation Cambridge Left Alternative stated: “The USA and Britain said that the invasion and subsequent occupation would liberate Afghanistan from tyranny. Seven years later the facts look rather different.”

According to statistics published by the left-wing group, Afghanistan is now fourth from the bottom of the UN Human Poverty Index of 178 nations, and the average life expectancy is about 40 years. Only 25% of the population has access to clean water, while just 10% has electricity, and some 700 children die every day from hunger and lack of healthcare. While the illiteracy rate is 70% in cities, in some rural communities it reaches 99%.

Cambridge Left Alternative released a statement saying: “In January 2006, Gordon Brown proposed that Remembrance Sunday should be developed into a national day of patriotism to celebrate British history, achievements and culture. Looking at the present UK military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might wish to ask what on earth we are supposed to be celebrating.”

The group said that the purpose of the vigil is “to remember the numerous victims. It is also the only truly fitting way to remember all those men and women who have lost their lives in wars since World War One: by calling for an end to British occupation and war now.”

Speaking to TCS, Rebecca Holloway added: “The Afghanistan war was sold to us as removing the Taliban, increasing our security, and freeing the peoples of Afghanistan. But after seven years of bloodshed none of this has happened. As is the trend in modern warfare, civilians are suffering. Countless lives have been lost and it’s estimated that 7 million Afghans face starvation this winter. Violence only breeds violence and we need to pressure our government to end this war.”

Carly Hilts