Worldwide protest against WTO
Filipino citizens demonstrate against the
WTO in Manila.
Compiled by Brendan Conley
Nov. 14— Tens of thousands of farmers, workers, students,
and environmentalists protested around the world this weekend
against the World Trade Organization (WTO), which held its fourth
ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar.
The WTO inaugurated its conference Friday under heavy pressure
from developing countries and international civil society, which
are clamoring for a more equitable course in the globalization
After two WTO conferences that were disrupted by massive street
protests staged by a broad range of non-governmental groups
(Geneva in 1998 and the US city of Seattle in 1999), the ministers
representing the organization’s 142 member countries found the
Qatar capital to be an isolated venue that is more propitious
for their trade discussions.
The trade sessions took place in Doha, a city of 600,000 people
on the Persian Gulf coast that has erected a strict security
system to protect the 2,641 official delegates, many of whom
were jittery given the conference’s tumultuous precedents, the
recent terrorist attacks in the United States, and the US-led
military strikes against Afghanistan.
The armed forces and police blocked off access to the peninsula
where the convention center is located. The site consisted of
an area of several square miles in which only official buses
could travel, carrying delegates, officials and journalists.
Only the ministers of the WTO member states moved along the
deserted streets, traveling in closely guarded vehicles while
war ships patrolled the surrounding sea.
This militarized atmosphere didn’t prevent actions by representatives
of the limited number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
who were granted visas to make the trip to Doha for the conference.
As the inaugural ceremony began, a group of activists from
several NGOs, led by renowned French anti-globalization militant
José Bové, gathered outside the gates to the meeting site to
protest the WTO’s lack of transparency and democracy.
Although the government of Qatar allows peaceful protests,
it is a monarchy that has only recently begun democratizing.
Thousands of Qatari police and military personnel maintain rigid
security at the meeting site and hotels to prevent any terrorist
assault during the meetings.
Decrying what they called the fundamentalism of free trade,
representatives of NGOs criticized the United States on Friday
for seeking to equate the fight against terrorism with the fight
for more open world markets. Noting that the policies pushed
by Washington and the WTO have been a recipe for poverty and
global inequality, Walden Bello, executive director of Focus
on the Global South, a Bangkok-based research program commented,
“Trade liberalization of the unrestricted sort creates precisely
those conditions ... that are a breeding ground for terrorism.”
Some activist groups called for world trade rules to put health
before profits. A coalition made up of Oxfam, Medecins Sans
Frontieres and Third World Network said 14 million people die
each year from otherwise preventable diseases.
“The death toll could be reduced if low-cost drugs were available
but (current intellectual property rules) will prevent poor
countries buying low-cost drugs,” they said in a statement.
Greenpeace activists aboard their flagship, the Rainbow Warrior,
sailed to Doha.
“The WTO came to Qatar to escape the protesters . . . you can
run but you can’t hide,” said Greenpeace International political
director Remi Parmentier, adding, “We’re here to voice the concerns
of millions of people, so we’re not going to stay quiet. The
WTO wants trade law to supersede environmental law, and we want
environmental laws to be on top of trade laws.”
The WTO’s fourth ministerial conference approved on Saturday
by consensus the text of the agreement for China’s entry into
the organization. China will become legally a member 30 days
after the WTO receives notification of the ratification of the
agreement by China’s Parliament.
At press time, the conference had failed to reach agreement
on a new round of multilateral trade negotiations.
Confidential documents leaked to the press showed that top
US-British corporate executives met secretly with government
officials to set a pro-business agenda for the current WTO talks.
The entanglement of industry with government in designing pro-business
changes to the WTO was reported by the BBC and CorpWatch, a
US nonprofit organization.
Robert Zoellick, the US Trade Representative (USTR) who negotiated
for the US in Doha, faced opposition at home as well. US-based
advocacy groups filed suit against the office of the USTR in
US District Court in Washington, DC on November 9, charging
the agency broke the law by failing to respond to their request
for documents on the government’s negotiating position in trade
talks with Chile.
US and Chilean environmental and public-interest groups had
sought the documents, they said, for fear that a free-trade
agreement being hammered out by their governments could weaken
environmental and health regulations in both countries.
Their complaint, which named Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
as defendant, stated that the USTR had been required by law
to comply by July 25 with their request, which had been submitted
under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Qatar government restricted visas for activists from non-governmental
organizations, effectively stifling much of the protest in Doha.
Locked out of Qatar, protesters in 36 countries around the world
marched and rallied against the WTO. Many of the demonstrations
took place on Friday, November 9, a “day of action” endorsed
by many labor unions and environmental organizations.
Anti-globalization protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at riot
police in Geneva. Police were keeping them away from the lakeside
headquarters of the World Trade Organization.
Earlier, an estimated 5,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate
against the WTO, protesting that globalization put profits before
“Governments have taken refuge in Doha because they are afraid
of the people who elected them,” said Swiss peasant leader Fernand
In Washington, DC, social justice activists marched through
the financial district carrying a 70-foot-long, 17-foot-tall,
smoke-spewing dragon puppet. The march and rally were organized
by Mobilization for Global Justice, a DC-based coalition of
opponents of global groups such as the WTO, World Bank and International
Monetary Fund. Activists with the Green Party, Free Burma Coalition
and Anti-Capitalist Convergence also participated.
About 150 protesters marched in a circular route from a park
near the World Bank at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
to the 17th Street NW offices of US trade representative Zoellick,
who was in Qatar for the WTO meetings. Outside Zoellick’s offices,
speakers addressed the crowd.
About 200 protesters in Seattle marched from the Capitol Hill
neighborhood to downtown on November 9 to protest the WTO talks.
The action was a tiny echo of the 50,000 protesters who shut
down Seattle’s downtown and WTO opening ceremonies in 1999.
But activists said it was crucial to keep attention focused
on WTO actions.
On Saturday afternoon activists dropped banners off of I-40
outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. The banners read, “In
solidarity with the world, No to the WTO”, “WTO is the real
terrorist”, and “WTO destroys communities.”
About 900 Montrealers in two demonstrations took to the streets
on November 9 to protest the non-democratically imposed neoliberalization
programs of the WTO and to promote equitable and environmentally
Protesters, with their torsos painted with the letters WTO,
shouted slogans during a rally outside the US embassy in Manila
on November 9.
India saw big demonstrations as thousands marched through the
center of New Delhi to protest against the WTO meeting and US-led
air strikes on Afghanistan.
“Down with World Trade Organization. Indian government — leave
the WTO,” the protesters shouted. “Save agriculture, stop the
WTO and save us from hunger,” shouted one of its leaders.
“Down with American imperialism. Stop the bombing in Afghanistan.
Take back American forces from Afghanistan,” the protesters
About 500 protesters, including 400 from South Korean trade
unions and 100 unionists from 16 countries, marched in Seoul
on Friday, scuffling briefly with riot police in an otherwise
WTO protesters clash with riot police in Seoul,
“Trade liberalization and opening aggravates the gap between
rich and poor worldwide and destroys the economic base of every
country,” said a statement issued at the march.
In Thailand, about 1,000 protesters, mostly farmers, held
a peaceful two mile march from Bangkok’s World Trade Center
shopping mall to the US Embassy on Nov. 9 to condemn Washington
and its leading role in the WTO. Demonstrators blocked part
of an eight-lane road in central Bangkok and shouted anti-globalization
and anti-US slogans on various issues — from expensive patented
AIDS drugs to farm subsidy schemes. The protest was highlighted
by a traditional Thai “cursing ceremony” directed at the US
government where protesters burned chilies in a frying pan,
filling the air with eye-stinging smoke.
About 500 Iranian workers rallied peacefully in Tehran on Friday,
Nov. 9 to protest against world economic liberalization.
Around 500 people marched through central Johannesburg, South
Africa on Nov. 9 to protest the WTO, the South African government’s
participation in it, and the effect of WTO-enforced neoliberalism
on South Africa.
Thousands of Turkish workers marched through the capital Ankara.
Some 10,000 demonstrators -- workers from both the private and
public sectors as well as students -- converged on Ankara’s
working Sihhiye district. They called on the government to step
down and accused its members of blindly following International
Monetary Fund measures to resurrect the economy. “We came to
bury the government in the grave!” the demonstrators shouted.
They also chanted: “Down with the IMF! Independent Turkey!”
In Melbourne, Australia, a march against war, nationalism,
racism, privatization, capitalism and corporate rule took place.
Demonstrators carried out a “die in” in front of the immigration
and defense departments, and about 100 took part in a mass “fare
evasion train jump.”
Sources: Agence France Presse, Associated Press, BBC, CorpWatch,
Environment News Service, Financial Times, Indymedia, IPS, IRNA,
Reuters, Seattle Times, Toronto Globe & Mail, Washington Post
Kabul seized, alliance exacts
Compiled by Eamon Martin
Nov. 14— Two days before Afghani Northern Alliance
rebels seized their country’s capitol, near an abandoned Taliban
bunker, their men dragged a wounded Taliban soldier out of a
ditch. As the terrified man begged for his life, the alliance
soldiers pulled him to his feet.
They searched him and emptied his pockets. Then, one soldier
fired two bursts from his rifle into the man’s chest. A second
soldier beat the lifeless body with his rifle butt. A third
repeatedly smashed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher into
the man’s head.
The killing occurred minutes after Northern Alliance soldiers,
advancing toward Kabul, surged deep into Taliban territory.
They chose to celebrate with executions.
Ten yards away lay the body of a younger man who alliance soldiers
said was a Pakistani. He was on his side with his arms extended.
In the side of his head was a bullet hole.
Two hundred yards away, the soldiers who had minutes earlier
shot the older man searched the possessions of a motionless
Taliban soldier on the ground. After emptying his pockets, a
soldier fired a burst from his rifle into the man. The soldiers
moved on quickly, showing no emotion. A few minutes later, someone
laid an unused mortar round across the man’s throat.
Looting was widespread. Alliance soldiers, who have received
extensive backing from the United States, plundered Taliban
bodies and bunkers, stealing shoes, bags of sugar, flashlights
and anything else that they could find.
Two days later, the small army took over the Taliban-controlled
city of Kabul. Amongst modest celebrations, most people in this
long-suffering city seemed happier about the demise of the Taliban
than about the arrival of their liberators. While reports from
other cities abandoned by the Taliban have suggested an immediate
wave of burka burning and beard shaving, there was no such initial
response in Kabul. Contrary to many reports in the corporate
media, there was no revelry, and most Kabulis appeared to be
getting on with the simple pleasure of having a little more
freedom over the way they live, while keeping their emotions
in check until they can see exactly where this latest twist
in Afghanistan’s war has led them.
Most tradesmen, recalling their last liberation by the Mujahidin,
kept their premises closed, barred and shuttered. Fahrid, a
restaurant owner, summed up the mood, saying: “It hasn’t been
good under the Taliban and I’m not sorry they have gone. But
at least I knew under their regime no one would burn down my
business and steal everything.
“If the Alliance control their soldiers I will remember this
day with joy. It’s too early to see if they really have changed
from last time.”
“Last time” was 1992, when the city was liberated from the
Communists only to fall victim to a free-for-all of looting
and plundering before descending into merciless civil war.
But Afghani children say they have never seen anything like
the high-tech US air offensive launched in the aftermath of
the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Northern
Alliance has pushed the Taliban out of most of northern Afghanistan
in the past few days with the help of heavy US bombing.
“It is like they have tied our feet and our hands and are stabbing
our helpless body with a knife,” said Kandahar resident Umar
Jan, age 15.
Abdul Baqi’s farming family, also from Kandahar, survived more
than 20 years of seemingly endless conflict. Shortly after the
US air strikes began on October 7, their home was destroyed
in the blast from a bombed arms depot and his two brothers were
“We haven’t had war like this before,” said the bare-foot
12-year-old, one of around 2,600 Afghans living in Killi Faizo,
a temporary camp set up by the United Nation’s High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan.
But the children are dismissive of the aid from international
organizations and the United Nations.
Like many of their parents, who have left everything behind
in Afghanistan, the children demonize the United States. “They
say they are attacking Taliban targets. But they bomb them once
and us (civilians) 10 times,” said Abdul Samad, 15.
US President George W. Bush had urged the Northern Alliance
not to take Kabul before a new, broad-based government could
be formed. But opposition commanders were eager to advance.
The Taliban have now retreated from Kabul, bringing Bush’s “war
on terror” into a new phase of what most analysts agree will
be a guerrilla war in Afghanistan’s southern region.
Sources: Agence France Presse, Associated Press, New York
Times, Reuters, St. Petersburg Times, The Times (UK)