Missoula peace rally asks U.S. to start conversation with Iran

Posted at 2:35 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 17:42:30-04
Imdad Baloch, who is originally from the Balochistan region of Pakistan, took part in a peace rally Wednesday on the Orange Street Bridge. “We want peace, not war,” is his message in Urdu. (photo credit: Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

-Mari Hall reporting for the Missoula Current

MISSOULA – The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center held a peace rally on Wednesday, protesting the escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States and the possibility of warfare between the two nations.

“We felt it was important timing to be able to have a visual action for people to join in to say we want to consider peace,” said Betsy Mulligan-Dague, director of the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. “We are not interested in another war in the Middle East, and we hope that our representatives will listen and take actions to make peace instead of war.”

The group held signs protesting war with Iran as they walked down the Higgins Street Bridge and over to Orange Street. Mulligan-Dague wanted to rally in a location where people of different viewpoints could interact.

It’s all about starting a conversation, which is what the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center is encouraging the U.S. to do with Iran.

“On Orange Street, we at least have the opportunity to interface with people who may not agree with us,” Mulligan-Dague said. “Whether they see those signs and think about them, whether they hate the signs, whether they hate seeing us there, whether they’re curious about seeing us there, that is the start of a dialogue. And until we can come to a place where we can talk to each other, we don’t solve any problems.”

Iran and the United States have a complicated history, with the U.S. abandoning the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and imposing sanctions on the country. Iranian forces shot down a U.S. military drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June.

President Donald Trump initially threatened to respond to the drone’s destruction with military strikes, then pulled back last week.

“I don’t believe that either country wants war,” Mulligan-Dague said. “But the aggressive kinds of language and actions could easily trigger an accident. When tempers get hot, you do and say things that you don’t necessarily mean. If you look back in history, most of our wars have been (started because) of that one incident of hostility that sort of sets things going.”

Imdad Baloch participated in the rally and has ties in Balochistan, a region of Pakistan that lies between Iran and Afghanistan. He’s seen how war affects people in the region.

He came to Missoula through a fellowship focusing on public health.

“We know what war is, and how the regions are disturbed,” Baloch said. “I have seen war and have seen the people and how they are suffering from the war in Afghanistan and how the children and families are suffering and are refugees in other countries. That’s why it leads me to come here.”

He has a background working for peace and social justice, having been a founding member of a group called the Civil Society Balochistan. Baloch said the group has a strong presence.

“We are the ones to introduce the concept of civil society to the region,” he said.

Ethel MacDonald joined the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center after 9/11, and wants to show her support for peace in any way she can.

“The fact that (Trump) broke off the agreement we had with nuclear arms with Iran has started it all, and I feel the U.S. has been the aggressor all the way on this,” she said. “So I’m standing against that.”

Mulligan-Dague hopes that conversations can be achieved between the two countries and disaster can be avoided. In the end, we’re all people, she said.

“It doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’re all part of the same world and we all bleed the same color, so we have to learn to work together in this global world we live in,” she said. “We have to learn to coexist.”

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