Families of 9/11 victims call for peace

NEW YORK – The American Friends and Service Committee (AFSC) and the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows held a “No More Victims” panel here Sept. 8 to promote public dialogue on alternatives to war.

Peaceful Tomorrows is an advocacy organization founded by family members of Sept. 11 victims who have united to turn grief into action for peace. According to their mission statement, Peaceful Tomorrows “seeks effective non-violent responses to terrorism, and to identify a commonality with all peoples similarly affected by violence throughout the world.”

David Potorti, whose brother was on the 95th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, said, “I don’t want anyone else to feel the pain that I feel right now.”

He added, “when the U.S. started bombing Afghanistan I realized families just like mine would be killed.”

Rangina Hamidi, an Afghan-American, who has twice returned to Afghanistan to provide assistance since U.S. bombing began last fall, said she “feared the nightmare of bombs, brutality and death would become a reality for the Afghanistan people again.”

The Afghan people have faced decades of civil war, leaving five million wounded and two million dead. Hamidi continued by saying, “ war takes the dreams of children and the hopes of people away.” The oppressive consequences have been even more acute for children and women, and over 70 percent of the population is illiterate.

The Bush administration’s possible war with Iraq was also discussed, along with the genocidal effects of sanctions. According to UNICEF, the child mortality rate in Iraq has increased by 160 percent since the late 1980s. According to conservative estimates, over a million people have died as a result of the sanctions. Per capita gross domestic product has fallen from $3,500 to $600 and literacy has fallen from 87 percent to just over 50 percent.

The panel also discussed the domestic consequences of Sept. 11, especially issues that relate to civil liberties, racial profiling and detention. Over 1,000 people have been detained since the terrorist attacks, most without warrants. Access to legal aid or lawyers has been denied and many have been unable to contact their families.

The AFSC and Peaceful Tomorrows speaking tour will continue in Boston, Chicago and St. Louis.

The author can be reached at tonypec@pww.org