May 16, 1993 | Hamil R. Harris
Chanting “Stop the killing, Stop the slaughter,” thousands of Muslims from a cross section of ethnic backgrounds marched through the nation’s capital yesterday to urge air strikes against the Bosnian Serb military and an end to an arms embargo in the region.
The protest, which began in front of the White House and ended on the Mall in front of the Capitol, was led by American Islamic leaders, international Bosnian representatives and the former pop music star once known as Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam in the late ’70s.
“This march is nothing but to save lives,” said Ahmed Adaweh, a Somalian cabdriver who helped transport some marchers to the rally. Organizers said the demonstration drew about 50,000 participants, though the U.S. Park Police estimated that 15,000 people attended.
The speakers’ platform in Lafayette Square was surrounded by Muslims carrying signs that read “Let Bosnia Defend Itself,” “Rape Is a War Crime” and “Stop the Genocide in Bosnia Now.”
“We are here to say that we are with our Bosnian brothers and sisters . . . and the people of Bosnia should be allowed to defend themselves,” Muhammad Yunus, president of the Islamic Circle of North America, told the crowd.
Many of the demonstrators wore native costumes, and those in the front line of the march carried a banner that was almost as wide as Pennsylvania Avenue. It read, “Greneda, Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, BOSNIA . . . Where is America Now?”
Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, and Jamil Al-Amin, formerly Black Panther H. Rap Brown, each had plenty of Muslim bodyguards as they marched with the other demonstrators. They were joined on the Mall by comedian/activist Dick Gregory.
Islam said he wanted to show solidarity with the Bosnian Muslims.
“Even if you don’t get the military involved, at least give the Muslims a right to defend themselves” by lifting the arms embargo, he said.
“Just give them arms to handle their own problem, I just want the embargo lifted,” said Solman Abney, of the Al-Islam Mosque in Southeast Washington. “The Clinton administration is just talking hot air. If they wanted to do something, they could.”
President Clinton has been seeking agreement among European allies to lift the arms embargo, but the allies have expressed concern that such an action would encourage further bloodshed by allowing more arms to enter the war-torn region.
Muhammad Ali initially was scheduled to attend the rally. Instead, organizers distributed what they said was a message of support from the former boxing champion. “I wanted to be there to help fight against genocide and `ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia,” the statement said. The people of Bosnia “should be able to get their own arms to fight off the attacks of the Serb forces.”
Muhammed Sacirbey, Bosnia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington’s political hierarchy “has already discounted the Muslim support. We have to make sure the message gets through.”
The ambassador told the demonstrators that Serbian forces are “fighting against a society that has existed for 500 years.”
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), the lone federal lawmaker to address the crowd, said, “I hope that we will do the right thing in the Congress. I hope that Europe will do the right thing.”
Suada Semra, a Bosnian woman who addressed the rally, said the Serbs continue to rape the women of her country. She said 2,000 women have been impregnated. “How many more will our silence allow?” Semra asked.
Article Courtesy: greensboro.com