‘War is never the answer’: Students protest Iran conflict on the steps of Wilson

‘War is never the answer’: Students protest Iran conflict on the steps of Wilson

Read in The Daily Tar Heel 1/14

Ava Erfani stood under an umbrella Monday on the steps of Wilson Library, a megaphone held firmly in her right hand and an “End Endless Wars” poster at her feet. 

A semicircle of students gathered around Erfani, as part of an anti-war protest opposing the United States’ conflict with Iran. 

The protest, one of many held nationally this month, comes after an escalation in the longstanding tension between the two countries.

Political science major Erfani was born in America, but her family is from Iran. 

“Our entire culture is based around this idea of taarof, a valuing of friendship and showing your appreciation for other people,” Erfani said. 

She considers this to be one of the most beautiful things about being Iranian and being part of that culture. 

“It’s a big reason why it upsets me so much to see politicians talking about a place like that as expendable or evil,” Erfani said. 

Shortly after his plane arrived at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, two vehicles carrying Major General Qassim Suleimani, and his associates were killed by missiles from American MQ-9 Reaper drones. 

The strike, ordered by President Donald Trump, caused simmering tension with Iran to erupt. American people and world leaders have criticized the President for escalating the conflict.

Some in the American public and on social media have likened a possible U.S. war with Iran to World War III. 

“I want this to be a social signaling,” Erfani said. “We are showing that not only are their Iranian-American students on campus that are against this war, but there are a lot of UNC students that don’t want something like this in the community, as well.”

Erfani said most of America is with her in opposing the war. She hopes the protest sends a message to local and national representatives that, if there is a vote, the people are not supportive of violence. 

“War is not the answer,” senior Shiva Bakhtiyari said. “War is never the answer.”

Bakhtiyari said the conflict is a public responsibility — an issue not just for Iranians in America and abroad, but also for everyone involved. 

“As an Iranian American, this has been a very stressful time for myself,” she said. “My mom is in Iran right now and at every moment I am concerned about her safety.” 

First-year Grace Yannotta said she considers her anti-war protesting an act of patriotism. 

“America’s war will not be fought by those who orchestrated it, it will be fought by those manipulated into fighting it,” Yannotta said. “And the American lives being lost are not the ones of those who truly believe in it, but the lives of those who were manipulated into believing that it is right.”

First-year Gavin George said a potential war with Iran is not a partisan issue — or a Trump issue.

“This is an issue of people and the poor versus the powerful and the arms industry, the arms lobby and the intelligence committee of the federal government,” he said.  

A local resident, 16-year-old Victor Thorne, also attended the protest. He raised concerns about the large sum of money that the federal government might funnel to an overseas war.

“I have lived with a pretty severe medical condition since birth,” he said. “And we are going to war with a country that has not been aggressive toward us while people die because they cannot afford insulin, while people die because they cannot afford the basic needs that every human should be entitled to.” 

He said the root of America’s involvement is motivated by money and power. 

“Why are we doing this instead of helping our people?” he said. “That is supposed to be the point of a government.”

Erfani said she would like to see the conflict resolved through diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran. It is a lofty goal, she said, but she would also like to see the dropping of sanctions against Iran. 

“My whole life I’ve been between cultures,” Erfani said. “Iranian culture is important to me. My home here is important to me … It’s always important to me to show people that the place that my parents are from, the place that I feel somewhat connected to is not evil. They are just people that just want the same things that everyone else does.” 

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