Despite strict limits on protest in the United Arab Emirates, as well as United Nations rules at the climate conference known as COP28 now underway in Dubai, over 100 people demonstrated on the sidelines of the summit Sunday in solidarity with Palestine to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Some held banners with watermelons painted on them, a known symbol of the Palestinian movement, to circumvent a ban on Palestinian flags. Protesters were barred from chanting phrases like “from the river to the sea” and “Free Palestine” and were not permitted to say “Gaza,” “Palestine” and “Israel” or name any other nation. Several still did so in defiance. Democracy Now! is broadcasting from COP28 this week, and we feature voices from the protest.
AMY GOODMAN: These are voices of a protest Sunday when over a hundred people gathered on the sidelines of the U.N. climate summit for a peaceful action in solidarity with the Palestinian people demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.
PROTESTER 1: When human rights are under attack, what do we do?
PROTESTERS: Stand up, fight back!
PROTESTER 2: We’ll be reading for you today from the Gaza Ministry of Health list of names of all those who have been killed since October 7th.
PROTESTER 3: Moaz Etemad Youssef Dalloul, female [sic] — male, 6 years old. Tala Amjad Alyan Abu Ayada, 5 years old. Elaine Amjad Alyan Abu Ayada, 3 years old. Hamza Muhammad Nahed Al-Fasih, 3 years old.
PROTESTER 1: The names are still being written.
TARIQ LUTHUN: My name is Tariq Luthun. I am a Gazawi born in Detroit. This violence is not happening just in my hometown of Gaza. It’s happening everywhere. Being in Detroit, there are so many situations in which water has been cut off. Being just down the street from Flint, Michigan, we see water be poisoned and polluted for the people and the residents of Flint. And precedents like that, where people are expendable, is only possible because of the violence we see inflicted upon people back in my homeland. And because of that, we are taking a stand here today not just as Palestinian people, myself, but people who are allied with justice for all people across the world, because that is what is necessary to have true climate justice. What good is finding a world that is green if the roots are soaked in blood? What good is a world that is green if there’s nobody left to live in it? The precedent set on people’s lives and the calculations we make as to who is expendable, that is the precedent we set for who’s expendable anywhere.
PROTESTER 1: Hey ho! Take me by the hand! Strong in solidarity we stand! Human rights and justice! Human rights and justice! Hey ho! End the apartheid!
SHIRINE JURDI: Just because now we have social media, we were able to see some of the facts. Have you seen this TikTok that went viral? We know TikToks that goes viral about food. Did you see this TikTok about how you remove white phosphorus from your body? Because white phosphorus weapons are being shelled on people, shelled on civilians, shelled on women and children. And this is where most of the casualties are. Lots of women were — we have almost 50,000 women pregnant, trying to deliver at this time of the period, and these women, lots of them, lost their lives, and, if you have seen, also these newborn babies. Have you seen them? Have you seen them struggling for air to breathe? But, unfortunately, electricity was cut off. They had no food, no water, no sanitation. They had nothing to breathe on. They had nothing to survive on. And lots of these newborn children were killed. And let’s be their voices.
CHEBON KERNELL: [speaking in Muscogee] I come here from the continent of North America representing our Indigenous peoples of our Muscogee communities who for many years now we have lived in an occupied state. We were dispossessed of our lands. We were forced upon reservations, where we were confined to one area. The water and the resources that we had known for thousands upon thousands of years were taken from us and commodified and exploited and stolen from our peoples. Today we come here, and I stand here and have been asked to say these words, because I stand in solidarity with each one of my relatives here and everything that you’re going through, my relatives on these lists here. I’m never going to forget those names that are being said. And one day I will greet them when I join them in the spirit world. But today I want to say something before more violence is incurred, that this has to stop now.
ANCEL LANGWA: I stand here as a member of Africans Rising, which is a Pan-African movement of Africans working for unity, justice, peace and dignity. Just like Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral institutions of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” So we are here because we have decided that we shall not be neutral.
ASAD REHMAN: Sisters, brothers, solidarity, greetings from the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice.
Today we stand in a space bearing the words “the United Nations,” in a process we are deeply committed to as the eyes, ears and voices of our people fighting for justice, the body that was created after the horrors of the Second World War with a promise of “never again,” a promise that made it illegal to target civilians, a promise that made it illegal to use food, water, medicine as a weapon of war, a promise of human rights, a promise that all people would be able to live with dignity, free from occupation and oppression.
And for these last two months we have witnessed not just the Palestinian people starved, trapped, cut off from the world, bombed and killed, their screams echoing throughout the night with no hope of rescue, as every morning we wait desperately for that message that our friends and our colleagues are still alive, but whilst watching the international community stand in silence — and again, not just for these last two months, but for 15 years of an illegal blockade, for 50 years of an occupation and apartheid, and a hundred years of ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism. We watched an international community that has been actively complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity, where the genocidal intent isn’t even bothered to be hidden anymore. And still, of course, that’s not enough. We’ve seen hospitals, schools bombed. We’ve seen medics, journalists and even U.N. staff killed, 18,000 people. Human rights and humanitarian law is lying in shreds.
And some ask — some ask us: Why do we care about the Palestinians? Why do climate justice groups mobilize in their millions, from Pakistan to the Philippines, from Belgium to Brazil, from South Africa to Sweden? Why is it our people from all around the world — Black, white, Brown, Jew, Muslim, Christian — are taking to the streets? It’s because we have seen the masks that have slipped. We have seen how the Palestinians are not even viewed as human beings. And in the faces of the Palestinians, for Black, Brown and Indigenous people, we see our past, our present and our future, of lives deemed less valuable than others, of an arc of 500 years of colonialism and racialized capitalism, of sacrificed people and of sacrificed land, of the powerful profiting from oppression, but then saying they don’t have any money for climate finance, but billions for bombs and bullets against the people.
And we say — and we say to those powerful countries, who put words of human rights into texts over there, that no amount of empty words will ever erase your complicity. You not only wrote the blank check, you enabled this. You own this. You own this as much as those who are dropping the bombs on the terrified people of Palestine. So, here today, we, the peoples of the world, say to the Palestinian people, the international community over there may have forgotten you, but you are not alone. You will never be alone, because we are all Palestinians! Ceasefire now! End settler colonialism! End apartheid! End the occupation! Free Palestine!
PROTESTER 1: We’re going to close this moment by respecting the names, the identities, the children, the women, the mothers, the fathers, the journalists have been murdered. We are going to read some of those names.
PROTESTER 4: Issa Ahmed Issa Al-Nashar, 8 years old. Zaid Sabry Musleh Radi, 8 years old. Fayez Shadi Fayez Al-Dakka, 8 years old.
TARIQ LUTHUN: Menna Essam Mahmoud Abu Eyada, 14 years old. Mahmoud Muhammad Fathi Al-Shaer, 14 years old.
PROTESTER 5: Amjad Khaled Kamal Rashwan, 3 years old. Salma Muhammad Khalil Abu Al-Ala, 2 years old.
AMY GOODMAN: Voices from a protest Sunday inside the U.N. climate summit here in Dubai, showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The first voice in this last segment was Chebon Kernell of the Muscogee Nation here in the United States, and the last speech you heard was our guest right now, Asad Rehman.