WRL Honors Suez Port Worker and Labor Leader Asma Mohammed

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Peace Award:
WRL Honors Suez Port Worker and Labor Leader Asma Mohammed

Over this past week, Egyptians have poured out onto the streets across Egypt to protest President Morsi’s dictatorial decree overriding the power of the courts, attempting to keep a heavily Muslim Brotherhood-influenced constitutional assembly in tact, and granting himself seemingly unchecked authority over the nation.

U.S.-made tear gas has continued to rain down on protesters in Egypt calling for Morsi to reverse his decision as well as on those who filled Mohamed Mahmoud Street to call for justice and accountability for those who were gassed, beaten and murdered there exactly one year ago. Much of the tear gas --- then and now --- was made in Jamestown, Pa., by Combined Systems Incorporated, the same manufacturer whose seven-ton shipment, approved by U.S. government, was refused on November 27, 2011 by Asma Mohammed and her fellow customs workers at the Port of Adabiya in Suez.

The War Resisters League has awarded Asma Mohammed its 2012 Peace Award, given in the past to activists including Bayard Rustin, Bob Moses and Jeanette Rankin. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the first WRL Peace Award event in 1958.

Mohammed’s refusal of the tear gas shipment from the Port of Wilmington, N.C., came in the wake of unprecedented use of tear gas use against protesters around Tahrir Square during the “battle of Mohamed Mahmoud," where dozens died directly from inhalation of the gas during a six-day assault by Egyptian riot police beginning on November 19, 2011. Mohammed's refusal triggered the formation of the General Independent Union of Port Workers, Egypt’s first post-revolution port worker union, which started in Suez but quickly spread across Egypt as labor activism skyrocketed following the uprising that began in January 2011.

Mohammed, a member of the union’s women’s committee recalls: "I said 'No, I refuse — because I don’t want to be the cause of someone’s pain or death.’ So in solidarity with me, or with the cause, my co-workers said, 'No, we’re not going to work on it either.’"

For more information about US-made tear gas in Egypt, go to: facingteargas.tumblr.com

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