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Students stage teach-in on Iran

McGill’s involvement with war industry discussed

About fifty people gathered yesterday at the Y-intersection on campus for a “teach-in” on the possibility of war with Iran and McGill University’s involvement with the war industry in general.

Canada closed its embassy in Iran on September 7, declaring all Iranian diplomats persona non grata in the country. This decision had a ripple effect across the international community, including at McGill, where many Iranian students now face difficulties obtaining study permits and vital travel documents.

McGill Law student and teach-in organizer Kevin Paul explained that the teach-in was designed as a precursor to resistance to the current sanctions in Iran, as well as to the possibility of military intervention in the future.

“Iranian civilians and Iranians living in Canada are living the impacts of severe economic sanctions, and that includes students right here at McGill, so there’s already conflict with Iran, it just isn’t taking the form of military intervention yet,” Paul told The Daily.

The teach-in included four presentations, followed by an open-megaphone period where people were free to share their opinions on militarization and Iran. The formal presentations relied heavily on the parallels between the build-up to the war in Iraq and the current Iranian conflict.

Among the few people who took the megaphone to share their thoughts was a Montreal activist who goes by the name Smoke. He emphasized the importance of looking at foreign military intervention in the context of the larger geopolitical system.

“I want to end with a reminder that we don’t like the Iranian regime either, but it’s not up to us to overthrow it,” said Smoke.

U2 McGill student Claire Stewart-Kanigan also helped to organize the teach-in. She argued that the McGill community is necessarily implicated in conflicts like the one with Iran, because of McGill’s contributions to the defense industry and its reliance on the military-industrial complex for funding.

“If we have anti-war support coming out of McGill, even if it is just in the form of editorials or departmental associations or student associations passing motions against the war, I think that that can speak especially strongly,” Stewart-Kanigan told The Daily. “McGill does have a strong role to play in Canada’s defense apparatus, so as students of McGill, we have the opportunity to create disruption.”

The University has a long history of involvement with weapons research. In 2010, McGill opted against regulating such research, leaving out a clause in its Regulations on Conduct of Research policy that would require researchers to disclose the potentially harmful applications of their findings.

The organizers hoped that the teach-in would revive a dialogue around anti-war protest, specifically in relation to Iran.

“One of our goals is that, if it does come to the point of military intervention, we want to have a wide base of consciousness about this issue set up so that we can take action against it quickly,” explained Stewart-Kanigan. “Having the base set for some kind of action, like a strike or demos in opposition.”

Prashant Keshavmurthy,  a professor in the Institute of Islamic Studies, stopped by to listen to the presentation on McGill’s involvement in military research.

Keshavmurthy said he pays attention to foreign affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, but found the teach-in valuable and informative nonetheless.

“What I specifically learned that was new to me and improved my awareness of what was going on were the facts on weapons research [at McGill].”