Chicago-area Assyrians march against ISIS, others protest airstrikes

As U.S. warplanes on Friday bombed Sunni militants marching on Iraq’s Kurdish capital, demonstrators in support and opposition to U.S. intervention were on the march in Chicago..

The Assyrian American National Federation planned their Daley Plaza protest long before President Barack Obama’s announcement Thursday that the U.S. would intervene to prevent a threatened genocide of Iraq and Syria’s minorities and Christians, said Martin Youmaran, director for the Assyrian American National Federation.

Thousands of Chicago-area Assyrians gathered in the downtown square to demand more military aid and call for U.S. leadership in the international community’s creation of a safe haven in the Nineveh plains for thousands of displaced Christians and minorities.

“We don’t just want airstrikes. We need a plan for the future,” Margaret Khamoo, president of the Chicago Chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, yelled into a megaphone.

The demonstrators marched around Daley Plaza first in silence and then while chanting, holding wooden crosses, Assyrian and American flags and signs that condemned ISIS along with Western nations.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our Western friends,” read one sign.

“I really feel the suffering,” said Lena Ishkhan, 52, a participant who lives in Glenview but whose parents are from Iraq. “It really reached us to the core. It’s too much. Enough is enough.”

A group of about 30 people from organizations including the Gay Liberation Network, Northwest Indiana Veterans for Peace and Antiwar Committee Chicago met later in the afternoon at the Federal Plaza with signs of their own.

One man handed out flyers to passers by while saying, “How about no bombing of Iraq?”

Friday’s military actions, the first in the region since the U.S. pulled out of Iraq in 2011, are only an excuse for the United States to reassert its power in the region, said Jay Becker, of World Can’t Wait, Chicago.