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From Bradford to Baghdad...

Dear CASI list people

Appended is an article from the forthcoming Sheffield Iraq Campaign newsletter, trying to connect the war at home with the war abroad...

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From Bradford to Baghdad…

“It wasn’t a riot, it was a rebellion,” said one participant in the confrontation between police, fascists and Asian youth in Bradford.
It is clear that both elements were present, but the bottom line is that a new generation of Asian youth are not prepared to tolerate racism and oppression.

The protests and street-fighting in Bradford and elsewhere have complex causes and many facets.
Racist violence, and the behaviour of the police are two (“the McPherson report showed that the police was institutionally racist. We already knew that,” said a Bradford protester).
Poverty and unemployment is another (“according to a report by the Department for Work and Pensions released on 13 July, 60% of the UK’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi community live in poverty, compared to ‘only’ 16% of the white population"   - ‘Labour fails to reduce poverty and inequality’, Financial Times, 14 July 2001). 
Yet another is the hysteria directed against refugees and asylum seekers, a vile and racist campaign led from Whitehall and 10 Downing Street. The waves of attacks on asylum seekers from Dover to Hull to Glasgow over the past eighteen months helped set the scene for the explosions of anger and oppression in Bradford and Oldham.

There is also an international dimension, completely excluded from the ‘public debate’. Events here in the UK are profoundly connected both to the sanctions siege of Iraq and to the Palestinian intifadah. In Iraq, the US and UK governments have killed 1.5 million people and ruined the lives of everyone except the supposed targets of the sanctions. In Palestine, a virtually unarmed people confront a vicious oppressor armed with every type of weapon by its American and British patrons. 
Whether through indifference, ignorance or through a false perception of our own impotence, the population of the UK have acquiesced to these policies. This is brutalising, it has a mutilating effect on our sense of compassion and solidarity, it feeds racism, and it increases the sense of insecurity felt by people of colour in this country.

Through common experiences of colonialism and imperialism, Asian and Middle Eastern youth in this country much more readily identify with our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Iraq. People aren’t stupid! They’re highly aware that Israel is rewarded for occupying Palestine, while a million Iraqis are starved to death, (supposedly) because of Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait. This extreme case of double standards says that Arab people have fewer rights than European settlers; that their lives don’t count. This is, amongst other things, pure racism.
Along with a much smaller minority of white youth, young people with roots in the Middle East and Asia and elsewhere in the Third World are being radicalised by the Palestinian struggle for national sovereignty.
Feelings of sympathy for the Palestinians, of outrage at the injustice and violence being perpetrated against them, of disgust at hypocritical western leaders who talk loudly about ‘international law’ while arming and protecting the illegal Israeli occupation… mingle with admiration at the courage of those resisting Israel’s tanks and helicopters with their stones and slings of David. The Palestinian people inspire all of us to demand justice and to resist oppression!

Part of the anger which spilled over in Bradford and Oldham is at the sanctions slaughter of more than half a million Iraqi children, and at the news that Tony Blair is Ariel Sharon’s closest European ally.
The persecution of asylum seekers and the criminalisation of people who experience racism in every aspects of their lives is evidence that the UK government’s foreign policy is an extension of its domestic policy.
It is therefore appropriate that our solidarity with the people of Iraq and Palestine should go hand-in-hand with the demand for equal rights and justice for the victims of racism and discrimination in this country.

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