A Yorkshire race and equality activist and campaigner, Fiaz Rashid, has been honoured with the National Education Union’s award for international solidarity in particular recognition of Fiaz’s volunteering work in Palestine, Cuba and Kashmir. The award is named after the former NEU general secretary, Steve Sinnott, who was a passionate believer in the principle and practice of internationalism.
As well as being a professional teacher, Fiaz has been a lifelong trade unionist, and a committed and highly regarded race and equality campaigner. He is also a Director of the Pakistan and Kashmir Welfare Association, which operates from Batley.
In his acceptance speech, Fiaz set the tone by describing how his belief system was shaped by his childhood in Kashmir:
“Having come to the UK as a child from a conflict zone in the 1970s, I have always been aware of the global nature of global resource control, power brokerage, wealth, poverty and population management. My gut instinct and my political bones have always told me that the best way to tackle poverty, inequality and exploitation is through kindness, compassion, sharing and simple human decency. For me, the best expression of these basic values has always been by the clear demonstration of a shared humanity – particularly with peoples around the world who are facing oppression, exclusion, abuse or condemnation.”
Fiaz went on to put his selection for the international solidarity award into the context of others who have dedicated their entire lives to the demonstration of shared humanity. He said,
“Others have done far more than me. When I think of activists, journalists, campaigners and humanitarians who have taken the ultimate step and laid down their own lives as they bore witness to atrocities, I feel humbled to accept any award for internationalism, bearing witness, reaching out, or any activities in that general ball park. I am thinking here of brave and resolute souls such as the activist Rachael Corrie, or the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
These two and countless others have lain down their lives in the act of bearing witness; so anytime, anywhere, whenever someone like me accepts an award for something like showing solidarity, or bearing witness, or refusing to turn our faces away, we accept the award not just for ourselves but on behalf of anyone who has ever refused to look away, and particularly on behalf of those who have refused to look away even at the cost of their own life. I will add to that list the name of Mohammed Al-Dura, a child who was slain for looking with a child’s eyes at the gross injustice of the illegal occupation.”
Fiaz concluded by recounting some of the incidents he has witnessed.
“During my visit to Palestine in 2019, I was acting as human rights’ monitor a few months. I witnessed separation walls built to remove people from their work, farmlands, schools, hospitals and shops, in what must be a deliberate act of humiliation and dehumanisation; I was witness to schools & homes being demolished by occupying forces; I saw children arrested and taken to military detention, I saw impoverished shepherds being harassed and prevented from grazing their sheep; I saw grieving families denied access to their family graves; and a hundred other abuses and injustices.
I will continue to bear witness and continue to tell the stories that the oppressors of this world would rather not be told.”