Stop the War Coalition Bradford relaunched on Friday with a protest outside city hall to promote the Free Palestine movement, along with saying no to Islamaphobia and foreign wars.
Organised by Arshad Ali, the guest speakers included Jeremy Corbyn, Lyndsey German, Richard Burgon, Salma Yaqoob, former Lord Mayor Mohammed Ajeeb CBE, and Councillor Jennifer Lynn.
Speaking to a crowd of around 200 people, Mr Ali introduced the speakers by saying: “We are very proud, here in Bradford, to host Mr Corbyn and guests of Stop the War Coalition. Stop the War Coalition was formed in response to the Iraq war in 2001 and has been going for 20 years.
“The demand was to stop illegal wars and to bring back the troops. Now here we are, 20 years later and the troops are coming back, but they could have done this 20 years ago when we had a two million person march in London.
“We need to keep on the campaigns of anti-imperialism, anti-war, and we need to stand up for the values that matter to us as working-class people living in a city like this – Bradford. Bradford, the birthplace of the Labour party. It was the great Manningham Mills Strike in 1890, not a stone’s throw away from here, where the conditions in the mills were so bad, the workers were low paid, working in bad conditions, with no water, and at the end of it, all went home with a pittance of a salary.
“They went on strike and the mill owners weren’t sympathetic. Out of that, came what we know as the Labour party. Bradford is the centre of activism and has been for the last 127-odd years, and this is not going to stop now.”
Stop the War was founded in September 2001 in the weeks following 9/11, when George W. Bush announced the “war on terror”. Stop the War has since been dedicated to preventing and ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
Stop the War are committed to supporting Palestinian rights, opposing racism and Islamophobia, and the defence of civil liberties. The anti-war group has organised around 40 national demonstrations, including the largest protests ever held in Britain, most memorably on 15 February 2003, when up to two million gathered on London’s streets to oppose the Iraq war.
Stop the War opposes the British establishment’s disastrous addiction to war and its squandering of public resources on militarism. We have initiated many campaigns around these issues.
Jenny Lynn, councillor for Park Ward and the cabinet member for public services and communities at Calderdale Council, was the first guest speaker. Cllr Lynn is an ardent supporter of Palestine, through her involvement with the group Halifax Friends of Palestine, and her opposition to US military intervention across the world. Cllr Lynn is also a strong advocate for better political representation for women in Calderdale, particularly black and ethnic minority women.
She went on to say that people need to send a strong message to the people of Palestine that we stand with them and to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)
Former Lord Mayor of Bradford, and first South Asian mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb CBE, who spoke next also shared the support for the people of Palestine and was delighted to be there to support the cause.
Richard Burgon, Labour MP for East Leeds welcomed the relaunch of Bradford Stop the War. He said: “When anyone criticises or attacks Stop the War and says that you shouldn’t be forming or relaunching Bradford Stop the War, then I’m afraid they have no place to speak. Time and time again, the anti-war movement has been proven absolutely correct and those in power in the United States and in our country here, have been proven wrong whether it be Iraq, whether it be Afghanistan, or whether it be Libya.”
“We in the anti-war movement know that when the bombing stops, that doesn’t mean the oppression stops. When the bombing stops, it doesn’t mean that justice prevails, because day in and day out, Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in Gaza have to live with the reality of occupation, they have to live with the reality of injustice.”
His words were strongly echoed by Salma Yaqoob, a British political activist and psychotherapist by profession. She served as leader and vice-chairman of the Respect Party represented the party on Birmingham City Council. She led the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and is a patron of Stop the War Coalition UK. She said: “I am so proud to come back to the city of my birth, to see all the people here who have been steadfast and consistent in the fight for equality, justice, and peace.
“I became politicised twenty years ago when our country was preparing to go to war in Afghanistan after the horrendous event of 9/11. As a young mum then, I couldn’t imagine that hundreds of thousands were to kill, in our name, in my name, in your name, in the UK’s name. That’s why some of us came together to say not in our name, by forming the Stop the War Coalition.
“Jeremy and Lyndsey who are speaking today were part of the original banding group. They were told and people like them were told that they were traitors to this country because they were speaking against the Government.
“But it was our Government that were traitors to humanity and to basic principles of justice and peace. It gives me no pleasure to say we were right. We were right about our stance in Afghanistan, we were right about our stance in Iraq, we continue to be right in our stance of Israeli oppression against the Palestinians. We stand for peace, not violence. We stand for justice, not oppression. We stand for dignity, not exploitation.”
Adding to the powerful display of speakers was Lyndsey German, a left-wing activist and one of the founding members of Stop the War Coalition. While she spoke about Palestine and the need to support the people of Palestine, she also discussed the issues people faced at home in the UK.
She said: “We have so many issues that we are facing in this country, and we are one the richest countries in the world. This country cannot feed its children, cannot house its homeless, and can’t provide a decent standard of living for millions of people, but it can engage in war after war.
“It is an absolutely disgusting Government and it’s a Government that is trying to divide and rule us through racism. Whether it is Islamophobia or the way black people were treated last week when they missed a penalty, there is something deeply wrong with our society, and it doesn’t come from the bottom of our society but from the top.”
MP Jeremy Corbyn, was the final speaker. Mr Corbyn served as leader of the Labour Party and leader of the Opposition from 2015 to 2020. He has been MP for Islington North since 1983. He talked about Bradford giving birth to the Labour movement in the UK and acknowledged that the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was founded in Bradford.
He said: “Many of those who founded the ILP had a vision of a country that cared for each other in health and in education, in housing, in the provisions of libraries and learning, and in opportunities for you people. They stood up against the mill owners and those who exploited people previously and stood with the trade unions. Bradford has given so much for the Labour Party and the Labour movement, and indeed through that, the world all over.
“Bradford is also a place that seriously opposed the colonial wars in the 19th century and had a very big anti-war movement in 1914. Bradford took the view that workers in this country would benefit nought from killing workers in Germany, the war was actually between the imperial powers of those two nations. They saw a Europe and a world at peace.”
Mr Corbyn went on to say that: “This event, is of course, about solidarity. Solidarity, with people all around the world. Much has been said about solidarity with people in Palestine, and I absolutely endorse that. My stomach churns when I see F-15 jets bombing homes in Gaza. Homes in the West Bank that have been destroyed by those who believe settlers have the right to take over the area.”
To find out more about Stop the War Coalition, you can visit here.