Socialist Worker

Delegates flock to anti-war People's Assembly

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2043

Jahan Hajipour is an Iranian journalist. He took time off work to join a delegation from Sheffield, where he now lives, to the People’s Assembly held in London on Tuesday of this week.

He was one of hundreds of people from across Britain who gathered in Westminster Central Hall as the Stop the War Coalition event got underway.

“My concern is for the Iranian people, old people, children, pregnant women,” Jahan told Socialist Worker. “I’m against this war and any invasion of Iran. The Iranian people are happy that there is a strong anti-war movement here.

“The regime likes to portray opposition to any US attack as somehow being support for itself. But the Iranian people are young and very highly educated. Like people here, they know you can oppose any attack on the Iranian people without having to support the regime.”

He added that the US justified its invasion of Iraq by claiming that it supports human rights. “But if you want to talk about human rights, you must correct your own record first. Look at America – it has five different ways of executing people.”

Over 1,000 people had registered in advance for the People’s Assembly, with more registering on the door. Many of them were delegated from their local anti-war groups and trade unions.

As people from all walks of life and all parts of Britain got down to a day of discussion, planning and debate, there was a feeling that much had been achieved by the Stop the War movement – but that there was still unfinished business with this prime minister and his heir.

One of the first speakers was Gavin Strang, Labour MP for Edinburgh East and a former cabinet minister. He told delegates that the decision to go to war “was the biggest blunder in British foreign policy since 1945”.

Disaster

“It was the biggest disaster for Britain, for Iraq and for the world. We must not let it fall off the agenda,” he added.

Maggie and Assunpeió were attending the Assembly as representatives of Sussex Action for Peace. For Maggie the parliamentary vote on replacing Trident nuclear missiles confirmed that “parliament ignores what people want – there is no proper debate”.

Assunpeió added that the day before she had been in a local hospital. “They are closing wards and people are losing their jobs,” she said. “We need money for hospitals – not for war and missiles while people are becoming even more affected by poverty.”

Hackney Stop the War Coalition sent six delegates to the assembly. These included Bridget Curtis, a local pensioner, and Hussein, a social worker who hails originally from Turkey.

Bridget said she was at the assembly to mark the fourth anniversary of the invasion. “I was born in the middle of World War Two – I don’t want to die in World War Three,” she said.

Hussein said people of all political stripes across Hackney’s sizeable Turkish community were against the war, and were afraid that it could spread across the Middle East region.

Riaz is a bus worker from Birmingham who had been elected as a delegate to the assembly by Respect’s Springfield constituency party.

Right and wrong

He told Socialist Worker, “This is a good movement. There are socialists and anti-war people together. In my garage most people are against the war. They’re very busy with work and with their lives – but they know what’s right and wrong.

“As far as I am concerned the end is when children are killed – we can’t ignore this. You can ignore business systems, but you cannot ignore mass killing. The capitalist system is a system that does not care about life.”


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