Socialist Worker

When can they come home?

Issue No. 1818

A High Court judge ruled last week that home secretary David Blunkett's decision to deport the Ahmadi family was 'unlawful'. Farid and Feriba Ahmadi and their two young children fled from the horror of Afghanistan. Then they faced a police raid on the mosque where they were seeking sanctuary.

This outraged many of us in this area. As if that wasn't bad enough, Blunkett deported the family last month, hiring a £30,000 plane to send them to Germany. It was a disgraceful attempt to prove how tough the government is on asylum seekers.

The right wing rag the Daily Mail, the paper New Labour loves, has been running a vicious hate campaign against the Ahmadi family. The paper claimed the family were lying about what happened to them in Afghanistan. Now it has been shown in a court of law that it is the government which has lied and broken the law.

Justice Scott Baker said last week, 'As a result of an unlawful act, this family were removed from this country when they should not have been.' He said the family should have been allowed to remain while they challenged the deportation and that Blunkett was wrong to say the family had 'no arguable case'. But unfortunately the next day the judge chose not to return the family to Britain for their appeal.

This will make it very difficult for the family to explain why their conditions are so bad in Germany, and put them at a great disadvantage in the appeal. Feriba's fragile physical and mental health has already deteriorated since the family were sent to Germany. But the Home Office had resorted in court to claiming that it cared about the family's welfare so much that it would be wrong to bring them back as they would be put in a detention centre in Britain.

This makes us determined to continue to fight for justice for the Ahmadis, and against the government's unlawful and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.
Jim Warner, Stourbridge


Bailout for nuclear energy, but miners were left to rot

The government's overnight bailout of British Energy is in marked contrast to the treatment handed out to the miners and mining communities. It is almost exactly ten years since John Major's Tory government announced wholesale pit closures as a prelude to privatising the pits.

It was a final punishment to the mining communities for their 1984-5 strike. The miners were told that if they didn't make a profit they had no right to work. The British working class was outraged, but the Labour and trade union leaders refused to galvanise a fightback and the miners were abandoned.

The contrast with British Energy could not be starker. It was bailed out instantly, but not before we had once again seen the truth of nuclear energy. For decades miners and later renewable energy were starved of investment, as governments claimed nuclear energy was cheap, clean and efficient.

Once again it has been shown to be expensive, as well as dangerous. The government bailed out the nuclear industry because it still lies at the heart of Britain's nuclear weapons programme. It says it won't bail out the shareholders. It said that about Railtrack but ended up paying back billions to the greedy parasites who took profits as the disasters piled up.
Mike Simons, East London


US poured chemical weapons on Vietnam

GEORGE BUSH talks about the threat of chemical warfare from Iraq. But the grim record of Agent Orange is a stark reminder of the US's own legacy of chemical warfare. Agent Orange was the codename for a chemical weapon used by the US military in the Vietnam War. Some 20 million gallons were used to destroy the forest cover of Vietnamese fighters.

Agent Orange contained dioxins, which are some of the most deadly poisons known. The level of usage in military operations was 20 to 40 times greater than for peacetime agricultural use. Agent Orange was manufactured by a number of chemical companies. They include Monsanto, its main supplier, and Dow, which also made napalm, another killer chemical weapon.

The dioxins have entered the food chain in Vietnam and, 27 years after the war ended, the Vietnamese people are still suffering from its destructive effects. Many have died, and babies are still being born with severe mental and physical disabilities. In the US the children and grandchildren of US servicemen have been born genetically damaged by Agent Orange.
Huw Pudner, Neath


'There were dead bodies everywhere'

I am a survivor of a massacre which took place 20 years ago. Between 16 and 18 September 1982 Israeli troops allowed the Christian fascist Phalange to slaughter up to 2,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon.

Israeli troops surrounded the camps and didn't give anyone permission to leave. I was ten years old and furious to see the Israeli soldiers. People were terrified. On 16 September the Phalange started to kill Palestinians.

That night a woman rushed to my home screaming that they had killed her sons in law. No one believed her even though she had blood on her dress. People couldn't accept that the killing was happening. The next day we went to the mosque of Shatilla for protection. The Phalangists caught us and forced us to move into the main street of Sabra and Shatilla.

There were lots of Israeli soldiers there swearing and shouting at us in Hebrew. I saw lots of dead bodies and injured people. My disabled neighbour couldn't walk, so they shot him. My friend's father was shot on the corner of the street. We managed to escape down one of the small alleyways. I saw my cousin without clothing, dead in an alleyway. Her father was also dead. My father and two brothers were arrested. But we were luckier than other people who still don't know what happened to their families.

There has been no change in 20 years. There are the same oppressors and the same oppressed. Ariel Sharon is still killing Palestinians. Every day Sabra and Shatilla are back again.
Fatima Helouu, Glasgow


Thirst for ideas in Argentina

A smaller version of the World Social Forum was held in Buenos Aires in Argentina last month. Although people in Argentina are suffering greatly due to the near-collapse of the economy - with a huge unemployment rate, appalling poverty and increasing malnutrition - there is also huge optimism and an appetite for debate.

Some 10,000 to 15,000 people took part in the forum. Speakers at the centrally organised rallies included Evo Morales (the Bolivian peasant leader who recently came close to being elected president), Christophe Aguitton of ATTAC, and the mayor of Porto Alegre.

But the most exciting presentations were those by rank and file activists. These included the Posadas Hospital staff, who had won important victories, members of neighbourhood assemblies, environmentalists, workers who are occupying factories, women's movements.

A recurring theme was how to keep the large numbers of unemployed organised, with high morale and a collective consciousness. Although most of the organised left parties did not take part, most of the 'piqueteros' groupings of unemployed workers did, debating a strategy for the way forward.

Other themes which ran through the forum included 'How to organise to fight the Free Trade Area of the Americas' and 'Is the problem neo-liberalism or capitalism?'.
Annie Nehmad, East London


Class chaos

PUPILS AND staff at Counthill school in Oldham faced more than the usual chaos at the start of term. As well as the Criminal Records Bureau checks and unfinished building work, we arrived back to find that the deputy responsible for the timetable had not written one!

Teachers who have taught for 28 years said they had never seen a situation like it. We held a joint union meeting of 55 staff, including a number of Unison members, and voted to refuse to teach if the temporary timetable continued.

The head had to shut the school on Monday of last week. Many staff feel this situation is typical of a system which puts the school image before the needs of the pupils.
Mac Andrassy, Oldham NUT president (personal capacity)


Most exciting union meeting I've been to

MY FIRST time at the TUC I expected boredom - any arguments sorted out or carved up behind closed doors. Instead I had the privilege of being at the most inspiring debates I've ever seen at an official trade union meeting.

One after another the new breed of militant union leaders laid into the hypocrisy of Bush's drive to war and lashed Tony Blair for following him. They electrified the whole conference.

I was part of the Unison delegation, united (an unusual event in itself!) on the edge of our seats, and angry when the chair called a card vote which overturned the vote against the war. The congress showed how deep the anger against war is and how great the mistrust of Blair is among trade unionists.

Now we also have an organised group of left union leaders who can give expression and fan the flames of that anger, whether by organising against the war or by strike action over pay and privatisation.

The SWP can act as a red thread that gives ideas and backbone to that movement. It is urgent that we mobilise as many trade unionists to follow the call to demonstrate on 28 September, and that we unite the public sector revolt over pay with the movement against the war.
Candy Udwin, London Unison delegate to TUC


Postal Points

MARTIN AMIS'S new book, Koba the Dread, reveals his deep lack of knowledge of Trotskyism. He seems proud not to have read the classic three-volume biography of Leon Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher. Perhaps he should henceforth be known as Martin Ignor-Amis?
Dave Taylor, Hampshire


If you blinked you would have missed any reference to the state pension at the TUC. But you might have caught the proposal from some general secretaries to compel some employers to contribute to private pension schemes. Why not simply increase national insurance contributions for all employers so that state pensions can be boosted for all workers?
Hugh Lowe, West London


READ your paper for the first time last week. It's good to get the other side of the news. It makes me so mad that we often get propaganda and not news from the television and daily papers. I found it amazing that despite this some 71 percent of people oppose a war against Iraq.

Could you include an article about the role of the media and its links to big businesses? Could you also include how we can fight our own propaganda campaign?
Georgia Potts, Leicester


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Article information

Letters
Sat 21 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1818
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