East Lancashire SWP members, friends and fellow campaigners were shocked and saddened by the sudden death, after a stroke, of Ayeshah Jones on New Year’s Day.
It is impossible to say how much Ayeshah meant to her comrades and how deeply her loss is felt. But if we can sum up her life in a few words, we would say that Ayesha led a courageous and committed life and stayed true to her beliefs, values, family and friends to the end.
As a young woman Ayeshah trained as a nurse and, remarkably for a white working class woman of her generation, converted to Islam. She married into a Pakistani family, a brave course to take in life in a small Lancashire town in the 1970s. She remained a devout Muslim throughout her life, widely respected in the local community.
The first time we encountered her politically was in 1994 at a mosque-organised meeting about Malcolm X. held in Nelson Library. The gist of her speech was that the young Muslim women present should take their religion seriously and have their voices heard in the wider political world.
She always found time to give advice and support to the young Asian women who turned to her as friend and confidante.
This seriousness of purpose took her further down the political road when she threw herself and her family into the Stop the War campaign. They became mainstays of the movement in Burnley and Pendle from 2001 onwards. Likewise they were stalwarts of Unite Against Fascism and the campaign against the BNP and EDL.
An abiding memory of those years is of Ayeshah pushing a buggy on demonstrations come rain or shine, with her own children and various foster children. Fostering disadvantaged young children was Ayeshah’s great calling in life.
Many youngsters have had a better start in life from her loving strength and generosity. In these years Ayeshah came to socialism too, first through supporting Michael Lavalette’s election campaign in Preston and then joining the SWP.
She was a knowledgeable woman who had travelled widely, to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. She was quick to volunteer to join the visit to Palestine as part of the Pendle for Palestine Twinning Group. She made a huge contribution to the cause of a free Palestine. In recent years she thought nothing of turning her whole house over for the use of Palestinian visitors to Lancashire. She will be mourned deeply in the West Bank town of Beit Led.
In the party we will remember her for her good humour, kindness and commitment. She always took Socialist Worker seriously and she loved the Marxism event. You can see her photo in last year’s brochure in the front row at the opening rally. She is the woman in the red head scarf. What is not so obvious is that she is accompanied by two daughters, two grand-daughters and two foster children. She’d managed to donate a consignment of toys to the creche. Marxism was the family holiday that year.
In the last few months Ayeshah had organised the move to a new family home with the repairs and redecoration that go with that. She had still found time to march in support of hospital workers, chair a meeting on Palestine and bring the whole family to our Christmas Love Music Hate Racism event.
It is hard to believe that Ayeshah will never be among us again but she will be remembered for a very long time as a fighter and friend. As Janet Alder, the injustice campaigner, said when we went to tell her the news
‘What a good woman.’
Our condolences go to her daughters, Zubdydah, Zeynab, Khadeija, Raheelah, Robina and her son Abdus Salaam and to the rest of her huge extended family.
Karol Modzelewski, 1937-2019,
Anwar Ditta, a heroic anti-racist campaigner, died last week.