the day the EDL didn’t show up

Richard Price reports on last month’s English Defence League and Islamist provocations in Tower Hamlets and the left’s response. See here for an interview with a Bengali secular activist on the same theme.

In mid-May an event was announced for June 20th at the Troxy Ballroom in Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, organised by the UK-IC (UK –Islamic Conference) (1) . The list of speakers was impressive and global including the likes of the Malaysian Sheikh Hussein Lee. And bigots to a man: and, of course, they are all men.  All of them having been quoted as spouting filth supporting violence and rape against women in marriage, killing gays and violent anti-Jewish racism (2).

Sadly, instead of an immediate reaction of east London progressives to oppose this meeting, the EDL (English Defence League) (3) jumped up and said they would march against the meeting. The EDL are an odd crew, a few right wing libertarians ideologically against Islamic conservatism, a few neo-Nazis trying to ferment race riots, but what appears to be a majority who are ‘British loyalists’ i.e. working class conservatives, who support the notion of a ‘Great Britain’ and will fight for that, who, while ignoring the massive loss of power neo-liberalism has wrought on us, are panicked by the almost irrelevant threat of Islamism in the UK.  On the one hand it says it is simply against Islamism and the threat to British liberalism brought by that but its attacks on Islamism end up looking pretty much like scapegoating all Muslims, deeply dangerous in a period when we need to be united against the state as it attacks. Continue reading “the day the EDL didn’t show up”

the EDL and the islamist far-right

Last month the English Defence League announced plans to march in Tower Hamlets, East London, in protest at an Islamist conference planned for June 20th at the Troxy centre. The conference was planned by groups tied to Islamic Forum Europe, among the major Islamist groups in the area.

Anti-racists planned to demonstrate against the EDL: but the SWP-run Unite Against Fascism and its front group United East End insisted this should be on the basis of uncritical support for — and collaboration with — the conference organisers. This meant whitewashing the worst religious fundamentalists and supporting their right to represent the Bengali community in the borough.

While the conference was ultimately cancelled by the Troxy centre, and the EDL abandoned their march, UAF held their demo regardless. Here local Bengali secular activist Ansar Ahmed Ullah reflects on the episode. Continue reading “the EDL and the islamist far-right”

what is ‘militancy’?

by Nathan Coombs

The word militancy’s usage generally refers to non-state military groups pursuing an ideological programme. In the way in which the term is deployed in the media, it is thus used as an ambiguous half way house between more legitimate terms such as, say, activist group, and the more loaded term extremists, or terrorists. Continue reading “what is ‘militancy’?”

a history of women in afghanistan

by Malalai Joya
an extract from Raising My Voice

Western journalists rarely challenge the fables that are spun for them. Because of the laziness and complicity within the mainstream media, the United States and its allies have been able to perpetuate the myth that Afghanistan has always been an ungovernable state, and that the oppression of women is embedded in Afghan culture. The brutality of the Taliban, the myth goes, was only an extreme expression of an old problem. And so only foreign occupation can save Afghanistan from itself. Continue reading “a history of women in afghanistan”

attacks on mashhad university students

Report on repression of protests in Iran: see Hands Off the People of Iran for more info

On December 30th two students were critically wounded and scores injured by knife wielding members of Ansar-e Hezbollah and Basij militia. Up to 500 thugs were brought in to attack students at Mashhad University after they staged anti-regime protests during Ashura. One of the students’ professors was also attacked and sustained knife wounds, whilst a young female student was badly injured after being struck repeatedly over the head with a piece of wood. Students at the university were holding silent mourning ceremonies for the Ashura where they opposed the repression of popular protests. The police aided the Basij and Hezbollah by blocking the roads leading up to the University and attacking crowds of students with tear gas and batons. Around 210 students and youth were arrested by the state-repressive forces throughout the recent Ashura protests. Below is the video of the brutal attack by Basij and Hezbollah on students:

The day after over 4000 students and professors staged protests against the attacks and arrests at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and Azad University of Mashhad but were laid siege by security forces and militia. Students, professors and parents have tried to find out information on the arrested and injured. Continue reading “attacks on mashhad university students”

leftist opposition gains ground in algeria poll

by Solomon Anker

April 9th saw the Presidential Election in Algeria. The final result was an expected easy victory (90%) for the current President Boutiflika, in a country where he and his strong links to the military dominate the country’s political elites. Calling Boutiflika a dictator would be a bit harsh: however calling Algeria’s elections fully free would also not be totally true, but for the left-wing the results and the state of Algerian politics is quite interesting.

The election came 7 years after the end of the Algerian civil war which saw over 100,000 killed in a brutal conflict between government forces and Islamist militias. For the British media, Algeria is just another Muslim or African country in crisis and few people take any interest except for the marginal Western interests such as terrorist attacks linked to Al Qaeda or issues of immigration.

Continue reading “leftist opposition gains ground in algeria poll”

iranian regime goes on the offensive against activists

On Tuesday 24th hundreds of Iranian students at the Polytechnic University (Amirkabir) rallied for the second day in a row in protest at the burial on the campus of the remains of five members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) left from the 1980-88 war with Iraq. At the demonstration students chanted anti-government slogans as they were attacked by the plain-clothes agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and members of the paramilitary Bassij students group dispatched from other Tehran school to help quell the protests, with slogans such as “Death to the dictator” and “We don’t want a fascist regime”.


Twenty-five students were arrested and transferred in police vans to unknown locations despite attempts by their classmates to get them released. This followed ten arrests of student activists in the last two weeks at the orders of the regime’s Ministry of Information. Four of the ten students, all of whom have been denied contact with lawyers or their families, are rumoured to be subject to psychological and physical torture. As this website reports in grim detail, these arrests are just the tip of the iceberg: already in 2009 many dozens of people have been hanged, stoned, lashed or jailed for standing up for the rights of workers, students and national minorities.

But at the same time as repression there are signs of hope, for example the powerful independent workers’ union which arose from last year’s 5000-strong strike at Haft Tapeh sugar and whose leading members are today being persecuted by the regime’s courts. For more information on how we can build solidarity with such movements, see the Hands Off the People of Iran site at

video of iranian student activist behrouz karimizadeh

Below is a video of the Iranian student activist Behrouz Karimizadeh – a leading member of Freedom and Equality who spent several months in prison in winter 2007-spring 2008 – speaking at the Hands Off the People of Iran conference on December 13th. Behrouz discusses (via an interpreter) the challenges the student movement faces in building its forces and building its links with the workers’ movement in the face of repression and imperialist threats, as well as outlining the history of the movement. Videos of other talks are available on the HOPI website.

some photos from hands off the people of iran conference

Below are a few photos taken at the Hands Off the People of Iran conference on Saturday 13th December. Much of the event was filmed: a video of John McDonnell speaking about sanctions is featured here, while Yassamine Mather on the Iranian trade unions is here.

Our group now has a Flickr page with photos from meetings, demonstrations and so on, which can be found here.

two hands off the people of iran meetings

Barack Obama has made it clear that he “will do anything” to stop Iran from developing the capacility to produce nuclear weapons. The global economic crisis has made world imperialism more belligerent. How do we fight the danger of another disastrous war in the Middle East?
7pm, Wednesday November 26. King’s College London. Strand Campus, The Strand (Temple tube)

Revolutionary Struggle in Iran
with Torab Saleth (Workers Left Unity Iran)
7:30pm, Tuesday 2nd December, University of Manchester Students’ Union – Meeting Room 1

Click here for details of HOPI conference, taking place in London on December 13th.

press conference with behrooz karimizadeh and kaveh abbasian

On Monday 29th September there was a press conference at the University of London Union with Iranian activists Behrooz Karimizadeh and Kaveh Abbasian. The pair were among the founding members of Freedom and Equality Seeking Students, an organisation which is opposed to war and sanctions as well as the Islamist régime and which last autumn played a central role in student protests against President Ahmedinejad. Following these demonstrations the régime cracked down on the student movement, arresting dozens of activists – Behrooz Karimizadeh was subjected to torture. Ted Crawford has kindly given us permission to reproduce his report on Monday’s press conference: Continue reading “press conference with behrooz karimizadeh and kaveh abbasian”