Ahed Tamimi addresses Coventry meeting “It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

Ahed Tamimi addresses Coventry meeting 

“It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

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Ahed Tamimi speaks to Coventry meeting

The following report was written by a Coventry Socialist Party who attended the meeting with Ahed Tamimi. An edited version appears in the current issue of The Socialist, the weekly Marxist newspaper of the Socialist Party.


“It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

These were the words of 17 year old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military who rose to worldwide prominence as a symbol of resistance against oppression and occupation.  Ahed spoke via Skype to a recent enthusiastic meeting of Coventry Friends of Palestine, organised around the issue of the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners.

Horrendous treatment of children

Karen, a member of the National Education Union (NEU) in Coventry and regular visitor to Palestine, and Mahmoud, a Palestinian living in Coventry and member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, explained in detail the situation facing Palestinians with regard to how the occupying Israeli military treats children.

It was explained how between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted each year according to UNICEF. Reports have stated that ill treatment of prisoners is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

Night time arrests

The whole process was described in graphic detail – 40 to 50 per cent of children are arrested between midnight and 5am, with the arrestees being blindfolded and tied. They are rarely informed of the reasons for their arrest with parents not being allowed to accompany their children when they are taken without warning by the military.

After arrest they are transferred which can take hours, often being kept at military bases in the West Bank, being denied access to food, water, toilets and other basic human rights.

Mahmoud reported how child prisoners are not informed of their rights, are denied access to legal counsel, suffer solitary confinement and are ‘encouraged’ to sign confessions written in Hebrew.

When in court it may be the first time they have had access to legal support or the first chance to see their parents since being arrested.

Long term effects

Punishments include prison terms, fines, suspended sentences, with 60 per cent transferred to prisons inside Israel – an act which is against the Geneva convention. The average fine is the equivalent of around £300, a huge sum of money for a people often denied the right to earn a living.

But it is not just the immediate effects of military detention, which include dropping out of school. There are long term psychological effects such as repressed memories, sleeping problems, bed wetting – no one let alone a child should have to suffer these things.

All of this needs to be put in to the context of the Occupation, it is not a separate issue but a direct consequence.

Ahed Tamimi – a symbol of resistance

Ahed began by saying that “The most difficult thing for a human to lose is their freedom”

She explained how she had suffered verbal and sexual harassment at the hands of the authorities in an effort to break her. Despite her formal education being interrupted by her arrest and detention, she had continued her education within prison with other Palestinian prisoners including arrested teachers, who organise regular classes for their comrades.

After a battle with Israeli authorities to be allowed out of the country, she and her family had spoken around Europe to large rallies to explain what is taking place and to help increase the solidarity movement.

Ahed went on to explain that in her view “It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

She urged the Coventry meeting to “keep up the solidarity and to put pressure on the government to end the occupation”.

The way children are treated is a direct result of the occupation and is a brutal consequence of this nightmare. As speakers pointed out, this is taking place in the context of the 1948 Nakba, with the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their land with now millions living outside historic Palestine in refugee camps.

Fight for socialism

Ahed, along with all Palestinians resisting the Occupation, are inspiration to millions around the world.

We need to build a mass movement of ordinary people here in the UK to show solidarity with the Palestinian masses – capitalist governments around the world, with the EU and United Nations, are part of the problem not the solution, only the solidarity of working class people can be relied upon.

The continuation of capitalism in the region means war, instability and oppression. We support the fight to build a revolutionary socialist movement across Israel-Palestine with our sister organisation the Socialist Struggle Movement, and the wider Middle East. Mass struggle can put an end to racism, insecurity and the nightmare of occupation. Socialism would guarantee the right to self-determination of all national groups, as part of a voluntary, socialist confederation of the Middle East.

If you are interested in discussing the ideas contained in this article, and want to find out more about the work of the Socialists in Israel-Palestine and the fight for revolutionary change across the Middle East, please fill in the form below.

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Coventry commemorates Nakba

Coventry commemorates Nakba 

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Flash mob organised by Coventry Friends of Palestine

Saturday afternoon saw  Coventry people come together to take part in a flash mob organised by Coventry Friends of Palestine, to commemorate the Nakba. The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the forced displacement and exile of the Palestinian people from their land following the creation of the state of Israel.

The event was part of week of action taking place across the UK and further afield, starting on Saturday 7th May and culminating on 15th May, the day on which the Palestinians officially commemorate.

Speakers included Andy Pettit from Stop the War Coalition, anti arms trade campaigner Paul McGowan, and Manal Timraz.

Members of Coventry Socialist Party supported this event, carrying the red banner of our international organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and holding placards in English, Arabic and Hebrew of the Socialist Struggle Movement, our sister organisation in Israel-Palestine. We also distributed our Israel Palestine Bulletin which details the work of the CWI in the region.

With speeches, brilliant music and leaflets being distributed, the event made sure that the ongoing struggle of the Palestinian people does not go unrecognised. The establishment media and political parties are silent on this issue – therefore it falls to ordinary people across the world to build a movement in solidarity with the oppressed of the Middle East.

Coventry has a proud history of solidarity with the Palestinians, with big demonstrations organised against the attacks on Gaza, and ongoing events and actions to deepen that solidarity.

With the increase in settlement building in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza by the governments of Israel and Egypt, that solidarity will become even more vital and necessary. Coventry Socialist Party looks forward to continuing the solidarity and putting forward a programme and policies that we think can end the cycle of violence in the Middle East.

We are pleased to share this document from Socialist Struggle in Israel-Palestine that looks at the current situation, and also at our online resources page on this website

If you are interested in getting in touch and finding out more, please fill in the form below

Dave Nellist on the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six

Dave Nellist on the 25th anniversary of the release of the Birmingham Six

The Birmingham Six celebrating their successful appeal

To mark the 25th anniversary – on 14 March – of the release of the Birmingham Six, Dave Nellist, former Coventry Labour MP, remembers their arrest and the campaign for their release. This article was originally carried in the Socialist Party’s newspaper, The Socialist.

On the night of Thursday, 21st November 1974, two IRA bombs exploded in central Birmingham pubs, destroying the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town, killing 21 people and injuring over 160. Many of the victims were themselves Irish.

Alongside the overwhelming sense of revulsion at the death and injury of ordinary working class people, the bombings triggered a wave of anti-Irish sentiment, particularly in the West Midlands. Petrol bombs were thrown at the Irish community centre in Digbeth, at an Irish pub in Kingstanding, and at Irish businesses and schools.

Workers walked out of the Leyland plant in Longbridge carrying placards demanding the hanging of the bombers. Support from small, fringe, allegedly Marxist groups in Britain for the right of the IRA to conduct an ‘armed struggle’ affected factory sales of genuine Marxist papers like the Militant.

Militant was in favour of workers’ unity in Northern Ireland, a struggle for a socialist Ireland with full rights for all minorities, and a socialist federation on an equal and voluntary basis of Ireland with England, Scotland and Wales.

Militant resolutely opposed the IRA’s campaign of individual terrorism which further divided working class people.

Six men from Birmingham who, before the bombs had exploded, had been travelling to Belfast, were arrested and beaten by West Midlands police during three days of lengthy periods of interrogation, which also involved food and sleep deprivation. Four of the men ‘confessed’. 14 prison officers charged with assault arising from the case were later all acquitted.

Scientific tests showed that statements the Six had made during their questioning had been altered at a later date. Forensic evidence ‘proving’ that two of the six had been handling explosives was challenged by an expert for the defence (the former Chief Inspector of Explosives for the Home Office) and later discredited.

16 years in jail

The Birmingham Six: Paddy Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker, served 16 years in high security jails for that false accusation and wrong conviction.

Much of the investigative work in the 1980s which demolished the forensic evidence and alleged confessions was done for Granada TVs ‘World in Action’ by Chris Mullin (later to become a Labour government minister) and published in his book ‘Error of Judgement’.

At the Court of Appeal in 1991 new evidence was heard of police fabrication and suppression of evidence which, together with the discrediting of the forced confessions and the tainted forensic evidence, was so strong that the prosecution service decided not to oppose the appeal. Three police officers, including a superintendent, were later charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, but were never actually prosecuted.

The release of the Birmingham Six on 14 March 1991 was followed by a number of others who had been convicted of terrorist offences in the 1970s including the Guildford Four, and Judith Ward who had served 19 years of a 30-year sentence for the M62 coach bombing. The cases were joined by other miscarriages, including in the next six years 27 people having convictions quashed or charges dropped after evidence from West Midlands detectives was discredited.

Several of the Birmingham Six have continued campaigning, not only on their own behalf, but also for others.

Paddy Hill, less than five months after his release in 1991, accompanied me to Israel/Palestine as part of a week-long international delegation to attend the appeal of Mahmoud Masarwa, a Palestinian trade unionist wrongly convicted by Israeli courts of terrorism. A year later Paddy Hill was the main speaker at my election rally in the 1992 general election.

CWI-organised delagation to Israel-Palestine in August 1991. Dave Nellist on the left, Paddy Hill 2nd from right, Ann Whelan (Bridgewater 3 campaign) in the centre

More recently Paddy has campaigned alongside ‘Justice4the21’ – the group set up by family and relatives of those who died in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings – and supported their petition for a new inquiry.

The Birmingham Six were political scapegoats. They were beaten and tortured until four of them ‘confessed’. For 16 ½ years millions of pounds of public money was used to sustain those wrongful convictions, and no one from the police or legal system was ever successfully prosecuted for the fraud and perjury that convicted them.

Wider accountability of the police and democratic control over them have yet to be achieved, as developing revelations about undercover policing and many other issues still show.

7 years ago today – Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialists join 5,000 strong protest against attacks on the people of Gaza

7 years ago today – Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialists join 5,000 strong protest against attacks on the people of Gaza

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Mass protest in Birmingham

17th January in 2009 saw around 5,000 people protest in Birmingham against a war that claimed many lives.

An editorial statement from The Socialist newspaper explained

`One thousand two hundred and fifty confirmed dead, with the numbers still rising as bodies are dug out of the rubble. Around one third of the dead are children. More than 4,000 homes destroyed and over 17,000 damaged, as well as 25 schools and hospitals lying in ruins. Half a million people without water. More than 5,000 injured, many having lost limbs or suffering from severe burns as a result of phosphorus bombs. This is what the Israeli government calls ‘achieving its aims’.

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Dave Nellist addresses the protest. Salma Yaqoob chaired the rally

Members of Coventry Socialist Party joined the huge protest in Birmingham, with Dave Nellist addressing the rally in Victoria Square. Dave received huge cheers from the crowd calling for an end to the siege of Gaza, the breaking of the blockade and an end to the Israeli occupation.

7 years on and the oppression of the Palestinians continues with capitalism offering no prospect of peace and security for ordinary people across the Middle East.

Recent escalations show that the current system offers no way forward in the Middle East for the poor and oppressed, and why we need to fight for socialism.

For recent analysis of the current situation from the members of Socialist Struggle in Israel-Palestine please click here

To read our resources section on the situation click here

If you would like to discuss the work of Socialists in the Middle East, or would like to be emailed a recent bulletin produced by Coventry Socialist Party detailing the work of Socialist Struggle and the programme they are putting forward,  send your details to coventrysocialistparty@gmail.com or here