Bradford Stop the War Coalition 7 November 2001

Public Meeting

The meeting was attended by over 100 people representing a broad range of groups and individuals within our district's diverse community.

Five weeks on, the war in Afghanistan continues. Since the last public meeting, both cluster bombs and 'daisy cutters', weapons of mass destruction have been deployed by the US government in Afghanistan. Two of our five local MPs, Marsha Singh, (Bradford West) and Ann Cryer, (Keighley) have publicly expressed their concern about the direction of the war, and called for a halt to the bombing. The first snows of winter have started to fall in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan. Both a hospital and a Red Cross food distribution depot have been bombed. The toll of civilian deaths and casualties is rising. Col. Parvez Musharaf, Prime Minister of Pakistan has called for a cessation of bombing during the Holy month of Ramadan. Both Blair and Bush have refused. Blair has made a number of visits to key Arab Leaders with the aim of 'cementing the coalition against terrorism', with mixed reception. Opposition to the bombing within the labour party is growing. These events have set the scene for the following speakers, who have focused on the humanitarian impact of the war, both in Afghanistan and the wider Muslim world, and here in the UK.

(The following notes were made by a member of the coalition during each of the speakers' speeches.)

Rae Street, CND

All in CND have a shared abhorrence of the events of September'11. But this is equal to the abhorrence of heavy bombing in Afghanistan. In order to prevent further terrorist attacks, we must look at the causes. Why is the US hated around the world? The gap between the rich and poor is getting wider. 800 million people are malnourished. 1·5 billion are without safe drinking water. The US and the UK are involved with conflicts all around the world in Turkey, Palestine and Iraq. 5000 children a year are dying in Iraq.

The US now has the largest military arsenal the world has ever known, on land, sea and in space. The US spending on arms is now around $75 billion per year. But this entire arsenal did not prevent recent events in New York. Nuclear weapons are no defence against terrorism. The bombing of Afghanistan is an attempt by the US to strengthen it's control in the area to safeguard and develop oil supplies.

In order to prevent terrorism, we should persue terrorists through the law, freeze their finances, switch resources from warfare to welfare and stop supporting horrendous regimes. We must stop supporting the military in Israel to act as State Terrorists.

Ayub Ismael, Human Relief Foundation.

(Ayub has just returned from relief camps on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.)

The image of a child saying 'what have I done' (in response to the war) is one that penetrates deep down. The assessment of the needs of people in the camps cannot help but be emotional.

The situation in the camps is worsening day by day. Food is getting into Afghanistan, but not enough. 100,000 could die this winter. The world food programme has calculated 50,000 tonnes of food is needed per week. Only 8,000 is being delivered. 1·5 million Afghans are displaced. Winter has already started. There is already 1m of snow in some of the valleys around Kabul. In 3 or 4 weeks, snow will block roads. The world food programme has estimated 7½ million people in Afghanistan will need food over winter. There is some food available in Afghanistan, but people don't have the currency to buy it.

Afghanistan has a large proportion of people disabled by land mines. The (UK) government is saying food will be available, but in Afghanistan the winter lasts five months. Temperatures drop to minus 40 in some areas. Thousands of children will freeze in the camps. There is desperation in the camps, but also hope and a belief in god. We all condemn the events of September 11; but by the same fact, innocent people are dying in Afghanistan now.

We want to give hope and to raise people's aspirations. Historically, the Northern Alliance have themselves been responsible for death and slaughter. If (the Northern Alliance) move into Khadahar, up to 7½ million people could flee for the borders. If they run in winter, they may not survive.

Chris Bambery, Socialist Workers Party.

One month on, what has the bombing campaign achieved? Daisy cutters, B52s and cluster bombs have now replaced targeted bombs. The Northern Alliance are guilty of more war crimes than the Taliban. A western imposed government will continue civil war in a country that has already known three decades of war. There is increased instability in the Arab world: in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Egypt and Kashmir. Osama Bin Laden, with his comments on Palestine is winning the propaganda war. 5000 died in New York and Washington, but 6,000 die everyday with diarrhoea from dirty drinking water.

There is clearly a racist agenda behind the war. The Italian PM, Berlusconi, states that Islam is inferior to the ½ civilised½  west. But in the dark ages, it was the Arabs who kept science and the arts going. The US has not bombed raid, even though many of those alleged to have carried out the September 11 bombings held Saudi passports; this is due to their support for the house of Saud. There has been no bombing of Bogota where there is US support for the death squads. The US will pick and chose who they bomb in the name of fighting terrorism.

We are told in the UK that those who oppose the war are appeasers. Pakistan is portrayed as having a frenzied population. In reality, (Pakistan) is a country crippled by debt and governed by corrupt generals. They know the reality of world debt and poverty. We need to talk about solutions. The demonstration of 11 October was bigger than expected by the UK government. We need to make sure the November 18 demo is bigger. People across the Middle East saw the demo on television, and were encouraged that millions of people in the west oppose the bombing.

Justice is about:

Maroof Shafi, Islamic Society of Britain.

As Muslims we thoroughly condemn the events of September 11. Evidence that the perpetrators were Muslim has come from the FBI who is now part of the war. If they are found to be Muslims they should face justice.

Our religion has been highjacked by two separate poles: by Blair and Bush, and by Bin Laden. The Koran says a believer will remain in the scope of (his) religion as long as he does not take the life of a person illegally. Islam calls on Muslims to reject all forms of extremism. Every country has it's terrorists. Blaming Islam is as crazy as blaming Christianity for loyalist attacks in Northern Ireland. The Christian world is not held responsible for the killing of 8000 Muslims in Sebreniza. Islam is being tried, judged and exectuted by our accuser. The US cannot achieve war without a visible enemy. The bombardment of a suspected country is not justified on these ground. The burden of proof lies with the accuser. If Bin Laden is guilty he must be punished, and should stand trial by any impartial authority.

The situation in Northern Ireland is only now being resolved as a result of a very long-term political process. These are the factors breeding terrorism:

Muslims in Bradford oppose all acts of terrorism. We ask for an immediate halt to the bombing. We do not believe military action is acceptable: violence begets violence. Osama Bin Laden should face a fair and just international Tribunal. The Taliban has agreed to this, but the west refused . The panel of judges should be of Muslims and non-Muslims. All those responsible for terror and oppression should be brought to justice.

Mohd. Aurangzeb, Bradford Council for Mosques

The council for Mosques represents 53 mosques and 100,000 Muslims in Bradford and surrounding areas. We want to see the perpetrators of all crimes brought to justice. This war is a campaign against the poor and innocent in Afghanistan where UN food depots have been bombed twice. There have been attacks on mosques and a hospital using B52s and carpet bombing. There have been no attempts to negotiate with the Afghani people.

Osama Bin Laden has not claimed responsibility for the events of September 11. (If responsible) surely he would have claimed the 'credit'. The Taliban are a very strict regime. If their was any evidence (of Bin Laden's guilt) they would have taken action. This operation is 'Infinite Injustice'.

We call for an immediate halt to terror, a resumption of peaceful negotiations and the development of equitable foreign policy.

Points from the floor


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