Posts Tagged ‘MEK’

A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination
Three of the protests I photographed four years ago on Saturday 20th January 2018.

US Embassy first protest – No to Trump’s racism

The US decision to move their embassy out of Grosvenor Square in central London to the rather more obscure area of Nine Elms was at least in part thought to be their hope that it would attract fewer protests and that these would be given less media coverage.

So I was very pleased to photograph what was I think the first protest at the new site, on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. It was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’.

His use of this word provoked offence and outrage around the world, and was a new and more offensive aspect of the racist attacks on black communities, migrants, refugees and the Muslim community.

Through Trump’s campaign and first year of office he has kept up his racist demands for a wall to be built along the Mexican border to keep out migrants (and demanding that Mexico pay for it.) Stand Up to Racism called for a wave of protests across the country on the anniversary to ‘knock down the racist wall’. They built a wall in front of the new US embassy which opened for business earlier in the week and at the end of the protest they knocked this wall down.

Trump had earlier announced that he had cancelled his visit planned for the following month to open the embassy – which would have attracted massive protests. And as I commented, ” Few doubt that it was this that caused him to cancel his visit, though Trump tweeted that it was a lousy building in the wrong place – and with his usual accuracy blamed Obama for a decision that had been taken by Bush.”

Architecturally I think Trump perhaps had a point. Basically the building is a cube with a few plastic bits hanging on three sides, perhaps its main redeeming feature its moat, though being only along one side this is not particularly functional. Though the mediocrity of the luxury flats around it which will doubtless largely be overseas investments rather than homes does make it stand out. The Grosvenor Square building by leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen was London’s first purpose-built embassy when opened in 1960 and attracted almost universal criticism when built, but was considerably worsened by the 2008 security additions, now being removed as it is turned into a luxury hotel.

Break UK silence over Iran uprising

The anti-government protests which took place in Iran in December 2017 were the biggest since the crushing of the 2009 Green Movement by security forces. Protesters opposite Downing St called on Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Unfortunately Britain has little or no influence on the Iranian government and has for years slavishly followed the US lead in relations with the country. Our relations with the country since oil was first discovered (and exploited by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 51% owned by the British Government which much later became BP) have often been doubtful both before and after the 1979 revolution, which arguably came about largely as a consequence of US/UK policies.

The protest was organised and largely attended by members of the PMOI/MEK, an organisation which began in 1965 in opposition to the US-supported Shah and formed an armed militia. After the revolution it refused to take part in the constitutional referendum and in 1981 it was banned. The MEK sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) and many MEK members were arrested, tortured and executed in the 1980s culminating in mass executions in 1988, when around 30,000 people were killed. MEK camps were bombed by the US during the invasion of Iraq and they were forced to surrender and disarmed, confined to a camp in Iraq. It was MEK provided information – some deliberately false – about the Iranian nuclear weapons programme – apparently given to them by Israel – that led to sanctions against Iran.

Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence

The Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB organised a march from Parliament Square to the Indian High Commission which was supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations, the South Asian Solidarity Group and others following attacks in India on the Dalit community by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination there.

Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of a historic victory by Dalit soldiers fighting for the East India Company in the Battle of Koregaon on January 1st 2018. The victory has been celebrated since 1927 when celebrations at the memorial pillar erected by the British were inaugurated by Dr Ambedkar, the principle architect of the Indian Constitution, which made caste discrimination illegal in India. This year’s celebration was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists with many injured and one boy killed and the unrest and attacks spread to Mumbai.

Caste-based attacks on Dalits have increased greatly since the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP party under Narendra Modi, whose central vision along with the linked violent Hindu Nationalist RSS movement is for Dalits to remain at the bottom of Indian society. Lobbying mainly by wealthy Hindus in the UK led the UK government to abandon a 2013 promise to include caste as an aspect of race under the Equality Act 2010.

I also photographed a protest similar to that described in yesterday’s post about 19th January 2019 by Bolivians against Evo Morales being allowed to run for a fourth term as President.

More on all these in My London Diary:
US Embassy – No to Trump’s racism
Break UK silence over Iran uprising
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy


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