Saturday 18 August 2018

This Silencing Has Already Begun

But not here, it hasn’t:

As migrant and BAME groups in Britain, we reaffirm our fundamental right to the freedom of expression, and publicly to express our anxieties about the suppression of information on the history and lived experience of our communities. 

Many of us arrived in the UK as migrants and as refugees, seeking safety from war and repression, and the effects of racism, persecution and colonialism both past and present. 

As a result, we know their oppressive impact on our communities, and can identify where many of the current experiences of injustices we face in Britain today are also based on racism and colonialism. 

These problems are having a destructive impact on public discussions about race and immigration. It is therefore our responsibility – and also our right- to relay our direct experiences of human rights abuses suffered here and abroad, as well as their structural and historical causes, to address them. 

This democratic obligation is recognised in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, to “receive and impart information”, and provides the basis for a democracy to function. 

As the Institute for Race Relations recently confirmed, our communities: “have a right to be heard, to make…information public, while others have the right to hear them, and the arguments based on these facts”. 

We are deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948, when the majority of its people were forcibly expelled. 

These facts are well established and accessible, are part of the British historical record, as well as the direct experience of the Palestinian people themselves. 

The Palestinian community in the UK has raised the disturbing absence of key information about these past and current injustices, and highlighted the racism it exposes then and now. 

Public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines, and therefore withholds vital knowledge from the public. 

This silencing has already begun. 

Today we can freely describe the racist policies experienced in the era of British and European colonialism in our countries of origin (indeed it is taught in British schools), but the colonial history of the Palestinians is continually erased. 

This is a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public: we must all hear the full story of the Palestinians in order to make sense of the current discussions about racism and Israel. 

We also know of the efforts by organisations – including UK-based fundamentalist groups aligned with the far-right in the US – to deny Palestinians’ basic humanity by suppressing their entire history and current plight. 

At the same time, hard-line conservative groups in the US, such as the Middle East Forum, are providing funding and support to anti-Muslim extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), deliberately increasing hatred, fear, and confusion. 

These coordinated efforts by right-wing extremists are being actively encouraged by President Trump’s racism and fear-mongering, which is now aimed at dismantling UNRWA, the UN agency that protects Palestinian refugees. 

Over this past year, several terrible events have demonstrated the dangers of silencing migrant and BAME communities. 

The fatal fire at Grenfell Tower and the shameful Windrush scandal have shown the active legacies of British colonialism, where racism forms an integral part of British policies, and renders our communities invisible. 

This denies our dignity and humanity, and our right to fair treatment under the rule of law: the bedrock of British society. 

We urgently remind politicians and public bodies of their responsibilities to uphold the principles of the Human Rights Act for every British citizen and resident in the UK equally, especially the direct victims of colonialism, racism, and discrimination. 

As migrant and BAME communities we stand as one, united against all attempts to suppress our voices and our calls for justice, freedom and equality.

List of Signatories:

1. African Rainbow Family 2. The Arab Labour Group 3. The Arab Refugee Support Group (ARSG) 4. The Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK 5. Baraka Youth Association (Somali) 6. Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC) 7. Black Lives Matter UK 

8. Black Women’s Forum UK 9. The British Arab Association 10. British Muslim Initiative (BMI) 11. The British Palestinian Communications Centre 12. The British Palestinian Policy Council 13. The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) 14. Communities Inc, Nottingham 

15. Community Integration Project, London 16. Congo Great Lakes Initiative 17. The Cordoba Foundation 18. Daikon 19. Dar Assalam – Iraqi Association in Britain 20. Decolonising Our Minds 21. Deport, Deprive and Extradite Project 

22. Eritrean Elders Welfare Association in UK (EEWA-UK) 23. Eritrean Parents and Children’s Association 24. Europal Forum 25. Facilitate Global 26. The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) 27. Grenfell Speaks 28. Ikram United Kingdom and Eire 

29. Indian Matters UK 30. Indian Workers Association 31. Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, the United Private Hire Drivers Branch 32. Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, the University of London Branch 33. Iraqi Transnational Collective 34. Iraqi Women’s Organisation: Tadhamun 35. Jawaab 

36. Justice for Grenfell 37. Kashmiris for Labour 38. Kurdish Student’s Union 39. Kurdish Assembly in the UK 40. Lebanese Association of Britain 41. Leeds Unity Centre 42. Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants 

43. London Latinx 44. London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium 45. Media Diversified 46. Meridian Women’s Association 47. The Meena Centre, Birmingham 48. Migrant Media 49. Migrant Rights Network (MRN) 

50. Migrant Solidarity Manchester 51. Migrants Organise 52. Min Quan – Chinatown People Rights Group 53. Minaret Community Centre 54. Momentum Black Caucus 55. The Monitoring Group (TMG) 56. Movement for Justice

57. Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland 58. Muslimahs Resist 59. Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) 60. Muslim Worker’s Association 61. Network of Eritrean Women 62. Nijjor Manush (Bengali and Bangladeshi Campaigning Group) 63. North West Peoples’ Voice 

64. Olive – Palestinian Youth Group 65. Oxford Syria Solidarity Campaign 66. Pakistani Community Centre Oldham 67. The Palestine Return Centre (PRC) 68. The Palestinian Forum in the UK 69. Pal Med UK 70. PCS Union National Black Members Committee

71. Peace in Kurdistan Campaign 72. Racial Justice Network 73. Rethink Rebuild Society (Syrian) 74. Right 2 Work UK 75. Roj Kurdish Women’s Assembly 76. Sante Refugee Project 77. The Society of Black Lawyers 

78. South People’s Project (SOPPRO) 79. Tunisian Association in Britain 80. United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) 81. Voices for Creative Non Violence UK 82. West London Moroccan Association – Widadia 83. Women’s Alliance for Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria 84. Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO)

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