Stop the War Scotland
Glasgow University, Sat 10 Feb
Rival MPs, senior citizens, human rights activists, students, artists, prisoners, religious leaders, journalists, aid workers, members of the Armed Forces and ordinary single mothers from Glasgow. The Stop the War Coalition has forged strange alliances between unlikely individuals and groups of people up and down the country, with more voice and presence than any other campaigned-upon issue in recent memory.
This is possibly because the range of concerns that can now be brought under the campaign’s umbrella impact on so many different segments of the population. ‘We certainly do have a diverse range of speakers,’ says Coalition member Pat Smith about the annual conference, which takes place in Glasgow this fortnight. At the time of going to press, 27 speakers have been confirmed, including human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, journalist and former Taliban hostage Yvonne Ridley and J Hutto, a serving US Marine who is making a flying visit from the US on his day off. Inevitably, certain voices aligned with the coalition have attracted more public attention than others. Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004 and whose battle to bring the soldiers home from Iraq and for an inquiry into the circumstances of invasion was captured in the Camcorder Guerillas documentary Dear Mrs Blair (pictured), will be speaking on behalf of the organisation Military Families Against the War. Former aid worker Moazzam Begg, one of the four British citizens held in Guantanamo Bay without charge, has been the subject of films and articles on both sides of the Atlantic and is now publishing a book based on his experiences. They’ve both got very different agendas, but agree on the fact that there’s a need for large-scale events of this kind to maintain discussion and ensure that people have access to information. ‘What we want to let people know is what conditions are like out there for the boys, because I don’t think people realise,’ says Gentle. ‘There’s a lot happening in Iraq that doesn’t make the papers, that people just don’t hear about, and that’s why it’s so important to keep on talking about it until they do.’
‘I want to talk about the effects that the war on terror has had on Muslim communities both here and abroad,’ says Begg. ‘So much has changed in this country as a direct result of foreign policy, and there have been profound repercussions in all communities.’
See www.stopwar.org.uk for full lists of speakers.