Thursday, April 22, 2010

Solidarity with captive film maker

WHATEVER the result of next month's UK general election, the struggle for our rights and justice will go on, in Britain and abroad. My union has just sent me a whole brochure on why we should vote Labour, with not a word of criticism of the government that presides over bonuses for bankers and sackings for workers, and promises more cuts in public services even if the Tories would be worse.

In a two page interview with Gordon Brown, it manages not to mention the cost of renewing the Trident nuclear missile system, or British military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. I knew that Labour's Charlie Whelan had become political director of Unite, the union, and Unite's Jack Dromey (husband of Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman) is Labour's candidate for the fairly safe Birmingham Erdington seat.

But I had not realised we had taken another advisor, Basil Fawlty (whatever you do don't mention the war!)

Meanwhile the warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv are drumming up support for another war, this time with Iran. Using President Ahmadinejad's supposed nuclear plans, America threatens a first strike. Whichever of Britain's main parties wins on May 6, we can expect to be told about WMDs and our rulers supposed concern for the rights of the Iranian people - the very people hardest hit by imperialist sanctions and war. Even as nextdoor to Iran, the jails are filling again with political prisoners and the hospitals with victims of depleted uranium, in 'liberated' Iraq.

Still, it has worked out well for the oil companies, and better still for Anthony Blair.

There is only one honourable position for socialists and anyone who believes in human, including union, rights to take, and that is to say 'No to imperialist sanctions and war' and 'Down with the repressive Islamicist regime!"

This is the position of Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI).

And now HOPI has scored a blinder, or is about to, next month.

Internationally-known Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi was arrested on March 1 and has been held without any charges. He has twice been offered bail, but has refused in solidarity with all those incarcerated for their participation in the mass demonstrations against the regime that have shaken Iran since June 2009.

HOPI has obtained permission to screen Jafar Panahi's most popular film in the West – ‘Offside’ – the film about a group of young Iranian women who try to get in to watch a world-cup qualifying football match in Tehran.

HOPI says it sees this as " an important opportunity to raise the profile of Panahi and step up the pressure on the regime in Tehran. We believe that international solidarity of this sort – not the threat of military strikes or sanctions – is the way to deliver effective aid to the struggle of ordinary people in Iran for freedom and social change".

To add icing and marzipan to the cake, Iranian-born comedienne Shappi Khorsandi, whose family had to flee their country pursued by death threats to her dad, is taking time between a busy working schedule and being a working mum, to appear before the film's showing in London on May 12. (Watch out for a Manchester showing later). Shappi was on Graham Norton's show the other night and I was glad to see her book 'A Beginner's Guide to Acting English' get a plug. It's good reading and leaves no doubt that light as the laughter she brings, her human concerns are genuine and intelligent, informed as they are by personal experience.

Also appearing is HOPI supporter and left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell - and here's hoping he is back with a good majority next month, despite the New Labour government's treachery - which he has after all consistently fought against.

The May 12 film screening is co-sponsored by the Labour Representation Committee which John McDonnell founded, filling the gap left by official Labour ceasing to be a voice for ordinary "old" Labour supporters, socialist-minded young people and trades unionists.

And let's face it, after this general election with all its choices of "lesser evil", and downright evil, you'll want to get the peg off your nose and relax, enjoying a good evening among friends and comrades, knowing
it is for a good cause.

The solidarity screening of Offside will be on Wednesday, May 12, 6pm at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1 Tickets: £10 (£20 solidarity, £5 unwaged). All profits go to the charity ‘Workers Fund Iran’. Please buy your ticket via Paypal here: or by sending a cheque/postal order to PO Box 54631, London N16 8YE

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