Tamil Solidarity student organiser
Solidarity Day 2014 took place on 6 September organised together with the Day-Mer, Kurdish/Turkish organisation. It was a very successful event, attended by over 100 people from the Tamil, Turkish and Kurdish communities, alongside other activists and trade unionists.
A diverse range of speakers included representatives from Youth Fight for Jobs, Rape Is No Joke, the public-sector union, Unison, the National Union of Teachers, RMT, and the Bakers Food and Allied Trades Union. John McDonnell MP was unable to attend but sent his apologies and a long message of support. Nick Crook, a national organiser for Unison also sent a message of support.
All speakers raised awareness of the many struggles faced by workers of various nationalities and in highlighting the importance of expressing solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed people, as Tamil Solidarity was set up to do.
This solidarity extends to the Tamil Muslims who have been violently persecuted by the Buddhist extremist group, Bodu Bala Sena – with the backing of the Sri Lankan government – as detailed by Fatheek Aboobucker and Fauzer Mahroof. Keerthikan Thennavan and Manny Thain, joint national secretaries of Tamil Solidarity also spoke about the key local and national work of the campaign since it was set up in 2009. This has been boosted by the support of campaign organisations and the trade unions. Keerthikan and Isai Priya, the trade union coordinator for Tamil Solidarity, have spoken to thousands of union members at conferences up and down the country this year. The unions provide essential support, as well as being a vehicle for campaigning against poor working conditions, and fighting to achieve decent pay and conditions.
James Ivens, from Youth Fight for Jobs, highlighted the vulnerability of young people to exploitation by their boss and to increasing youth unemployment. Becci Heagney, speaking for Rape Is No Joke, brought to light some alarming statistics about the victim blaming and mistrust that rape victims are often subjected to; revealing that discrimination against women is still a huge problem. A link can be found between these problems in the UK and the experiences of Tamil people in Sri Lanka for many of whom discrimination, exploitation and abuse are a routine occurrence. The speakers from Day-Mer described some of the valuable work that the community centre has done in helping Kurdish/Turkish immigrants to integrate into society and supporting them with any problems that they encounter.
The themes of immigration, war and nationality were tackled brilliantly by Rani Moorthy in an extract from her play. She criticised the detached portrayal of war in the media and brought to life the destruction it has reaped in Sri Lanka. As a Tamil from Malaysia of mixed roots, she shone a light on the issues of identity and nationality. It was an entertaining, skilful and insightful performance which captured the struggles and conflicts that Tamils in Sri Lanka and elsewhere face today. There was also some wonderful music, including a great performance from Parai-Voice of Freedom, a lively and interactive performance from Tamil rap artist, MC Starboy. There was also Turkish music from Day-Mer members on saz, guitar percussion and vocals.
We are extremely grateful to all the speakers, activists, members and performers who contributed to the Solidarity Day, as well as to Day-Mer for helping us to host this event.
The Solidarity Day is now a feature in the year’s calendar, a way of bringing campaigns and workers’ organisations together. It was a great success and a great platform for our work in the future.