New Palestinian solidarity campaign founded in Wigan
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A group of Wigan residents who are originally from different parts of the Middle East have founded the group with support from trade unions and anti-racism campaigners.
Deema Albaik, who is from Syria and has lived in Wigan since 2014, said: “All of us watching the news were really upset by what is happening in Palestine.
“We have gone to Manchester for the demonstrations but this is the first time we have had an opportunity to demonstrate in Wigan.
“We have relatives and friends over there who are saying the situation is really bad.
“Some have family members who have died because of the killing in Gaza. The people there can’t go back to their homes or lives, the infrastructure of Gaza has been destroyed.
“They have lost their homes and their futures. We want to get these things back so they can stand up and continue with their lives.
“Coming from the Middle East I know exactly how it is to live with no feeling of safety or security, not being able to plan for the future, not being hopeful about my children’s lives, not being able to express my beliefs or practice my faith freely. Moving to live here in the UK, I find myself responsible for supporting the oppressed, now I can.”
The group met through social events and Wigan Mosque and then formed a What’s App group so they could continue talking.
The solidarity campaign is also being supported by Wigan residents who are themselves from Palestine, who spoke of their pride at the support for the cause locally.
Rahaf Abouomara, a 20-year-old nursing student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston who lives in Ashton, said: “The situation in Palestine is a crime. It has caused a lot of people to become refugees and people have been shot and killed.
“I feel very proud because Wigan is a small town but it is supporting Palestine. There are demonstrations in Manchester, Liverpool and London but now Wigan is doing it too.
“We need the support of the people of Wigan and let them know that there are people from Palestine who now live here.
“We want to raise awareness and make our voices heard to let the Palestinian people know we are supporting them, at least by protest.”
The new Wigan group is aligned with the larger national Palestinian solidarity campaign which organises events and protests in major cities and towns across the country.
The campaign is being supported by Wigan Trades Council and trade unions including the RMT, which has pledged a donation to help its work, and the National Education Union (NEU).
Three demonstrations were organised during the recent outbreak of violence and supporters of Palestine also had a campaign stall in the town centre.
Members of Wigan Youth Parliament have also expressed their support for the Palestinian people’s position.
It is now hoped the activist group will be able to build on this and improve residents’ knowledge of what is happening in the Middle East while encouraging them to support Palestine.
Barry Conway, from the trades council and the NEU, said: “For over 70 years Palestinian children have been killed, crippled, made homeless and lost their family members.
“They have no playgrounds, no toys, none of the educational resources we are familiar with in Britain. They play in rubble. Their lives are spent in stress and trauma.”
Dave Lowe from Wigan Trades Council said: “This has been going on for so many years and we realise that the Palestinian people cannot win this on their own.
“This kind of action is very inspiring and shows the governments of the West that ordinary people can see injustice in the Middle East.”
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