Monday, 15 June 2009

Students are still revolting - more power to them!

Two stories of students revolting today. In Iran, students have held protests at their universities against Ahmadinejad's apparent coup. In London, students are defending the rights of low-paid workers.

Two million Tehranis took to the streets today, putting Ahmadinejad's 'victory' rally on Sunday in the shade.

The demonstrations have been largely peaceful, in contrast to the reaction of state forces. There have been bloody raids on universities, with at least five students reported killed at Tehran University in the early hours of Sunday morning. Two young women - Fatemeh Barati and Mobina Ehterami - and three young men - Kasra Sharafi, Kambiz Shoaee and Mohsen Imani - have been cut down in their prime.

At the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, students today occupied the director's office. Their protest is about an event that took place early on Friday morning. Cleaners at the college, who have been conducting a living wage campaign, were called into an office for a meeting, and then surrounded and questioned by 40 immigration police. Nine were taken away, without a chance to consult a lawyer, and some have been deported.

There is a debate in the labour movement about what attitude to take toward immigration laws. I'm strongly in the (utopian?) camp that No One Is Illegal, a phrase coined by Jewish socialist Steve Cohen, who sadly died earlier this year. Everyone has the right to a decent life. If that is not possible because of social and political conditions, change the social and political conditions, don't penalise - and scapegoat - the migrant who is no worse, and often better, than you or I.

In any case, one thing I think all trade unionists should be able to agree on is that workers should not have immigration law used against them each time they fight for better wages and conditions at work. The company that employs the SOAS cleaners is ISS. They also employ the cleaners on London Underground who have been subject to similiar harassment, exactly after they too won a London living wage campaign (which ISS have since said they will not honour).

The SOAS occupation website is:

As for getting in touch with the protestors in Iran, you are probably aware of how hard that will be, but if I can find any reliable means I will post details.

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