Maddalena Dunscombe talks to student Stop the War organiser Jamal Elaheebocus

Maddalena Dunscombe & Jamal Elaheebocus

What work has StW Students been focusing on in the past year? And what kind of work will you be planning for 2021?

Obviously at the start of the pandemic we had to switch to online campaigning and we held several successful online meetings on Coronavirus, War and Sanctions, the Julian Assange case and War and the Climate Crisis.

In the autumn we also held a students’ activist meeting aimed at getting more university students involved with organising Stop the War events and groups at their universities.

Towards the end of the year and at the start of this year we helped build towards the Day of Action against the Yemen war, where we worked with Campaign Against Arms Trade and London Students for Yemen to organise two meetings on the war in Yemen, Britain’s role in it and the role that the arms companies who provide arms for the Yemen war, particularly BAE Systems, play on campuses across the country.

The world is currently facing so many crises. What anti-war topics do you and other StW students tend to prioritise and why?

It’s often difficult to choose which topic to focus on because of the scale of imperialism and the number of crises we face.

I think the topics we tend to focus on are the ones which have broader links not only to the anti-war movement but other movements which students are involved in.

The War and Climate Crisis meeting was aimed at bringing together two causes which are actually closely linked and tying in anti-war campaigning with the incredible work student activists have been doing around climate change.

Similarly with the Assange case, the repercussions are far beyond just the anti-war movement and it threatens journalistic freedom and general freedom of expression, which is also coming more under attack on university campuses.

With Greta Thunberg rallying so many young voices in the world against climate change, it might be easy to assume that this would be the same case for students within the anti-war movement. But how easy or difficult is it to get your peers involved in anti-war activity?

It’s actually been quite a challenge to get young people and students involved in anti-war campaigning.

Organising around war with Iran is quite difficult, for example, because apart from that period in January 2020 when Trump came very close to waging war on Iran, there hasn’t been the constant sense that it could happen at any time and so I think students tend to focus on more pressing issues which are more immediate.

On the other hand, of course, students have been very keen to get involved in campaigning around the Yemen war.

I think that was because Britain’s involvement was so blatant and because students had seen the influence of arms companies on campus and wanted to do something to challenge it.

Similarly, campaigning for Palestinian rights and liberation is always something students are very involved in and will continue to be important as the oppression of the Palestinians continues.

Your generation has grown up during a decade of austerity. I feel that this has to affect the rise in political awareness that so many young adults are now experiencing. I imagine that this awareness has played a big part in Stop the War Students?

I think it definitely has. We have seen funding for our schools, hospitals and local facilities like youth clubs cut so brutally, while military spending has remained constant throughout the last decade.

When you see on the one hand that your school can’t afford certain textbooks, while on the other hand you also see billions of pounds poured into the military and defence budget, you cannot help but feel outraged and feel like you want to change that, not just for yourself but also for future generations.

Similarly with the climate crisis, it has become so obvious for students to see that the lack of action on the climate crisis and implementing a Green New Deal is very much a political choice.

The money is there and has always been there, but instead it is spent on subsidising fossil fuels and arms sales, both of which contribute massively to emissions and the worsening of the climate crisis.

I think that’s why students are always active in anti-war campaigning, climate justice campaigning and so on, because firstly it will affect our lives profoundly in the future and secondly, we can see that things don’t have to be the way they are.

Finally, are there any particular meetings or protests you, or anyone from your group, look forward to organising in the future?

We’re hoping to organise another meeting on the Yemen war, particularly looking at pressing universities to divest from BAE Systems and other arms companies, and hopefully we can help build pressure on Boris Johnson to follow Joe Biden in suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

We’re also hoping to bring the cold war on China more into student campaigning and organise a meeting on that.

I’m also hoping it won’t be too long before we can get back on the streets and protest against war and imperialism.

27 Feb 2021

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