Building for Iran protests in Manchester

Activists from different left groups and campaigns gathered in cold Piccadilly Gardens on Saturday to speak out about oppression in Iran – Ian Parker froze, and reports.


This past Saturday 21 January, was a dress rehearsal and mobilisation that was successful in bringing together about a hundred activists to build for a coordinated Europe-wide mobilisation to support the women, workers, and people of Iran. There will be a much larger gathering, a demonstration, and guest speakers on Saturday 11 February, in Manchester.


The coordination for these events is done through Red Roots Collective, a group of Iranian socialist activists in Manchester, working with the Manchester Trades Council. Red Roots Collective made it clear that they had modest ambitions for this Saturday event. It was, they said, to “test the water,” to link up with socialists here, and to explore the possibilities of bringing people to Manchester as the focus for the 11 February event.

Red Roots Collective

On the other side of the city centre, outside the main library, a group of monarchist Iranians were waving placards with images of the Shah, inspired no doubt by calls for Reza Pahlavi, his son, to be installed in a Western-backed government in exile. The European Union’s recent decision to designate Iran’s “Revolutionary Guards” as a terrorist organisation heightens the threat of Western intervention—the replacement of one vicious regime with another for a monarchy that ruled through terror until 1979. There are also opposition “republicans” who would also be happy brokering such an arrangement, hoping for a slice of power, and that would also necessarily be power over the Iranian working class.

Our comrades in the Red Roots Collective, who are in solidarity with local neighbourhoods and strike committees inside Iran, will have none of this. The current Iranian opposition movement is diverse, with young women taking to the streets in response to the brutal murder of Jina, the Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. It is women who have taken the lead now, and that leadership ripples through the rest of the strike movements and protests among the nationalities that live on Iranian state-governed territory.


This Saturday’s “dress rehearsal” had an energy that came from the diversity of activists and speakers. A young woman Kurdish speaker took the microphone, for example, speaking only in Kurdish, and an activist working with Kurdish communities in Liverpool spoke about the intimate links between internal resistance in Iran and the struggle in Rojava. Organisations were asked to send women speakers, and there were contributions from feminist organisations in Iran, Kurdistan, and Manchester.

There was a speaker from Red Roots Collective, of course, and Manchester Trades Council, and from Jewish Voice for Labour, from the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and from various left groups (including Socialist Alternative, a constructive presence in the organising group, the Revolutionary Communist Group, and the Communist League).

Manchester Trades Council

There was a moving message read out from an Arab activist now outside Iran that declared that “as we come together all around the world, we have only one duty before us: to be the voice of nations and classes that have nothing to lose but the oppression that they have endured under this regime.” “Women, workers, and queers are being sentenced for crimes that are no crime at all.”

Jewish Voice for Labour

This message evoked the struggle of women and workers and the oppressed nationalities, and spoke about how Jina has become “our symbol of emancipation”. We also had fruitful discussion with local Ukrainian activists who were waiting patiently to take the coveted spot by the Wellington statue at the corner of Piccadilly Gardens for their own weekly protest.

Anti*Capitalist Resistance

Ali Treacher spoke for ACR:

“Comrades, this protest is at the heart of the politics of Anti-Capitalist Resistance. Politics must be internationalist or it is nothing. We need to say to the people around us that this murderous oppression is about Iran, and it is also about you, about everyone, for everyone. People in Manchester will have seen Iranians on the streets, and we need to explain to them what the monarchists and the republicans and the socialists are fighting against and what they are fighting for.

We are socialists, anti-capitalists against the rule of the Islamic republic in Iran, and against a return to the brutal monarchy, the rule of the Shah, and it is against Western imperialist style republican business as usual. It is good to see comrades from different organisations here, for this struggle requires a combined effort of solidarity. And we welcome comrades in no organisation with us to raise their voices.

We need to build on this protest for the march in Manchester on 11 February, and for combining forces here with protests against the regime in Iran that are taking place around the world. This is for women fighting for their lives, and for workers and the peoples of Iran taking strike action, engaging in collective action. This is for our lives against capitalism, against the exploitation of our power to labour and care for others. This is about freedom, in Iran now as a struggle that is our struggle too.”


Towards 11 February

Again and again, speakers said that this is “For women and for our lives and for our freedom,” and together the crowd shouted out “Woman, Life, Freedom!” This augurs well for 11 February, when we will gather for a national demonstration at All Saints on Oxford Road at 1 p.m. and march to Piccadilly Gardens. That 11 February event, which will also bring together activists from other cities, will be much bigger, and it will be one of a number of demonstrations on that day across Europe. Join us. Put an end to the brutal regime in Iran now.

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Ian Parker is a Manchester-based psychoanalyst and a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

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