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It was on 27 May two years ago that the town of Haji Nabu in Afghanistan was bombed, and a wedding party was destroyed, killing 47 people. Many were women and children. On the anniversary of the massacre, I lay in the road outside Northwood military base in North London in a mock bridesmaid’s dress, covered in fake blood.
The police shouted to around 45 protestors that we had five minutes before we would be removed. The rain poured down. I felt cold lying on wet concrete; someone next to me started to shiver. I looked up into the grey English sky and thought about that day in Afghanistan, and how different it must have been then.
Although far removed, I felt very connected to Afghanistan. I was immediately outside the belly of the beast, the building where tactical decisions about British involvement in Afghanistan are made. I hoped that someone in Afghanistan would hear about our action and feel respected and comforted that there are people who care. The rain continued to pour until we were all soaked through. 40 minutes later the police moved in.
Unknown to us, at that same moment, on the opposite side of London, Rahmat, an Afghan asylum seeker I’d met a few weeks beforehand, was being detained at the home office. He was told that his claim for staying in Britain had been refused and he must return to Afghanistan.
Six of us were arrested and taken to Rickmansworth police station. It was a relief for me to be in a warm prison cell and out of wet clothes. Apparently the station had been opened especially for us and we were the only ones in there, so we were dealt with at top speed. Five hours later we were all out. Supporters had gathered outside the station and were chanting songs.
There was a feeling of jubilation at the successful action: we hadn’t bowed to police demands and we had done what we intended to do in the way we wanted. At the same time, Rahmat was being sent to Tinsley detention centre at Gatwick where he was to spend the last two weeks of his six years of residency in this country.
I felt sickened when I heard the news. I felt like I would do anything to keep him in the country. Those around him launched a letter-writing campaign, writing to the home office, newspapers, the European Court of Human Rights and the charter airline Hamburg International. I felt powerless with so little time to do anything.
Several days later, I read an email update about Rahmat in Kabul. A friend had spoken to him on the phone.
He reported that the situation in Kabul is really bad. Poverty, hunger, danger and the destruction of infrastructure are making life there very precarious.
My friend said she had promised him that we would continue in our work to highlight the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan.