Britain: Support Yahya al Faifi!

Saudi Trade Union dissident facing deportation

Yahya al Faifi, a very brave and self-sacrificing trade unionist – and a deeply committed socialist – is facing deportation back to a tyranny in Saudi Arabia that regularly tortures and “disappears” dissidents. On 12 February, he received a rejection letter for his appeal against the refusal of his asylum claim appeal. Now, he and his family are in imminent danger of deportation from Britain.

The trade union movement is organising a day of action for Yahya on Thursday, 19 February. There will be a lobby of the Home Secretary in Queen Anne’s Gate in Whitehall at 2:00pm. A number of prominent trade unionists and MP’s will be attending. Any supporter who can be there is urged to join us.

We are calling on trade unionists and other socialists internationally to organise protests/lobbies outside British Embassies and Consulates around the world on the same day – and to let the media know. If this is not possible in certain cases, then we are asking for whatever protests can be made on 19 February to be made.

It is important that anyone taking part please contact the campaign to let us know. The best protection that Yahya can have is a huge show of support – and that support will only help if it is well publicised. (Contact: defendyahyaalfaifi@googlemail.com)

So far, Yahya has the support of Ann Clwyd, MP; Jeff Cuthbert, AM; Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communications Workers Union; Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (that organises the Civil Service); Wayne Thomas, General Secretary of South Wales NUM; the Executive of the National Union of Journalists in Wales; the Executive of the University and College Lecturers Union in Wales; the Merseyside Port Shop Stewards and many other trade union bodies. In 2006, Wales TUC passed a motion supporting Yahya’s campaign for Saudi Arabian trade union rights. Yahya is a member of the Communications Workers Union in Britain and an honourary member of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Anyone who can write to the Home Secretary should please do so and should send us a copy of the letter. Anyone who has an official trade union or other labour and trade union position in Britain – or internationally – and who can give their support to the campaign should please forward us their details, so that we can add their name to the list. This public show of support is very important in persuading the Home Secretary to reverse her decision and stop Yahya and his family being deported.

A fighter for Saudi Arabian trade union rights

Yahya worked for BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia. When the company announced that they were cutting the pay of Saudi Arabian workers by 40% in 2002, Yahya organised the 2000 workers affected and led them to victory, stopping the pay cut.

This, of course, entailed organising a trade union in the plant. 500 attended the first meeting – even though trade unions are illegal in Saudi Arabia – a huge testament to Yahya’s abilities and to the determination of these workers to become part of the trade union movement given half a chance. Unfortunately, BAE Systems immediately sacked Yahya.

Yahya fought to get his job back and took the case to a tribunal. In fact, the BAE Systems wished to make it clear that the matter was out of their hands. He has an official letter from the company saying that it was the government officer who ordered that Yahya be sacked.

The whole series of events, the victory, the establishment of the union, Yahya’s sacking and his fight for reinstatement received a great deal of media coverage in Saudi Arabia at the time. Yahya soon found himself under surveillance and receiving telephone threats from the government. He was told they would "cut his tongue out" if he didn’t stop campaigning. Eventually, he was warned that he should leave the country, if he wanted to protect the safety of his family. This he did.

Yahya and his family arrived in Britain four and a half years ago and asked for asylum

Now, both the Home Office and the judge from the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal appeal hearing are saying that – despite the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia where dissidents regularly are jailed, tortured and "disappeared" – Yahya and his family face no threat if they are returned to Saudi Arabia. No one can reasonably agree with this assessment.

A fine record of supporting struggle in Britain

Since he has been in Britain, Yahya has supported every trade union struggle. During the Irish Ferries occupation in December 2005, Yahya not only attended every picket organised, he wanted to sleep on Pembroke Docks until all of the Irish Ferries workers had their jobs back. He has been on picket lines for the Council Workers, Job Centre Workers and Teachers.

This is about protecting the life of a brave, self-sacrificing trade unionist and supporting the fight to build trade unions in the Middle East – as a extremely important part of the fight for a socialist future in the Middle East and internationally.

Please send letters to the British Home Office (preferably handwrtitten):

  • Home Office, Direct Communications Unit, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

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