Mid-East's forgotten minorities

By Jessica Elgot, September 27, 2011
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Trafalgar Square supporters of Jewish, Kurdish and other refugees

Trafalgar Square supporters of Jewish, Kurdish and other refugees

While the United Nations controversial "Durban III" conference against racism took place in New York, protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square to highlight the plight of Jewish and other persecuted minorities driven out of the Middle East and North Africa.

Organised by Harif, which represents Jews from the Arab world, the British Israel Coalition and Stand With Us UK, around 100 demonstrators handed out leaflets on Sunday to tourists and waved Israeli flags.

Lynn Julius of Harif, whose family fled Iraq, said: "We have been forgotten by the world and the UN. We are here on behalf of all the forgotten refugees, the Kurds, the Berbers, Assyrians, Copts and Baha'is. "

Moroccan-born Sydney Assor, a member of the Board of Deputies, said: "This is the first occasion there has been to remind us of forgotten causes. It's not just about the Jewish refugees, Christians are disappearing from the Middle East."

Jews of Iraqi, Tunisian and Syrian descent were also in attendance. Ms Julius said: "We are really pleased to see such support from Ashkenazi Jews, too. This issue is the key to peace. Palestinian refugee issues currently monopolise the debate."

Ari Soffer, an activist with the British Israel Coalition, spoke of his family's escape from Baghdad. "My father would be heartened to see everyone here. He has always felt betrayed by the UN. When he left Iraq, the only country that would accept us was Israel. If I were a Palestinian, I would be considered a refugee myself, even though I was not born in Iraq. No other nationality has that status. There should be no more double standards."

He said there had been a mixed response from passers-by. "We have had a few people shout and disagree, but a lot think it is a purely pro-Israel protest, because of the flags. But, when you explain, people are interested."

Kurdish writer Azad Miran also attended the protest in support of refugee rights. He said: "We have suffered for a long time, but the UN is mostly concerned with Palestinian people. We have been labelled terrorists when we fight for our freedom."

    Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011