Alishba Rasheed| London
“President Trump cannot silence me!” These were the remarkable opening words of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, at the screening of Oscar-winning film, “The Salesman”, at Trafalgar Square, London. The event was held a few hours before the film won Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars.
Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, boycotted the Oscar Awards in response to Trump’s travel ban, a decision supported by millions of people around the world. Londoners gathered at Trafalgar Square, braving the cold and rain to demonstrate their solidarity with minorities and celebrate the arts.
Mariella Frostrup, a UK-based journalist, gave the opening speech appreciating Farhadi’s film that has encouraged empathy for cultures around the world and presenting a side of Iran seldom seen in the media.
Addressing the crowd, Lily Cole, a British actress, emphasized the importance of alternative solutions to the pressing issues and appreciating diversity and unity.
Sadiq Khan, Pakistani origin Mayor of London, was very vocal regarding his support for Farhadi’s stance while also condemning all policies that discriminate based on nationality, ethnicity, religion and background.
“When people talk about building walls, we propose building bridges”, Sadiq Khan.
British director and writer, Mike Leigh, speaking at the event highlighted London’s “indestructible strength as a beacon of diversity”. Though Farhadi could not attend the event himself, he thanked everyone for their support in a video recording played at the screening.
The event ended with the phenomenal performance by Orchestra of Syrian Musicians who enthralled the audience with their energetic rhythms of their homeland-Syria. They were later joined by Damon Albarn, English musician and songwriter, and jointly played a ‘West meets Syria’ melody.
“There are people here from Iran to Iraq, from Shoreditch and Streatham, from Lebanon and London – showing the world that London is open” – Sadiq Khan.
The words of the Mayor conciliated many people who were full of apprehensions and skepticism over the future of London with Brexit being enforced. This event resounded clearly with his campaign’s mantra: London is open and welcomes people from all communities and countries.
UK has witnessed nationwide protests in the past month organized by the ‘Stop Trump coalition’ in collaboration with the movement ‘One Day Without Us’ – a campaign supporting refugees and migrants to raise their voices against Trump’s discriminatory policies and UK’s silence. These groups have received support from MPs, trade unions and other notable members of the society in order to campaign against racism, hatred and anti-immigrant policies.
US president’s impending state visit to the UK has also received severe criticism, leading to UK Parliament debating the visit’s postponement, however, the British Government has already dismissed the petition and does not plan to withdraw the invite. Whether Trump’s visit to UK materializes or not is yet to be decided, however, Londoners stands strong in opposition to all hate-propelling policies.
Alishba Rasheed is London correspondent for Global Village Space (GVS). She has worked with UNAIDS, currently she is pursuing masters at London School of Economics.