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“No Justice, No Peace”: Solidarity with Palestine in Aberdeen City Centre

Emotions Ran High as Hundreds Attend Pro-Palestine Rally

By Isabelle Hampton-Zabotti

Photo by Isabelle Hampton-Zabotti

On Saturday the 14th of October, St. Nicholas Square was enveloped with Palestinian flags. Attendees chanted “Free Palestine'' in solidarity with the people of Gaza, currently under attack from Israeli bombardment- as the death toll reaches into the thousands.

The rally was held in response to the developing conflict in the Gaza Strip. Israel recently confirmed that hundreds of hostages are currently held by terrorist group Hamas following a surprise attack on the 7th of October. These include civilians of British, European, and American nationality.

Israel’s bombardment of the small enclave has continued for over ten days following Hamas’ attack. The situation has turned dire—Israel’s blockade on food, water, and electricity left UN officials warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Aberdeen’s rally is one of many that occurred across the UK last weekend, with the demonstration in London reaching numbers in the tens of thousands. It was organised and supported by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), along with Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) North East Scotland.

Starting at 2pm outside the Bon Accord Centre, protestors were initially met with hostility as brief disputes occurred with passing shoppers who disagreed with the demonstration. Nonetheless, things quickly settled.

The rally was opened by Kate Ramsden, former Branch Chair of Aberdeen’s UNISON National Executive Council and member of SPSC. Speaking to the crowd, which included numerous families with young children, she condemned the “killing of so many Palestinian civilians, including, shockingly, six hundred children.”

Other speakers included accounts from Palestinians, both in-person, and in Gaza relayed by the speakers present. Ahmed, a father to a daughter in Gaza , painted a harrowing picture of the situation on the ground: “We are waiting for death, we are lying on the ground in the streets. […] Tell the world that I am really waiting to die with my baby in my arms.”

Dr Izhar Khan, a local specialist at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and activist, received cheers when, speaking to the crowd, he said “We support the right of the Palestinains to live on a free land.”

He drew comparisons between the UK’s response to the recent Ukrainian refugee crisis as a result of the Russian invasion: “The West can exercise its power [...] to end the occupation.”

He added, “I condemn the loss of innocent lives, be it Jews, be it Arabs, be it Ukranians, be it Russians.” Dr Khan’s comments come amidst a wider critique of European countries, who have been accused of bias in their response to global humanitarian crises, that is gaining traction on social media.

A member of the Irish Parliament, Richard Boyd Barrett, launched a scathing critique of Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission. The post received two million views and over fourty thousand likes on social media site X.

He said: “It is utterly, utterly unconscionable, that we can say, on the one hand, we must—and we must—investigate the war crime of Vladimir Putin, and remain silent [...] after we had two devastating reports, by Amnesty International, by Human rights Watch, of seventy years of ongoing crimes against humanity”.

Aya, another Palestinian speaker, told the crowd that “context and history are key to understanding what has got us to this point”. This sentiment was echoed by Dr Karolin Hijazi: “War is a failure of politics, a failure of duty. Let’s be clear, the war didn't start last weekend. [...] This war began in 1948, where approximately 75% of Palestians were displaced.”

The demonstration closed with pleas for donations for medical assistance of injured Palestinians and promises to return next weekend if the bombardment fails to cease. While energy was high, hope for peace appeared low amongst the demonstrators. Nonetheless, Ramsden dubbed the rally a “success”, and told The Gaudie she was “inspired” both by the support and the speakers.

Meanwhile, across the city, the annual SNP conference opened with a show of solidarity for Israeli and Palestinian civilians affected by the violence. SNP organiser Olaf Stando, who is Jewish, told the audience: “Terror is not resistance, nor liberation. If we cannot call it out for what it is, we are failing our humanity.”

Mr Stando, who graduated from UoA in 2018, added: “Peace is not about vengeance, not about settling scores, but it is making sure people can live in safety.”

Cllr Nadia El Nakla, the wife of First Minister Humza Yousaf, also spoke.Cllr El Nakla, who is Scottish-Palestinian and has family trapped in Gaza, said: “We are used to suffering and being fearful. This time is different.” “The number of deaths are soaring, mostly children and Gaza has been turned to rubble.” “We have dreams and goals. I ask, let us survive and live in peace,”

Cllr El Nakla told the crowd. “I beg and plead, give the children of Gaza a chance to live,” she concluded, amid thunderous applause from the gathered delegates.


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