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The Peace Tax Seven

Aberystwyth 19th March 2003

Organisers sought to turn this anniversary of the start of war in Iraq, into a broader based conference on what we can do to stop the warmongering. The event started on the Friday evening with a showing of ‘Uncovered - the War in Iraq' followed by a deeply searching discussion between the audience and Milan Rai of Justice not Vengeance, Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru MP and Robin Brookes of Peace Tax Seven forming a panel.
The march on the Saturday morning was not big, but lively and cheered on by the inhabitants of Aberystwyth who had come out onto the streets to watch us go by. At the castle on the sea front the gathered throng heard speeches by Llew Smith, ‘dissident' Labour MP, Jill Evans MEP & chair of CND Cwmru, Simon Heywood, Joe Jenkins, Sian Cwper and Robin Brookes of Peace Tax Seven.
In the afternoon conference, opening addresses were given by Ken Booth, Milan Rai and Mrs Ahmed, wife of Babar Ahmed of Tooting, London, who is under threat of extradition without trial or evidence to the US (where he faces indefinite internment without trial). This is under the terms of a secret agreement made without consulting parliament by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett. For further information on this important case see: www.statewatch.org/news/2003/jul/25ukus.htm

After this we divided into three workshops:

1.Citizenship - When the state attacks your family, your friends or your neighbours where will you turn, who will help? With Kelvin Mason and Mrs Ahmed

2.Global stability - What are the prospects for consensus, peace and justice in a world where might is right? With Jill Evans, Milan Rai and Ken Booth

3.The Peace Tax Campaign - How can you prevent your taxes being spent on arms? With Ben Freeman and Peace Tax Seven. A number of participants in this expressed frustration at not being able to withhold taxes because they are on PAYE. This lead to us thinking about other ways those who object to paying for war can make their voice count.

Overall the experience was a rewarding one. There is a solid core of many people who have shunned disillusionment and apathy and are working to bring about change. There is also great deal of cerebral support for them among the general public, which I think can be rallied again in future. I was most encouraged by Milan Rai who shows in his film ‘Counter Terror, Build Justice' that protest does work and has influenced Western Governments. What we have done and continue to do is not fruitless. It will be a long haul, but in what other direction can we travel than towards a peaceful and just world.