human rights news & views

In awe of Haw

Ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to oppose the war in Iraq; courageous, costly things. And more than just expressing opposition, some are acting to prevent war crimes being committed.

This month, four ‘Christians Against All Terrorism’ were pursued through the courts by the Australian Government for breaking into the secret US military facility Pine Gap, climbing onto a roof and taking photographs as part of a ‘citizens’ inspection’. The base, according to ANU strategic analyst Michael McKinley, plays a crucial role in the war on Iraq by locating targets to be bombed. Representing themselves but denied the opportunity to present much of their evidence, a jury found the four ‘inspectors’ guilty. They risked years in gaol, but the judge of the Northern Territory Supreme Court imposed fines instead.

Anti-war protesters have had some breathtaking successes in the UK and Ireland, both in terms of grounding warplanes and finding sympathy among their peers in the jury box. Last year five Catholic Workers were found not guilty of criminal damage to a US Navy aircraft hangared in Ireland en route to Iraq.

Last month two Englishmen were acquitted of charges relating to their attempt to ‘disarm’ B52 bombers at a UK airbase.

As many as 100 similar nonviolent actions intended to disrupt war have been undertaken by people willing to serve time in the hope of saving lives and property protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Brian HawTaking a different approach is Brian Haw (left), voted the most inspiring political figure in Britain. For six years, Haw has camped outside the Houses of Parliament, on the footpath, as an anti-war protest. Surrounded by placards and his makeshift dwelling, he uses a loud hailer to harangue MPs as they enter and leave the Commons.

This 57 year-old carpenter, Christian and father of seven began his protest in June 2001, prior to the World Trade Centre attacks and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. His initial purpose was to denounce the sanctions on Iraq. And he has managed to maintain the rage:

"I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again knowing that I’ve done all I can to try and save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my government’s unjust, amoral, fear- and money-driven policies. These children and people of other countries are every bit as valuable and worthy of love as my precious wife and children."

Haw has also become a symbol of freedom of assembly and expression, defying attempts to remove him. In 2002 the local council failed in its claim that he was obstructing the footpath. The UK government’s Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 bans public protest within a kilometre of parliament without prior police permission. Haw survived this too, because his demonstration started before the existence of the ban, which is not retrospective.

Haw's protest camp before it was largely dismantled by police in 2006In May 2006 some 78 police officers ‘raided’ his camp in the dead of night, removing most of his banners and placards (pictured right). Haw — and fellow protesters who have joined him — are now limited to occupying no more than 3 metres of street-front.

"I am not a lone ranger. I am not the saviour of mankind. But I do know that I am responsible. We each have a responsibilty."

"If I’m an inspiring person," says Haw, "be inspired!"


  1. 23 February 2008 | 2:35 pm

    […] Calling themselves ‘Christians Against All Terrorism’ the four anti-war protesters (pictured entering court in 2007) faced up to seven years’ gaol for their ‘citizens’ inspection’ of the top-secret spy base.  Pine Gap is said to identify bombing targets for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. […]

  2. 20 June 2011 | 10:27 am

    Peace campaigner dies after decade-long London vigil
    by Rachael Brown
    ABC News
    20 June 2011

Leave a reply

Subscribe to website updates by email