Tribute to Sabah Jawad

Sabah Jawad

On Monday 9 January, Sabah Jawad died in hospital, following a battle with cancer. To the end, he remained steadfast in his support for principled socialism and anti-imperialism.

Like many children of his generation, he was drawn into the Iraqi revolution of 1958, when the Iraqi people created a new freedom and sovereignty. The subsequent counter-revolution also confronted him, when his relatives were arrested in the 1963 coup. Sabah supported the Iraqi Communist Party.

He came to Britain to study in 1969, as reaction was closing all options inside Iraq. He became active inside the Iraqi Students Society in Britain, a militant organisation. He lived and worked in Bradford at this time. The rise of a new terror inside Iraq from 1969 meant that he was unable to return. He was subjected to the Baathist practice of refusing to renew opponents’ passports. Hence he lost his citizenship and became an exile. Inside the Iraqi Communist Party divisions that began in the 1960’s widened on various issues, including on whether to support Saddam Hussein who promised to ‘turn a new page’. In the split, Sabah supported the side that refused to compromise with the Saddam regime.

He left Bradford for Birmingham at the end of 1973. He was constantly having difficulty getting work. He took a variety of jobs, gaining a little security when he moved to London in 1980, where he started work as a translator in a news agency. He became very active in the National Union of Journalists. He led a strike on the right to belong to a union. He was sacked for this, and then worked on various jobs including a period as a taxi driver.

He continued political activity throughout his teens and adult life. He played an important part in the 1990/1991 campaign against the imperialist invasion of Iraq. Through his involvement in the Committee for Peace in the Middle East, he became the most prominent spokesperson in Britain for the Iraqi opposition to the invasion of Iraq. He again became involved in national politics after 2001, with the establishment of the Stop the War Coalition. He became an officer of the campaign, making a vital contribution against the new war upon Iraq.

In the occupation period, he rendered an important service in promoting the new, and independent, Iraqi oil workers union. After 2011, he championed opposition to the renewed intervention in Arab countries – opposing NATO’s assault upon Libya, the covert and proxy war upon Syria, the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, and the Saudi-led war upon Yemen. He was a consistent supporter of the Palestinians.

Sabah helped to educate two generations of anti-war activists in Britain on the nature of imperialism in the Middle East. He promoted the revolutionary traditions of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi working class.

The anti-imperialist movement and the Iraqi people have lost a courageous tribune.