Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was threatened and slandered as a paedophile when he attended the Al Quds pro-Palestinian march and rally in London last Sunday, 7 October 2007.
The Al Quds demonstration was supported by the left-wing Respect Party, 1990 Trust, Muslim Association of Britain, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies.
The post-march Trafalgar Square rally was addressed by the Respect Party MP George Galloway and the former Daily Express journalist Yvonne Ridley.
“The Al Quds protest was supposed in support of justice for the Palestinian people,” said Mr Tatchell.
“That’s a cause I support. I am against Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and its divisive Berlin-style wall.
“But I object to the way the Al Quds demonstration also supports the tyrannical, anti-Semitic Iranian regime and its fundamentalist, terrorist offshoots, Hamas and Hezbollah.
“I joined the march with three members of the left-wing group Workers Liberty, who also wanted to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Tehran regime.
“We were part of a larger anti-Al Quds protest, but whereas everyone else decided to protest from the sidelines as the Al Quds marchers passed through Piccadilly Circus, four of us took the decision to join the Al Quds march and challenge its fundamentalist pro-Iranian regime agenda.
“I held two placards. One with a Palestinian flag and the slogan ‘Free Palestine,’ and the other with a photograph of a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, who was executed in 2004 by the Iranian regime for ‘crimes against chastity,’ after having been sexually abused since childhood.
“Tehran hanged the female victim of abuse, not the male perpetrators. My placard said: ‘Oppose the government of Iran, Support the people of Iran.’
“As soon as I turned up, I was subjected to a barrage of violent, threatening abuse from large sections of the crowd. Some started chanting: “Tatchell is a Zionist, Tatchell is a paedophile. Get out! Get out! Get out!”
“Despite this abuse, we handed out leaflets criticising the Iranian regime, which a number of the Al Quds marchers took and read.
“Following at the back of the march, we were subjected to a torrent of hatred all the way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.
“A few of the Al Quds marchers shouted things like: “You are all Zionists and CIA agents. How much money did Bush pay you to come here today?” These people are paranoid and delusional.
“On six occasions, some of the protestors tried to physically attack me and the Workers Liberty activists. It was only police intervention that stopped them from battering us. These Islamists claim to represent true Islam, but in my view they behaved in a most un-Islamic and unreligious way.
“They preach a gospel of hatred and violence against Jews, gay people and even other Muslims who disagree with their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. I am sure most Muslims in Britain would be horrified by their justification of violent extremism.
“Many of the marchers were carrying Hezbollah flags and chanting: ‘We are all Hezbollah now.’
When we pointed out that Hezbollah kills innocent Israeli civilians, and endorses the execution of women and gay people who transgress their extremist interpretation of Islam, we were told things like: ‘That’s good. Society has to have order. These punishments are necessary for the good of society.’
“On a positive note, several of the Al Quds marchers, nearly all women and nearly all wearing the hijab, expressed their support for our protest.
One said: “We don’t agree with the Iranian regime either. Killing that young girl was wrong.” Another said: “Islam is about love and peace. Don’t listen to the fanatics. We are only here because we support Palestine.” Such responses were very gratifying to hear,” said Mr Tatchell.
In May Peter Tatchell was attacked by anti-gay protesters in Moscow.
He was there to support a banned gay rights march in the city. The
Nationalists and religious groups threw eggs and shouted slogans such as “Death to homosexuals”
Mr Tatchell was punched in the face by a young man and then arrested.