Anti-racist activists to contest elections

A team of three experienced activists will contest the September 13 local government elections in Blacktown for the Socialist Alliance.

Two of the candidates are members of the Sudanese Australian Human Rights Association (SAHRA), Soubhi Iskander and Hassan Abaid. Both are political refugees from Sudan. The third candidate, Rachel Evans, recently won in the federal court against the NSW government's attempt to restrict the right to protest. She was also central to organising the July 19 protest against the pope's reactionary views on sexuality and reproductive rights.

The Socialist Alliance candidates will contest ward three of Blacktown City Council, which incorporates Blacktown, Seven Hills and Prospect. The campaign will be strongly anti-racist, supporting the rights of migrant communities and the large Indigenous population in Blacktown. The campaign will also focus on the council's responsibility to pursue real solutions to the housing crisis: Blacktown has one of the largest rates of mortgage defaults and personal bankruptcies in Australia.

Other issues the campaign will take up include the desperate shortage of affordable childcare, and the need to improve public transport and reduce reliance on cars. The campaign will also address how the council can make a positive contribution to solving the global warming crisis.

Iskander has lived in Blacktown for 14 years and has been a member of the SAHRA since 1996. He has been co-editor of the Arabic newspaper Akbar Misr (Egypt News) since 1996. He is a local anti-racist activist, and a member of SAHRA's anti-racism committee, several migrant centre management committees and the management committee of the All-Sudanese Council.

Iskander arrived in Australia from Sudan in 1994. He was jailed in Sudan for his opposition to Islamic fundamentalism and for campaigning for free speech.

Abaid has lived in Blacktown since coming to Australia in 2004. He is the chairperson of SAHRA and a member of several Sydney-based Sudanese associations. He was a long-term worker for the Sudanese Human Rights Organisation in Cairo.

Before coming to Australia, Abaid, in cooperation with other parties, established the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance in Libya from where he campaigned against the Islamic regime in Sudan.

Evans stood for the Socialist Alliance in the 2007 NSW and federal elections, the latter in the seat of Parramatta. She helped form Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), the group that initiated the NoToPope Coalition, which organised a peaceful 1500-strong protest on July 19.

Since the early '90s, Evans has been active in many community campaigns including for the closure of Villawood refugee prison, against the closure of Macquarie Boys High and the Blacktown campus of the University of Western Sydney. She was active in the anti-Work Choices movement and has supported other workers' campaigns, such as the dispute at Esselte in Sydney's south west.

The Socialist Alliance is holding regular information stalls in Blacktown and organising speak outs and doorknocking. To find out more, help with campaign activities or make a donation, phone Rachel on 0403 924 409, Soubhi on 0425 289 885 or Hassan on 0413 508 211.