On Sunday June 19, 2011, Brian Haw died peacefully in his sleep following a long fight against lung cancer.
Brian’s death ends his decade-long challenge to the British establishment and his constant reminder to Members of Parliament and civil servants entering the Houses of Parliament in London of the brutal effects on ordinary people of economic sanctions and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On June 2, 2001, Brian Haw left his wife and seven children and his work as a carpenter to live day and night outside parliament, to focus attention on the devastating impact of the economic sanctions on Iraq and the plight of children born with birth defects attributed to the use of depleted uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf war.
An unrelenting campaign
Brian endured threats, violence and abuse for the duration of his protest. “I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again,” he wrote in 2002, “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.”
In 2003, when the UK and US commenced their war against Iraq, Brian began fasting and praying with other protesters who joined him in sleeping rough in Parliament Square. Laws were drafted and passed attempting to remove Brian – but he manage to remain.
Member of Parliament John McDonnell recalls how, with fellow-MP Tony Benn, he acted as a character witness for Brian during his many appearances in court, including some brought by the Metropolitan Police on accusations of aggression and assault. “Brian was bearing witness to the horrendous war crimes in Iraq, reminding MPs of their own guilt,” McDonnell says. “He was always willing to engage in debate but was continually harassed by the state. He remained a pacifist and a true democrat. Argument and debate were the only tools that he would use in his fight against injustice. He won repeatedly in court against the police.”