During August 2015, nine youth from Lajee Center in Aida Refugee Camp participated in the annual Anti-Racism World Cup in Belfast, Ireland. The tour was funded and in collaboration with the Green Brigade, a left wing Celtic supporters group who bring noise and politics into the stadiums. Lajee Center’s youth group were delighted to be invited and participate in the activities, however, they experienced many difficulties in the lead up to the tournament, particularly with visa delays and travelling across borders.
Despite the initial challenges, all nine participants travelled to Ireland and took part in the whole competition and had the opportunity to learn about the struggle in Belfast and Ireland from the people.
The Anti-Racism World Cup is an annual educational, cultural and social event, taking place in Belfast. This year was the 9th competition hosted by the West Belfast Community of Lenadoon and the 8th year at Donegal Celtic FC. The tournament is for 7 a side soccer teams from across Ireland to play International visiting teams from Europe and beyond. The ethos of the tournament and associated events are Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist and Anti-Imperialist.
Lajee Center’s youth greatly enjoyed the activities and the tournament, proudly reaching the semi-finals. The group visited many different places in Belfast, learning about the political situation of the city and the historical conflict, and meeting different political figures. It was a privilege for the group to meet with Irish former political prisoners, who explained in their own words the situation in Ireland currently and the kind of struggle people in the occupied north are still experiencing. The group also had the opportunity to tour the city and see for themselves the history of Belfast, particularly the walls of the city, the stories of military, armed presence on the streets, the history of hunger strikers, the mass incarceration of freedom fighters and the many Irish martyrs. The stories of the continual injustices historically weighed upon the people of the north of Ireland struck a chord with the whole group, as they could relate to the harsh violences of colonial occupation and military oppression.
This tour was very important for Lajee Center and our youth. The majority of the group have never had the opportunity to leave Palestine before: this tour not only allowed the youth to visit a new country and see new places, but to share in the history of another people, learn about their specific struggle against colonial occupation, and create long-lasting friendships and memories. Lajee Center is determined to continue working hard with our friends in Ireland, Scotland and all over the world, especially in activities that promote equality and publicly stand against racism, fascism and imperalism. Lajee Center believes in working collectively, with the unity of people on the ground in global solidarity, in order to break down our isolation and continue strengthening our struggle against racism and colonialism. We would like to share a sincere thank you to all of the amazing people and friends in the Green Brigade who made this tour happen, and everyone who supported our participation in the Anti-Racism World Cup tournament. Lajee hopes that in the future we can work together again, fighting against racism, facism and imperialism, from Palestine, Ireland and beyond.