Idrish

Yet another documentary that makes me ask, why didn’t we learn about this in school?

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you’ll remember me harking on about how British civil rights movements are not taught in schools, about how we know far more about American civil rights and anti-racist movements than we do our own. That the need to erase the history of racism in the UK, has led to us erasing the history of anti-racism in the UK as well. Unlike the icons of the American civil rights era, many, many people would struggle to name one person who campaigned against racist laws and restrictions at the same time in Britain.

Idrish is one of those people. Muhammad Idrish was Bengali-born and came to England in the 70s on scholarship to uni. There he studied, got married, got a job, settled down. When he applied for indefinite leave to remain, the Home Office hummed and hawed, and dragged its feet for two and a half years, putting Idrish and his wife through a half-dozen repeated interviews. When his marriage hit a rough patch, unsurprising given the amount of stress they were under, he and his wife separated, and within a week, an immigration officer decides he should be deported. Like, they weren’t divorced, they hadn’t even been separated a full week, but this pig decides unilaterally that the marriage is over, and uses it as an excuse to punt him out the country. Like, if you were trying to reconcile your marriage before, you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to do it from the other side of the world.

Luckily at that time the trade unions were still strong, and they took up his case. And it was not easy. It was a long drawn out process, going through every court in the land. But people united to demonstrate against the bullshit racist policies and laws of this country. There were marches, rallies, leaflets, letters, petitions, and protests of every kind.

And when Idrish finally won his case, he used the knowledge and expertise he had gained to form anti-deportation activists into a group campaigning for others. He saw his injustice as just one case among many. He saw the need to keep fighting racist policies as a whole, for everyone.

I liked how the director used archival footage that was in a mix of colour and black-and-white, and also shot contemporary footage in a mix of colour and black-and-white. Because these stories are not over. Literally just at the weekend there was a protest in George Square against the newest raft of racist immigration policies. This story is not a history, it’s a map.

Really great short documentary, exactly what should be shown in schools.