RAPAR volunteer and co-ordinator of the 'Syrian Identity Is Not a Crime' campaign, Yasmine Nahlawi, spoke in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and brought to light the current issues faced by Syrian nationals, concerning increased scrutiny and discrimination by banks such as HSBC:
I also bring solidarity from the Syrian community, a community that is experiencing its own set of trials, but that doesn't stop us from speaking out against injustice in Palestine. Let us not forget that the Palestinians themselves are standing in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, showing us very powerfully that the fight for justice can easily cross oceans and knows no boundaries.
Today I'd like to talk to you about a campaign that I'm leading in the Syrian community but has very close relevance to the Palestinian issue.
My husband and I are both Syrian. The difference between both of us is that I have an American passport while he has a Syrian passport, a difference, which I have learned over the past three years, means that we get subjected to different types of treatment in many different respects.
One of these differences played out into a very dramatic scenario last January, when our joint account at HSBC bank was inhibited and almost closed over suspicion regarding his Syrian nationality. And yes, I mean suspicion over his NATIONALITY. Not suspicion over our account activity, through which we've never even transferred money into or out of the country. Not suspicion over unknown withdrawals or deposits or money that went unaccounted for. No. HSBC's suspicion came purely from the fact that my husband is Syrian, and with Syria being a sanctioned country, the bank didn't want to deal with us anymore.
We soon realised that this had happened with many other Syrians across the UK. The press has also recently come out with similar stories in which the bank has targeted the accounts of several Muslim charities, among them Ummah Welfare Trust which carries out humanitarian work in Gaza. They've also closed the accounts of several prominent individuals, all Palestinian activists, under the guise of risk analysis or compliance with national regulations. HSBC claims that there is nothing inherently discriminatory in the way that it deals with its customers, but we know that this pattern of account closures is not coincidental. HSBC is very obviously targeting people of certain nationalities or political ideologies. It believes that it can intimidate people and stop services to them because of their identities or political stances, for example against Israeli oppression. This is a very under-handed and unacceptable way that it's is abusing its power over its customers and is something that should not be justifiable through a set of vague terms and conditions or national regulations.
So, with all of us here engaged in the boycott of Israeli products, I'd like to urge you to extend this boycott to HSBC. Under the umbrella of two organisations, RAPAR and Rethink Rebuild, we've started a campaign to address HSBC's discriminatory policies and its abuse of power over its customers. I'd like to invite you all to join our boycott of HSBC, in solidarity with Palestinians but also other vulnerable people who've been unfairly targeted by this bank. More information about this campaign, including more action that you can take against HSBC, can be found at our RAPAR table over there. I'd like to encourage you all to visit our table to see how you can help support or get involved in our organisation and other campaigns."