September 1988: Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses is published by Viking/Penguin.

October 1988:  Rushdie’s book is banned in India and Islamist organisations in Britain form an action committee.

January 1989: groups based in Britain hold a series of public book burnings.

14 February 1989: Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran declares a fatwa calling all Muslims to kill Rushdie for blaspheming against the religion.

9 March 1989: Southall Black Sisters and the Southall Labour Party Women’s Section hold a public meeting in Southall to mark International Women’s Day. The meeting is entitled “The resurgence of Religion? What price do women pay?’

6 May 1989: WAF is launched at a meeting of feminist activists at the London Women’s Centre.

27 May 1989: WAF’s foundational moment in Parliament Square where WAF women confront anti Rushdie demonstrators demanding censorship and also the fascist British National Party. WAF’s slogans include “Our Tradition: struggle not submission”, “Religious leaders don’t speak for us”, “Blasphemy laws police dissent”, “Fear is your weapon/Courage is ours”.

Autumn 1989:  a benefit / fundraiser for WAF at Conway Hall.

9 February 1990: Khomeini’s successor, Ali Khameini, renews the fatwa against Rushdie.

14 February 1990: WAF re-iterates its support of Rushdie

8 March 1990: WAF public meeting entitled ‘Resisting Religious Fundamentalism World-wide’ including a panel of speakers from Britain, Bangladesh, Israel, Ghana, the USA and USSR.

1990: a picket outside the Home Office in defence of Rabia Janjua’s application for exceptional leave to remain in the UK.

15 May 1990: a picket of the Irish Embassy to protest the Irish government’s decision to place the rights of the unborn foetus on par with the rights of the mother.

2 August 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait

27 October 1990: WAF first public seminar entitled ‘Religious Fundamentalism and Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Rights and Against Censorship’

November 1990: first issue of the WAF journal.

17 January 1991: start of Operation Desert Storm, UN-authorised bombing of Iraq in response to the annexation of Kuwait. Also known as the First Gulf War

22 February 1991: WAF issue a public statement on the Gulf War

Spring 1991: WAF supports the Save Our Schools campaign in Southall opposing the actions of Sikh activists to use Margaret Thatcher’s ‘opt out’ legislation to transform local secular comprehensives into faith based schools.

11 May 1991: WAF seminar on Secularism and Nationalism, speakers included Estella Schmid, Nira Yuval-Davis, Fatima Babiker and Gita Sahgal.

6 December 1991: Hindutva activists attack the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in northern India leading to riots and mass murder of Muslims by Hindu Right activists. The South Asian Alliance Against Communalism is established in Southall.

1992: Gulf War meetings joint with WiB and WILPF.

1992: WAF re-iterates its opposition to the fatwa against Rushdie.  

18 February 1992: Picket of the Irish Embassy calling for the Irish fatwa against a 14 year old pregnant rape victim to be lifted.

Spring 1992: a branch of WAF is established in the north of England

September 1993: Women United Against Racism is formed in Tower Hamlets.

25 June 1994: WAF seminar about religious and sex education.

5 to 13 September 1994: WAF delegation to the NGO forum at the UN Conference in Cairo on Population and Development.

4 – 15 September 1995: WAF delegation participated in the NGO workshops at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

18 March 1995: WAF day school entitled ‘Women Resisting Fundamentalisms World-wide’.

1996: WAF delegation or submission? At International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Johannesburg.

18 May 1995: WAF public meeting entitled ‘Fundamentalist Politics in Israel and the Vatican’.

1995: seminar with SWASWA to express solidarity with the women’s struggle in Algeria.

May 1996: WAF disbands and closes its office above the Red Rose Club on Seven Sisters Road.


5 May 1997: New Labour elected to form a government.


Summer 2001: riots across the north of England

11 September 2001: Al Qaeda suicide bombings of the Twin Towers in New York

7 October 2001: USA launches air attack on Afghanistan

2002: ex-WAF members regroup

8 September 2002: women’s teach-in entitled ‘Anti-militarism, Fundamentalism, Secularism, Civil Liberties and Anti Terror Legislation after 9/11’ organised jointly by WAF, Act Together, Women in Black, Southall Black Sisters, Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

2002: Gujarat genocide – fact finding? Formation of Awaaz south asia watch.

2003: UK expands its equality legislation by establishing Employment (Religion and Belief) Regulations for…

19 March 2003: Britain joins forces with USA to launch an attack on Iraq.

Soup kitchen meetings

7 July 2005: bombings of London tube

10 May 2006: WAF members contribute to an event convened by Amnesty International UK entitled ‘Women’s Human Rights and Fundamentalism’.

21 October 2006: WAF public meeting entitled ‘Women, the War on Terror and Fundamentalism’ at ULU, Malet Street. Speakers: Pragna Patel (SBS); Nadje Al-Ali (Act Together); Mai Ghousoub (writer/artist, Saqi books); and Julia Bard (JSG).

January 2007: WAF Submission to the Community Cohesion and Integration Committee

17 and 18 July 2008: WAF women support SBS in their legal challenge against Ealing Council’s interpretation of ‘community cohesion’

24 September 2008: WAF submission to Discrimination Law Review Team to oppose proposals to extend the Public Sector Equality Duty to ‘the need to promote equality of opportunity to religion or belief

25 November 2008: WAF public meeting at the House of Commons ‘Faith, Equality and Cohesion’ speakers: Pragna Patel (SBS), Sandhya Sharma (Manchester Saheli) and Karon Monaghan QC (Matrix Chambers)

November 2009: WAF’s 20th anniversary public meeting entitled ‘Struggle not Submission’ at ULU, Malet Street. Speakers: Gita Sahgal, Peter Tatchell, Julia Bard.

7 February 2010: Gita Sahgal makes a public statement to The Sunday Times criticising Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners

12 March 2010: WAF panel entitled ‘Feminism, the anti-secular turn and the politics of the faith agenda’ at the WLM at 40 event, Ruskin College, Oxford

12 May 2010: The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats form a Coalition government in response to a Hung Parliament in the UK parliamentary elections.

20 June 2010: WAF women leaflet the United East End mobilisation in Tower Hamlets

14 July 2010: WAF e-list meeting to discuss constitution and report back on antifascist rally in Tower Hamlets.

18 September 2010: WAF women join the 20,000 strong march against Pope Ratzinger’s visit to the UK to express opposition to his bigoted views, his role in the cover up of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church and also state funding of his visit. Clara Connolly and Pragna Patel are amongst the list of speakers at the rally.

22 September 2010: Helen Lowe addresses No One Is Illegal meeting.

28 September 2010: WAF e-list meeting about Tower Hamlets

25 November 2010: WAF AGM and start of formal membership.

18 December 2010: Arab Spring Uprisings start in Tunisia and roll out Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

4 March 2011: WAF attends BPCA memorial event for Shabhaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, who was assassinated for being outspoken in his opposition to the country’s blasphemy laws.

26 March 2011: WAF women join the national demonstration against public sector cuts.

2 July 2011: WAF addresses the British Pakistani Christian Association’s (BPCA) march against the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

7 June 2011: WAF e-list meeting entitled ‘Women in Middle Easter Revolutions’ with speaker Professor Nadje Al-Ali.

12 June 2011: WAF mourns the sudden loss of Helen Lowe who died in her sleep aged 67.

June 2012: WAF closes for the second time.

12 July 2012: tragic loss of Cassandra Balchin who dies of cancer aged 50.

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