‘Iranians are not war-like': Maryam Eslamdoust's peace plea as she becomes mayor

Borough's first citizen will raise money for Solace Women's Aid

Thursday, 16th May 2019 — By Richard Osley

maryam eslamdoust

Maryam Eslamdoust receives the mayoral chain for the first time

CAMDEN’S new mayor last night (Wednesday) became the first Iranian woman to take up such a role in the United Kingdom, asking people to think differently about Iran as she accepted the chain.

Maryam Eslamdoust said: “Now is a time of intense danger between Britain’s allies and the country of my birth. “My mayoralty will of course be local, not international, but at a time of such danger it would be wrong not to speak up in Camden’s proud tradition of peace and activism. I say this to people who think Iranians are warlike people: we are not. We are proud people but we are scarred by the memory of millions of our citizens killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Iranians do not want war.”

Cllr Eslamdoust is eight months pregnant and is set to be the first mayor in Camden’s history to give birth in office. She named her unborn baby as one of her escorts. Her consort will be fellow Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner, her husband.

Thomas Gardiner becomes the mayor’s consort

She added: “Like many other minorities in our borough, and the country, it can be hard being Iranian. It can be hard to be accepted for who you are, hard to get on in life, hard not to be judged by prejudices about Iranian people. Becoming mayor feels like a big step in these circumstances and I pledge that throughout my may­oralty I will work hard to make the marginalised feel accepted.”

The mayoral charity for the coming year will be Solace Women’s Aid, and Cllr Eslamdoust said she wanted to show how people could help those suffering domestic abuse “whether that be physical or emotional”.

She told the chamber: “I myself have seen how difficult it was to get help when a close friend needed it, and how quickly people’s eyes and ears closed. “This year I ask all of us to think about our own responses: if you see or suspect domestic abuse then, please, speak up, offer help, acknowledge, never turn away.”

Cllr Eslamdoust with new deputy mayor Sabrina Francis

Cllr Eslamdoust’s nomination was proposed in the chamber by Douglas Beattie and Lorna Russell, who paid tribute to Cllr Eslam­doust’s time as a councillor with her voice cracking in emotion and ending in tears.

The new mayor’s deputy will be Sabrina Francis, chosen by the Labour group earlier this month.

Lorna Russell is overcome by emotion as she pays tribute to her friend

The mayoral chain was officially passed on by outgoing mayor Jenny Headlam-Wells, who raised £90,000 for the Camden Music Trust during her time as the borough’s first citizen.

After the speeches, councillors, former councillors and guest sat down in the council chamber, drinking wine and eating curry – with the normal desks cleared away and the room at the Crowndale Centre decorated with special lighting.

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