We all know how Saffiyah Khan stood up face to face against the EDL thug earlier this year, that picture that captured the moment has propelled Khan to international recognition. Saffiyah Khan has now been named as one of the stylist magazine’s ‘Women of the Year’.
The Image of Saffiyah Khan, 19, confronting a member of far-right group the English Defence League went viral in April 2017. The picture which captured the moment during a demonstration in Birmingham city centre, shows Saffiyah smiling with her hands casually in her pockets – amused and unafraid at the angry, red face of Ian Crossland – it became a iconic symbol of defiance against intolerance.
Saffiyah Khan has become a highly respected social & political activist and has continued to pursue her passion to speak out. Khan has been a speaker at events with the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has also appeared on TV shows such as Channel 4’s The Last Leg. Recently Saffiyah Khan has hosted a photo exhibition in Birmingham and now even trying out modelling.
Talking about her experience from the demonstration Saffiyah Khan said to Stylist Magazine:
“We knew the EDL were coming to Birmingham, and they have a long history of targeting locals. A group of mates and I went down. I am politically active and have been going on protests since I was quite young.
We were at the rally for 45 minutes before anything happened. Then a lady came over – Saira Zafar – and started calling the EDL xenophobes and bigots. They surrounded her. We thought, we’re going to have to get involved now.
Soon after we pulled her out, that picture was taken of me. It was taken by Joe Giddens from the Press Association. There was a lot of press there, because last time the EDL came, there were riots. I was way too young to get involved then.”
“It was just a moment. Our general rationale was, ‘Keep your hands in your pockets’, because the far-righters will take any excuse to say, ‘She did this’. We should be very wary of the increase in far-right politics in this country. More needs to be done. It’s becoming mainstream.
After the protest, I saw the photo. I thought, ‘That’s a decent picture’, and sent it to a friend. Then it went crazy, there were loads of things popping up on Facebook. All the newspapers were getting in touch.
I didn’t have a mobile at the time because I’d lost it and decided to stay ‘off grid’, so my dad took on the role of PA. A couple of years ago he said I wasn’t allowed to go to any more protests because he had to pick me up from the police station once, but with this he couldn’t be angry at me. Tommy Robinson, who co-founded the EDL, tweeted that it had embarrassed them. I’ll take that.”
Anna Fielding, Stylist’s associate features editor, said:
“We chose people who we thought had shown extraordinary courage and determination. These are not everyday people – they’re incredible. But I hope it will show our readers that they can be incredible too. We all have so much potential.”
Stylist’s editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski added:
“It is hard to reflect on 2017 without focussing on some of the toughest challenges we’ve faced in the UK, and it would be easy to get lost in this sadness and fear.
“But for me, the most amazing thing about these stories, were those of hope. It’s reassuring to know that our world isn’t broken because the majority of people are good, kind, selfless and generous – especially when put to the ultimate test.
“So in true Stylist fashion we wanted to celebrate those women who had made their mark on our year with acts of true courage and bravery, and who offer hope that we can still come together and create a world we can be proud of.”
Saffiyah appears alongside nine other women, including Grenfell Tower firefighter Louisa De Silvo, campaigner Anna Veglio-Wdite, peacemaker Zakia Bassou, justice seeker Margaret Aspinall, activist Akeela Ahmed, period-poverty champion Amika George, and peacemaker Zakia Bassou. Saffiyah Khabn was photographed by Stylist Magazine’s Mark Harrison.
To see the rest of Stylist Magazines ‘Women of the Year’, click here