Breakthrough: a story of love and prejudice

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Suhail Aziz’s book, Breakthrough (Book Guild, 2020), is a memoir of a British Bengali and his personal story interwoven with love and prejudice. Aziz is best known within the British Bengali community for his involvement with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). The book, however, also traces his struggle in the UK and his career in public service. It also covers some significant episodes in the life of the Bengali community, from the partition of the Indian subcontinent to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

And as we celebrate Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee, there is a brief chapter on Bangladesh’s movement in Britain. On the inevitable break-up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh, Aziz cites, among other reasons, the geographic distance of a thousand miles between the two wings of old Pakistan, and the imposition of domination of Urdu and Pakistan. Western political, economic and industrial power. Suhail Aziz was in England when he joined the movement in the UK to liberate his homeland. Together with his colleagues, he formed the Streatham branch of the Bangladesh Action Committee atop a restaurant called ‘Kulaura’ on Streatham High Road, south London. Their activities included distributing leaflets, participating in protests, rallies and marches, and contacting the media to raise awareness. After the war he was also instrumental in establishing the Bangladesh Awami League Overseas to provide additional support, although the offer was turned down due to the existing Awami League in the UK.

Suhail Aziz was born in Sylhet. In the chapter “Little Years – Sylhet” he fondly recalls his childhood with a small group of friends going to school, university, playing and having a picnic together. This closeness continued until some of them parted ways in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Germany. He formed a group called the “1952 Batch” in the UK, named after the year they attended Sylhet Government High School.

Suhail Aziz at the book launch at the Royal Air Force Club, Mayfair, London, September 4, 2021. Photo: Courtesy

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Suhail Aziz at the book launch at the Royal Air Force Club, Mayfair, London, September 4, 2021. Photo: Courtesy

After the ISC course at Sylhet MC College, Aziz joined the Pakistani Navy in 1954. After initial training in Pakistan, he entered Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, England, where the British Admiralty appointed him to the end of his training. In Dartmouth, he meets and falls in love with Anna, Elizabeth Ann Pyne, who will become his wife. Her love led to tensions with Pakistani authorities, resulting in the dismissal of the Pakistani Navy due to her marriage to a foreign national. After his dismissal, Suhail Aziz served with the Inland Water Transport Authority in East Pakistan and Unilever Factory in Chittagong before returning to the UK in 1966 with his family.

In England, Aziz started out as a ticket clerk at a rail station in the outer suburbs of London before a job change that led to a permanent commission with direct entry into the Royal Air Force (RAF). This was the start of Suhail Aziz’s career in the UK. After leaving the RAF, he worked at the Ford Motor Company, the Mars Group, and finally as a director at the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). He has served in several government agencies to improve relationships between various groups of people, including the Nottingham and Tower Hamlets Community Relations Councils. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, he was instrumental in bringing community perspectives to the Home Affairs subcommittee’s groundbreaking report, ‘Bangladeshis in Britain’, on housing needs, community health, education and employment. He has also served on the Labor Party Race Relations Action Group, the Nottingham Community Relations Council, the BBC Asian Unit Advisory Committee, the East London Bangladeshi Enterprise Agency and the Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, among others.

Following the death of his wife Anna in 2014, Aziz went through the different phases of mourning. In her own words, “Dealing with the loneliness and sadness has not been easy for me. I have felt deep within me what it means to be without Anna, my precious companion in my life. .. I miss her terribly. ”

Family and friends came to support him, and a few friends suggested that he write his memoirs, as they felt he had a story to tell despite the fact that he had never written before.

The guests mingle at the book launch. Photo: Courtesy

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The guests mingle at the book launch. Photo: Courtesy


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