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10th Apr 2017

The woman pictured facing down an EDL marcher has spoken about the powerful photo

Photo of the year, surely

Rich Cooper

Defiance, grace, strength, and unwavering cool.

These are just a few of the thousand words painted by the picture of a protester staring down an English Defence League leader in Birmingham over the weekend.

The photo of the young woman, named Saffiyah Khan, quickly went viral, showing the very best qualities of Brits in the face of the very worst. Khan smiled as she confronted the man, identified as far-right leader Ian Crossland, at an EDL march in her hometown.

Retweeted and shared several thousand times, the image prompted an outpouring of love and support for Khan from across the political spectrum.

Khan has now spoken about the moment, saying that she was “not scared in the slightest” when she came into conflict with Crossland and the EDL. She told the Mirror:

“I was there with a few friends to look after people – because Muslims and people of colour are often abused. Nothing was really happening until a woman in a headscarf started shouting ‘racist’.

“About 20 to 25 EDL people ran over and surrounded her. She looked absolutely terrified. I still hung back and waited for the police to sort it out. I waited two or three minutes and but the police did nothing, so I decided to go and try and get her out of there.”

Khan said that she was then identified to the group as ‘anti-fascist’, which she says led to them turning on her.

“Ian Crossland was poking his finger in my face, but I just stood there. I didn’t do anything, I wasn’t interested, that wasn’t my intention. I couldn’t understand what was being said though to be honest, it was all very mumbled.

“But I wasn’t scared in the slightest. I stay pretty calm in these situations. I knew they were trying to provoke me, but I wasn’t going to be provoked. I was just holding out. Then I was just pulled out of there, I wasn’t arrested or charged.”

Although she’s now a known person thanks to the picture, Khan said that “on balance it was worth it”.

In response, Crossland said in a Facebook post that Khan was “lucky she got any teeth left”, claiming that she interrupted a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack in Stockholm.

The photo was taken by Joe Giddens, regional photographer for the Press Association