A WALK THROUGH DESTRUCTION AND HOPE – Aleppo, Syria

Diarmuid Breatnach

On Saturday 8th June, The Starry Plough Historical Society put on a remarkable event: an exhibition of photos from Aleppo with a real-time audio explanation of each by the photographer, community worker Antoine Makdis, speaking from Aleppo itself.  Please note all but one of the images are photos taken by me of those being shown on the screen, hence the poor quality of the image but it is Antoine’s story of each that is of  most importance.

Audience and presenter in Ireland in contact with Antoine Makdis in Aleppo. (Photo: D.Breatnach

          Aleppo is a many-centuries-old city in the north of Syria which for five years was fought over in the war between Jihadists and the Syrian national army. Antoine Makdis is a Syrian community worker who also takes documentary photographs. The city was once the principal one in the region, being on the midway spot on Silk Road for caravans, between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean but the development of the Suez Canal reduced its trade importance hugely. There was also political rivalry between Aleppo-based interests and those in Damascus, as to whether to gravitate towards allegiance with Iraq or with Egypt.

However, the city has nevertheless been famed for its antiquity and its ancient buildings, as well as for its edible produce and cuisine. Sadly, the city was riven by war between 2012 and 20161, suffering huge destruction to its ancient buildings and communal spaces and with high loss of life too.  

This man was looking for where the remains of his shop were in the souq.

Aleppo won  the “Islamic City of Culture” title in 2006.  Its western suburbs contain “the Dead Cities” with remains of many cultures which have Unesco World Heritage status since 2011 under the title “Ancient Villages of Syria”.  The city has the largest covered market-souq in the world and ancient buildings of worship, not only for Moslems but also for Christians and Jews.

This man and his mother took the long way home from their shopping. When Antoine asked them why, they replied that they “are walking their memories” through the souq.
Shopkeepers selling their products at a higher price early in the day and dropping as time goes on, then sometimes giving away free at the end of day.
For the first time, fish being sold again. This fishmonger is famous in Aleppo now.
His shop was destroyed but instead of giving up, he runs a stall in front of the ruins.

Wikepedia: “Aleppo lies about 120 km (75 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea on a plateau 280 m (1,250 ft) above sea level, 45 km (28 miles) east of the Syrian-Turkish border checkpoint of Bab al-Hawa. The city is surrounded by farmlands to the north and west, widely cultivated with olive and pistachio trees. To the east, Aleppo approaches the dry areas of the Syrian Desert.”

Before the recent war in Syria the population of the city was 4.6 million, making it the most populous city in Syria but it is probably so no longer. According to some sources it is one of the cities in longest continuous human occupation, possibly since 6th millennium BC.

If I recall correctly, this is what remains of the popular children’s toy shop in the city.
This is what remains of a popular square which had a tree and many couples met here first.
Fans of a British soccer team. “What did you do during the war?” Antoine asked them.
“We played football.”

DOCUMENTING THE EFFECTS OF WAR AND BEGINNINGS OF RECOVERY

          After the fighting in the city ceased, Antoine walked around taking photos, documenting not only terrible damage but the efforts of people to recover and the voluntary work done by some people to help people recover the city.

The Dublin event was organised by the Starry Plough Historical Society. A screen displayed the photographs while a presenter conversed with Antoine Makdis on a link-up and the latter talked about each photo, why he took it and what it meant to him.

I think this is a photo of school being reopened. Many of us, like Antoine, were reluctant attenders at school but these kids really look forward to it after the war.
This one also of kids going to school these days, I think.

“I wanted to show the world my beloved city Aleppo, through my eyes”, the photographer wrote in an introduction published on the event page. “This city that suffered a lot from the war and at the same time is cleaning the dust of battles from it’s magical robe to rise again as the oldest and most beautiful city in the world. That year, Aleppo started to recover after the unification of the parts of the city. And I started to publish these pictures on facebook, writing sometimes stories about the photos and most of the times keeping the picture taken unaccompanied by words.”

The event promotion on FB posted that it would be “… non-political, free to attend and open to all (respectful behavior to others is mandatory however).” At the time I questioned how anything could be non-political, to say nothing of photos taken in what was a war zone fought over definite political objectives. I do think I was correct in doubting that possibility and, at times, it was clear that Antoine was grateful for the Syrian National Army for ridding his city of the jihadists and that is entirely understandable.

Sadly, as the last photo was being discussed, I had to leave to attend another event and so was unable to participate in discussion with the photographer, or to thank and congratulate him for his work and what seemed to me a deep humanity underlying it.

Workers are hired to clear the rubble but funds to pay them only stretch to half a day. This worker does a full day, half for free, to help bring the city back to life.
This man voluntarily cleans houses left filthy by the jihadists so that people can move back in, Antoine told us.  Behind him, a building has collapsed spectacularly resembling geological strata pushed up at one end by tectonic plates movement.

 

This kid called his donkey by his brother’s name. He goes around collecting and delivering items and gives a lift to anyone who wants it.

ALEPPO WAR BACKGROUND

          The uprising against Assad may have had genuine democratic or socialist component and it would not be surprising, given the history of the Syrian State, if they were suppressed with unreasonable force.

This woman, Antoine told us, lost her husband and had 12 children to care for. The street she had to go on to get food for the children was overlooked by snipers in combat each end of the street but she went each day. A hero.

In Aleppo, there had been a demonstration against Assad in August 2011, some months after they had occurred elsewhere in Syria. Syrian State forces had suppressed that demonstration with the loss of two lives. Two months later, there was a large pro-regime demonstration.

The jihadists began to attack Government forces and others with bombs the following year. In February two suicide car bombs hit security compounds, killing four civilians, 13 Army, 11 Police and injuring 235. Another bomb in March 2012 killed two police and one civilian and injured 30 residents of the area. In July the “Free Syrian Army” besieged the city and penetrated into a section so that the war was then fought house to house until it stabilised into war between the section held by the FSA and the other, held by the Syrian National Army, separated by a no-man’s land.

The FSA were by this time undoubtedly mostly jihadists, i.e followers of the call of “jihad” or religious war. Jihadists are operating in various parts of the world and have undoubtedly been funded by Western Powers, chiefly the USA, along with in many cases sections of the Saudi Arabian royal ruling class.

I am unsure whether this is the old dangerous or the new safer Aleppo road. The old one was often ambushed by the FSA and severed heads were sometimes left along it. Antoine lost two former school mates on that road.
One of the many such sights on the old road.

The strategists of the USA have felt for years that it was necessary to have the rulers of a number of Middle Eastern states overthrown and replaced with regimes friendly to them.

The USA began seriously funding jihadists in Afghanistan to counter the Russian military and political presence there from the end of 1979 to early 1989 (they even sent them Rambo2!). Al Qaeda was created then by the USA, the organisation’s leadership drawing also on support from ruling circles in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA strategists developed a theory that religious zealots could be used to counter the influence of socialists and anti-imperialist democrats. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Al Qaeda later turned against it creator, the USA, of which the most spectacular incident was the hijacked airplane attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon in September 11, 2001.

“This is not a happy picture,” Antoine said. These children imagined themselves soldiers and had formed a platoon, with different ranks among them.

The monster has found a life of its own and has bred many offspring (the organisation variously known as ISIS/ ISIL/ Islamic State/ DAESH being the most notorious) and continues to be an ongoing danger to the people of the world. The various groups often fight among themselves for dominance and this was the case between ISIS in Syria and the imperialist-backed FSA.

Dr. Frankenstein has not entirely given up on his creation, believing it can be used in a controlled way from time to time wherever in the Middle East the political situation threatens the foreign interests of the USA.

End.

She wants to study to become an architect, to reconstruct her ruined home, the ancient building behind her.
The lingerie shop is back in business
Contrasting styles of women
With the water supply damaged, people had to go to water tanks supplied. Here an Armenian Christian and an Arab chat while collecting water.
With electricity supply reconnected, he can have light in his shop again.
Each day these two take walks through once-familiar districts. The one on the right is developing Alzheimer’s and his friend talks to him about what they see.
Antoine heard this child singing “Old Mac Donald” with some of the words in Arabic but he was too shy to be photographed. Cycling is the best way to get through most the rubble.
A couple, perhaps newly-returned, walk through Aleppo carrying their baby between them.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Aleppo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo

Hosting organisation of Starry Plough Historical Society: https://www.facebook.com/AIAIreland2/?eid=ARCsOcnqMgynuedzFgI4HifYpeJQu8cLd7JbEn9W4z3FFaWcVisIQg2vPOEaFUNNYDWMYKHs88Y0kKTs

FOOTNOTES

1Known as The Battle for Aleppo

2In the film Rambo III, the actor Sylvester Stallone plays a USA special forces fighter aiding the humble Afghanis in overthrowing the Russian occupation.

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CÚPLA MÍLE PROTESTORS RATHER THAN MÍLE FÁILTE FOR TRUMP’S VISIT

Diarmuid Breatnach

          Ireland has broken off its love affair with the USA but the breakup’s been coming for a long time. Of course it was always a kind of mythical USA that was the love object, of film stars, rock n’ roll, friendly presidents, Irish-U.Stater politicians, of U.Stater tourists – never the real USA, good or bad. One could feel the tensions in the relationship during the Viet Nam War, though that was mostly to be seen in the youth and some lefties. But then came the lying scandals in the US Presidency of Nixon and Clinton and the naked warmongering throughout all, including the Bushes, Snr. and Jnr.

Looking southward from around the middle of the crowd in front of the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

          Ireland, below the level of its Gombeen politicians, has split up with the USA (at the level of ITS politicians and millionaires [often the same thing]) but it has been a relatively civilised breakup and thankfully with no children (well, apart from the Irish illegal immigrants – sorry, undocumented visitors).

While some businesses in an Dún Beag might have turned a profit out the Fear Mór’s visit, having the Chief of the World Superpower drop in on us has cost us – around 10 million euro, according to the Irish Independent. Loads of extra Gardaí on the ground in Co. Clare and Limerick, in the air and on sea, does not come cheap (though I’m sure the overtime was welcome). All would have been bad enough if we had invited him but we hadn’t. Will the Irish Government present the US Presidency with an itemised bill? Probably not.

Blimp rising — taken from northern edge of rally.
(Photo: D. Breatnach)

At the invitation of The Irish Examiner, a number of organisations and individuals had written letters to Trump for publication (see link below); most were critical and these included Amnesty International, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, National Union of Journalists, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Union of Students; Brendan Ogle, Tara Flynn and Clare Daly. For entertainment value I’d pick out the IPSC’s and Tara Flynn’s (well, she is a comedian). The ICCL also had a newspaper advertisement criticising Trump, which was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and figured logos of a number of other civil rights organisations.

There were protests in various parts of the country, including one to greet his arrival at Shannon airport (hopefully US munitions and troop carriers were pulled to one side so as not to hinder his landing). The Irish Times said there were about 200 protesters there so, on past reporting, there could have been anything between 300 and 1,000. It is not easy to get to Shannon airport unless one has a car, even from Galway the gaps between bus arrival times are substantial. And no train station.

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

DUBLIN RALLY

          Dublin had a showy and packed anti-Trump rally, with a Baby Trump blimp floating above the crowd outside the Garden of Remembrance. An activist brought big letter placards which, with the help of volunteers from the crowd, spelled out anti-trump messages in English and in Irish. Indeed an interesting feature was a number of placards partly or completely in Irish.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

The theme of “welcome” or “fáilte” was of course played upon in reverse, in speech and placard, with more than a hinted reference to the old Bord Fáilte slogan inviting tourists to the land of “céad míle fáilte”.

On this placard play is made of the old “Céad míle fáilte” sentence (“a 100,000 welcomes”) but with a different twist.

The event was managed by Unite Against Racism which is, for the most part, People Before Profit, which in turn is really the Socialist Workers’ Party. A number of other left-wing party flags could be seen too. A group of Shinners were at the rally with their trademark flags (never go anywhere without the party’s flag) but no “dissidents” were present as a group, though I certainly noted some as individuals.

The speakers at the rally covered a number of themes, including of course misogyny, migrants, Palestine, war-making and imperialism. Liam Herrick of the ICCL was an unusual sight to see on an outdoors protest platform, speaking at the second part of the rally. Curiously, the rally organisers had sent a major part of the attendance off to march around the city centre for awhile and of course, when they got back, they had shed a great part of their numbers. A torrential downpour no doubt encouraged the desertions.

Glenda, “the woman of letters”, with some of her work.

Coming towards the end of the rally, a performer accompanied himself on guitar while he rendered some songs for the diminished attendance. Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” (also known as “Deportees”) would have been an apposite choice, a song about Mexican labourers being employed in the south-eastern US fruit harvests and then driven back across the Border. Guthrie was moved to sing about them when in 1948 a plane carrying mostly deported Mexicans crashed, killing all on board and though the names of the crew were given in the news reports, the Mexicans were referred to only as “deportees”.

At the rally, eventually Trump was deflated (the blimp, I mean), tethering weight bags emptied of water, placards were packed, flags furled …. and I went to get some shopping.

End.

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)
(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)
(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION:

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/president-trump/ring-of-steel-to-protect-trump-for-two-days-will-cost-10m-38173483.html

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/specialreports/letters-to-the-president-dear-mr-trump–928499.html?fbclid=IwAR0j1hb62cIjBWLxTaXhVwlUCaVaCD76SX-78s_RRJX1aN7ZJTOH2iJDwuU

DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019

DISCURSO DEL COMÍTE ANTI INTERNAMIENTO DE DUBLÍN PARA LA CONMEMORACIÓN DE PASCUA ABRIL 2019

 

 

A Chomrádaith agus a chairde, go raibh maith agaibh (“Companer@s y amig@s, gracias”) al Acción Anti-Imperialista de Irlanda por invitar al Comité de Anti-Internamiento de Dublín a hablar en este evento.

Tradicionalmente este es un tiempo cada año de conmemoraciones.

Conmemoramos en primer lugar a las mujeres, hombres y chicos que salieron a luchar contra un Imperio, el más grande jamás conocido y, en ese momento, el militar más poderoso del mundo. Algun@s lucharon solo por la independencia de Irlanda, much@s lucharon también por la justicia social y otr@s lucharon contra la guerra imperialista. El nuestro fue el primer alzamiento contra la carnicería de la Guerra imperialista y el mundo tuvo que esperar un año antes de que hubiera otro, en Rusia, y dos años antes del alzamiento espartaquista en Alemania.

Pero también conmemoramos a aquell@s much@s otr@s que lucharon y much@s que dieron su vida contra el invasor a través de los siglos, contra el colonizador, los ladrones de tierras, contra la monarquía inglesa por una República, contra los traidores de la causa de la independencia, contra los Gombeen (capitalistas nativos). Los gobernantes de nuestro propio Estado y los gobernantes coloniales de la colonia inglesa restante en suelo irlandés.

Es correcto y apropiado conmemorar los hechos heroicos y el sacrificio del pasado.

Pero no se trata solo del pasado; también se trata del presente y del futuro. A chomrádaithe (“companer@s), la lucha aún no está terminada y sus objetivos aún no se han alcanzado. Vivimos en un país dividido por una frontera británica y también dividido entre ricos y pobres, donde una pequeña minoría de explotadores vive de los trabajadores y de la clase media baja, convirtiendo la miseria de much@s en los euros y libras de unos pocos.

A medida que el fascismo asoma su fea cabeza y destapa sus sangrientos colmillos nuevamente por todo el mundo, nuestros gobernantes aquí en Irlanda también se vuelven cada vez más a la represión. Recordamos a los que están en juicio ahora por oponerse exitosamente al lanzamiento del fascista Pegida en Dublín en 2012. Y los partidarios del Sinn Féin Republicano atacados en Newry mientras conmemoraban el mismo Alzamiento de 1916 el año pasado, también en juicio ahora, una repetición de los ataques del RUC bajo la Ley de Poderes Especiales. Y las redadas en los hogares de much@s republican@s de otras organizaciones a lo largo del año. Y aquellos que languidecen en la cárcel después de la condena por cortes especiales sin jurado en ambos lados de la Frontera.

Parte del arsenal de la represión ha sido tradicionalmente el internamiento sin juicio. Y camaradas, tras el Alzamiento de 1916, hubo una gran ola de detenciones en Irlanda. Más de 3.500 hombres y mujeres fueron arrestados y se dictaron noventa sentencias de muerte, aunque más tarde todas menos 16 fueron conmutados. 1,852 mujeres y hombres fueron internados en campos de concentración y prisiones en Inglaterra y Gales.

Los británicos recurrieron nuevamente al internamiento durante la Guerra de la Independencia, al igual que los gobiernos irlandeses durante la Guerra Civil y en los años 30 y 40, y los británicos en los Seis Condados en los años 70. Eso fue internamiento masivo, pero el internamiento continúa hoy de forma más selectiva, a través de la revocación de la licencia para ex presos y la negativa de la libertad a fianza para otros. Tod@s l@s republican@s deben oponerse a esta práctica represiva y no solo l@s republican@s, sino también l@s socialistas y, de hecho, todas las personas democráticas. La historia muestra una y otra vez que lo que el Estado se sale con la suya contra un grupo, lo usa más tarde contra otro.

El Comité contra el internamiento de Dublín se esfuerza por celebrar un piquete mensual de información en diferentes partes de Dublín y un evento anual en Newry. No somos sectarios y somos independientes de cualquier partido u organización política, lo que significa que TODAS las organizaciones republicanas deben apoyar nuestros eventos, ya que el internmiento nos afecta a todos. O nos oponemos juntos a la represión estatal, camaradas … o vamos a la cárcel por separado.

Go raibh maith agaibh (gracias a vos).

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER – REALLY?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Again and again we come across activists, journalists, musicians and other artists who are lauded for “speaking truth to power”. They are often praised for that, even idolised. “Speaking truth to power” seems to be brave thing to do. And an important thing. But is it really?

First of all, let us think of who are those usually thought of as “Power”: governments, big companies, military dictators, church leaders, powerful individuals in the media or in the arts …..

Why is it considered a good thing to speak truth to them? It may well be brave to do so and often is. People who spoke the truth in certain situations throughout history and currently have had their careers destroyed, been the subject of all kinds of horrible allegations, been marginalised, lost their families and friends, been framed on charges, jailed as a result or just automatically, tortured, killed and “disappeared”. Yes, we could hardly deny the courage of many of those who chose to take that step. But whether it’s an important thing to do is another thing completely.

What? A courageous act against power not important? What can I be suggesting!

Let’s look at those in power again, taking for examples a government, a military dictatorship and the CEO of a powerful company. In our example, we set out to “speak truth” to them.

For the government, we send them an email, or a letter because there are too many Ministers and Secretaries to address verbally – unless of course we are in some kind of privileged position. They in turn ignore us or send us a dismissive reply (possibly tailored to be quoted) or they have us subjected to surveillance, just in case we should turn out to be a real problem in future. And any government in the world is capable of putting citizens under surveillance.

(Cartoon strip source: Internet)

We send the military dictator a letter and he has us arrested, detained for torture and questioning. Or we accost him when he is somewhere in public …. and his security guards shoot us dead. Or arrest us for torture and questioning.

With regard to the CEO, we send him an email. He ignores it but may have us put under surveillance – just in case. And he’ll have our employment and tax records, families and friends checked out too. Like governments, the CEOs of big companies can easily put people under surveillance and run background checks on them. And CEOs likely last longer in the power position than most governments. Or he might reply dismissively. Or he might have his legal services people threaten us with legal action which, as well as shutting us up, would cost us a lot of money we don’t have, probably bankrupting us.

This is the illusion of liberals and social-democrats but the reality is very different.
(Image sourced: Internet)
(image source: Internet)

In the military dictator’s case, we are out of the picture. In the case of the other two, nothing further may happen if we shut up now. But if not, well …. there’s that list of bad outcomes I listed above. Brave? Certainly – but to what effect? Have we changed anything?

Some people think we can change the essence of the way those in Power think by Speaking the Truth to them. If only we can say it powerfully enough. Nonsense. Those in the Power have already chosen who they want to be, what side they are on and understood the basic dynamics or been taught them along the way. Many choices made have confirmed them in their roles and ideology.  Furthermore they know that to break ranks with their own is a dangerous thing to do which can result in bad outcomes for them too and also expose them to painful and even fatal thrusts from their competitors or rivals. Remember the 1983 film Trading Places? Remember how the main hero falls at first, is shunned, loses his privileges, friends and associates? Unlike the film’s ending, there is no coming back from there.

If those CEOs and company owners ever took a progressive step it was because they were shown it would increase their profitability or at very least were shown it wouldn’t hurt it ….. or they were forced to do so by people’s resistance. Not ever by having “Truth Spoken” to them. Unless it was the truth of resistance (and we’ll come back to that).

I don’t see the point of Speaking Truth to Power … except in very exceptional situations. For example, if we are being sentenced in court, even if the public gallery has been cleared or packed with cops (which has happened even in this state on occasion), we might wish to raise a clenched fist and yell “Death to Fascism!” before the guards jump on us and bundle us to the cells, giving us a few punches on the way.

Or being tortured, if we are capable of it (and while we are still capable) we might want to shout something similar or just plain “Fuck you!” Or in front of a firing squad, to shout “Long live the revolution!” before the order comes to “Fire!”

Will it do any good, make any difference? Without an audience apart from those in Power, almost certainly not. It might affect some soldiers or police in the firing squad or some jailers but such results are usually negligible. But in doing so, we assert our humanity, our spirit against them and it is for ourselves alone, at that moment, that we Speak Truth to Power. Otherwise, there is no point, none at all.

I don’t want to Speak Truth to Power and what’s more, question why anyone else would. Is he or she suffering from some kind of liberal illusion that such words make a difference, can convert or subvert Power? Or from an inflated ego that convinces him or her that they have the gift, the eloquence, the importance to make Power change? Or that somehow, by force of their excellent will, they can overcome history and change reality?

Or even worse, are they signaling to the Power that they are articulate, eloquent even with “alternative” credentials and that they are worth recruiting by the Power?

The Naked Emperor. In Hans Christian Andersen’s subversive tale, an undoctrinated child remarks that, contrary to royal propaganda, the Emperor is naked and the people can then admit this to themselves. The child spoke Truth — but to the People.
(image source: Internet)
Speaking truth among the people. (Cartoon source: Internet)

I repeat: I don’t want to Speak Truth to Power. I want to Speak Truth alright … but to the PowerLESS! I want to expose the Powerful to the people. I want to show them the long list of the crimes of the Power and that it is unreformable. But I don’t want to just read the people a horror story; I want to show them how I think the monster can be killed. I want to show the people that THEY CAN DO IT! The people can grasp power with which to overthrow the Power. I want to show the people what their forebears have done in rebellions, uprisings, revolution, creation of resistance organisations, art, discovery of science, production ….. I want to share what I think with them, argue with them, encourage them, criticise them. And the only time I want to Speak Truth to Power is when they, the People, are listening, or reading what I am saying. Because then, it’s not to Power, in reality, that I’ll be Speaking Truth; the important audience is not Power at all.

So, Speaking Truth to the People is the thing to do. And will those who do so be safe from painful outcomes, that list given earlier? Having careers destroyed, being the subject of all kinds of horrible allegations, being marginalised, losing families and friends, being framed on charges, jailed as a result or just automatically, tortured, killed and “disappeared”? Alas, no, each of those is a distinct possibility: all have happened even to the people of our small island and nearly all of them fairly recently. Some very recently and even ongoing.

There is no safe way to Speak Truth. But at least this way, there is a chance that Speaking Truth will have some effect, will make a difference. It might even make a big difference. We hope so.

And the final Truth is that words, for all their power on people’s minds, don’t change the real world. People do that, through action.

End

(image source: Internet)

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE PICKET AT BRITISH EMBASSY DUBLIN

CROWD AT BRITISH EMBASSY DUBLIN CALLS FOR RELEASE OF JULIAN ASSANGE

Diarmuid Breatnach

View of crowd at British Embassy from across the street (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Today, June 19th, is the anniversary of the date when Julian Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which he was granted. That was 2012, since which he has been confined to a few rooms in that building, unable to leave for fear of British arrest and extradition to the US, where he is wanted for broadcasting their secrets on their murderous campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and other matters. A crowd gathered outside the British Embassy to demand Assange be set free – among them as speakers were TDs Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, along with Nobel Peace Laureate Mairéad Corrigan and musician Paul O’Toole (also another musician).

Paul O’Toole playing and singing
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

At least five Gardaí were in attendance, along with a police van.

From Wikipedia: Julian Paul Assange (born Hawkins; 3 July 1971) is an Australian computer programmer and the editor of WikiLeaks. Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, but came to international attention in 2010, when WikiLeaks published a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning. These leaks included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), and CableGate (November 2010). Following the 2010 leaks, the federal government of the United States launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and asked allied nations for assistance.

Poster of image of Julian Assange with the flag of the USA as a gag on him. (Image source: Internet)

All the speakers outside the British Embassy made the point that Assange’s only crime is to reveal some murderous secrets of the USA and other powers and that if he can be jailed then so can anyone for speaking or publishing the truth. Clare Daly said that his crime was to be a conscientious reporter.

Paul O’Toole played two songs, one of which was The Cry of the Morning, a song about internment. The other musician played some tunes and then led the crowd in singing “All we are saying, is free Julian Assange.”

Fintan thanked all for coming and the speakers and musicians and the event came to an end.

Mick Wallace TD speaking outside the British Embassy (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Another musician supporting the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of crowd, looking southward
(Photo: D.Breatnach).

 

Clare Daly TD speaking outside the British Embassy
(Photo: D.Breatnach)(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Nobel Peace Laureate Mairéad Corrigan speaking outside British Embassy (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Police van & 2 of the six Gardaí that were visible (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

BACKGROUND

Assange went to Sweden to talk about Wikileaks and its revelations in August 2010. A woman in Sweden wanted Assange to have a HIV test after he had sex with her. Her friend, who had also had sex with Assange in the past, encouraged her to go to the police. Assange went voluntarily to the police station, was interviewed and told he could go, there was no charge and he went back to England. Afterwards, a Swedish Special Prosecutor charged him with sexual molestation and “lesser-degree rape” (a particular Swedish charge) although the original complainant did not accuse him of rape.

By then it was becoming clear that another agenda was behind the Swedish Special Prosecutor and the two women. Assange offered to be interviewed again by Skype or in person in London or, if necessary in Sweden but only if that country guaranteed not to extradite him to the USA. The Swedish authorities refused to give that guarantee. The Prosecutor said Swedish law did not permit an interview on foreign soil but this was publicly contradicted by Swedish legal experts and the Prosecutor eventually interviewed him in London but by this time it was November 2016, by which time the statute of limitations had run out on the less serious charges. In May 2017, the Swedish authorities dropped their investigation against Assange and Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny officially revoked his arrest warrant.

However, as a result of Sweden’s attempt to extradite Assange, he had been brought to court in London and released on bail. Due to Sweden’s refusal to guarantee him no extradition to the USA, Assange jumped bail and sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy on 19th June 2012 and has been there since. He cannot leave for fear of arrest by the British for breach of bail conditions and extradition to Sweden, from where he may be extradited to the US, where politicians and officials have said publicly that he should be jailed and some even wanted him executed under anti-espionage laws or assassinated.

End.

BASED ON HISTORY BUT FAR FROM IT– McCann’s “After the Lockout”.

Diarmuid Breatnach

History can and should be researched, interpreted, discussed, argued and used for lessons on current questions and projections into the future. It can also be used in fiction: as the backdrop for a novel; as a way of bringing historical events to life; as a what-if speculative story.

James Plunkett (21 May 1920 – 28 May 2003) used the Dublin Lockout as a backdrop for his Strumpet City and did it wonderfully well; Walter Macken (3 May 1915 – 22 April 1967) wrote a fictionalised account of brothers in the War of Independence and the Civil War in The Scorching Wind and also did it well1. Roddy Doyle did NOT do it well at all in his historical novel (A Star Called Henry) and sadly nor did Darran McCann in “After the Lockout”. Interestingly, the central characters in both latter books were what one might call “Left critics” of the leaders of the struggle and one is tempted to conclude that the attitudes of the central characters mirror those of their creators.

(Image sourced: Internet)

It seems fair enough that we can play with history in fiction but, when using it as a backdrop for a story, it should be accurately represented – otherwise, surely one should invent something else entirely?

Doyle did some reading on the GPO garrison’s struggle for the background of his “A Star Called Henry” but seemed to have done none for the War of Independence, in which he had his hero and heroine like a kind of Republican Bonny and Clyde living in ditches and shooting up the Free State forces. McCann seems to have done hardly any reading on the Lockout (and not that much on the GPO garrison’s fight either). Having Jim Larkin give a speech from the restaurant in Murphy’s Imperial Hotel restaurant window is bad enough – when we know he only got to say a few sentences before the Dublin Metropolitan Police ran in to arrest him – but having him then shin down a rope and get away is absolutely ridiculous.

McCann set the story of his central character, Victor Lennon, in between the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence and it has many of the elements of the story of James Gralton (17 April 1886 – 29 December 1945), the only Irish person to have been officially exiled from Ireland by an Irish government (in 1933).

The arrest of Jim Larkin after he spoke briefly from the Imperial Hotel in 1913. He did not shin down a rope!
(Image sourced: Internet)

McCann’s Victor Lennon, a communist and member of the Irish Citizen Army, gets people in his home town to build a dance hall in opposition to the local Bishop, which a mob then burns down. Gralton, a communist also, did that too, in Leitrim; however, he ran dances there and also gave talks – it was a success, to a considerable degree. The Irish Catholic Church vehemently opposed Gralton and in McCann’s novel the Bishop and local supporters also mobilise against Victor: the hall is burned down before any dance is held in it. Like Gralton’s story, there is a shooting incident around the dance hall too – a fatal one, in which Victor’s father and two IRA men are killed. But instead of being deported from Ireland, as Gralton was (illegally) by an Irish Government, which in McCann’s story had not yet come into existence, Victor heads off for Dublin to join the Volunteers in what will become the IRA and the War of Independence.

Newspaper photograph of James Gralton in the process of his deportation in 1933 (note he is described as “Irish-American” as though to justify his deportation, though in fact he was born in Ireland and did not leave for the USA until 23 years of age, subsequently returning to fight in the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence.
(Image sourced: Internet)
What actually happened after Larkin spoke briefly from the Imperial Hotel — a vicious police baton charge and indiscriminate beating of all in the area.
(Image sourced: Internet)

Roddy Doyle wrote very disrespectfully about Volunteers, Pearse and a number of other leaders and even salaciously about anonymous wives of martyred men. He did so by placing those words and thoughts in the mouth and mind of his central character, Henry Smart. McCann does somewhat the same but to nowhere near the same extent as did Doyle.

I admit to finding that lack of respect extremely distasteful but also from a historical point of view I see it as anachronistic. I find it hard to believe that those who took part in the Rising despised those who fought alongside them, no matter the difference in ideology – or that they spoke so contemptuously of their leaders, martyred or not. Disagreed, certainly – disagreed strongly, probably. But disrespect and contempt? No, that is attaching a post-Free State intellectual revisionist attitude on to participants in the Rising and in the War of Independence. Later, there would be fear and hatred, during the Civil War, but even then, none of that contemptuous and dismissive attitude.

I am not the only critic from a historical perspective, as I see from a quick Googling. Reviewing the book for the Irish Independent in 2012, Pat Hunt had this to say:

The opening section set in Dublin reads more like a 1917 Thom’s Street Directory and a survey of political events and personalities of the time. The seediness of the red-light Monto district in the inner city does not ring true. The period feel of the city of Armagh is much better realised.

The author’s editor has done him no favours. It was never possible to hop on a train at Amiens Street and hop off at Harcourt Street station (not unless one took a scenic route via Bray).

The Big Wind of 1839 occurred on the Feast of the Epiphany, not Pentecost. Forecasts of wine lakes and butter mountains (concepts that emerged with the EEC and its common agricultural policy) could not have been envisioned by even the most ardent socialist in 1917.”

Hilary Mantel, who writes historical fiction, praised McCann’s book and I can only assume that she knows very little of Irish history, nor indeed should we expect that she should – her background is not Irish. Glen Patterson, novelist from the Six Counties, praised it highly too and I assume did so on the composition of the writing, turn of phrase, story-telling etc – but I sincerely hope he did not do so on a historical basis.

After the Lockout, Darran McCann, Harper Collins 2012.

End.

 

FOOTNOTE:

1 Though not perhaps as well as the other two books in the trilogy, those dealing with the Cromwellian war and Great Hunger periods: Seek the Fair Land and The Silent People)

GEORGE GALLOWAY ADDRESSES ANTI-IMPERIALIST MARCH IN DUBLIN

Clive Sulish

A crowd gathered at the Dublin and Monaghan Bombing Monument in Talbot Street this evening for a short ceremony and the start of a march to rally at the General Post Office building in Dublin city’s main street. The event was organised by Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland “to highlight imperialist war-crimes around the world, from Ireland to Yemen and Syria.”

View of section of crowd before start of event with the Memorial in the background (Photo: D.Breatnach)

View of section of crowd near the Memorial before start of event
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of section of crowd near the Memorial before start of event
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of section of crowd near the Memorial before start of event
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

As people assembled, a crowd of European youngsters was noted passing by, no doubt part of some scheme to learn English and something of the culture outside their own country. Sadly their teacher passed by the Monument without calling their attention to it.

The bombings on 17 May 1974, killing 33 civilians and a full-term unborn child and injuring almost 300, claimed the highest toll of any event during the 30 Years War and was the deadliest attack in the history of the Irish State. The bombings were organised by British Intelligence agents with Loyalist participation and not one person was ever charged.

It was not a good day for the march and participants came prepared for the worst but the rain stopped just before the event and held off, apart from an occasional drizzle, until after the event, when it fairly lashed down.

George Galloway approaching the Monument to lay a floral (Photo: D.Breatnach)
George Galloway after laying wreath, hat removed for a moment in respect. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Pádraig Ó Fearghaill spoke first in Irish welcoming all who had attended, outlined the order of events and then called on George Galloway, famous British anti-imperialist politician, writer and broadcaster, to lay a floral wreath at the monument, which he did. Ó Fearghaill then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing the Woody Guthrie song about the massacre of mineworkers in Colorado, USA, by capitalists including the imperialist John D.Rockefeller. Breatnach sang “The Ludlow Massacre”.

The march then formed up and, led by a floral wreath-holder and black flags, proceeded up Talbot Street, into North Earl Street and up to the GPO. Along the way they chanted “From Ireland to Palestine- Occupation is a Crime” and “Donald Trump/Theresa May- How many kids did you kill today?” The demonstration received a lot of support from passers by along the way and drivers of cars and buses who beeped to show support. The marchers, some of who were carrying candles or light up boards made there way to the GPO where a further crowd had already gathered.

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

From well-known activists participating and banners carried it was clear that the march had attracted wide support across sections of the Republican movement in parties and campaigns, with participation of independent activists of republican, anarchist and socialist background.

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Outside the GPO building, Ó Fearghaill called on Máire Uí Mhaoileoin to lay a wreath in memory of those who have lost their lives as a result of imperialist war-crimes and then introduced George Galloway, who remarked that he was proud to speak outside the building that had played such a part in the first blow against the British Empire of the last century. Galloway went on to refer to continuing British occupation of the Six Counties of Ireland and imperialist interference in the Middle East and the occupation of some countries. In the latter category he praised the Palestinian Ehed Tamimi, whose 17th birthday was just that day and called her “a leader of the resistance for the whole Middle East”.

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Reminding the attendance of the ongoing crime of internment, Ó Fearghaill announced a representative of a campaign around Tony Taylor, who announced he was reading a statement from Lorraine Taylor, Tony’s wife. Taylor, a Derry Republican, was detained in March 2016 and has been in jail since, without trial or even charge.

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Presenting Diarmuid Breatnach again to sing the famous Eric Bogle anti-war song “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” referencing the bush-ballad of “Waltzing Matilda”, the Australian unofficial national anthem. However, following

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

a suggestion from a participant, Breatnach led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” in English and in Irish to Palestinian child-prisoner Ehed Tamimi. After Breatnach’s rendition of Bogle’s song, Ó Fearghaill thanked all the the participants and promised that Anti-Imperialist Ireland would continue to build up resistance against imperialism in Ireland and in the world beyond.

End

Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of crowd at GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)