How the war in Syria has affected education and the Trade Unions.

How the war in Syria has affected education and trade unions?


by Fra Hughes 

An interview with Dr Adnan Azzouz, Dean of The Faculty of Arts and Head of the English department of Qasyoun University in Damascus.

Dr Azzouz how has the war in Syria affected the education of the children and graduates, the teachers and their families in Damascus?

Well, the war in Syria started in 2011 and now we are in 2020 so we are about 9-years of war.

The educational sector was one of the most vulnerable sectors that have been affected in addition to the industrial sector.

Thousands of schools have been destroyed or partially destroyed or somehow affected by the shelling and bombings that happened in Syria.

A lot of teachers have lost their jobs because they have travelled outside of Syria, trying to find a better world to live in far from the war. A lot of children didn’t have the chance to study simply because they were in areas where militia opposition was in control, so they didn’t have the chance to go into governmental schools. This is one aspect, and extremists fighters would not allow the children to go to school saying this kind of learning would corrupt their minds. 

For the universities, despite all of these difficulties, the government has tried to keep the learning process moving forward, despite all this we have continued the educational process as for me, I am the Dean of The Faculty of Arts for more than 3 years at Qasyoun University in Damascus.

We never stopped going to the university despite the shells, the bombs and everything and we believe that life is going to go forward despite all these difficulties. This can be applied also to students of high schools or elementary schools.

The quality of education itself has been followed despite the financial difficulties, but we try to keep up with the world, with what’s happening in the world, to integrate technology into education despite electricity shortages and poor internet connectivity and of course the sanctions.

A lot of Syrian students have become refugees because of the war and moved outside of Syria.

In their new environments, they cope very well because the level of knowledge and education they gained in Syria is of a very high standard.

We still have educational conferences in Damascus sometimes at the Opera house and every day we have symposiums, cultural events, meetings and educational forums.

Graduates can leave to find work abroad or continue their postgraduate education here in Syria.

The second question is how has the war affected trade union members, the trade union movement and its international relationships?

The workers are the slices of the society that are directly facing any problems; they are the key elements who are affected by any change in the society either positively or negatively.

This war has affected the workers simply because they lost their workplace, because of the war a lot of companies and factories have been destroyed or partially destroyed or out of service, so the workers have lost their jobs.

The government has tried to transfer them from one place to another, to find them new jobs but of course, this is not always easy.

Anyway, the government has kept giving them their salaries despite all these difficulties.

About us in the General Federation of Trade Unions in Syria. During the war, we lost a lot of our members and affiliates either because they travelled abroad or they lost their lives or they became wounded.

We have begun special funding for those wounded or for the families of the martyred, paying a salary monthly .

The war has created more problems for the trade unions so the General Federation of Trade Unions has started a programme to find work for the widows of the martyrs to help provide for their families.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, we have negotiated with the government to pay workers salaries if their work is suspended during the lockdown.

We have many programmes to help our affiliates, including rest houses by the sea in Latakia, and supplying protective workwear when needed.

We offer many services around advice, education, alongside health and safety classes for our affiliate members.

Over 50 % of the affiliate membership has either left the country or been killed in the war yet we have been asked to do more now, than when we were, in the peaceful years with fewer resources.

Thankfully we have strong international trade union relationships in our Arab regional area. We are now the vice president of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions.

Mr Jamal Kadri president of the General Federation Trade Union Syria is now the vice president of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

I am a member of the Secretariat of the World Federation of Trade Unions. I am responsible for the middle east office, so we have very good international relationships and we have held three international conferences here in Damascus with over 60 countries participating but we need as much support as possible to overcome the sanctions.

What about the future for the education of the Syrian children and the trade union movement going forward?

To be frank, UNICEF is helping a lot in Syria with the reconstruction of schools and providing some education materials for children. It’s very significant when sanctions prevent so many countries from helping and contributing.

Now it is not the war but the economic sanctions which raise a lot of difficulties for everyone in Syria.

The Syrian pound has fallen, from before COVID 19, 500 Syrian pounds was equal to 1 dollar but it is nearly 2000 Syrian pounds to 1 dollar now 4 times the difference.

Families and children are struggling even more.

The future for the trade union movement is very strong but we need technical support from outside Syria and essential training in reconstruction and our methods updated from 2011 in all professions. We hope very much the international trade union movement and the international community can assist us with this?

IMG_9866-150x150.jpg

Jamal Kadri President of the General Federation Trade Union Syrian 

image.png

Downtown Damascus 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look,over there, a Republican bonfire!

Look, over there, a Republican Bonfire!

By Fra Hughes

When is a bonfire not a bonfire?  Apparently when it’s being built by antisocial elements hell-bent on destroying their own community, endangering lives and property while putting their own selfish interests before that of society?

That is the rationale being used to remove nationalist bonfires? 

The recent heavy-handedness of the police in removing bonfire material from Divis exemplifies the hypocrisy of the state, local political representatives and those who claim to be fighting for equality within our community.

Having witnessed on social media the police deployment into the Divis area in full riot gear, with a military-style operation, saturating Albert Street and the surrounding streets with armoured vehicles to remove what is, in essence, a small insignificant bonfire, when we compare this to their actions in respect of the huge provocative bonfire on the Tigers Bay, Duncairn Garden, New Lodge Road, North Queen Street interface we can see a seismic shift in attitude. The optics do not look good for the Police.

In a gigantic undertaking whereby loyalism was allowed to build a significant sized bonfire on an interface, to weld shut gates that allowed entrance onto the road, where police at times actually appeared be protecting the bonfire and the state and others fully facilitate this illegal edifice, through the abdication of its duties to remove it, the question must be asked, how far has the state of Northern Ireland actually come in the 21 st century?

As I witnessed the police removal of the bonfire material from Divis, I was struck by the comparison with the removal of the ‘Tricolour’ from Divis in 1964 leading to four nights of street disturbances known as the ‘Tricolour Riots’ during that year’s elections for Parliament.

The flag had been placed in the window of the Republican party offices in Divis who were running a candidate.

The  Tricolour at that time was banned under the ‘flags and emblems act’ and was seen by loyalists, unionists and the state, to be highly provocative. When Ian Paisley called on thousands of Protestants to descend on Belfast City Hall in protest, the Police moved in and forcibly removed the offending flag.

Being unable to gain entrance to the building the Royal Ulster Constabulary simply broke the window, made several arrests, removed the flag and through their actions ignited four nights of serious street disorder.

Now in 2020, we have the police storming Divis again.

This time the rational is not the threat of public disorder by loyalism led by a firebrand political and pseudo-religious preacher but on the pretext that the bonfire is illegal and unwanted by the local population and as such it is within their prerogative under the right ‘to protect the community’ presumably from itself, to remove it.

Bonfires must be removed because they are illegal. They must not be tolerated.

Excuses must not be made by those who build them nor accepted by the state or the media or our elected representatives.

Bonfires in and of themselves become a magnet for drunken anti-social behaviour with their attendant sectarian and race hate messages.

While unionist -loyalist bonfires are facilitated by local councils, the Departments of Justice and Infrastructure, the police and other quasi-official bodies, there will be calls and demands from young nationalists and others to have reciprocal bonfires?

The cowardice and complicity shown by the state towards loyalist bonfires and the violent intolerant attitude displayed towards nationalist bonfires, prove for all to see that sectarianism and discrimination are still the foundations of the state.

Unionist- loyalist bonfires are not only facilitated but celebrated by the state.

The only differences that I can see between the removal of the Tricolour in 1964 and the removal of the bonfire material in 2020 is a time gap of 56 years and in the former instance, Sinn Fein was fully against the provocative police actions in removing the ‘Tricolour’ yet in the latter example Sinn Fein is fully acquiescent if not endorsing the removal of the bonfire material by a group, many still see as an unreformed, partisan, colonial militia, the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

In Derry, in August there are normally huge bonfires related to the’ Siege of Derry ‘.

There are no demands from Nationalist -Republican politicians to ban them, no calls for police and contractors to remove the illegal material, just a total capitulation, and abdication of responsibility by the state in the face of perceived loyalist threats.

The State has not fundamentally changed but sections of the Republican movement have.

They are now part of the establishment endorsing this sectarian discrimination.  

While Ian Paisley may be no longer be with us, there are others who carry on his unionist legacy such as former unionist politician now Lord Kilclooney member of the British House Lords

Who tweeted “The Irish Republican violence in West and North Belfast cannot be tolerated. It is a total rejection of everything that John Hume promoted. I hope that the PSNI identifies those responsible and successfully prosecutes them!”

The violence, arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations are all avoidable if we have clear and equal policing of both sides of the divide to include managing illegal bonfires.

Unfortunately, we have neither!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beirut Emergency Appeal

Beirut Emergency Appeal

By Fra Hughes

I have been asked by friends in Lebanon to highlight the following appeal.

Civic society leaders in Beirut are calling for aid in the aftermath of the hugely destructive explosion in Beirut on August 4.

Those in a ‘position to help, can alleviate the suffering of those in a position of need’.

This humanitarian crisis is only beginning.

People and companies are being asked to support ‘Amel’ a French registered NGO which has been operating in Lebanon since 1979.

‘AMEL is a well-recognized NGO internationally, notably through its membership in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and in the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership’

‘Lebanon is a country that is going through a severe economic crisis that has grown poverty limits to reach nearly 60% of the population, a country that is witnessing record unemployment rates with over one million jobs lost so far and estimated to exceed 50% of the population by the end of 2020, a country that is seeing a devaluation of the local currency, and that is struggling with limited availability of medical equipment and supplies to respond to COVID-19: Lebanon needs Help!“ We might die from hunger before dying from corona” a mother of 4 children in the South of Lebanon is stating. “We have food for today, but we are not sure if we will survive or have a shelter tomorrow” she continues.

In the aftermath of the quarantine measures, Amel Association on the frontline in health support especially to the most vulnerable; is also working on emergency response to provide food, response to evicted families due to inability to pay rent, health response and all other measures to preserve the dignity of the most vulnerable

Lebanon is paralyzed in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and the socio-economic situation and needs help’

To date 100 are believed dead with more still missing .5000 injured and up to 300,000 in need of refuge due to the devastating destruction of homes, business and infrastructure.

Here is their statement

My very dear friend, thanks for your solidarity. Amel has launched an international solidarity appeal to provide emergency assistance through distribution of food parcels, provision of protective equipment, provision of drugs and medical supplies, provision of emergency health and protection services with the mobile units, support to cleaning and rehabilitation. We have 2 links enabling online donation included in the below appeal. 

(Updated 05.08.2020) 

‘Yesterday, Tuesday, August 4, explosions destroyed the port of Beirut and several districts of the capital of Lebanon. The human toll of this disaster is tens of deaths, thousands of wounded as well as many missing and displaced. The material damage is enormous and hundreds of thousands of households are affected, finding themselves homeless, food insecure, and destitute – this calls for national mobilization. This disaster that has struck Beirut affects us all gravely, as for months, Lebanon has been facing multiple crises – COVID-19, severe economic downturn and growing humanitarian needs.

Teams from the 25 health and social centres and 9 mobile units of Amel Association International (Amel) are continuing to assess the needs resulting from the disaster, and are implementing an emergency response in the field. Our NGO, non-sectarian and present in Lebanon since 1979, invites all individuals, partners and friends of the association, to contribute to its call for donations.

Locally, we have launched an appeal for donations (food, clothing, etc.) available online: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3595907597109728&id=218029528230902 

Internationally, we are calling for donations that will allow us to meet urgent needs including:

– Food;

– Protective equipment and medicines;

– Health support;

– Rehabilitation of the affected areas.

We have a duty of solidarity and humanity with Lebanon!

Join our 800 workers and volunteers to help Lebanon and its people!

Nabil Hallik From Beirut Calls for Aid.

For any questions, contact us by email (info@amel.org) or by phone (00 961 1 317 293).

Donations by drug companies, hospital suppliers and personal protection equipment producers are desperately needed.

Individuals can donate money via the links below to aid the relief efforts. 

Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/emergency-fund-for-lebanon  in’ English and the currency is dollars.

Or here in’ French with donations in euros’

https://www.helloasso.com/associations/amel%20france/collectes/solidarite-avec-le-liban

Companies are asked to email, amel.org/contact/ to arrange collection of donated supplies.

https://amel.org/contact/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Portland Protests .Where are they going?

The Portland Protests. Where are they going?

By Fra Hughes

The Portland protest has reached the grand old age of Seventy. If the Portland protest were a person at the age of 70, they would be looking at retirement, they would be looking at unwinding, they would be looking at saving their energy and taking it easy, but the Portland protest is not a person, the Portland protest is a progressive movement determined to underline, sustained, systemic change in the American judicial, policing, governmental and societal regimes, to facilitate a more equal world and a more just society.

The protest has emerged following the murder of George Floyd, a Back African  American in Minneapolis by the police, in conjunction with the black lives matter movement, to create a political Street protest which is determined, through peaceful, non-violent protest, to facilitate change in the American system of the administration of democracy.

In an interview with David Rovics, a renowned singer-songwriter and poet, we learn of the history of The Portland protests it’s aims and its ongoing mission to effect change.

David has lived in Portland with his wife and young family for over a decade and has witnessed his rent increase by over 250% during that time.

While the black lives matter protest is focused on police and judicial racism which is systemic within the system, many of the protesters are aligned and are supportive, not only of the black lives matter movement but with previous incarnations of Street public protests such as the Occupy movement.

There are people from a wide selection of societal backgrounds, many now unemployed, some homeless, many working two or three jobs to save the finances needed to pay the rent.

The current difficulties faced by the poor and working poor in America and even sections of the lower middle class are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is so badly mishandled by the American regime.

It is devastating working-class and lower-middle-class American jobs, with the result of more than 23 million people being unemployed. In America, the eviction rates by landlords who haven’t received their rent will soon reach record levels.

Portland is one of the main cities in America where a majority of the available accommodation is not owned by the people who live in Portland but by landlords.

It has a huge rental sector.

It is one of many cities in America which may continue to see sustained protests as America emerges from the COVID 19 Pandemic.

The black lives matter movement seems to lack a clear and coherent political message outside of calling for an end to modern-day brutality against the Black African-American community from the state and state employees, mainly in the guise of the police.

.

Four years ago, what is now known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started as a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.’

An opportunity exists through the black lives matter movement to not only call for an end to police brutality and violence directed at the black African Americans but also to tackle that very same racism prevalent in housing discrimination, jobs discrimination, education discrimination and job advancement opportunities discrimination.

Racism is rampant in the United States of America which is becoming increasingly disunited by the day.

The racism on display every day in America and every facet of society is not only against black Americans but Asian and brown Americans.

An opportunity to unite all people of all colour has arrived. It is an opportunity to unite everyone against the structures and forces which oppress them. That structure is Capitalism as operated by the Corporate machines and the military-industrial complex which uses poor people to make their products, make their profits, pay for and die in their wars.

It is the working class of America who has made America great but not for themselves, their families, their children or grandchildren but for the rich, the powerful, the elite and the political class which enables the destruction of the American base by sustaining the class structure at the top.

When the people unite against oppression, discrimination, racism, classism and the squandering of wealth by the few, redistributed to the many, to promote a more equitable society we may well witness the end days of poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, job insecurity wage poverty, absolute poverty and the working poor but also an increase in life expectancy, well being. and preventable deaths 

Black, Asian and brown people are being jailed at a higher proportion than their white contemporary.

From the outside, the black lives matter movement appears to lack a political agenda whereby they would stand in elections and tried to change the system or alternatively offer the black Asian and brown community in America the opportunity to vote for someone other than the Republican party and the Democratic party who in practice do not embrace the politics of equality or the politics of justice or the politics of anti-racism.

The protests are mainly centred around the inappropriately named Court of Justice.

In conversation with David, it appears the ongoing nightly protest ‘ebb and flow sometimes in reaction to what has happened at other protests or indeed if there is unwarranted brutality by the police and federal officers in Portland.

The Federal police have been drafted into Portland and according to David ‘are systematically arresting people on the streets, putting them into private cars almost like a snatch squad’  they pull up in an ‘unmarked cars, it is not obvious that they are the police or members of the State militias and  grab people off the street, put them in their cars and take them away’

It is similar to the actions of the death squads in Latin America, reminiscent of how the Israeli regime attacks Palestinians and reflective of how the Mafia dealt with people who would oppose them.

As the people of Portland gather nightly at the Courts of Justice they hold peaceful rallies and protests, the police hold these rallies to be illegal and throw sound bombs, flash grenades and fire tear gas canisters at the protestors. Many of whom are then arrested, not for violence or violent conduct but for simply protesting against police brutality which is then revisited upon them each night and so It goes on night after night.

How long these protests can continue is difficult to guess. Without a coherent list of demands that the state can meet, the main difficulty facing these protests will be the possibility that they are co-opted by the Democratic party in order to gain votes in the Presidential elections in November, or the state may give minor concessions to manage the dissent and encourage the protest to end but without any real significant sustained change to its racist practices and policies?

Every political movement, every social movement needs a victory from time to time to sustain morale, commitment and energy.

I fully support the black lives matter movement. I fully support any movement that is engaged in a radical change of the American system, which discriminates against the working class and the poor regardless of their colour, against Blacks, Asians, Mexicans, Latin American and Caribbeans. I believe unless a radical political movement is born out of the black lives matter engagement in Street politics at this time, amid the reawakening of the American people, and the thirst for justice, we will just have street protest followed by state violence, repression, prosecutions and incarcerations.

An opportunity exists today to fundamentally change America.

In contrast to America being run on behalf of corporations, the banks, the elite and the military-industrial complex, that encourages military interventions, disguised as humanitarian aid to occupy and sanction other sovereign nations countries throughout the world, now is the time to end American Imperialism from a grassroots-led, Street Awakened, mass consciousness movement.

A  revolution is coming to America. Not the Revolution of 1776 but a Revolution of 2020 that may lead to an America of equals, through the destruction of capitalism which, since 1776 has destroyed  America and other parts of the world

here is the podcast interview with Daivd Rovics.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6s9alslcx03y51p/Fra%20Hughes.mp4?dl=0

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is there life after Gaza?

Is there life after Gaza? 

By Fra Hughes 

In a report published on the 28th of August 2012 by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, it quotes ‘without remedial action now Gaza’s problems in water and electricity, education and health, will only get worse over the coming years’. 

Maxwell Gaylord warned, ‘Gaza will have half a million more people by 2020 while its economy will grow only slowly, and in consequence, the people of Gaza will have an even harder time getting enough drinking water and electricity, for sending their children to school.’

The report continues ‘ the population of the Gaza strip will increase from 1.6 million today to 2.1 million people in 2020 resulting in a density of more than 5,800 people per square kilometre.

‘Infrastructure and electricity, water and sanitation, municipal and social services are not keeping pace with the needs of the growing population’. 

Mr Gaylord further added ‘an urban area cannot survive without being connected, a return to economic progress and prosperity will only materialise with communication and contact with the world beyond Gaza;

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. The Gaza Strip is 41 km long  (25 miles) by 6 to 12 km wide  (3..5  – 7 miles).

75% of the population is under 25.

Gaza

Before 2005, 21 Israeli settlements were situated within the Gaza strip, containing 8000 Jewish settlers.

They were all removed from Gaza by the 12th of September 2005.

The settlers received on average 200,000 US dollars in compensation for being relocated within Israel or illegally within the Westbank.

The United Nations and many international human rights organisations still believe the Gaza strip is under Israeli military occupation as Israel continues to control the airspace around Gaza, its maritime waters and 6 of its 7 land crossings.

Israel maintains a security zone within Gaza, on the border  between Gaza and Israel, 

Israel is still referred to as Historic Palestine by many Palestinians.

Israel also controls and regulates Gaza’s water, electricity, telecommunications and other Utilities. 

Following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Palestinian Legislative elections were held on the 25th of January 2006.

Israel, America and Europe wanted Fatah to gain control of Gaza but the people had another idea

The people of Palestine elected Hamas. They took control of the government in Gaza on the 14th of June 2007. Effectively Hamas governed Gaza and Fatah governed parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Westbank, while still under Israeli military occupation.

The growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank has further balkanized what was hoped to be the newly independent state of Palestine of the west bank and East Jerusalem,  while Gaza, has been under economic, military and physical siege from 2007.

Israel has been involved in several wars against the people and the government of Gaza to include the war in 2008 -2009,2012 and 2014. 

Israel launched a war on Gaza on the 27th of December 2008 which they called ‘Operation Cast Lead’, after 22 days of this asymmetric Warfare there were 1,417 dead Palestinians including 313 children and 5,500 injured.

One estimate places civilian casualty rate of Palestinian to be 83%.

Israel suffered 13 dead. Four of which were killed by friendly fire. 

Israel was involved in a second war on Gaza which they called operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ which began on November 14th 2012 and lasted 8 days6-day.

168 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli airstrikes, 101 of them civilians including 33 children.

971 Palestinians were injured.

Israel lost 2 soldiers killed and 20 soldiers injured.

In another war from July 8th until August 26th, 2014 including both air attacks and a ground invasion, over 2,130  Palestinians were killed 69% of whom were civilians and over 500 of them were children.

10,626 wounded.

18,000 homes were demolished or severely damaged.

273,000 Gazans were displaced. .Internally displaced refugees were displaced again, some for a third or fourth time.

67  Israeli soldiers died during the assault on Gaza along with 6 Israeli civilians one of those a child, as a result of Palestinian attacks.

There were Israeli 469 soldiers wounded and 87 civilians.

Gaza Destroyed

The ongoing economic, physical and military siege of Gaza is causing tremendous mental and psychological impacts upon the parent’s, government and the children of the Gaza Strip.

Unemployment rates are high, the economic rate is low, sanitation, health, and education are all suffering under this barbaric medieval siege.

Suicide rates, depression and violence within the home have reached epic proportions, life in Gaza is not life, it is merely an existence and for many young people, the price of that existence is too high.

Death for some is their only means of Escape.

Many of Gaza’s residents are internally displaced refugees from the ethnic cleansing of  Palestine in 1948 when the state of Israel was created.

A second huge tranche of displaced persons emanated from the 6 day war in 1967 when Israel again took the land, the homes and the resources from the Palestinian people. 

Many residents of Gaza are entitled under UN resolution 194 ‘the right of return’, to return to their homes, their Lands and their habitations now inside Israel.

Under international law, Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes, that right has systematically been denied by Israel.

This refusal to allow Palestinians to return home resulted in the ‘great march of return’ protests which took place every Friday between 30th of March 2018 and the 27th of December 2019.

These peaceful protests ended with the deaths of over 150 Palestinians within Gaza and outside of Israel’s self-declared border zone.

At Least 10,000 people were injured according to Amnesty International including 1,849 children,424 women,115 paramedic, and 115 journalists

.Of those injured 5,184 were shot by live ammunition.

There are now complete football teams in Gaza made up entirely from one-legged athletes including girls teams.

At times 30,000 people from Gaza protested at the security fence between Gaza and Israel on the Friday protests.

There are claims that one Israeli soldier was lightly wounded from shrapnel from a grenade and one killed near the security fence, by a Palestinian resistance sniper but not during the protests.

Right of Return March

The situation in Gaza is now very desperate, many of the people are employed by the government and the Civil Service. There are some problems for the employees receiving their salaries.which are transferred from the Westbank.

As the world focuses on Trump, Netanyahu and Kushner’s, Deal of the Century’ regarding the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the people of Gaza suffer, unwatched, unheralded and unspoken of by the world.

The Israeli blockade is destroying the fabric of society, the lives and the hope in a better future for the people of Gaza. 

Maxwell Gaylord was indeed prophetic on the 28th of August 2012, when he foretold to the world that by 2020 Gaza would become uninhabitable.

Today Gaza is a collection of destroyed buildings, destroyed infrastructure, destroyed lives, destroyed dreams, destroyed bodies and the destruction of hope in a people whose only crime has been to become refugees of the Zionist project in the Middle East, resulting in many being internally displaced in 1948 and again in 1967, in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

As we witness the death of the Dream of an Independent Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, let us not forget the devastation of Gaza.

The West Bank and Gaza

Fra Hughes is a political activists from Belfast Ireland, author and commentator.

He has written two books ‘My Walk with Palestine’ and ‘Voices from Donbas’

follow Fra on twitter @electfrahughes

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

John Finucane MP Your Rubbish?

By Fra Hughes

John Finucane was elected as the Member of Parliament for North Belfast in 2019 with a total vote of 23,078. He surpassed his nearest rival by 1,943 votes, a majority of 4%.
 
Like all politicians, John is firstly representing his party, in this case, Sinn Fein and their manifesto as presented and mandated by the electorate.

He then represents the people of his constituency both those who voted for him and all others, who live and work within the constituency boundaries.

In his capacity as a representative of the people, John attended a public protest called by residents to highlight illegal fly-tipping, at a local industrial site, Edenderry Mill on the Crumlin Road, that was endangering the community with disease through the attraction of rats and flies, as well as exuding noxious gases.

Many MP’s can expect a gracious reception of bonhomie, smiles and words of welcome. Perhaps a few requests for selfies, further enticements to support the cause and a soundbite or two with photos for the local assembled press?

Well, it appears that is not to be the case, on the sectarian streets of North Belfast.

The local MP was met with rancour, a cold shoulder and it was claimed by some, that he was asked to leave by shadowy figures connected to a local loyalist terror gang?

John’s father ‘Pat Finucane’ a well known Belfast human rights lawyer, had been threatened on many occasions because of his chosen profession, was shot dead in his own home, murdered in front of his wife and children on February 12, 1989, as they sat down to Sunday tea.

Some accusations persist to this day, that Pat was murdered with the collusion of the police, the security services and that his death was sanctioned at the highest levels within the British government.

Pat was gunned down by members of the Ulster Defence Association, a loyalist, a terrorist paramilitary organisation, which is proscribed, illegal by the Brtish government.

In 2004 Ken Barret a member of the UDA and police informer pleaded guilty to the murder.

In 2012 the then Prime Minister David Cameron responding to the De Silva Enquiry apologised to the Finucane family admitting that the police, special branch and MI5 were complicit in his murder.

Part of the statements given by David Cameron before Parliament states.

‘I would like to make a statement on Sir Desmond de Silva’s report into the nature and extent of state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane.

Mr Speaker, the murder of Patrick Finucane in his home in North Belfast on Sunday 12th February 1989 was an appalling crime.
He was shot 14 times as he sat down for dinner with his wife and three children.

He died in front of them.
His wife, Geraldine, was injured too’

The enquiry

‘It sets out the extent of collusion in areas such as identifying, targeting and murdering Mr Finucane, supplying a weapon and facilitating its later disappearance and deliberately obstructing subsequent investigations.’

David Cameron has apologised to the Finucane family for the state involvement in his murder.

That admission is not sufficient and his apology does not go far enough.

Only the full disclosure of all the facts will do.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

I feel sure many of the residents protesting on the Crumlin Road recently would have welcomed their local MP’s intervention and support but shadowy figures connected to the proscribed Ulster Volunteer Force, another loyalist paramilitary terrorist organisation had other ideas.

Prevented from showing solidarity with his constituents John Finucane MP had to leave the area amid concern for his safety.

We have travelled 31 years from Pat Finucane’s murder.

We have travelled less than two miles from the spot where Pat was cruelly and cynically murdered for defending his clients to where his son John was threatened.

We have travelled only centimetres in the politics of inclusion in North Belfast.

Who would have believed 31 years after the murder of his father by the Ulster Defence Association,that his son an elected Member of Parliament, would be forced to extricate himself from danger under threat from people aligned to the Ulster Volunteer Force?

I respect John for attending the rally and supporting the ordinary people of the Shankill and Woodvale Roads in their search for a resolution to the ongoing effects of illegal dumping.

I condemn those who chose, for their own short-sighted political advantage to intimidate John and prevent him from representing his constituents.

I would call on John to show solidarity with all his constituents to include those in the New Lodge Road area who annually must contend with an illegal bonfire, placed by loyalists at a flashpoint interface, leading to intercommunal violence, arrests, charges and prosecutions for the young children and teenagers of the New Lodge Road and surrounding districts.

Let’s represent all the constituents, John.

Let’s do exactly what it says on the tin.

Let’s lead the call to end illegal dumping.

Let’s lead the call to end provocative, sectarian, illegal,  bonfires placed strategically to cause maximum disruption and offence to neighbouring communities.

Let’s be a real politician.

Let’s be real a activist striving to create a better world for everyone.

Perhaps a seed was sown that awful day 31 years ago.

It has borne fruit.

The son of a murdered human rights lawyer is now the MP for North Belfast.

Pat Finucane’s legacy is to be found in his children and his widow Geraldine , who are determined to continue their fight for truth and justice.

Does it look like John Finucane is determined to fight for all his constituents?

Yes, it does.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Noah Donohoe Unanswered Questions

The search for truth and justice

By Fra Hughes

The family of young Noah Donohoe have once again appealed for any and all information relating to the disappearance and death of the 14-year-old to be forwarded to the Police, KRW law firm or Relatives for Justice.

The tragic and confusing circumstances surrounding Noah’s untimely passing continue to cause anxiety and distress for both his family and the community of North Belfast, where he died, and the community of South Belfast, where he lived.

The police handling of this tragedy has left many unanswered questions, leading to speculation and rumour surrounding the events prior to Noah’s death.

The sad reality for Nationalists living in North Belfast, the epicentre of serious and to this day ongoing sectarian violence, led many initially to believe there may have been a sectarian element involved in Noah’s death.

Just a few weeks prior to Noah’s disappearance, a young Catholic Nationalist from Ligoniel was pushed off his bike just a few streets away. He was then assaulted, had his mobile phone and his expensive bicycle stolen.

The young man was pushed from his bike by an adult and set upon by a gang of teenagers on bicycles.,He later required hospital treatment and stitches for his wounds. No charges have arisen and no one has been before the courts.

Initially, police reported that an anonymous caller claimed to have seen Noah fall from his bike and sustain a head injury. This could have resulted in the events which later unfolded.

Noah was last seen alive, naked, in Northwood Road North, Belfast on Sunday, June 21 at 6.00 pm. CCTV footage placed him near to the spot where he was later found.

The police line of enquiry supposed Noah suffered a head injury, possibly overheated, took off his clothes and cycled naked for a short period of time before discarding his bicycle, some of his clothes and disappearing into a small local parkland.

After a huge search, Noah was finally returned to his loving family, following the discovery of his body in a storm drain, in the park, where it was assumed he had disappeared.

The post mortem identifies Noah’s cause of death as ‘Drowning’.  No apparent head wound was discovered. Noah had been wearing a helmet while cycling.

The police have left the Donohoe family in limbo.

A conclusion of ‘death by drowning’ does not answer the questions as to why Noah’s bicycle and some of his clothing were discovered in one area , days later his backpack and laptop in another area. Nor does it explain why he did not seek help and how he ended up in a storm drain. 

His phone was found very early on in the investigation and has been at the centre of rumours that he may have contacted the police prior to his disappearance.

All the speculation, rumours and innuendos do nothing to help the Donohoe family come to terms with the reality of what has happened.

Yet it is the police failure to reassure the family and the community through open and transparent communication of what actually transpired, that is behind the ongoing, avoidable distress and worry.

If Noah did not sustain a severe head injury, then everything which the police said transpired as a result of this is called into question.

Several parts of his clothing are as yet to be recovered.

A re-enactment of his disappearance has not yet been done. The police have not reissued any appeals for new information.

A leaflet drop and door-to-door investigative enquiries which the police told the family had been carried out, don’t appear to be backed up by evidence.

The media throughout this terrible ordeal have simply reported the facts as given by the police.They have not as yet challenged the veracity of anything the police have said or critiqued the police response to this tragic series of events.

No one wishes to prolong the suffering of the family, but until many of these questions are answered to the satisfaction of the family and the community, closure will not be forthcoming for anyone.

The family of Noah Donohoe need justice, the family need answers, the family need the truth.

My hope is that the mainstream media will get behind the family and demand JUSTICE FOR NOAH.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Peoples Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk

Andrei Kocetov is a member of the Federation of Trade Union Council, in the Peoples Republic of Lugansk,LPR, a newly created Republic in the Donbass region, between Russia and Ukraine, formerly a part of Ukraine until 2014.


The EuroMaidan coup of 2014 was not endorsed by all the people of Ukraine. 
Historically the country has been split between Western Ukraine which looks to Europe and eastern Ukraine which looks to Rusia.Many regions of modern-day Ukraine where once previously parts of the Russian Empire. Seceded to or added to Ukraine when Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union.


When the’ EuroMaidan coup’ erupted, parts of Ukraine, like the Donbass region held a referendum where 90% of the population refused to accept the new fascist regime in Kyiv and asked for regional autonomy within Ukraine, This call for federalisation was met with brute physical force from Kyiv, from Ukraine armed forces and irregular fascist units attached to the Ukraine Armed Forces.


The outcome. 


Civil war.


The result?


The birth of two republics in Donestk and Lugansk and only partial freedom for the Donbass. A huge proportion of both oblasts are still under Ukrainian control and occupation.


The new Republics have their own elected, mandated, Parliaments with oversight of tax-raising revenues. The civil service, police, hospitals, army and transport, internal and external policy.

Flag of the Lugansk Peoples Republic


They are fully functional, autonomous countries which are trying to rebuild their economies.They are under military and economic siege from Kyiv and because Russia is a capitalist state they are finding difficulty in penetrating the new markets needed to help the economy grow.


Andrei is optimistic about the future for Lugansk and Donetsk. If it can become part of the Russian Federation or associates of the Federation, he believes, like so many others in the Donbass, that Ukraine which does not seek peaceful co-existence, is actually acting on behalf of the European Union and America in further isolating Russia. Joining Russia is the only viable option.

The continuing aggression by the Ukraine armed forces is being witnessed on a weekly if not daily basis in both the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. There have been 30mm armoured piercing rounds fired at civilians homes and 82 mm mortars have been fired at residential properties and the industrial infrastructure in the region.

BMP2


An example of these continued violations of the ‘Minsk Agreements’ occurred on July 10, 2020, at noon in the village of Goluboskoye, when it is claimed an infantry fighting vehicle a BMP 2, opened fire forcing parents and children to run for cover.
Earlier that morning, in the same village the people were rudely awoken at 6 am when several artillery shells fired from a BMP 2 armoured vehicle struck an unoccupied building in the village centre, causing blast damage. It was lucky no one was around at that time.


At around 6 am in the village of Zolotov, cannon fire was directed at a house on Pochovaya street, damaging the roof, walls, glazing of the building, while shell fragments furthered damaged large appliances within the confines of the house.
The elderly lady who occupies the home reported she usually’ hides in the bathroom for safety during the shelling but did have time to do so on this occasion’.The shelling is endless, morning and evenings said Valentina Nikolaevna whose son lives with her. During 2020 alone, twenty residential homes have been damaged in this small village.
There is almost daily shelling in some of the villages in Donetsk, with residents claiming the situation is horrible as reported the Newspaper ‘Republic’ 


A recent incursion into the Donetsk Peoples Republic near Zaitsevo failed. It occurred in the last few days and was reported on July 16 2020.Three armed suspected saboteurs tried to infiltrate the border, at the contact line.


All three died when they walked into a minefield. One an American mercenary was named as Sean Fuller, the second, an Estonian Mikola Llin and 
the third has as yet to be identified.All three men were heavily armed with machine guns and demolition equipment.


All these violations of the ceasefire arrangements which were meant to be guaranteed by the’ Minsk Agreements’ are logged and reported to the CCC and the Joint Center for the Control of the Ceasefire where all violations must be submitted.


The result of the ongoing damage to property, lives and infrastructure in the rural villages and small towns of Donetsk and Lugansk leaves the ceasefire in tatters.

Damaged building in Donetsk


With the citizens of the new Republics finding it ever more difficult to secure Ukrainian national passports, the Republics have issued their own, which are not recognised internationally, as the status of the Republics needs to be finalised. The people are turning to Russia, to gain Russian passports, in order to facilitate travel and continue business outside of the Donbass region.


During the present COVID 19  travel restrictions, special transport has been arranged to allow up to 20,000 citizens from Luansk/Donetsk to obtain Russian passports through specially designated centres within the Russian Federation.It is vital going forward, that the people gain full Russian recognition, as Russian citizens Moscow may now find, more than ever, an imperative to protect the people of the region from ongoing Ukrainian state violence.


The people’s armies in both Donetsk and Lugansk are battle-hardened, many are volunteers, including some brave internationals, who have joined the campaign and remain in the militias. They do not have the same level of military equipment that is so prevalent within the Ukraine Armed Forces, which is constantly being replenished by America. The militias are determined they will hold onto the freedoms they have fought so hard for and won.


In Ukraine.in Verkhovna Rada. the  National Parliament has proposed a resolution, ‘that local elections in the uncontrolled territories (the new republics) can only take place after the separatists are disarmed and the border with Russia is under Ukrainian control;’


Elections to be held on October 25  2020.


This is in direct violation of the ‘Minsk Agreements’ signed by both Ukraine and Russia along with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk and a representative of the OSCE Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Paragraph 9  states ‘the border transfer  begins the day after the elections and at the end of a full political settlement’


It appears for its own internal reasons Ukraine has effectively torn up the ‘Minsk Protocol’ it appears to be hardening its position and perhaps a second enlarged conflict might become inevitable?


That leaves two unanswered questions.


Will Russia defend its citizens living in the breakaway Republics?


Those citizens residing in the Donbass region currently remaining within Ukraine, will they too push for freedom, from what many considered the’ Euromaidan’ fascist coup of 2014?


Will they push to reunite with friends, family and compatriots in Donetsk and Lugansk?


This conflict is far from over and it is still very unclear what will happen going forward.


Those who fought against fascism, in 2014, will not willingly give up their newly won freedom and their new governmental structures which adhere to traditional socialist policies, in opposition to the neoliberalism now being followed by the Ukraine government alongside the ever-increasing rise of the right in the country .

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bonfire of Profanities

Bonfire of Profanities


by Fra Hughes


As the fires burn out the embers continue to smoulder.

Each year around the twelfth of July, law-abiding citizens have to put up with sectarian bonfires, marches, closed roads, illegal potentially life-threatening street fires and the ever-present threat of violence.


For the last several years the New Lodge Road area has witnessed significant violence between the state police and the local community.

The reason for this inter-communal tension leading to this violence is quite simple.The placing of a bonfire, on an interface, is designed to raise tension, to provoke a reaction, and encourage inter-communal violence.The positioning of the bonfire on the interface between the nationalist new lodge and the loyalist tigers bay leaves no other logical conclusion.


Who is responsible for the attendant violence?


The bonfire builders?


The Police?


The residents who are provoked and offended by the sectarian display of bigotry it represents with its adornments of anti-Irish,anti-Catholic ready to burnt? 


The bonfire builders take no responsibility for the provocation.


They blame the residents for the violence.


The Police blame the residents, claiming this is a law and order issue. They take no responsibility for allowing the provocation to remain.


The political representatives and the community workers on the Nationalist side blame the parents for allowing their kids, some as young as eleven and twelve to be drawn into conflict with the Police by the sectarian goading of the loyalists.


The media blame everyone, mainly the new lodge community but funnily enough, they do not condemn the Police for their heavy-handedness, their provocations of the youth and their one-sided policing.


Who do I blame? 


I blame the gutless cowards in City Hall who grovel before threats of violence from loyalists if the fires are removed.


I blame the Police for facilitating these illegal bonfires and roadblocks., the posters, effigies and sectarian comments placed on the bonfires and then burnt, which the Police claim are hate crimes, yet they allow this to continue?


My election poster was burnt on the Mount Vernon bonfire a few years ago.


Prior to the bonfire being set alight, several days before, I contacted the Police.I was informed they were treating the matter as a ‘ hate crime ‘ and they further advised if I went to the bonfire site to regain my stolen property ‘I would be arrested for ‘breach of the peace and removed from the area’.


I blame the Police for some of the violence as they annually protect loyalist communities while simultaneously saturating the new lodge road with armoured vehicles, heavily armed Police, many in full riot gear and chase 12-year-olds up the entries and back alleyways while trying to secure another arrest.


Nationalist youths are met with batons loyalist youths are met with harsh words such as leave this to us?


Now that the provocation has ended, with the bonfires and the illegal band parades, street drinking and annual hate-fest against all things Irish and catholic facilitated by the state is over, for the time being, what happens next?


Clearly the Police will move heaven and earth to arrest, charge and prosecute all the nationalist youths they can identify.


There will be much self-congratulatory on a job well done and pious wringing of hands over the violence.


The public representatives elected by the nationalist community will do nothing and wait simply for the same thing to happen next year?


I will not elected anyone who does not stand up against hatred and bigotry .


I will not elect anyone who does not demand these illegal bonfires are stopped once and for all.


In partial response to the loyalist illegal bonfires in tigers bay, I guess this year will see a return of the anti-internment bonfire on August 9th in the new lodge area?

While nationalist representatives do nothing about the illegal bonfire in the tigers bay, which provokes a response from the nationalist youth , in complete contrast to this inaction, they will be demanding and facilitating the removal of any bonfire material collected in the new lodge road area.


Thus further alienating the youth of the district.

The state facilitates illegal loyalist bonfires yet demonises and attacks nationalist youth when doing the same, by daring to commemorate Internment.

I demand the Council, the Police and the State take full responsibility for their inactions in allowing this annual hate-fest around illegal bonfires and street roadblocks to continue unchallenged.


Cowards and Knaves.


I also question the impartiality of the police?


I have witnessed nearly all my life first hand the bipartisan approach of the Police and it sickens me.

The Police operate by consent of the People. I withdraw my consent.


If in North America white supremacists celebrated the Confederacy with illegal bonfires.,burnt images of those elected to represent their black neighbours.,held illegal street parades, hurled racial abuse at black people and sang songs of being ‘up to their necks in slavers blood surrender or you die’, this would be treated as a racist hate crime.


If the Police got into a violent confrontation with those who protested against this abhorrence and not those who created it, that would be racist.


Do we need a Catholic Lives Matter protests at City Hall?


What we do need, is a Bonfires Commission.


All bonfires to be regulated. 


All illegal Bonfires removed.

Facedown the bigots!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Venezuela What Next?

Update Venezuela.  An interview with William Camacaro


By Fra Hughes Belfast

There is a radical quarantine in place in Venezuela at the present time as the COVID 19 Coronavirus appears to gain a foothold in the country.The fear at this time is for the Barios, in the capital Caracas, which may be susceptible to the virus, as they are among the most densely populated and poorest parts of Venezuelan society.

The people who live there might pay a heavy price in sickness and death.


As if the county was not going through enough at the moment, as the continued economic political and financial sanctions placed on the democratically elected government of Nicholas Maduro, by the European Union and the North American administration continue to take a toll, now the extra burden of fighting the virus is being placed on the state’s finances and health service.

Public political discussions in Caracas


In the early days of the pandemic, the Venezuelan government sent planes to neighbouring countries to allow Venezuelans to return home.


Countries like Columbia at first refused to facilitate this passage of people, this repatriation. They soon changed their mind and were then actively encouraging Venezuelans to return home, many of whom were sick.

Buses transporting the people home from Columbia were tested and found to be contaminated by the virus leading to many more infections and concern from the Venezuelan government and the people that their citizen’s, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, may have been deliberately infected in order to further burden the Venezuelan state.
A pass is now required, for essential travel only, for anyone moving between cities in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.


The health service is free in Venezuela and the government on behalf of the people is working very hard to contain and control the virus to protect the population.
The economy is under huge pressure as many things are now bought and sold in American Dollars.


Inflation due to sanctions and black marketeering caused by those profiteering from the political turmoil in order to put pressure on the government has caused the national currency the Bolivar to devalue substantially.


The guaranteed monthly minimum wage in Venezuela is approximately  800,000 Bolivars that equates at the present time to about 4 Dollars.
A bottle of wine, Gato Negro, costs 17 Dollars. This is indicative of how precarious the economy has become.


Many people have to find a second job or perhaps create their own employment, making bread to sell, or cheese or some other home-based work.


Thankfully the government is continuing with the CLAP food distribution programme, with Local Committees for the Supply and Production of food.
An elderly person, for example, paying 50 cents, one Dollar being equivalent to approximately 2240.000 Bolivar, to the CLAP food aid programme, was able to receive  5 packets of cornflower, 3 kilos of rice,4 kilos of beans, a box of 30 eggs 5 kilos of sardines and a kilo of milk.


There are also subsidised farmers markets run by the state,
In order to survive, for many, it is essential to use the government subsidised food market. This is a crucial lifeline for the most vulnerable.

In the regular supermarkets, 30 eggs cost 600,000 bolivars approximately 2.5 Dollars


Food inflation in Venezuela is dramatic . Huge efforts are being made to develop food sovereignty, whereby Venezuela becomes self-reliant on food production and require no food imports. Farmers are now growing indigenous foods that have for many years been replaced by foreign imports.

food sovereignty international delegation Carache

Petroleum is now free for trucks delivering food and ambulances. It is possible, one day per week to fill your car, with gasoline for less than 1 dollar for 45 litres of fuel.
Water electricity and telephone payments are not being sought from those who cannot afford to pay them.


Unlike western capitalist economies where if you fail to pay, the service is withdrawn, the services in Venezuela are being kept in place as the people support the government, the government supports the people.


The recent shipments of gas petroleum from Iran along with fuel supplements will enable the petrochemical industry in Venezuela to regain its impetus and stimulate the economy.Alongside the oil, Iran and China are sending technical experts to repair and renew the oil infrastructure and an Iranian supermarket with food sent from Iran will soon open for the first time.


It is hoped that the current relationships that are strengthening and deepening between Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela will continue.A new Petrochemical company similar to Venezuela’s CITGO may operate between Venezuela and China, thus replacing the oil export contracts, which previously went to North American companies to China.China requires a huge amount of oil and gas to complete its economic infrastructure programme and the completion of the One Belt One Road economic transport route through Eurasia and Africa.


An economic boom could be on the horizon if Venezuela and its government can withstand the sanctions, gaining enough time to see this process through.

At this time there is a land dispute between Venezuela and neighbouring Guyana.


Guyanas indigenous population was first occupied by the Dutch and then by the British.


Guyana gained freedom from the United Kingdom in 1966. It is the only country in South America to have English as its official language. Guyana has a diverse population. In order to populate and exploit the land, Britain brought several different nationalities to colonise the region.


With a population of less than  800.000 but with huge mineral gas and oil reserves within the boundaries of the Amazon, America and Britain are supporting Guayana in the claim for land that Venezuela has since its Independence in 1824 has claimed belong to them.


With elections on December 6, this year to the National Assembly it is hoped the extreme right will lose some of its seats and more moderate opposition to the government may be elected. The continuing efforts by  North America to facilitate a coup against the democratically elected government of Maduro means there is still much concern for the future in Venezuela.

It can only be hoped that the goodwill of the people and the governmental programme for progressive growth in the economy will prevail.
That the security situation will improve and Venezuela can withstand the onslaught of European and American sanctions.


Having recently completed over 3 million social housing units, with increased literacy rates , decreased child mortality rates, improved health, education and welfare for millions of Venezuelans, there are many reasons to be hopeful that democratic socialism will triumph over undemocratic illegal sanctions.

Hugo Chavez Mausoleum

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment