FROM SCHALKE TO NEWCASTLE: ARE FOOTBALL CLUBS BECOMING COVERS FOR CORRUPTION?

By Howard Green

Professional football has been hyper-commercialised by every means available. Billion pound deals between private entities to secure TV rights, ridiculous sponsorship schemes that see clubs partner with the most strange or dangerous of companies, and ever-rising ticket prices turning the sport into an occasional daytime activity for the well-off rather than dedicated working-class fans. But there are still instances of defiance, of fans and players organising and speaking out against the commercial elements of the sport.

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SUDAN UPRISING

By Sarah Edgcumbe

CW: genocide, murder, rape, torture

Sudan is burning. Literally.

Government offices have been set on fire. Areas in Darfur have been burning for quite some time, though Western media no longer reports on it. The killings in Darfur that proved to be the initial acts of a campaign of genocide took place in 2003. Since then 480,000 have been killed by President Bashir’s forces, which include his ‘Janjaweed’ militia, with a further 2.8 million being displaced.

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KNEELING IS NO LONGER A CHOICE

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by Lewis Martin

The NFL’s anthem controversy has been rumbling on for a long time. It started in 2016 with San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick deciding to  sit for the national anthem during preseason games. This eventually changed to kneeling after a conversation with former soldier and player Nate Boyer about he best way to protest during the anthem. This carried on for the rest of the season with players from across the league joining him in his protest against the treatment of people of color in the United States. At the end of the season, Kaepernick was released from his contract with the 49ers as they looked to rebuild the franchise afresh.Continue Reading

VENEZUELA: FROM INSPIRATION TO DESPOTISM

by Chris Jarvis

CW: torture, rape, political violence

Less than a decade ago, left-wingers across the globe turned towards Latin America as something of a road map towards a more progressive and socialist politics. Many a left tradition could be identified in the range of regimes, leaders and parties that had come to power throughout the region. Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Ollanta Humala in Perù, Jose Mujica in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, the ever present Castros in Cuba, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The “Pink Tide”, as this phenomena became loosely known, was high, and international awe developed among the left.

Breaking out of the 1990s, in which the global institutions of neoliberalism, from the IMF and the World Bank to the US state and multinational corporations drove an agenda of austerity, privatisation of services and market liberalisation, Governments of the “Pink Tide” brought promise of a better deal for the various Latin American nations which elected them. To greater or lesser degrees, these Governments sought to recentre economies away from international capital and towards the needs of people, increase spending on and provision of welfare and public services – whether through anti-hunger initiatives, healthcare programmes or education projects, and deepen democracy. Across the region, the Pink Tide brought with it decreasing levels of economic inequality, higher literacy rates, reduced poverty and greater levels of health.

In 2017, the legacy of these leftist Governments lies tarnished – and perhaps the most emblematic of this turn is Venezuela.Continue Reading

CHECHNYA: NORWICH PRIDE, SOLIDARITY, ACTIONS

by Cherry Somersby

This week, Norwich Pride held an emergency demonstration outside City Hall to protest a new wave of abductions, imprisonment, and killing of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. Over 50 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to hear speeches from local activists, and to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. These acts of solidarity are vital, and it has been encouraging to see similar displays across the country, but our actions must go beyond this.Continue Reading

FRANK HABINEZA: POLITICS IN AFRICA IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DIE FOR

by Olivia Hanks

Content warning: mentions genocide

Frank Habineza is all smiles when I meet him at the Global Greens Congress in Liverpool. It’s hardly surprising: the congress, which he helped organise in his role as president of the African Greens Federation, is running smoothly; and he is one of its star attractions, having just been announced as the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR)’s first ever presidential candidate.

Standing for election in Rwanda is not to be done lightly: although opposition is nominally allowed, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly raised concerns about torture and imprisonment of dissenters. Opposition party leader Victoire Ingabire is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, and many other activists have gone missing in recent years. Habineza himself was forced into exile prior to the last presidential elections in 2010, after the DGPR vice-chairman André Kagwa Rwisereka was murdered.Continue Reading

WE WON’T WAIT – SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKE4REPEAL

By Ellen Musgrove

‘We call upon the Government to take direct responsibility for what is a violation of human rights. We believe a national strike is not only possible, but an incredible opportunity to show the sheer power of our movement, and to put pressure on the government to call a referendum. In the past 5 years, support for repeal has grown to a level that the government can no longer ignore.’

Strike4Repeal

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ALEPPO: A TRAGEDY WE WON’T LEARN FROM

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by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions genocide, conflict, death.

“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Aleppo draws its last few timid breaths, the global community sits back and watches as four years of war, suppression and ignorance engulf an ancient city, certain to go down, alongside the likes of Srebrenica, Rwanda and Darfur, as an abject failure of Western governments to fight the oppression of human rights and democracy that they have so carefully and vocally pronounced their desire to protect. Continue Reading

INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY AND THE EU SHAMBLES

by Robyn Banks

This International Women’s day was supposed to be devoted to refugee women. Well, it was in name — the EU parliament website published a series of articles highlighting the plight of women refugees, such as the fact that two in five are underage. But as EU leaders hammered out a deal on the long night between Mother’s day and International Women’s day, it seemed that the only thing the EU really planned on doing to help women refugees was to use them as fodder for a Brussels photo exhibit.

For a long time, people in the EU from both left and right have been questioning if what they see is really what they get, and nothing is more exemplary of this dishonesty than the EU’s recent deal with Turkey. On two days when much fanfare was made about Mothers, about the trauma of women refugees, about family reunification, we learned about the EUs most absurd plan to date. The plan involves a one in, one out scheme whereby boats crossing to Greece from Turkey carrying ‘irregular’ or ‘illegal’ migrants — e.g. everybody not using official channels, refugee or otherwise — would be intercepted and forcibly turned back. In return for paying their life savings and risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing to Europe by dinghy, they will be sent to the ‘back of the queue’ for asylum seeking.Continue Reading

THE FINE ART OF WAR: PROFIT, DEATH AND THE GLOBAL ARMS INDUSTRY

by Gunnar Eigener 

“You must not fight too often with one enemy
or you will teach him all your art of war.”

                                                                                                              – Napoleon Bonaparte

Last week the European Parliament voted in favour of an EU embargo on selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Although non-binding, it remains nonetheless an interesting attitude taken by a trading block which in 2013 made €36 billion in arms export licenses. The attitude is not without reason however. Saudi Arabia has been involved in a conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen for over a year resulting in bombings of a number of Medicines Sans Frontier hospitals, the deaths of thousands of civilians and the use of internationally outlawed cluster bombs. This embargo has come late in the day but it is still a positive action.

The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee has called for the UK to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Last year, the UK supplied almost £3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. British military forces have also been involved in training Saudi pilots who carried out airstrikes. These Saudi pilots were offered 100 Bentleys by a billionaire prince as a reward for their work. David Cameron has long been accused of secretly involving the UK in a war of which we should have no part but has rejected this suggestion during Prime Minister’s Questions.

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(Yemen after an airstrike © Hani Mohammed)

Needless to say, the rest of the government hasn’t displayed a progressive attitude. Hours after the vote, Minsters attended the ADS Group dinner at the Hilton. ADS is an industry trade body that represents defence and security industries. ADS members include BAE Systems, the builder of Eurofighter and Tornado jets, as well Raytheon UK which builds guided bombs. Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest customer for weapons so this is hardly surprising. Yet it is the blatant fashion in which ministers ignore the death tolls and the violence. Despite calls from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that there is a humanitarian disaster happening in Yemen, it appears that business comes first. Despite world conflicts consisting of nearly 90% civilian casualties, 40% of them children, there has yet to be a serious debate.

The arms industry is without morals; it has no conscience. The connections between this industry and the political establishment should be an embarrassment for a government that claims to care about human rights. As austerity measures hit the military – George Osborne ordered £1 billion worth of cuts last year – private companies are stepping in to fill the void. Weapons manufacturers are reaping the benefits, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of them which is no wonder considering the government support they receive.

Research carried out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAP) found that approximately £700 million in government subsidies are provided to arms companies every year. Marketing and promotion support is provided by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) and financing is given by the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD). Support consists of military personnel being made available to help with bids and arranging visits with government ministers and officials. While making up 2% of exports, 50% of the work done by the ECGD covers the arms industry. The government insists on using British companies to supply its military, often at a greater cost.

Is this really how we want to be viewed by the rest of the world? Judged by our ability and readiness to put our war machine into motion?

Despite being a critic of Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe, the UK government still granted arms export licenses to Zimbabwe so as to protect the reputation of British arms firms. Arms also continue to be sold to countries which continuously violate human rights like Qatar, Bahrain and others in Africa.

How long will our government continue to act in this way? The EU vote is unlikely to stem the tide of weapons flooding wars zones and creating new conflicts. Our politicians should surely be held accountable for their questionable actions. The arms industry is not a financial advantage for our economy, only employing approximately 90,000 people yet costing over £700 million in subsidies with jobs regularly going abroad. Arms industry experts often attend government officials foreign trips to boost their business.

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(War Heads © Polyp)

Is this really how we want to be viewed by the rest of the world? Judged by our ability and readiness to put our war machine into motion? As usual, the establishment carries on with its corporate duties, denying care and assistance to its own people whilst willingly piling onto a bloated, soulless industry that couldn’t care less about who its products affect. War is a business, that much is obvious but it has successfully entangled itself with those who control the purse strings. The rate at which arms firms line their pockets with taxpayers money and profit from predominantly killing civilians in any number of despicable ways is a stain on every country that participates in this business.

Two ex-defence Secretaries, Geoff Hoon and John Ried, have gone on to hold prominent positions in arms firms. Former junior military minster Ann Taylor left for Thales at the end of 2010. Admiral Sir Alan West, former First Sea Lord, ended up at QinetiQ’s Defence Advisory Board. The list goes on but you get the message. The people who are entrusted with this countries safety and prosperity use the government and military as a springboard to better paydays. And we, the taxpayer, have funded their journey. President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 is coming true.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

See also: https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/influence

Featured Image © Polyp

FLOGGING FOR BLOGGING: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

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by Faizal Nor Izham

With the world’s media spotlight being thrust on ISIS, the UK General Election, and the Ukraine, one major issue being overlooked by many is that of modern-day torture. And yet, despite its relatively lesser coverage, the issue is just as relevant as ever in many parts of the world today.

To highlight this matter, Amnesty International UEA will be holding its Stop Torture Vigil at The Square, University of East Anglia. The event will be held March 20, 2015 (Week 10) at 7:30pm, as part of Amnesty’s Human Rights Week which is campaigning to stop torture globally. They have previously campaigned to raise awareness on Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi, as well as British Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer.

By now, you may have heard of the plight of Raif Badawi — Saudi Arabian writer, activist and creator of controversial website Free Saudi Liberals, which was envisaged as a forum for political and social debate. His case has been covered extensively in recent months by The Guardian, CNN, and The New Statesman.Continue Reading