The British press has been in a frenzy recently over nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum and her desire to return to the UK from the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. There are probably very few people in the UK who are unaware that Shamima travelled from the UK to ISIS territory in Syria at the age of fifteen, where she married an ISIS militant, conceived and lost two children before giving birth to a third (who also passed away) in the refugee camp in Syria she currently calls home.
The red poppy/white poppy/no poppy debate has become increasingly emotive in recent years, as certain right wing groups have co-opted it for their own warped ethno-nationalist causes, bringing forth the notion of ‘poppy fascism’: If you’re not wearing a red poppy you must be some kind of terrorist sympathizer, or a communist… if you don’t like this country and what it stands for you can fuck off to another. Nice. Of course most people who wear a red poppy don’t behave like this, but the minority who do, aside from being obnoxious, are loud, determined and represented by sensationalist and divisive British tabloids, resulting in ‘poppy fascism’ spreading exponentially.
by Hannah Rose
Your new book, Illegal, tells the story of your arrest and deportation from Ecuador and your consequent return over the Colombian border with the help of corrupt police. There’s also a love story which runs through it. Crime and love both sell books – was this thematic mix deliberate?
My original intent was to focus on borders and revolution but almost every person who read a draft, especially early on, wanted to know more about the love story. So I kept adding more with each new edit. We’ve all been in love so that shared experience makes it relatable and easier to digest. That common basis is a great launch pad to touch on everything else, too.
by Elliot Folan
Six years ago, as a baby-faced 16-year old, I remember sitting in two different meetings within a few months of one another. In one of them, a youth magazine I was working on was told that its funding was being cancelled because of the incoming government’s spending cuts. In the other, I sat in my first local Green Party meeting as activists, fresh from losing overwhelmingly in their target ward, talked about traffic lights and solar panels. The contrast between the two meetings — one a reminder of the impact of politics on everyday life, the other a completely oblivious talking shop — strikes me to this day. Though the party initially struck me as directionless, I stayed until 2014 regardless: I believed in the Green Party’s vision, and I hopped around my city (and the country) looking for ways I could help. I explained away inefficiency, poor practice and a frustrating lack of strategy because I believed in the cause. But at the end of it all, the Green Party ended up gaining no seats in 2015.
I relate this story because, as a 22-year old who’s now in the Labour Party, I see numerous people doing exactly the same thing that I did in my teenage years; except rather than doing it with a party, they are doing it with a single man — Jeremy Corbyn.
It is difficult to remember a time when Tony Blair was considered a real hero. But that was the mood when he won the 1997 general election in a landslide. ‘New Labour. New Britain’ was his slogan, as he put an end to the old Labour politics that the people distrusted and vowed to carry Britain proudly into the new millennium. People were chanting his name in the streets, the euphoria was palpable. A stark juxtaposition to where we are today, 13 years after the Iraq War began, the world still reeling from Blair’s decisions. A hero is the last thing we would call him now.
Blair has always been regarded as a master tactician who could easily manipulate the situation to his favour and he knew that he possessed this extraordinary power. But it is how he wanted to wield this power that would cause his downfall. He wanted to leave a legacy. A grand ambition that could only be realised through a grand accomplishment: striking down the biggest villains of the world, one after another.
Content warning: mentions sexual abuse, torture, Islamophobia
On 15 February 2003, the now-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke out to the largest anti-war demonstration in British political history. In front of two million people at Hyde Park, London, he exclaimed, ‘Stop now or pay the political price!’ He was warning about the consequences of attacking Iraq.
I keep replaying the same slide show, projecting it on the back of my mind. I see the temperature rising, 9/11, the Iraq war, financial collapse. I enter the ballot box for the first time, eager for change. The coalition forms. Mass extinctions. The SNP wins a majority. Tuition fees triple. The Arab Spring. House prices rise. Riots. The Olympics. Food banks. Austerity. Austerity. Austerity. Benefits slashed. The NHS in turmoil. The Eurozone crisis. Scotland votes for unity. Greece votes for change. They are hung, drawn, quartered. We reach the 1°C threshold. The ballot box takes away a piece of me every single time. The far left brings hope but the far right brings hate. They spread their infectious disease. Storms, droughts, forest fires. Everything I fear begins to materialise in front of my eyes. Refugees fleeing the wars we started but we just condemn them to their fates. Floods everywhere. Terrorism. Xenophobia. Half-truths and outright lies. A vote for fear, a vote for suspicion, a vote for fascism.
The weather joins us in this violence as we drive another dagger into the heart of the world. I tell myself lies to ease the pain, looking for ways to return to the past. Hindsight is 20/20 but we never learn from our mistakes. Hatred and fear, symptoms of this deeply tortured nation. I want to leave this place, I want to end the nightmare, but there is no place on Earth that isn’t infected. I collapse into the carnage. I am in free fall. At the mercy of the past. It’s over.
But it is not over. I will not let it be over.