Since Turkey’s aggressive offensive against Rojava, an area of North Eastern Syria, began early in October 2019, at least 160,000 Syrians have fled their homes. A BBC report from the 17th October states that airstrikes and ground attacks have killed civilians on both sides of the Turkey / Syria border and quotes a UNICEF estimate that 70,000 children have already been displaced. This is a tragedy for the Kurdish citizens of Rojava, as well as the broader Middle East, given what the Rojava political project represented.
During early October 2019, in the space of just nine days, Iraqi state forces killed over one hundred young people and injured thousands more. Thousands. In just nine days. As anti-corruption protests broke out, the state deployed live ammunition almost immediately. In some places, snipers positioned themselves on rooftops, picking off young Iraqi citizens who had nothing left to lose except the hope that they would one day experience a government that provides for their basic needs rather than greedily shovelling oil revenue into its own pockets.
The catalyst for these protests was the sacking of Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, who led the fight against ISIS as part of Iraq’s elite counter terrorism unit, and who was widely acknowledged as the liberator of Mosul. As soon as his transfer to an administrative role was made public, speculation arose that ‘his refusal to back a specific political party made him unpopular among officials in Baghdad’, and that he was ‘removed from his post because he broke sectarian barriers in Mosul.’ The sacking of al-Saadi was widely perceived as emblematic of the corruption that has characterized successive post-U.S invasion administrations, resulting in widespread protests against corruption, unemployment and poor public services.
In April of this year, President Trump further demonstrated his ineptitude as world leader, and cemented his status as an intellectually defective moron, by designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Yes. Trump has designated a sovereign country’s state forces “terrorists” despite his single-handed destruction of the Iranian Nuclear Deal, wholehearted support for Israeli aggression and murder of unarmed Palestinians, and the fact that U.S state forces have unjustifiably slaughtered millions. The pot is definitely calling the kettle black.
“We are fighting for freedom. We are fighting for our smiles. We don’t care what the occupation thinks about us or what they will do. This is an act of defiance.”
The certainty of retribution implied within the above statement seems exaggerative for merely flying kites, but this is the reality in Burin, a village that holds fast among beautiful rolling hills in the countryside of the northern West Bank, and which is also surrounded by three illegal Israeli settlements. Centuries old, with a population of nearly three thousand, the villagers of Burin have long cared for this land. They’ve raised their families here for generations, celebrated births and marriages, supported each other, grown and harvested ancient olive trees, with roots that symbolize the hundreds of years of Palestinian toil that connect the people to this land. This land that Israel wants so badly but will never have.
by Jonathan Lee
Content warning: article mentions racism, anti-Roma sentiments, and contains offensive and discriminatory language.
It’s been almost two weeks since Slovak investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak, and his partner Marina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their Velka Maca apartment. The couple were both murdered by single gunshots, with the crime bearing the hallmarks of a contract killing according to Slovak police.
Prior to his death, Kuciak had been investigating the theft of EU funds by businessmen linked to the Ndrangheta Calabrian Mafia, and to high-up ministers in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s office. In his final unfinished article, Kuciak names the Secretary of the State Security Council, and the Chief State Advisor to Fico, as being linked to the corruption. Both of whom have taken indefinite leaves of absence while the investigation continues, in an attempt to avoid their names being used against the Prime Minister they say.
The deaths have plunged Slovakia into turmoil. Not even during the communist regime was a journalist ever murdered in the country, and it has highlighted the already considerable concerns surrounding corruption in the Slovak government.
by Alex Valente
CW: racism, sexism, fascism
There’s an old home-grown metaphor that runs in the Italian side of my family – which may have been acquired by my great-grandfather through his context and peers, I just have never heard it anywhere else – which goes as follows:
Italy is a watermelon. The thick, green skin on the outside is democracy, the Republic. The thin white layer that keeps everything inside together is the Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy, the centre party that governed Italy after WWII, and the ancestor of pretty much all centrist politicians since). The red pulp is the Socialist, Communist heart of the country. But the seed, the black seed from which it all grows – that’s Fascism.
by The Norwich Radical
2016 was a bleak year for many. Across the world, the forces of liberty, of social progress, and of environmental justice lost time and again in the face of rising fascism, increased alienation, and intensifying conflict. That notwithstanding, there have been moments of light. In the Austrian Presidential election, the electorate confirmed the independently Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen; the #noDAPL water protectors gained a soft victory in early December; in fact, there is a full list of positives from the past year, if you want cheering up.
2016 saw our team expand to more than 25 writers, editors, and artists as well as host our first ever progressive media conference, War of Words. Our readership has grown from 5,000 per month to more than 6,500 per month. In total, nearly 80,000 people have read content on The Norwich Radical website this year.
In 2017, The Norwich Radical will turn three years old, with plans to grow our team and publication more than ever before. We’ll also be returning to Norwich to bring debate and discussion on the future of the media, with War of Words back for a second year.
by Jess Howard
Content warning: this article contains upsetting images.
In 2015 I wrote an article on an image of a Syrian child’s lifeless body being lifted out of the sea on a beach close to a Turkish resort. The photograph shocked people around the world at the time. It demonstrated the severity of the Syrian conflict, as the child in the photograph, and his family along with him, had been attempting to travel to Greece to seek refuge. September sees the anniversary of the photograph being taken, but how have our attitudes to photography and conflict changed in the past year?
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.
Content warning: mentions xenophobia
“Then what is the answer? Not to be deluded by dreams
To know that great civilisations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.”
–Robinson Jeffers, ‘The Answer’
The EU referendum result is the beginning of the UK’s divorce from the mainland. In Austria, the recent election results were declared void and must be re-run, giving the far-right Freedom Party another chance at victory. Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom are exploiting every moment of Brexit to force referendums of their own. It seems we have learnt nothing from the past as we hurtle towards far-right governments, high-unemployment and less financial security. Meanwhile in the US, Donald Trump had to delete a tweet deemed anti-Semitic.
These are just some of the recent events that continue to expose the deep flaws within Western societies but none more so than the ease with which politicians are able to con the public into believing blatant untruths and the ability of the public to turn, literally overnight, into unpleasant, frothing-at-the-mouth racist, xenophobic animals. In the case of the UK, these two flaws are actioned by a minority of people, yet seem to encompass the behaviour of the entire country — a perception enabled by another deep flaw, the media.
by Sam Naylor
On the 20th and 21st of May, myself and thirteen other students from the University of East Anglia (UEA) attended the European Youth Event (EYE) in Strasbourg. Over 7,500 young people attended the event, coming together to share ideas on how to tackle youth-related issues through interaction with European decision-makers and speakers.
Through attending plenary sessions on addressing youth unemployment and migration, to panels of Human Rights Heroes and ERASMUS+ opportunities, right the way through to pop-up-tent-style refugee meetings and anti-war talks, EYE provided a space for European youth to imagine a progressive future for the continent and its young people. Sadly, this sparked the cynic in me as the European Union is by no means a shining institution of perfection. An inner voice continued to nudge, searching for some sort of foul play; was the event just one big act to get European youth on board with the EU project? Or is it fair to view young people as more likely to push for their ideals and move away from business-as-usual politics and policies? I’d still like to believe in the latter.
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.
by Robyn Banks
On Monday, French authorities moved in to begin a mass eviction of the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle, resulting in ‘clashes’ between the police and activists alongside refugees. Unfortunately, that seems to be about as much as anyone really knows. As my house is currently full with donations for the camp, I was pretty invested in finding out exactly what was going on. Which charities should I contact now? What do they need? Where will all the refugees go and how many of them will remain?
As I scrolled through page after page of pictures of tents on fire and riot police, every headline seemed to be ‘Clashes between police and…’ and even those that were helpful were contradictory. It seems that misinformation is rife, whether deliberate or due to the incompetency of authorities on the ground, and even long term and well informed activists in the camp have been confused.
The series of coordinated sexual assaults and robberies across Cologne on New Year’s Eve, prompted an outcry from the media when it came to light that a majority of the perpetrators were refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. A steady stream of articles surfaced examining and criticising Angela Merkel’s mantra of “refugees welcome”, all of them reeking with an infuriatingly smug “I told you so”. The tabloids dealt with the news with as little finesse as you’d expect—publishing quotes from questionable sources about how some refugee was overheard to be describing western women as sex objects (as if this was somehow representative of the opinions of all refugees). Others have taken a more sympathetic approach, pointing out that these refugees probably didn’t understand our esteemed cultural practice of not robbing and sexually assaulting people.
Amidst all of this was a cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo depicting Alan Kurdi, the drowned toddler whose body was photographed washed up on a beach in Turkey. This haunting image has come to represent the plight of refugees. In this particular cartoon he was portrayed to be all grown up and groping a woman in Germany. Rightfully, this elicited a furious media backlash.
by Jess Howard
At the end of last month, an image of a refugee in Beirut appearing to be selling a handful of biros, with his young daughter held to his chest, went viral. The image was captured and tweeted by activist Gissur Simonarson, whose Twitter feed was then flooded with requests for him to identify the pair. Simonarson quickly set up #BuyPens to find them, and within thirty minutes they were identified as Abdul Halim Attar, a single father of two, and his daughter Reem.
After identifying Abdul, through a woman who saw him daily around his house, Simonarson then set about organising a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com, with the aim of raising funds for him and his family. Since the date this article was written the campaign has raised $190,824, completely overtaking the original target of $5,000. The amount of money that has been raised is incredible, and will completely change the lives of Abdul and his children.
by Robyn Banks
The migrant hoard was coming, a swarm of extremist middle Easterners desperate for new teeth who were going to simultaneously take all of the jobs and all of the job seekers allowance and probably wouldn’t even take a can of lager to the job centre like a proper British. They were going to threaten our way of life, make us all Muslim and were probably responsible for the recession. But somewhere along the way something changed and they became refugees — women, children, young men escaping war torn countries — deserving of our help and accommodation.
Talk of exits and bailouts have been plaguing the EU recently, and for a while it seemed as though the ‘migrant crisis’ was going to be the narrative sold to pull us all together, to make a case for the borders of Fortress Europe and to show that the EU was a big union capable of solving big problems. But then the public mood seemed to change. Suddenly people were ferrying van loads of donations to the camps at Calais and networks of volunteers seemed to spring up across the country. Syria was in the news again and ‘Refugees welcome’ marches attracted thousands. The establishment responded, but only with compromise.
A photograph of a single refugee, a toddler in a red t-shirt, a lone and lifeless body washed up ashore, face down in the sand. This is what it took for the citizens of Europe to see the refugees for what they are, not as groups of migrants, scroungers and opportunists, but as human beings facing unimaginable horrors. But even the righteous indignation that has followed, galvanising citizens and governments across Europe into opening up their borders, their homes and their hearts, is not enough for this government and they remain as cold and ruthless as the waters that have claimed the lives of thousands of refugees’. Refusing to participate in an EU-wide quota system, David Cameron has instead thrown in a token gesture of accepting just 20,000 over the next 5 years, offering asylum only to those who have yet to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
by Jess Howard
In my last article for The Norwich Radical I talked about risks, the risks of those who disregard their personal safety, instead preferring to take time to photographs of death, danger and carnage on their smart phones. This article is going to continue in a similar vein, focusing on the risks that individuals are willing to take, but for far different reasons. This week I will focus on the dangers that thousands of refugees are currently encountering, as a means escaping the war and conflict in their home countries.
burrowing into places dark and damp,
tucking itself into a brittle clot
Its womb was the catacomb
where its armour grew.
A wretched place, free from light.
Over the past week, footage of Syrian refugees has bombarded international news channels. Most of the four million fleeing Syrians – currently living in overcrowded refugee camps in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey – often go on to travel thousands of miles through central Europe, and across the Mediterranean, to countries such as Austria and Germany. Many have attempted to find their way onto boats, trains and trucks crossing the Channel to the UK.
by Jo Thompson
Hard to look, hard to understand
the softness of his drowned bones
rocked here by the waters.
How quickly banners can catch alight,
a mumble in the crowd growing up,
becoming certain of itself: the people
want to topple the regime. All’s parched,
and everywhere the green sickens yellow.
Outstretched hands wither into fists.
In my last article, I looked at Theresa May’s recent plans to further crack down on immigration by banning international students from working in the UK before, as well as after, graduation. This is to be achieved through various visa controls, as part of the Conservatives’ plan to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” by 2020 – despite the fact that the UK continues to suffer from skills shortages in many industries.
by Lesley Grahame, Green Party Norwich South candidate.
People who ‘get on their bikes’, as Conservative politicians advise, do so for many reasons — some life-threatening, some ‘merely’ economic. All but the wealthiest of them are among vulnerable groups that can become scapegoats when governments need to divert attention from their failures. Migrants should not be blamed for a country’s woes as they are people simply seeking a better life and do not deserve to be demonised.
However the anti-migrant rhetoric rarely addresses the colonial, environmental, and economic causes of migration. These include conflict, and also the aftermath of human rights abuses and absolute poverty. Britain claims a proud tradition of providing refuge in such cases. If human rights don’t apply to everyone, they don’t apply to anyone, and I’d challenge anyone to pledge never to leave the UK if we were sunk by say, rising sea levels or a fascist regime. However at times of major migration, there are always those who want to keep the stranger out.