Libyan artists in danger


This video says about itself:

Tadrart Acacus, UNESCO World Heritage Site

21 July 2009

Tadrart Acacus is a desert area in western Libya and is part of the Sahara. It is situated close to the Libyan city of Ghat. Tadrart means ‘mountain’ in the native language of the area (Tamahaq language). It has a particularly rich array of prehistoric rock art. The Acacus has a large variation of landscapes, from differently coloured sand dunes to arches, gorges, rocks and mountains. Major landmarks are the arches of Afzejare and Tin Khlega.

Although this area is one of the most arid of the Sahara, there is vegetation, such as the callotropis plant. The area is known for its rock-art and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 because of the importance of these paintings and carvings. The paintings date from 12,000 BC to 100 AD and reflect cultural and natural changes in the area. There are paintings and carvings of animals such as giraffes, elephants, ostriches and camels, but also of men and horses. Men are depicted in various daily life situations, for example while making music and dancing.

Now, four years after the making of this video, both this ancient Libyan art, and today’s Libyan art and its makers are in danger.

After George W Bush invaded Iraq, 90% of that country’s artists were killed or fled to other countries.

Something similar happens now as the consequence of another so-called ‘humanitarian’ war, the NATO war on Libya in 2011.

From Magharebia (Washington DC, USA):

Libya Chaos Impacts Artists

By Asmaa Elourfi, 17 April 2014

Interview

Benghazi — With Libya’s capital of culture facing daily bombings and assassinations, artists are left in a perilous position.

To get a handle on the situation, Magharebia met in Benghazi with Ahmed Bouakeula al-Obeidi, a 42-year-old actor, playwright and songwriter. He began his theatre career in the ’90s, before later performing at events in Tunisia and Morocco.

As al-Obeidi explains, Benghazi’s “chaos and insecurity” is taking a toll on the city’s famed cultural and literary activities.

Magharebia: As an artist, how do you see the situation in Libya now?

Ahmed Bouakeula al-Obeidi: Writers, poets and intellectuals fully realise the deteriorating security situation and have their own visions about it. They only wait for calm to prevail to present their ideas on how to deal with these issues.

This is because artists are the closest ones to the street; in my opinion, they are the real mirror of the street.

Magharebia: What’s keeping writers and actors from proceeding with their careers in Libya?

Al-Obeidi: There are many obstacles, but the fact that theatres are not fully prepared for theatrical troupes is the main obstacle.

Writers have their own very profound imaginations, but the entities concerned with writers are not playing their roles as they should. For example, Benghazi, which is the cultural capital, has its own literary experiences and elements, and is known for its art, creation and culture, but its literary production is very modest.

Magharebia: What are your latest works?

Al-Obeidi: I’m now writing another play titled “I’m without Address”, a monodrama depicting the condition of Arab citizens following the revolutions, the ambiguity they live in, the concepts that have changed and the schizophrenia they live. The play is being rehearsed now by al-Mashhad al-Masrahi theatrical troupe in Morocco. I’ve also released, at my own expense, my first collection of lyrics and popular poetry.

Magharebia: What do you see for your country’s future?

Al-Obeidi: Building Libya is not an impossible wish. We have to reach national reconciliation and put aside hatreds and clean our hearts before we can talk about building the state or institutions.

We as Libyans are Arabs, and we depend too much on traditions, habits and tribes, and this is a double-edged weapon.

If we can utilise all of these capabilities, we’ll reach the shore of safety and the country and future generations will rest. However, if we proceed with retaliations, hatred and double standard policies, we’ll continue in this dark tunnel.

Magharebia: What part does an artist play in this?

Al-Obeidi: Their role is important and vital. They have to work day and night to get their ideas across using all peaceful means. They have to embody their visions through their works of art because the street is now looking for an alternative to solve the crisis, and here comes the role of the pioneering artist who can reach all categories of society with his/her distinguished style.

This is because the artist is loved by all, and stands at the same distance from all; therefore, the artist shouldn’t deal lightly with his assigned role in society, as he is responsible before history.

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Anti-Semitism in Ukraine and the US State Department


This video from the eastern Ukraine says about itself:

19 April 2014

Ukraine: In multinational Donetsk, all are equal – Pushilin

Leaders of the Donetsk interim government gave a press conference in the Regional administration building in Donetsk, Saturday.

Denis Pushilin, the Deputy ‘People’s’ Governor of Donetsk and member of the interim government, recently said that it’s up to residents to decide where and how they want a referendum to take place.

Pushilin also responded to questions relating to a forged leaflet which showed up on social media networks, calling for Jewish people in Donetsk above the age of 16 to register their names and pay $50 (€60) in cash. Pushilin said that the republic of Donetsk is multinational and that all people are equal.

By Alex Lantier:

US imperialism and the anti-Semitic leaflet in Donetsk

19 April 2014

US outrage at a vile anti-Semitic leaflet circulating in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, demanding that all Jews register with local pro-Russian authorities, is a hypocritical fraud. US officials have seized on the leaflet, whose authorship is totally unclear and which stinks of a provocation to smear protesters hostile to the US-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev, to denounce protesters and posture as opponents of anti-Semitism.

At talks between US, European, Ukrainian and Russian officials in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “In the year 2014, after all the miles traveled in the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque … beyond unacceptable.”

What hypocrisy! In the February putsch that toppled Ukraine’s government, Washington and its European allies worked directly with fascists, including the Right Sector militia and the Svoboda party. These forces—which hail the World War II-era Ukrainian fascists led by Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis as they carried out the mass murder of Jews in Ukraine—now occupy top positions in the unelected, pro-Western puppet regime in Kiev.

Kerry was cynically seizing upon the leaflet to improve the US position in talks with Russia, by distracting from popular anger with the Kiev puppet regime’s ties to fascism and providing ammunition for hysterical attacks on Moscow.

US officials ignored the multiple signs that the document is a crude forgery. The leaflet—bearing the name of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, which is occupying local government buildings in Donetsk, and signed by its leader, Denis Pushilin—was reported on Wednesday in Israeli media.

It begins, “Dear Ukrainian citizens of Jewish nationality, due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community support the Bandera junta and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, [we have] decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.”

It demands that Jewish citizens provide extensive documentation as to their property holdings and religion and pay a $50 fee to officials in Room 514 of the local government building occupied by the pro-Russian protesters. Otherwise, the leaflet said, they would face deportation.

The initial Israeli media reports made clear the highly dubious character of the leaflet. They cited Pushilin’s denials that his group had issued it, as well as broader doubts as to its authenticity. Alex Tenzer, a director of the National Association of Immigrants from the Former USSR in Israel, said: “It’s hard to tell whether the leaflet is valid or simply a provocation.”

Olga Reznikova, who sent YNet a copy of the document from Donetsk, said: “I do not intend to register. I am 32, I have lived in Donetsk my entire life, and have never had to deal with anti-Semitism until I laid eyes on this piece of paper. Though I take it very seriously, I am uncertain of its authenticity.”

Reporters for the New York Times who visited Room 514 of the Donetsk local government building on Thursday found it empty. They spoke to protesters who said the leaflet was a trick of the Kiev regime to discredit them. “We are laughing; this is propaganda,” one said.

As Western officials and media prepared for the Geneva talks, however, they baldly attributed the leaflet to pro-Russian groups. Ignoring continuing reports from Donetsk challenging the authenticity of the leaflet, they speculated that it could harm the pro-Russian forces and “change the narrative” about Ukraine—that is, undermine the credibility of anti-Kiev protesters.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph wrote: “A shocking story coming out of Ukraine: pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country are accused of asking Jewish citizens to register their identity or face deportation … It could change the narrative of the conflict yet again: the Russian separatism becomes a call not for self-determination, but outright bigotry informed by a desire for racial purity and Orthodox chauvinism.”

Kerry’s denunciations of the Donetsk protesters over the leaflet were echoed by other US diplomats. “Everything we’re hearing suggests this is the real deal, and that it is coming from someone on the ground there among these radical groups,” US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt told CNN, “either to stir fear or to create provocation justifying further violence.”

Reporting from Donetsk, however, CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh called the leaflet “by all accounts an isolated incident.” Referring to protesters and the Jewish community in Donetsk, he added, “All sides are really trying to calm this down. Bizarrely, really, it’s the US State Department focusing specifically on this allegation.”

This comment from CNN, which can hardly be accused of having a critical attitude towards US foreign policy, gives a far better idea than Kerry’s hypocritical statements about the political origins of the anti-Semitic leaflet. The US State Department, Kiev, and their collaborators in Europe know more about it, one may safely assume, than Moscow or the protesters in Donetsk.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Poland and the United States would announce next week the deployment of US ground troops to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO military forces in Central and Eastern Europe, in response to the crisis in Ukraine: here.

Leading German journalists, who have been agitating for weeks for a war against Russia, intensified their propaganda after Tuesday’s announcement that NATO was stepping up its intervention in Eastern Europe. Even after the experiences of the First and Second World Wars, some clearly can’t wait for a re-run of the Eastern Front: here.

Canada is deploying six F-16 fighter jets to Eastern Europe in support of the war threats against Russia made by the US, Germany and NATO, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday: here.

Russia: Fatal gun battle near Ukrainian city of Slovyansk shows Kiev is failing to rein in extremists: here.

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Bahrain regime kills a human being again


Abdulaziz Al Abbar

From the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights:

Excessive Use of Force Leads to the Death of a Bahraini Citizen

Posted on April 18, 2014

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) express their grave concern regarding the news of the death of Mr. Abdulaziz Al Abbar (27 years old).

Mr. Al Abbar died today morning (April 18, 2014) in Salmaniya Hospital. He was wounded in the head (tear gas canister and bird-shot).

Mr. Al Abbar, injured in protests held in the Saar area – February 23, 2014 -, remained in critical condition for a 55 days.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) demands urgent and immediate investigation into the death of Mr. Abdulaziz Al Abbar.

See also here.

$580 million base expansion ties US closer to regime in Bahrain & their terrible human rights record: here.

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Okinawa musicians against United States military base


This video is called Lucy Nagamine: Okinawa‘s folk music heritage.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Okinawa‘s musicians provide a focus for Japanese protest against US bases

With Barack Obama visiting Japan in April, resentment at plans for the US Futenma military base is finding a musical voice

Justin McCurry in Okinawa

Thursday 17 April 2014 15.50 BST

If an island of 1.4m people can be summed up in a sound, it is that of the sanshin. Where there are people on Okinawa, a Japanese island almost 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, the distinctive tones of the three-stringed instrument are never far away.

Music is deeply rooted in Okinawa’s tragic place in Japan‘s history and the conduit for its modern grievances against the glut of US military bases on the island. As Barack Obama prepares to visit Tokyo to meet Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later in April, the anti-war message of sanshin players such as Shoukichi Kina and Misako Oshiro is back in vogue as the subtropical island confronts its biggest political challenge since it reverted from US to Japanese rule in the 1970s.

In his mid-60s, Kina cuts a controversial figure as spiritual leader of Okinawa’s activist musicians. Since the release of their first single Haisai Ojisan (Hey, Man!) in the 1970s, Kina and his band Champloose have done more than any other artists to secure Okinawan music against competition from mass-market Japanese J-pop and the more innocent musical motifs of the mainland folk genres minyo and enka.

“Our job as musicians should be to celebrate the good and do something about fixing the bad,” said Kina, who some have called Okinawa’s answer to Bob Marley. “That’s why I hate the military bases here, but I love Americans.”

Though it accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total area, Okinawa is now home to about 75% of US bases in Japan and half its 50,000 troops. Military facilities take up a fifth of the island. Obama and Abe are expected to discuss the controversial relocation of Futenma, a sprawling US marine base, from a heavily populated part of Okinawa to an unspoiled location on the island’s northeast coast, as the allies attempt to lessen the island’s military burden. The move is opposed by most islanders, including the residents of Nago, whose city lies near the proposed site for the new base.

The spirit of resistance pioneered by Kina is to be found in the more eclectic music of Tatsumi Chibana, a quietly spoken 33-year-old university graduate and perhaps the most visible of Okinawa’s new generation of rebel artists, fusing traditional sounds with rock, reggae and hip-hop.

After a US military helicopter from the Futenma US marine base crashed into Okinawa International University in 2004, Chibana was moved to write his best-known song, Tami no Domino (People’s Domino), a collaboration between his band Duty Free Shopp and local rapper Kakumakushaka.

The incendiary lyrics reflect the feeling of many residents towards the ever-present threat to safety posed by the island’s 27,000 US troops and their hardware: “Surrounded by weapons in the land of disorder; what the hell can you tell me about peace in a place like this?”

Most of Chibana’s music eschews the sanshin and other traditional instruments, but his background looms large, he said. “I’m always aware of my Okinawan identity when I make music. OK, so I wasn’t brought up listening to folk songs, but the spirit of that old music is in mine. It doesn’t matter whether I play reggae, hip-hop or rock, it’s still Okinawan music.” …

Like Kina, Chibana occasionally sings in the Okinawan language Uchinaguchi – an artistic choice that renders his lyrics unintelligible to many Japanese, but which exemplifies the island’s historical and emotional sense of detachment from the mainland.

In the 16th century, where the sanshin’s origins lie, Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdom, which, while politically independent, had tributary relations with Ming dynasty China. Forced annexation by Japan came in the late 1800s, followed in the 1940s by the carnage of the Pacific war.

Less than a century after it was forcibly made part of Japan, Okinawa was the scene of one of the second world war’s bloodiest battles. An estimated 240,000 Japanese and Americans died, including more than a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population, after US forces invaded in June 1945. Japanese troops distributed grenades to civilians, urging them to commit suicide or risk being raped and murdered by American soldiers.

“There are lots of songs about how terribly the Okinawans were treated in the war,” said John Potter, the author of the only English-language book on Okinawan music and a prolific blogger on the subject.

Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972 – almost three decades after the war – fuelled the local sense of “otherness” from the mainland.

Not all Okinawan musicians draw inspiration from the island’s bloody past, Potter said. “Many songs come back to what a fantastic place Okinawa is. Lots of artists sing about their culture and being island people, and their pride in being different.”

Poverty – Okinawa is Japan’s poorest prefecture – and the looming clouds of conflict sent many people in search of new lives overseas, creating a diaspora whose youngest members are making their presence felt on the island’s contemporary music scene.

Lucy Nagamine, a Peruvian-born singer whose grandparents left Okinawa shortly before the war, learned classical Ryukyu music from her grandmother and picked up her deceased grandfather’s sanshin at the age of 10.

Before settling in her ancestral homeland several years ago, Lucy often sang for Okinawan immigrants in Peru who were desperate to preserve the emotional ties with home. “Now I’m here in Okinawa, away from the country of my birth, I know how my grandparents and other immigrants felt,” she said in between songs at her regular venue, a restaurant in Naha.

“In those days immigrants had nothing to do except sing and play the sanshin. It was a central part of their existence, and why music and the Okinawan lifestyle are closely intertwined, even today.”

Less polemic are Nenes, a group of four whose lineup has gone through several reincarnations since they were formed by the legendary artist and producer Sadao China in 1990. Nenes perform classic Okinawan songs for groups of tourists from the mainland.

One rare departure from their otherwise “safe” repertoire is their stirring version of Keisuke Kuwata’s Heiwa no Kyuka, which simmers with resentment over Okinawa’s bloody wartime sacrifice. “Who decided this country was at peace,” the song asks, “Even before the people’s tears have dried?”

“Now that we’re confronting the base issue again, this is a good time to sing about peace,” said 24-year-old Mayuko Higa. “It’s important that the people who come to see us perform know why it’s an important subject here.”

Nenes’ tourist-friendly melodies can seem a world away from Kina’s ceaseless quest for social and political change, an artist who implores the world’s armies to swap their weapons for musical instruments. His decade-old feud with NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, proves that Japan’s mainstream media and firebrand politics can be uncomfortable bedfellows.

“They demanded that I drop any references to peace from my performance,” Kina said, his arms in motion again as he recalls his incredulity. “I refused, of course, and they haven’t invited me back since. The message for Okinawan musicians has always been that if you want to get on in this industry, then keep your mouth shut. But I’ll say what I like.”

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United States drones kill Australian, New Zealander in Yemen


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

By Tom Peters:

Australian, New Zealand citizens killed by US drone strike in Yemen

17 April 2014

The Australian reported yesterday that five people, including Australian citizen Christopher Harvard and dual Australian-New Zealand citizen Muslim bin John, were the victims of an extra-judicial killing by a US Predator drone in Yemen on November 19 last year. This is the first reported instance of Australians and New Zealanders being murdered by a drone.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 504 people have been killed since 2002 by American drone strikes in Yemen. This includes at least three US citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Obama administration has greatly expanded the “targeted killing” program and asserted the right to kill anyone, in any part of the world, including US citizens.

Following yesterday’s revelations, Washington’s close allies in Canberra and Wellington both indicated their full support for the assassination of their own citizens. This sets a dangerous new precedent in the assault on democratic rights by Australian and New Zealand governments, both outside and within their own countries.

The Australian’s report stated that the primary targets were three “militants,” including Abu Habib, allegedly a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and former associate of Osama bin Laden.

A “senior counter-terrorism source” told the paper that US authorities notified Australian officials after the drone strike, saying the Australian and NZ citizens were “collateral damage.” The same source described the men as “foot soldiers” for AQAP and said there was “a suggestion they were involved in kidnapping Westerners for ransom.” No evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims.

Harvard’s stepfather Neil Dowrick told the paper that his son went to Yemen in 2011 “to teach English.” The family was only informed of his assassination in December. His grandmother, Jeanette Harvard, said she had “heard three different stories” from government agencies about how her grandson was killed. She said the government told the family they would have to pay $40,000 to repatriate her grandson’s remains.

A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the paper that she was “briefed on the situation last year” but so far no government minister has commented in public….

Bishop’s Department of Foreign Affairs today defended the drone strike. A spokesperson told Fairfax Media that being an Australian citizen was “not a protection” for people “engaging in potentially criminal activity overseas.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described the assassination as “legitimate … given that three of the people killed were well known al-Qaeda operatives.” In other words, both governments accept and are complicit in Washington’s lawless operations—killing anyone it likes, without any semblance of due legal process, on mere suspicion of criminality.

In a chilling editorial today, the Australian fully endorsed the drone strike program, brushing aside the deaths of bin John and Harvard as “regrettable.” It admitted that “many” of the 3,300 people killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen were “non-combatant civilians” but justified the murders on the basis that they prevented “the terrorists from committing even more atrocities.”

The Australian and New Zealand governments have not explained why the drone strike was kept secret from the public until now. Both claim that they had no prior knowledge of, or involvement in the strike, but this is highly unlikely. Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies were undoubtedly informed, if not directly involved.

Last July, Fairfax Media revealed that Washington was “critically dependent” on the joint US-Australian spy base Pine Gap to pinpoint targets for drone assassinations in the Middle East. According to the reports, based on leaked information, there were “personnel sitting in airconditioned offices in central Australia directly linked, on a minute-by-minute basis, to US and allied military operations in Afghanistan and, indeed, anywhere else across the eastern hemisphere.”

Key yesterday told the media he was aware of bin John’s presence in Yemen last year and had personally signed a warrant for NZ’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), to monitor him. Key claimed—without providing any evidence—that bin John had attended “some sort of terrorist training camp.”

The revelation that the GCSB was monitoring bin John before he was killed raises the question of whether they provided intelligence to their US counterparts, thus making the Key government an accomplice in the murder of its own citizen. Australia and New Zealand are part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain and Canada.

Until last August it was illegal for the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens and residents, but the law was changed—in the face of overwhelming public opposition—after a government-ordered review found that the agency had illegally spied on more than 85 people. The government can now lawfully spy on anyone it likes. It is not clear whether bin John was monitored before or after the law change.

Key used the revelations of the drone assassination to justify broadening the intelligence agency’s powers, telling reporters that it “shows … the things that I have been saying for quite some time—that we need our intelligence agencies to track our people, that there are New Zealanders who go and put themselves in harm’s way—have all been proven to be correct.”

New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman criticised Key for “saying it’s OK for foreign governments to execute New Zealanders offshore if they have beliefs about those New Zealand citizens holding views the US government doesn’t like.”

Here’s What Drone Attacks in America Would Look Like: here.

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Play about World War I on English stage


This video from Britain says about itself:

An August Bank Holiday Lark Trailer

24 February 2014

Northern Broadsides and the New Vic Theatre mark the centenary of the start of the First World War with the world premiere of Deborah McAndrew’s moving new play An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Set in the idyllic summer of 1914 rural Lancashire, everyone in the community is excited about Wakes week; a rest from field and mill and a celebration of the Rushbearing Festival with singing, courting, drinking and dancing. The looming war barely registers … but it will.

By Susan Darlington in England:

Theatre: An August Bank Holiday Lark

Thursday 17th April 2014

A new play movingly evokes the loss of community and tradition in WWI, says SUSAN DARLINGTON

An August Bank Holiday Lark

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

4 Stars

It’s unlikely that Michael Gove will approve of An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Commissioned to commemorate the centenary of WWI, Northern Broadside’s latest play certainly doesn’t celebrate it as a “just war.”

Rather, Deborah McAndrew’s gentle tale depicts the kind of village life creaking under the weight of holidays to Blackpool and votes for women even before the arrival of Kitchener‘s recruitment drive.

In the Pennine mill village where the play is set in 1914, the greatest worry is finding eight Morris men for the annual rush-cart festival and securing trim for the squire’s hat after an incident involving the neighbour’s chickens.

The war seems a distant threat yet it is an opportunity for top clog dancer Frank (Darren Kuppan) to prove his worthiness to wed the squire’s daughter Mary (Emily Butterfield) and a chance for young men to make a stand for “ideas.”

The poignancy of this vanishing community is beautifully captured during one of the key scenes when a rush-cart – a towering wagon piled with cut reeds and flowers – is constructed before the audience.

Accompanied by Conrad Nelson’s joyous music and exhilarating clog-dancing choreography, the festive spirit is such that when the cart is paraded around the stage with hapless jockey Herbert (Mark Thomas) waving from the top, the audience waves back.

Fast-forward a year and the community has been torn apart, with the lives of young millworkers lost in the Dardanelles and the women left behind contemplating a life without a sweetheart.

This shift in mood is powerfully signalled by Barrie Rutter as the squire. Having spent the first act being a parody of his larger than life persona, now he is a broken man symbolising the loss of life, community and tradition.

This sombre note contrasts sharply with the bantering humour earlier and, while the plot may occasionally be spread thinner than dripping, the play is superbly evocative and poignantly acted throughout.

Highly recommended.

Tours until June 14, details: www.northern-broadsides.co.uk.

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