Syrian refugee interviewed in Germany

The refugee camp in Jenfeld, Hamburg, Germany

By Ute Reissner and Benjamin Hader in Germany:

“Nobody can live like this”: A young refugee in Hamburg speaks out

9 October 2105

Around 800 refugees have been living in a tent city since July in the outlying and impoverished Hamburg suburb of Jenfeld. The tents were erected in a park on the edge of a residential area, one of several temporary camps in which 10,000 people have been confined in the northern German city this year. The majority of the people, around one third, come from Syria, followed by refugees from Albania, Iraq and Eritrea.

While a right-wing initiative protested against the establishment of the refugee camp in Jenfeld’s Moorpark, receiving high-profile coverage from the media and politicians, many local residents and local institutions are making great efforts to assist the new arrivals.

A local school set aside one of its rooms at its own initiative as a store for donated clothing. By contrast, a sign hangs at the camp’s entrance refusing donations.
A sign at the Hamburg refugee camp rejects donorsIn the large tents put up by the German Red Cross, lines of fold-up beds are available for sleeping. There is no other space for the refugees.

In August, all camp residents had to be sealed off from the outside to treat the skin condition scabies because the outbreak had been ignored for weeks until medical treatment was provided. Doctors and other helpers have repeatedly protested over the inadequate treatment available for other infectious diseases.

The camp is surrounded by fences and heavily guarded. Visitors and the media are not allowed to enter. Through the material covering the fences, it is possible to see shameful conditions: small groups sitting around on wooden benches and others walking around. Prams are pushed across the square, while older children ride bicycles or tricycles. Several washing lines have been put up, and blankets and sleeping bags hang on the fences. Inside the fence, several containers have been set up where offices for the camp’s administrators and sanitary facilities are accommodated. Uniformed guards patrol the location and control the only entrance.

On the ground in front of the gate, some young men pass the time by playing ball. Others sit under solitary trees or on the ground, obviously trying to get some space to themselves, since there is no privacy in the camp.

Here we spoke to a young man who told us that he comes from Syria. He fetched Lieth, his friend, who speaks English and told us his story.

Lieth is only 19 years old, but appears younger. The young man made it from Damascus to Hamburg with his 16-year-old brother. He said that, in a year, he would have been finished school.

“We didn’t want to join the Syrian army, that’s why we fled,” he explained. Government officials came to his house and confiscated his passport so that he could not flee the country and avoid military service. His parents subsequently said, “If you have to go to war, you will die, either in the government’s army or one of the militias. Someone will force you to fight. There is only one way out, you have to get out of here.”

The two boys travelled first to Turkey and searched for a ship to take them to Greece. They took a train from Athens to Macedonia. The local police sold them expensive train tickets to travel towards Serbia. Roughly 6 kilometres before the border, they were offloaded in a small town.

In the middle of the night, they crossed the Macedonian-Serbian land border on foot. Then they waited for three days until they had the necessary papers to travel further. Again on foot, they walked across Serbia to Hungary.

They had barely arrived when they were detained by the Hungarian police, who wanted to identify them. When they refused to give their fingerprints out of fear, they were threatened with six months in jail. So they eventually relented. It was all in all a very bad experience, Lieth said.

After a few difficult days in Budapest, they were able to travel to Vienna on a packed train. They then obtained a ticket to Munich with great difficulty.

Friends had advised them to travel on from Munich to Hamburg. It was surely better there, not so overcrowded as in Munich. Lieth never expected to end up in a tent camp in Hamburg.

“In Damascus,” the 19-year-old said, “it was dangerous, but we at least had a house. We had a roof over our heads. I did not expect this from Germany—that one isn’t allowed to live in a house here. Twenty people are accommodated in one tent—men, women and children, all together. There is even a small baby in my tent. It is six months old.

“It is so cold at night that we cannot sleep. We walk around the whole night so we do not freeze. Many can’t cope. Every day between five and six people are taken to hospital. If one needs a doctor, it takes a long time before someone comes, if at all.

“We get something to eat here, but no money. Therefore, we can’t do anything. We can’t leave the camp, we can’t even go into the city, because we have no money for the travel ticket.

“We have no idea what is going to happen next. I always say I would like to learn German. But they always put me off—not now, another time. That’s what happens all the time. Nobody tells us about anything, they say something different each day. This is not only my experience. Friends I have made here are in the same position. We just want to learn and work.

“After all the money we spent, all the effort, after the difficult journey, we are sitting here in a tent camp and have absolutely no idea what will happen. Nobody can live like this. Occasionally I am able to speak with my mother in Damascus. She now regrets sending us to Germany.”

Jeremy Corbyn and British Labour Friends of Israel

Shlomo Anker from Britain says about this video he made:

Jeremy Corbyn speech at pro-Israel event

29 September 2015

The event was by Labour Friends of Israel. The organizers invited Palestinians and their supporters too. The atmosphere was wonderful and pro-Palestinians and pro-Israel people were chatting.

One heckler got attention from the media, but he was drunk as red wine was served.

Many Jews like myself voted for Corbyn and many more who did not vote for him now fully support him as leader.

By Shlomo Anker in Britain:

Labour Friends of Israel warm to Corbyn

Friday 9th October 2015

The new party leader and his pro-Palestinian views both had a surprisingly friendly reception from the group, found SHLOMO ANKER

BEFORE Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Party leader, there was talk of tension within the party — especially from the right-wing media. People suggested that some in the party would even leave and form a SDP style split.

So the reaction of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is interesting, especially with so much discussion of Corbyn’s views on the Middle East and his record of being very sympathetic to the Palestinians.

At the Labour Party conference, LFI had two main events and its reaction to Corbyn was surprising. Instead of fostering tension and paranoia towards him, the atmosphere was positive and Jewish Labour members both in and outside of LFI are really starting to warm to him. Or to put it another way: Jewish Labour members realise that what the media has said about Corbyn is not true.

One LFI event was a broad discussion about a two-state solution. The speakers in general only spoke in defence of Israel, which included the usual exaggeration of the threat from Iran. It was disappointing that the oppression of the Palestinians was hardly mentioned.

In the discussion afterwards I decided to commment on the suffering of those in Gaza. The reaction I received was unexpected. Instead of people being upset with me, the Chair of LFI, Joan Ryan MP, very much liked my question and the organisers even came to shake my hand.

Pro-Palestinian activists later asked challenging questions and the organisers and pro-Israel members of the audience enjoyed the discussion — although one woman with a Free Palestine badge did get upset with the replies and walked out of the meeting.

The second event for LFI was their annual reception where high-level members of the Labour Party come to drink, eat and discuss the Middle East.

LFI invited plenty of people involved in Labour Friends of Palestine, as well as Corbyn and Hilary Benn. They both spoke alongside Errel Margalit (an Israeli Knesset member) and the deputy ambassdor of Israel. In his speech, Corbyn called for the end of the siege of Gaza but also praised the Jewish community for its work in defending refugees.

The Telegraph and the Times reported on this event but only mentioned a heckler who shouted “Oi oi, say the word Israel!” after Corbyn’s speech. The newspapers forgot to mention that the heckler had partaken heavily in the wine served at the event and is well known as a bit of an “eccentric” who gets so agitated that even the Daily Mail had an article on his bad behaviour.

The improvement of relations between Corbyn and LFI is partly down to the most pro-Israel of all the Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, being appointed to the shadow cabinet. Luciana was formerly the chair of LFI and unlike other pro-Israel voices in the parliamentary party, she is actually Jewish.

But I should not exaggerate. LFI still has strong disagreements with Corbyn and in my opinion LFI’s work needs reform.

Their priority seems to be mainly about Israel’s national security and they do not do enough to stand up for Palestinians.

The rank and file people in LFI are often peace activists but the speakers they invite at events tend to not be as left-wing.

Although while LFI are not supporters of Netanyahu and do formally oppose the occupation, the brutal reality of the occupation is generally not talked about at their events.

I wish that LFI could reform and be focused on peace activism and not on defending the actions of the Israeli military and sometimes its government.

Yet I must also criticise Labour Friends of Palestine too. I spoke with Graeme Morris MP who is the chair of the group and he seemed pessimistic about working with LFI. While he may be right about politics and is a charming fellow, Labour Friends of Palestine need to reach out more to LFI and begin to organise more joint events which will improve relations.

If we are going to have peace and justice in the Middle East, let us at least start with friendship between these two sides within the Labour Party.

British government jails raped, tortured refugee woman

This video says about itself:

12 September 2015

Many tens of thousands of people marched through London, past 10 Downing Street and up to Parliament in solidarity with refugees. They demand Britain grants asylum to more refugees. Jeremy Corbyn joined and addressed the crowds. London2Calais report.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Raped. Tortured. And locked up in Britain

Friday 9th October 2015

Judge slams Theresa May for ‘truly disgraceful’ asylum regime

A SUDANESE woman who sought safety in Britain after being repeatedly raped and tortured only to be treated “truly disgracefully” by immigration officials won her legal bid in the High Court yesterday.

Mr Justice Collins condemned the “utterly unreasonable and truly disgraceful” treatment of the woman, known only as IKM, and allowed her to claim damages from the government.

The damning ruling comes just days after Home Secretary Theresa May’s rabidly xenophobic anti-immigration and asylum speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

In it, Ms May said the supposedly “wealthiest, fittest and strongest” people who claimed asylum having already reached Britain — like IKM and 97 per cent of those who seek refuge here — were less deserving than people stuck in refugee camps.

Justice Collins said there was clear medical evidence that IKM had been repeatedly raped and tortured in Sudan.

And she suffered further when she was locked up in an English immigration prison from December 7 2013 to January 2014, the court heard, and had to spend three weeks in hospital to recover.

Ordering damages to be assessed either by the High Court or a county court, the judge said: “Very properly the secretary of state has conceded her detention was unlawful.

“It is well known that she was someone who in all probability had sustained torture and that meant she was someone who should not be detained unless there were very exceptional circumstances. There were none.

“It is, I hope, a unique case because the behaviour of those responsible was utterly unreasonable and truly disgraceful.”

IKM, a non-Arab from Darfur, initially came to England to study but then decided to claim asylum in the Republic of Ireland, believing that she could not claim in England because she possessed a student visa.

Her asylum claim was rejected and her appeal dismissed in 2010.

She made her way back to England via Belfast to an area in north-east England where a local Sudanese community came to her aid.

However, the Home Office ordered that she be dumped in Dublin, pointing to the Dublin Convention asylum rules which state that the country where the claim was lodged bears the responsibility.

But the judge said that was rubbish — IKM’s story was solid and five doctors agreed she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“In circumstances such as these, it is difficult to see this as other than a cast-iron case for asylum in this country,” he said.

Ms May “should seriously consider whether it really is humanitarian to require” an unbending following of the rules “rather than adopting a compassionate approach in the particular circumstances of this case.”

David Mitchell, applying for permission to appeal on behalf of the Home Office, claimed the ruling “emasculated” the Dublin Convention.

But Justice Collins dismissed the claim, saying the government had the choice whether or not to stick strictly to it.

Ms May still has the option to go to the appeal court directly.

Saudi royal air force bombs Yemeni wedding, again

This video says about itself:

100+ Yemeni Civilians Killed At Wedding By Saudi Airstrike

29 September 2015

The death toll from an air strike on a wedding party in Yemen has jumped to 131, medics said on Tuesday, in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Yemen’s war that drew strong condemnation from the U.N. secretary-general.

That was then. And now …

By James Tweedie:

Yemen: Saudis kill 30 in raid after rebels sign up to UN peace plan

Friday 9th October 2015

AT LEAST 30 people were killed when the Saudi-led coalition bombed a wedding, Yemeni officials said yesterday.

Wednesday’s attack came after the UN announced that the rebel Anasarullah movement — commonly known as the Houthis — had agreed to a ceasefire.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the group had signed up to a seven-point peace plan which includes abiding by security council resolution 2216, which requires the Houthis to withdraw from all areas they occupy — including the capital Sanaa — and to lay down their arms.

In return, the movement will be given a role in government and become a recognised political party.

The agreement was confirmed by Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abd al-Salam, according to Yemen’s Saba Net news agency.

Mr Salam also called on UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon and the UN security council to back Yemen’s peace process.

The air raid took place in the town of Sanabani in Dhamar province, an area controlled by the Houthi rebels. The host of the wedding was a local tribal leader alleged to be an Ansarullah supporter.

The three local officials said that hospitals had been overwhelmed with the wounded.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia’s military coalition, which last week denied that it was responsible for the bombing of another wedding on September 28, killing more than 130 people.

But as the forces loyal to Houthi-backed presidential pretender Ali Abdullah Saleh possess no aircraft, suspicion fell on Saudi Arabia and its allies.

‘THE LIFE AND DEATH GAMBLE OF ATTENDING A WEDDING IN YEMEN’ “The wedding was almost over. Three brothers waited at their father’s house, as is tradition in Yemen, for their new brides to arrive. Then, according to relatives of the victims, the bombs fell.” [Charlotte Alfred, HuffPost]

English priest charged with making 3,100 child porn images

This video series says about itself:

Abuse of Trust

31 July 2009

Documentary about Catholic Clerical Child Abuse in Ireland. This documentary focuses on the Dublin Diocese and has interviews from survivors who describe their horrendous experiences of sexual abuse as children, Andrew Madden and Marie Collins. This also interviews the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Catholic priest Paul Clarke charged with making 3,100 indecent images of children

Police said there was no evidence of local children being involved

Lizzie Dearden

Thursday 8 October 2015 13:15 BST

A 71-year-old Roman Catholic priest has been charged with making 3,100 indecent images of children.

Father Paul Clarke, of Redclyffe Road in Urmston, but formerly of Rye in East Sussex, is due to appear at Brighton Magistrates Court today.

He has been charged with possessing an indecent image of a child, possessing prohibited images, and making a total of 3,100 indecent images of children.

Police searched his former residence at the presbytery of St Anthony of Padua church in Rye on 13 November last year, seizing computers and other alleged evidence.

The Rye News reported that Father Clarke resigned “suddenly” in February, having been at the church since 2009.

Films on Afghan war, Guantanamo reviewed

This video from Canada is called GUANTANAMO’S CHILD: OMAR KHADR Trailer | Festival 2015.

By Joanne Laurier:

8 October 2015

This is the fourth in a series of articles devoted to the recent Toronto International Film Festival (September 10-20). The first part was posted September 26, the second part October 1 and the third part October 3.

The case of Omar Khadr

The “war on terror” is a lying, noxious phrase, endlessly invoked to justify the American ruling elite’s drive for global dominance. This week marks the 14th anniversary of the US military’s invasion of Afghanistan, an exercise in sociocide, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands and the further laying waste of the already impoverished nation.

The tragic encounter of American imperialism with the Afghan people goes back to the late 1970s, when the Carter administration incited and fomented Islamic fundamentalists, including Osama bin Laden, as part of the strategy of undermining the Soviet Union. The criminality of US policy in Central Asia knows almost no bounds.

Michelle Shephard and Patrick Reed’s documentary, Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr, concerns itself with the Canadian-born youth who was captured in Afghanistan by US forces in 2002 during an airstrike and assault that killed all the anti-American insurgents except the grievously wounded, 15-year-old Omar. He was sent to the Bagram Air Base, site of a notorious US prison in Afghanistan, and tortured, before he was transferred to the even more notorious Guantanamo Bay internment camp in Cuba.

Treated like a “terrorist”—for having fought as a soldier against an invading army—by the criminals in the American government and their junior partners in Canada, Omar, in 2005, became the only juvenile to be tried for war crimes.

In 2010, he pleaded not guilty to “murdering” US Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer during the 2002 firefight. Three months later, he changed his plea, his only means of obtaining release from the Guantanamo hellhole. Over the strenuous objections of the Harper government in Ottawa, Omar was repatriated to Canada in 2012. Since his release in May 2015, Khadr has resided with his lawyer Dennis Edney in Edmonton, Alberta.

As the Shephard-Reed film reveals, Omar Khadr is a remarkable young man, as is his feisty, Scottish-born attorney. Through extensive interviews, Guantanamo’s Child constructs a nightmarish picture of Omar’s ordeal at the hands of the American military.

Although the bright and soft-spoken Omar is forthright in declaring that he was fighting “for a cause: fighting invaders,” the filmmakers are far more defensive about his role. In fact, the initial portions of the documentary tend to take the “war on terror” and the accompanying propaganda campaign at face value, as though “everything changed” as a result of the 9/11 attacks. The implication is that the “Americans” may have overreacted, but they had every right to “defend” themselves.

Any objective examination of the post-9/11 measures by the Bush administration would conclude that the actions corresponded to a long-standing agenda, involving massive US intervention in the Middle East and Central Asia in pursuit of energy supplies and, more generally, American imperialist geopolitical objectives, and that the terrorist attacks merely provided a pretext.

Missing in Guantanamo’s Child is any reference to the history of the region. There is no indication that the bin Laden forces were financed and encouraged by the CIA. It should be noted that Shepard, who wrote a book in 2008 entitled Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, is the national security reporter for the Toronto Star, one of Canada’s largest daily newspapers.

All in all, it seems fair to argue that documentary reflects the views of that section of the Canadian elite that is not happy with the country’s current relationship with Washington, with what it perceives as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s subservience, and is taking the opportunity to “stick it” to the US over the Khadr case.

In any case, whatever the serious weaknesses of Guantanamo’s Child, the majority of the film is devoted to allowing Omar to speak openly about his past and present condition—unusual in the pro-war media propaganda world. He has an insightful, mature and cautious voice.

Omar Khadr was born in Toronto in 1986, but spent much of his childhood in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The film briefly discusses his family and his early life.

As Guantanamo’s Child reveals, after his 2002 capture, the teenager suffered extensive psychological and physical abuse. In one striking scene, a repentant Damien Corsetti, a former US interrogator at Bagram, who was nicknamed “The Monster” for using techniques such as the “Human Mop” (forcing prisoners to wipe up their urine on the floor with their own bodies), movingly talks about how Omar’s youth and bravery humanized him. This contrasts to the self-justifying remarks made by a former CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) official, who features prominently in the film.

Also interviewed are the well-spoken Moazzam Begg and Ruhal Ahmed, both British citizens who bear witness to the horrors perpetrated in American prisons—Moazzam having been incarcerated with Omar at Bagram and Ruhal with him at Guantanamo. In addition, Omar’s mother and sister make critical, but unsurprisingly disoriented, remarks about the invaders.

The film also shows Omar’s amazing fortitude. Despite his age, and imprisonment for more than a decade, he never cowers before his tormentors and their false accusations. He also defied the incredible odds against being released from Guantanamo.

During the 2002 firefight, the Americans inflicted serious wounds on Omar, including two holes in his chest, that would eventually destroy one eye and greatly impair the other. Were it not for the intrepid efforts of Edney—his lawyer who was initially not allowed access to Omar for four years—he would still be locked away as an “enemy combatant” in the internment camp.

These two remarkable individuals and their bond drive the movie, but as well highlight the documentary’s major internal contradiction: Omar himself is prima facie evidence of the inhuman, illegal nature of the war. Unfortunately, the filmmakers never follow the political logic of the story of their protagonist and the forces who calumniated and tried to destroy him.

Thank You for Bombing

From Austria comes Thank You For Bombing, directed by Barbara Eder (Inside America, 2010), which provides an unflattering portrait of contemporary journalists on assignment in war zones.

The fiction film comprises a triptych of stories related to the war in Afghanistan. The first concerns an Austrian reporter, Ewald (Erwin Steinhauser), forced by his boss to go to Afghanistan. Clearly suffering from a post-traumatic nervous disorder that has rendered him incontinent, Ewald sees a man at the airport who may or may not have been involved in the murder of his cameraman during the war in Bosnia. Neither his unsympathetic editor nor his sympathetic wife are inclined to believe a man plagued by horrible wartime memories.

The next two segments are indictments of the unrelenting careerism and opportunism of war correspondents. In the first, American reporter Lana (Manon Kahle) will stop at nothing to obtain an interview with two US soldiers in Afghanistan who allegedly have burned copies of the Koran. The episode is based on the incident that memorably set off massive protests in 2012. Lana bribes and cajoles anyone and everyone to obtain what will be a major “scoop.”

The two soldiers, more like caged wild animals, are being held in an isolated bunker by the American military. Lana buys her way into their presence. But after the interview, they turn the tables on her. She allows herself to submit to gross humiliations and a near-rape to get the story. Although a revealing sequence, the encounter between Lana and the two offending soldiers takes on a gratuitous character at a certain point. It does, however, depict a demoralized, dehumanized American army.

In the movie’s final chapter, Cal (Raphael von Bargen), once a respected journalist, is tired of waiting for the bombs to begin falling. He even tries to stage young Afghan boys throwing rocks at American soldiers. A heavy drinker, he gets fired. On a drive in the middle of nowhere, a tragic accident takes the life of his driver, which has little impact on the callous reporter.

Eder’s Thank You for Bombing is rightfully contemptuous of the media, but says little or nothing about the war itself. It is critical of ambitious journalists who use and abuse the native population, going so far as to be grateful for the dropping of American bombs that will devastate the country, thus giving them new headlines. Although an angry protest (one assumes against the war), the movie suffers from a lack of serious context.

During the question-and-answer period after the film’s public screening in Toronto, director Eder explained that the work was based on real incidents that she fictionalized to safeguard the identities of the journalists.