Martin McGuinness R.I.P.

“The terrorist is always the one with the smaller bomb.”

– Brendan Behan

Today is not the day for long obituaries or to debate the pros and cons of the peace process, nor is it the time (as the British media have done all day long) to wheel out opponents of the IRA to dance on the memory of the leader of Irish nationalism.

TAL Fanzine has its views on all of the  political twists and turns that have taken place as a result of the eternal peace process. However, on this day, we send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Martin McGuinness.

May he rest in peace.

The Church, The ‘Free State’ & The Women Of Ireland

Women on the march in Dublin today. This generation of young Irish women will no longer accept the diktats of Church & State with regard to reproductive rights and abortion law.

On International Womens Day we reproduce the poignant words of the Independent Irish MEP, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan regarding the brutal oppression of working class women by the Catholic Church in 20th Century Ireland.  Let this serve as a stark reminder of the dark forces that lay behind the counter-revolutionary Irish ‘Free State’ government:

“You’ve had your bit of fun, now feel the bloody pain”

Those were the words said to my mother as she screamed in pain while giving birth to me. They were said to her by a ‘Bride of Christ’ or a nun for those who don’t follow the lingo. Now you’d think the nuns would have loved my mother. Catholic. Didn’t believe in contraception. Pro-life as the phrase goes. Five children already delivered for god. My father was even a carpenter.

But they didn’t love my mother. They loved no one. Just hated. Hated the fact that this world is uncontrollable. Full with people of free will. Full of unpredictability. However that didn’t stop them from attempting to control it. Whatever it took. Even if it meant making my mother feel dirty for having enjoyed the love of my father. Even when my mother had followed their teaching, it wasn’t enough. It had to be hell. Any bit of fun wakes the devil so it seems.

I myself now have three beautiful daughters. If my wife and I had been around fifty years earlier I would now have none. You see the first two were born outside wedlock. Fifty years ago the church would have intervened to make sure the second one would never have happened. My first born would have been sold, she’s pretty. My wife would have died prematurely in a glorified concentration camp and because I wouldn’t have accepted it, I would have been sent to a mental hospital to rot.

I don’t believe in God myself. But the story of Jesus I heard certainly doesn’t chime with what was rammed down this countries throat. Whatever happened to loving your neighbour? Where did the bit about free will disappear to when it comes to women’s bodies? Whatever happened to the parable of casting stones? In fact from what I can see, if Jesus had been around Ireland in the 40s, 50s and 60s he’d have been locked up himself for being different.

When I hear the line that society was complicit in the latest Church atrocity to be exposed, I get angry. Who are we on about here? People living in overcrowded houses with barely enough to eat. They were expected to speak out? Do I really need to write this. Do I really need to spell it out for those bullshit historians. Does one really have to say – ‘But they too would have been incarcerated if they spoke out’ – Is this not obvious?

Well it is obvious. But accepting this obvious truth can’t be allowed. You see if we dont take the blame then the Church will need to. Sure we couldn’t have that. Especially after all they’ve done for us…

I held my children that bit closer last weekend. For fear of what might have been.

Gigi Riva – Not Everyone Is For Sale

 “Scoring is what gets you through the week.” – Gigi Riva

by Dona Velluti

At 18, Gigi Riva had already made a name for himself in Varese and its province. He was born on November 7, 1944 in Leggiuno, a small village of about 3,500 population, near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, and had been playing football for coach passes and, later, for blocks of butter and wheels of cheese for local teams, but the Varese football team, at the time playing Serie B, had shown some interest in engaging him. So he was dreaming big: Varese, Milan, Turin and one day, perhaps, Juventus, the biggest of them all… When his club agreed his transfer to Cagliari (Sardinia), he said, he felt scared.

Sardinia was considered a place of exile, almost a penal colony, disconnected from mainland Italy by 120 miles of Mediterranean Sea. Not a place you could drive to. The nearest city was Rome, but unless you had a lot of money for a plane ticket, you would be facing a 13-hour crossing (if the weather was good) on a dingy ferry. The slow process whereby its middle class would sell the region out (together with their soul) for a small piece of the action for themselves had already started, but the island hadn’t yet learnt how to market its rugged, wild and unspoilt beauty through tourism, the only industry it currently hangs onto (and you cannot stay rugged, wild and unspoilt when you start building ugly tourist villages on the beaches). It was (and still is) one of the poorest Italian regions, with very little industrial development to speak of (the lion’s share of the post-war development funds targeted at the island was pocketed by corrupt administrators and industrialists) and an economy based on coal mining (now long gone), agriculture, sheep rearing and dairy production. Many found that their only option was migrating to the industrialised north.

Unlike Britain, where accent is linked to class, in Italy it only identifies geographical origin. An accent from the north is associated with wealth and distinction. A Sardinian accent was synonymous with poverty and coarse, underdeveloped peasants and shepherds, and mocked as such. Sardinians responded with an ill-concealed minority complex. Except for the central mountains, where, amongst the shepherds, bandits, feared as much as secretly admired (and romanticised), held sway: landowners and industrialists were not safe there and would be kidnapped for ransom.

Bandits and shepherds: to an 18-year-old kid from a village in northern Italy, it must have looked like the Wild West – and not in a good way.

Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia. In the spring of 1963, when Gigi Riva arrived, it was a very pretty (but not yet conceited), narrow-minded, very conservative but generous town, controlled by the Catholic Church and the merchant classes which had not yet managed to contaminate everybody with their cynicism. Cagliari had a major port, a small airport, two fishing villages, a wonderful beach with white sand dunes, colourful beach huts and blue clear water, a modest amount of fancy clothes shops, one record shop, and huge pressure to conform. Corruption was already rife, as well-connected cowboy builders were starting to help themselves to the white sand of the beach with the cover of the night and local politicians – the dunes of the ’60s are also long gone – but it wasn’t endemic yet, and the kind public office worker who would help you through the diabolical maze of bureaucracy was still the rule and not the exception. When Riva first arrived at the Cagliari FC training ground he found out, as a confirmation of his worst fears, that it was a dirt pitch – not one single blade of grass.

Life had been hard for Gigi. One of four kids, he came from a poor family. His sisters remember going to bed hungry. His father worked as a tailor and a barber, his mother worked in a textile mill. His father died when Gigi was nine, and he was sent to a boarding school for boys from poor families. He was expelled from two schools as he couldn’t stand the discipline, and he finished his middle school in a third. One of his younger sisters was hospitalised for a rare medical condition she soon died from, and another sister was run over by a car while going to the hospital and was paralysed for 5 years. When Gigi left school at 14 he went to work in a factory, and used to steal away two afternoons a week to go to football practice. His mother died when he was 17, and as of the two surviving sisters one was still paralysed and the other was in hospital giving birth to her first child, Gigi was alone when he followed his mother’s hearse to the cemetery.

It’s not surprising then that the teenager who arrived in Cagliari in 1963 was a polite, introverted, melancholy loner who didn’t talk much, struggled to make personal connections, was painfully homesick and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there and get back to civilisation. 

He was, of course, also extremely talented, extremely driven and not afraid of hard work – of the “first-in-last-out” type the goalies tried to get away from as he wanted to keep practising when everybody had gone home. He played fair, had brilliant ball control, impressive pace and skilful dribbling ability. He was fearless, daring, very powerful, left-footed and could kick the ball at almost 80 mph. It wasn’t long before a popular journalist in the national press nicknamed him Rumble of Thunder, and the moniker stuck.

When Gigi Riva arrived at Cagliari FC, the club was rooted in Serie B. He dragged them into Serie A, dominated by Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Fiorentina. Cagliari was under the under-underdog. As their coach Manlio Scopigno said when a Juventus official claimed that the mafia had ensnared Riva (the mafia had no presence in Sardinia), “Juve and the Milan clubs have had the wealth and contacts to ensure that they’ve had things their own way for far too long. If Cagliari should win Serie A, I’d imagine it will be the first honest championship victory for years.”

The town was already in love with Riva, and the love was a real, practical, warm embrace from humble, generous people. They didn’t worship him from afar, nor did they crowd him: they respected his privacy and his shyness, but they would stop him and talk to him in the street, they would take him to the nearest bar and buy him an espresso or a beer. Fishermen would take him home for family meals. This was a pre-selfies era when celebrity obsession was still unknown, and Riva never behaved like a star. His modesty and slight awkwardness struck a chord. The town adopted him. And when he talked about the town or Sardinia, he said “we”, in his strong northern accent.

Recovering from a fractured fibula, Riva led Italy to win the European Championship in 1968, the first win of any kind since the end of WW2, and at the end of the match against Yugoslavia everybody at the Rome Olympic Stadium lit a newspaper and turned the place into a gigantic candlelight celebration (Health & Safety has never been a concern…).

Then Cagliari FC strengthened the team around him, and in 1970 Riva led them to win their first (and only) scudetto. For the town that was it. You can hear this new, unknown pride in their voices in archive footage, when they shout into the microphone that he is the greatest footballer of all time. They are saying, “now you can think what you want about us, we don’t care anymore – we have Gigi Riva.”

 “I couldn’t just say, ‘Thanks for everything, have a nice life,’ and leave”

He returned the love in spades. In his club career, wearing the now legendary No. 11 jersey, he played 373 matches and scored 207 goals. He was the top scorer in three championships (1967, 1969, 1970). His record with the national side, 35 goals in 42 caps, is still unbeaten. None of this went to his head, and when on the principle of “if you can’t beat them, buy them”, Inter Milan and AC Milan tried to buy him and Juventus harassed him for a year offering him huge amounts of money to play for them (Juventus and FIAT owner Agnelli was said to have issued his officials with the order “Grab that sheep boy by his ear and drag him to Turin”), he said no every time – he was not for sale. He told his team-mate and Cagliari sweeper Pierluigi Cera that they were offering too much, that nobody should be paid that amount of money, and he wouldn’t have been able to play under a burden like that. But above all he said he didn’t think that in big towns he could find the “family environment” that he had found in Cagliari, and that leaving a town and its people that had given him so much just wouldn’t have been right. So he stayed.

He later said, “I would have earned triple. But Sardinia had made me a man. It was my land. In those days, they called us shepherds and bandits around Italy. I was 23 and the great Juve wanted to cover me in money. I wanted the scudetto for my land. We did it, the bandits and shepherds.”

In 2010 a party was thrown to celebrate the scudetto 40 year anniversary. The entire old team turned up, happily noting they were all still alive, but mourning the passing of Scopigno and the two masseurs. When interviewed about how football had changed, Riva said, “There was an emotional bond with the supporters. You could feel them in Cagliari. We could feel them when we played away matches in the north, when all the Sardinians who had emigrated up there would come to the stadium. They were asking us to win so that they could go home and feel proud. We could feel them.”

Always shy of the limelight once he was off the pitch, he again turned down an offer of astronomical amounts of money, this time from acclaimed film director Franco Zeffirelli, to play the lead role in Saint Francis’s biopic Brother Son, Sister Moon. He even turned on his heels and left when, arriving at the stadium in Turin where he had been invited to test a machine that measured the power of a shot, he realised that an audience had been allowed in. He said, “I’m not a freak show”, and left.

But the gods were not done with Riva. In October 1970, during a match against Austria at the Prater stadium in Vienna, a nasty challenge by the defender Hof (no Italian who was alive at the time will forget that name) resulted in a fractured tibia and fibula. Images of his team-mate Domenghini running up to him and sinking his face in his hands at the sight of the broken bone sticking out of Riva’s shin are etched in the memory of those who remember Hof’s name.

Without him, Cagliari was eliminated from the European Cup and started slipping down the Serie A table. He fought back and recovered and in the 1971/72 championship bagged 21 goals in 30 games and revived his team’s fortunes for a bit, but Cagliari’s steady decline had started. In spite of that, Riva remained loyal and stayed with his team. Until February 1976, when, during a home match against AC Milan, he injured his right thigh adductor. He never fully recovered and never played again. In 2005, Cagliari FC officially “retired” his jersey and handed it to him during a special ceremony: nobody will ever wear the number 11 jersey in Cagliari again. That’s Gigi Riva’s for all time.


He still lives in Cagliari, with no fuss. When he retired he bought a petrol station, and founded the Gigi Riva Football School. On their website he wrote: “When back in 1976 I decided to create a football school, initially my main purpose was probably to train ‘footballers’. But I soon realised that the aim of an initiative like that should not be to find the champion, but rather to support young people’s growth on the formative and social level through the discipline of a sport that helps them to feel better with themselves and with others. So the objective changed radically and our slogan became ‘forming the man before the footballer’”. The school has an average of 250 registered children a year. The website quotes the German theologian Dorothee Solle: “How would you explain what happiness is to a child?” “I wouldn’t,” she answered, “I would give him a football.”

He’s often seen having a coffee in the afternoon at the bar where he has always gone to have his afternoon coffee. He never married, but has two sons and three granddaughters he dotes on.

He was never involved in any of the corruption/match-fixing scandals that have plagued Italian football over the years, and he declined the usual huge wads of money that he was offered to become a TV pundit. When Berlusconi offered him to stand for the regional elections a few years ago, he declined saying that he didn’t feel it was his place. Later, in an interview with the national press he denounced the way Sardinia had been exploited and was being left to die by an incompetent and corrupt political class, and encouraged young people to pay attention to politics.

In a recent interview Gigi was asked about the glory, awards and recognition that his greatness has brought him. With one of his shy smiles he said, “lots of beautiful things happened to me thanks to football, but I would sacrifice some of that gladly if it could help to mend my childhood a little.”


I used to see Riva on my way back home from primary school, in the takeaway pizza place where they had his framed signed photo on the wall behind the counter. Like everybody else, I had exercise books with his photo on the front cover, like this one > 

On February 1st, 1976 I was a few yards away, with my dad, when during that match against AC Milan in Cagliari Riva screamed in agony and fell holding the inside of his right thigh. I heard the scream and the collective gasp in the whole stadium – none of us breathed as he was taken away on a stretcher.

 And I used to see him going into the small restaurant attached to my swim club, Rari Nantes Cagliari, when I was a teenager, after he had retired.

Years ago, in a pre-mobile phones era, I was teaching English at the same school in Cagliari where one of his sons, Nicòla, was a student. Nicòla wasn’t in one of my classes, but his class was one of the three that took part in a school trip to Rome that two of my colleagues and I were in charge of. Needless to say, when we arrived at the hotel the kids ignored the way rooms had been allocated and re-arranged themselves to share a room with their best mates. I knew where each of them was at the end of this reshuffle, the hotel reception didn’t. So when very early one morning reception called me to say that a parent was trying to locate his son and could I help by taking the call, although annoyed and half-asleep I said yes. I recognised his voice instantly and, suddenly awake, I automatically stood to attention (you don’t sit when Gigi Riva is talking to you, do you?). He didn’t say, “This is Gigi Riva, do you know where my son is?”. He said, very politely, “This is Nicòla Riva’s father and I can’t find him – can you help me, please?”. Nicòla Riva’s father. That’s Gigi Riva for you.

About the author

Independent Working Class Association activist Dona Velluti has lived in England for the last 23 years, but she was born in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, and grew up there when Gigi Riva was at the height of his powers.

This article first appeared on the IWCA Athletics Club website.

Politics also plays in the African Cup of Nations

By Francisco Centauro of Grada Roja

There are two faces to this beast; on the one hand the clamor that represents a continental tournament organized by FIFA, which brings together different countries in Africa to share the values that football transmits. On the other hand, also visible are the many factors that have led to the social and economic decline of the whole continent. In the 19th and 20th Centuries it was the shared experience of the imperialist yoke that gave the African nations the by-product of a fighting heritage. Now FIFA and those in political power in Africa try to provide cover for the continuing poverty and inequality of the continent with showcase tournaments. Nothing to see here, move along please…

The host country for the 2017 edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations is Gabon. Similar to Brazil at the last World Cup, a large percentage of the population of Gabon lives in dire poverty. The dissatisfaction at the amount of money invested in organizing the tournament permeates the population and has manifested itself in widespread discontent and protest on the streets.

The riots in Gabon commenced in the aftermath of the re-election of Ali Bongo of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) whose victory is widely considered to be corrupt and fraudulent. Gabonese opposition candidate Jan Ping leads the protests and the social upheaval is ongoing, in spite of the African Nations Cup tournament. The capital Libreville, is the epicenter of both the sporting event and popular discontent. But the Cup must continue because the economic interests of the organizers in this era of commercialised soccer are a priority – they have match timetables to fill and profits to make, because ‘time is money’.

The first game of the Cup, on January 14, saw host Gabon play Guinea Bissau. Inside the stadium the encounter takes place with a certain normality, contrary to the scenes on the outside, where the population is immersed in episodes of violence, culminating in the protesters setting fire to the National Assembly as a sign of their discontent. Revolts, riots and mass arrests are the reality of the African Cup of Nations that is not reported by the mainstream media. It is obvious that, as in Brazil, the interests pursued by the government, the African Confederation and FIFA, is considered to be more important than responding to the demands of the protesters. No matter that public resources have been diverted to fund a lavish opening ceremony, the basic needs of the population can wait, because it is the priority of those in charge to show the world that Gabon is up to the task of organizing an event of this type. Most likely, after the tournament, stadiums will become abandoned properties, due to the inability of the government to finance their maintenance. Just look back and observe the countries that have hosted a tournament of similar character in other continents. In Brazil, those stadiums that were built after long days of exploitation and brutal effort for the workers, now lie abandoned. They remain as the silent witnesses of the socioeconomic consequences of being a World Cup host, Gabon will be no exception to this rule.

Looking beyond the facade of this tournament, it is important to celebrate the tradition of resistance that is demonstrated by the protests on the streets of Gabon. These protests recall the examples of struggle that led to the national liberation of several African countries, as well as the heroic characters who fought colonialism and achieved independence for their nations. Today these achievements are overshadowed by interventionism and betrayal.

So we remember Thomas Sankara and his legacy in the liberation of Burkina Faso, President Nasser’s Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the revolution of Patrice Lumumba. The many liberation struggles in southern and central Africa that saw the colonialists overthrown. And, of course, the Algerians as authentic warriors both on the pitch and on the barricades of the National Liberation Front. The revolution in Africa continues because, as has been proven by experience, national liberation in and of itself does not automatically lead to social liberation and freedom from poverty. Football and Politics remain intertwined and reflect the social context of the time and we will continue to report the political as well as the sporting.

This article first appeared in Spanish on the Grada Roja website.

Translated & Edited by Talman, with thanks to F.C. and Grada Roja

REVIEW: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama

Dare Devil Rides to Jarama dramatizes Clem “Daredevil” Beckett’s life and sacrifice during the Spanish Civil war, and celebrates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades.

Clem Beckett lived briefly, but what he made of his 31 years on this earth is quite extraordinary. A proud working class lad born in Oldham in 1906, a blacksmith by trade turned speedway rider during the depression of the 1920s, he was quick to identify the damaging nature of capitalism, leading him to embrace solidarity, anti-fascism and revolutionary socialism. He never shunned fighting the good fight and when the biggest fight of all against fascism in Spain started, he joined the International Brigades and died in 1937 in the battle to stop Franco from reaching Madrid.

Daredevil Rides to Jarama is a wonderful piece of working class theatre, with a brilliant script and an incredibly clever way of using cheap props and lighting to convey time, place, situations and moods. A wooden panel at the back of the stage is a wall of death, a factory gate, a door to a lovenest, a cinema screen, a wall in Spain; some steps are a podium for a political speech and for an award ceremony, a writing table, and a workshop bench. There are no special effects. Musical instruments appear and are played to accompany the singing of fighting ballads. And you never realise how bare and simple the stage is because with just a few props, some poetry, some songs, lighting, and above all an extraordinarily well-crafted script and two seriously talented men create more magic and evoke more reality than you ever thought was possible with so little.

David Heywood brings back to life a brave, determined, compassionate, cheeky and sharp Clem Beckett and leaves everything he’s got on stage. He really empties the tank. Neil Gore, who wrote the play, is everybody else, from the greyhound stadium owner who exploits young riders’ inexperience on deliberately dangerous dirt tracks for sensational shows that cause injury and death, to the landowner who tries to keep ramblers off the land, and many other characters, including Christopher St John Sprigg (aka Cauldwell), the upper middle class writer and poet who became Clem’s unlikely partner and died with him on February 12, 1937 in the Jarama Valley.

Offering inspired, nuanced performances and a genuine connection with the audience, David and Neil are also the stage hands, as they operate the lights and reorganise the stage between the two acts. The play is an intellectual and emotional tour de force through a compassionate life of political commitment in the fight against capitalism and fascism. Clem’s is the story of one of the many heroic men and women who understood what was at stake in Spain and decided that the ultimate sacrifice was not too high a price to pay and joined the International Brigades to fight on the side of the Spanish resistance.

Catch it if you can from January.

For more information about Clem Beckett, go to

This is OUR Ireland: Apollo House Occupation

Apollo House on Tara Street in Dublin has been occupied by activists since last Thursday – with 35 people sheltering in the property on Sunday night.

The group – backed by a number of high profile Irish artists and musicians – have renamed the property “Home Sweet Home” and have said they are receiving “phenomenal” support from the public.

The Irish actor and director, Terry McMahon made a strong speech in support of the occupation and against the policies of austerity that have seen a rise in homelessness, poverty and suicide.


“A hundred years ago brave men and women fought a bloody war for our Ireland. The most idealistic among us, the bravest among us, the best among us, from every rung of society, put everything on the line for our Ireland. They are the forefathers of our revolution and we are the sons and daughters of their sacrifice. And we have failed them.

“In this one year, the centenary of 1916, more people have died by their own hand than were killed in the entire Easter Rising. In the last eight years of austerity more people have committed suicide than died in the thirty years of the northern Irish troubles. This is our Ireland and, a hundred years after 1916, austerity is not just a lie, austerity is murder.

“This is our Ireland, which is why we have no intentions of causing any hurt. Which is why we will operate within the law as much as possible. Which why as long as a quarter of a million properties lie empty and out government continues to do nothing , we will fight to ensure nobody else dies in a doorway.

“Our freedom was fought for a hundred years ago and today we ask ourselves, what are we prepared to do for the people who need us most? We ask ourselves, if not us, who? If now now, when? And finally, we ask ourselves, when exactly did we allow a tiny coterie of controlling class scum make us forget just what a f***ing sublime nation we are?

“This is OUR Ireland.”

Aleppo: The truth that the western media refuses to report

andrewashdowncofeAndrew Ashdown is a Church of England priest studying Christian-Muslim relations in Syria. In the last few days he has visited East Aleppo. This is the report of his visit to the area yesterday (14th December) that he published on his facebook page. Photos by Andrew Ashdown


This morning we visited the main IDP Registration centre at Jibrin, for Internally Displaced Persons from East Aleppo. They are registered here for humanitarian reasons and access to services, before they go either to relatives in other parts of Syria if they have them (many do), or to other reception centres where they are provided with accommodation, food and other services. During the past two weeks they have registered 95,000 refugees, but estimate there may be a further 10,000 who have not registered. There were thousands of people there who have arrived within the last couple of days. Let me make clear that we visited in a taxi without Government or Army accompaniment, and without prior notice. We were not expected.

idp10The Centre is well organised. The Syrian Red Crescent have tents available that offer information about all social welfare facilities available, and offer free medical attention. In cases of emergency, ambulances are on hand to transport patients to hospital. Free food is being distributed by the Syrian Red Crescent and the Syrian Army, and we saw a convoy of Russian lorries providing aid. There is also a Russian field hospital on site which offers immediate medical treatment.

The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable.idp16 All were keen to talk, and we interviewed several who had arrived only yesterday and today. They all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are “true Muslims”, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

idp3They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. (A doctor who has been working with the refugees for weeks told me last night that in an area recently liberated, a warehouse filled with brand new internationally branded medicines had been discovered.) Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. They said if anyone left their homes, their properties and belongings were confiscated and stolen.

idp23One old man in a wheelchair who was being given free treatment in the Russian Field Hospital said he had been given no treatment for three years despite asking. He said: “Thank God we are free. We now have food. We can now live our lives. God bless the Syrian Army.” They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free. One woman said: “This is heaven compared to what we have been living.” We asked if the Syrian Army had ill-treated anyone. They said never. One woman said: “They helped us to escape and they provide us with food and assistance.”


I therefore have two key questions:

1. It is now only the Syrian Red Crescent, the Syrian Army, and the Russians who are providing humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands who have fled East Aleppo. Why are none of the international agencies offering to help them now?

2.  Why is it, given that stories about massacres by the Syrian Army are headline news worldwide, and several international media units are in Aleppo, that there is not one international media agency actually at the Registration Centre talking to the refugees themselves? We were the only ones there. Here are people who have lived through it who are keen to talk, yet the media take at face value unverifiable claims by highly dubious sources. The collapse of any form of reliable investigative journalism in a context of global significance is utterly shocking.

CNN’s favourite ‘independent film maker’ American Jihadist and Al Qaeda member Bilal Abdul Kareem, interviewing Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini, leader of Jaish al Fatah: Saudi educated and funded, child suicide bomber trainer, judge and executioner of apostates, Chief Head-Chopper and mass murderer.

Today the agreement for 4000 fighters to leave Aleppo is reported to have collapsed after the fighters had refused to fulfil the agreement. (I don’t know the details, but think about it… There is no reason on earth why the Syrian Government would want this agreement, which would involve the complete liberation of the city, to fail!) It is reported that the fighters refused to leave or let the civilians do so.

The refusal of the western media to report objectively, or to seekidp2 informed information from the thousands of civilians from East Aleppo who are keen to share their stories, whilst granting full credibility to terrorists without any on the ground verifiable information on their claims, is nothing short of obscene.

Everything that I have seen and heard in Aleppo; from civilians in East and West from all communities, and from talking with doctors, faith communities and with Army people as well, and witnessing and risking bombardments on both sides, convinces me that the reports in the western media are twisted fabrications of the horrors that are happening in ‘rebel’ controlled areas. And still, the media refuses to listen to the witness of the people themselves.


Postscript: Christmas is coming in Syria. In a country and a city in which people of all faiths are free to worship; where mosques and Churches stand side by side; and where Christmas music is playing in cafes and restaurants. And yet the world is mourning the defeat in Aleppo of extremists who destroy Christian and Muslim places of worship, and slaughter any who do not follow their obscene ideology.


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