“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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Andrew 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.
The 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. 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.
They 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.
One 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.
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 seek 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.
Today the world of football is rallying around the small Brazilian club Atlético Chapecoense after most of its players and staff, as well as the sports journalists accompanying them, were killed when their chartered plane crashed in the Medellin region of Colombia. Chapecoense had, against all expectations, qualified for the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent of UEFA’s Europa League competition.
The Brazilian FA have canceled tomorrow’s cup final and all matches this weekend as a mark of respect. Other clubs have called for solidarity with Chapecoense and requested that the club be exempt from relegation for a period of 3 years as it tries to recover from the tragedy. They have also pledged to loan players to Atlético should it elect to continue to fulfill its fixtures for the rest of this season. The Colombian side Atletico National that would have been their opponents in the 1st Leg of the final have requested that Chapecoense be declared Copa Sudamericana champions.
Some Celtic fans have also asked our club to stock the jersey of Atlético Chapecoense in the Celtic shops and to donate all profits from sales back to the Brazilian club. Every act of solidarity with the club and its fans should be embraced. In an era where greed has become the definition of football, there are still some acts of human solidarity that we as fans can participate in, with or without the consent of those at the top. Our humanity will always eclipse their greed.
Every incident that results in the loss of life is a tragedy, but some tragedies hurt more when those who died carried the hopes and dreams of the people, of thousands of fans, of whole families. The Atlético Chapecoense Football Club just a few days ago celebrated one of its greatest football achievements, and today it suffers the worst episode of its entire history. TAL Fanzine extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims and to the fans of Atlético Chapecoense.