‘I have a dream for Ethiopia and beyond’

Things are not going well in Ethiopia.
The country is witnessing a malcontent and Ethiopians are pessimistic: things can only get worse before they get any better.

Graham Peebles, Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need, in his article ‘Ethiopians are crying out for Freedom and Justice’ writes that the movement for democratic change – composed of people from all walks of life – is constantly being crashed by violent means.
Peaceful protestors are being shot at, confined in stadiums, arrested, intimidated.
”Human Rights Watch (HRW) says they receive “daily accounts of killings and arbitrary arrests”, and estimate that up to 500 protestors have been killed since November 2015, although many inside the country put the figure higher.
Thousands have been arrested and falsely imprisoned; young people – who are leading the charge for democracy – are being specifically targeted. Torture is widespread in Ethiopian prisons, and for those detainees who have expressed political dissent, it is virtually guaranteed. Witnesses have told ESAT News (an independent broadcaster based in Europe and America) that some detained protestors have died as the result of torture, and are buried in the prison grounds.
The ruling EPRDF party (in power since 1991) was not democratically elected, and has remained in power by stealing one election after another. They demonstrate no concern for democratic principles or human rights, and like all dictatorships, will do anything to remain in power. They seem unable to grasp the severity of the current situation, or understand the feeling among the population, the vast majority of whom despise the regime and are desperate for fundamental change. Protestors are calling on the government to step down, and for real and honest democratic elections to be held.”

Demelew is a young man from Bahar Dar. A young and strong man who sells fruits and vegetables at the main market of the city. Although at first glance he may seem one of the many farmers coming from the countryside, as soon as he starts talking, Demelew shows a deep knowledge of the history of the Ethiopian people and seems quite precise on the subject, so much into it that we begin a conversation with very folkloric tones (a mixture of English-Italian-Amharic -Italian Genovese dialect).
We talk about anything, but we always end up there: what is happening these days around Ethiopia.

“A few months ago skirmishes and tensions broke out in the area south of Addis Ababa, where the Oromo ethnic group felt cheated by the new development plan of the Ethiopian government”.
The look of Demelew starts to become severe  A grimace crosses his face and the lines of the skin tracing his face seem to be getting  deeper. He is transforming.

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“They have taken away large swaths of land from the Oromo in favour of the Shoah (the region of the capital), literally invading areas sitting on a vastitude of natural resources … But the game was obvious even before: we started having a clearer picture when in Addis itself an area as large area as the whole Bahar Dar was razed by Chinese bulldozers. Thousands of people lost their souks (local survival store), tucul, mud and corrugated iron shacks: abodes of men and women who found shelter there!!!”.
I am interested in what he has to say and I see that Demelew lives his words with anger and passion.  His sincere empathy emerges in connection to the thick, unbreakable fog which is engulfing Ethiopia these days.
I realise he still wants to talk.

“Explosions of revolts and protests were drowned in the blood of hundreds, both civilian and military … But it was not enough. Five months ago the government decided to expand the ‘area of Tigray’  (northern Ethiopia) annexing a wide area of Gojam border up to a few kilometers from Gonder. To do so, however, it was necessary to neutralize organised social dissent which all converted in a Committee.”
”The Committee, for the rights of the Amhara people was headed by officers of the local army . One night, last June, teams of government federal police came to Gonder to arrest some members of the committee and its leader, who had sensed the danger and barricaded himself home. It simply took  word of mouth to have Gonder people take to the streets to claim its pride and dignity … “

While talking, Demelew  waves his clenched fists firmly, as if to give an additional punch to his speech.  Then, outside the white blanket enveloping his body, his hands open and close rhythmically with his words.

“Inevitably there were more deaths and a wound difficult to heal. The confrontational path now will continue to expand and will not be solved in a short time. Because, you see, it seemed to end there, with a trace of a heavy silence enveloped by fatalism typical of my people, relying, at the end on God’s judgment and the good intentions of  the Almighty .”

At this stage I I have a start ! For the first time in nearly two and a half years I hear a local uttering these words . I understand the depth and intellectual greatness of my interlocutor, a man who can see with clarity and foresight what is happening in this corner of the world. I light a cigarette, ask  for a break, in order to scribble down some notes.  “Cigher iellem …”, no problem, he utters quietly.

With a look of mutual understanding, we continue.

“But this time the Almighty God decided to show solidarity with the people of Gonder, having awakened the spirit of pride of Amahra people who felt cheated … and Sunday, August 7, a huge demonstration was announced. In solidarity with Gonder. On Friday 5 Gojam was disconnected from the internet … Bahar Dar, roughly at 9 am was invaded by thousands of people who travelled from South to North, until they all reached the bridge over the Nile, the only connection between the two parts of the city.”
He clears his voice.
”The procession headed towards the government building and people started throwing stones. The reply came from automatic weapons … then weapons appeared from all sides and the carnage started. Yet if you asked anyone about the situation, the candid answer would be ‘No, no problem. Everything is quiet.‘ Some would say they fired into the air to “disperse” the people ”
”The next day, one of those  who had gone “missing” was delivered to my home. In a wooden box made of remainders of few pallets and nails. He was a young friend, 25, who was caught up in the middle of the unrest – a series of gunshots – while trying to escape.  The city was deserted: offices closed, shops, banks … no means of transportation operating. Just a display of special security forces through the city .”
”Now Bahar Dar is besieged. You cannot cross the bridge over the Nile ; in the suburbs there have been episodes of citizens daring to express verbal protest against the police and in return they just receive beatings. “

Demelew stops talking . He wipes his swollen eyes regurgitating tears and continues: “They killed over a hundred people Sunday, August 7th … but do not believe for a second that this will stop us from claiming our pride and our dignity … “

Without contradiction there is no life.
Just a few months ago Ethiopia signed its adherence to the International Committee for the protection and recognition of human rights.
The Ethiopia of the majestic Blue Nile , of the grand mountain range of Rash Dashen. the Ethiopia of its mysterious monasteries on lake Tana, the sacred beholder of the ‘ark of the holy alliance’, the birthplace of Lucy, the eldest known daughter of humanity.

I invite Demelew to a beer, just to loosen a little  the tension. He welcomes the idea and after a cool sip of lager starts talking again: “Maybe you have never realised, but I have a dream … I’m carrying a big dream for all peoples of the earth .. . that all may be custodians of their own destiny, the destiny of self-development and the peaceful pursuit of their dignity … “

By now the sun is about to fall, now is the time to return home. In the night only patrolling military vehicles are in action.
Getting up from the chair, Demelew accidentally stumbles upon the coffee table and many bottles of beer crash to the floor
He looks at me with a wink and cheerful eye, we embrace tight and he whispers in my ear: “Ayzoh Daniye … Ciger iellem …”, Do not worry Dear..No Problem

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(The Government has, in the meantime, declared the State of Emergency and immediate arrest with 6 months detention for anyone crossing the arms in sign of protest)

Photos and reporting: Demelew

 

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Tannery in Fez & the Leather Makers

Amusing Planet website describes the work under the sun and in the stone vessels of the tanneries in Fez, Morocco, as follows:

”(…) a vast range of dyes and various liquids spread out like a tray of watercolors. Dozens of men, many standing waist deep in dyes, work under the hot sun tending to the hides that remain soaked in the vessels. The tanneries processes the hides of cows, sheep, goats and camels, turning them into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, and slippers. This is all achieved manually, without the need for modern machinery, and the process has barely changed since medieval times”
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The article proceeds with the naming of the soaking agents:
”..a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This caustic mixture helps to break down the tough leather, loosen excess fat, flesh, and hair that remain on them. The hides are soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibers and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. The hides are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon poop. Pigeon poop contains ammonia that acts as softening agents that allows the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye. The tanner uses his bare feet to knead the hides for up to three hours to achieve the desired softness.”

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The odour is unbearable.
 Houses and buildings where people live, have their windows opened on the vapours of soaking agents and leather goods shop assistants just smell this, day after day. Yet, adorably kind.Workers breathe the unthinkable under the scorching sun, work barehand-barefeet in what becomes an ammonia solution and corrosive, skin bending, smoothing agents.
Unbearable is seeing kids on the stone vessels trying to learn the job.

The tanneries are abodes where life span can only shrink with consequent dreams undreamt.
One of the hardest and saddest places to cope with.

photos: Beatrice De Filippis

Just another message from Yemen

‘Good morning.
We did not sleep last night from the noise of warplanes and rocket explosions..
Sanaa’s sky has become a hotbed for the alliance of evil aircraft and our land is the final destination of missiles.
This is a war of extermination. It is a really a disaster sent from heaven to all of us.
The ambulance cars have become like taxis, driving around in the streets of Sanaa, moving the wounded and dead bodies, from one site to the other. Hospitals and graves.
And digging graves has become a profitable industry and business.

You know, my Dear, the Alliance of evil these last days has been using,  in their air raids, a new kind of missile. Never used before. Never seen before.
We, somehow, know quite a bit about weapons (you know our history).
We never used it in our wars. It is different in the magnitude of the explosion and ability to destroy.
 
 
People in Yemen are being killed and destroyed with weapons, with hunger, disease and our poor country’s infrastructure is destroyed under the supervision of the United Nations, who are immoral international entrepreneurs at the end. Ours continues to be a forgotten war.
 The world’s richest countries forming the richest Coalition fighting and annihilating the poorest country in the world.

Before writing to you I went to the cemetery to pray on my Father’s tomb.
Can you see the hill on the background of the image? This hill is part of the Presidential Palace (residence of Ali Abdullah Saleh ). The squadrons of aircrafts bombarded it as there is a  mountain camp of the Presidential Guards and weapons storage.
It all happened after I left the grave, my Dear. A few minutes later

Take care, Dear. See you soon.
MN’

We all know the numbers of this war: for the wounded, the maimed, the hungry, the internally displaced, how many people have died in action. We have a pretty accurate idea of the number of civilians (far from the figures reported by the UN) killed. We have a very controversial databank comprising cases of new-born babies born with birth-defects caused by the war (horrifying).
We are even so smart we estimate how many will perish under the bites of famine.
What I do not know is if later, tomorrow, I will receive another message from my friend.
This war is not sparing anyone.

(picture sent by MN has been blurred and altered for security reasons)

 

Ahmed Nusfaleal: Sanaa through my eyes, for you

Our friend Ahmed Nusfaleal travelled more than 10 hours to reach Sanaa.
One hundred and fifty km, in times of war and road blocks, check-points and madness of these days, meant a detour of additional, tiring hours. With no certainty to reach, safely, the Capital. Literally, a trip into the unknown.

Still, when Ahmed reached Sanaa, he took these pictures to share with the world.
He invites everyone to see Sanaa through his eyes: the people, the Old City, the markets, the sellers, the smiles. The herbs, the flowers, goat milk, As-Saylah (the wadi which – in monsoon season becomes a river), the centuries old architecture, people getting ready to celebrate weddings and that strong, unbeatable will to accept anything which happens and might come with dignity and strength. With a humble acceptance. Yemen is stronger than any war. Yemen will overcome difficult times because, as Ahmed says: ”On the occasion of weddings, we are dancing in the streets. We are the people of happiness. We are the people who dance and overcome anything, the difficulties and the crisis and the war without worry or fear. Twenty four hours after twenty-four hours, we fight back and accept. And carry on.”
He ends with a message of hope: ”It has been raining a lot this season and our land has been blessed with rainbows. Rainbows will bring peace.”

Sooner or later, they will Ahmed.

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Bab Barrum Quarter and Saylah after the rain – Old City of Sanaa
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In front of Al Qasimi quarter, Old City of Sanaa . The area was hit by a Saudi missile in the first hours of June 12 2015. Nothing stands any longer
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Music at Bab el Yemen, Old City of Sanaa
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Music in the Old City of Sanaa
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Souq al Milh, Old City of Sanaa
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Souq al Milh, Old City of Sanaa
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Herbs and flowers sellers, Sanaa
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As-Saylah, just after a night of rain. Old City of Sanaa
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Sanaa, after the rain and Saylah turnt into a river

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Never forget the smiles from Yemen

All pictures: Ahmed Nusfaleal

Update on: ”Missing Moldovan anesthesiologist in Yemen”

We have been informed, just now (26 August 2016), that Valentina has sent a message to her family. She is safe in a secure place in Yemen.
The family and friends extend their gratitude to all who helped tracing her.


Original post, published on August 20, reported:
”We have been approached by friends of  Валентина Раю (translitteration: Valentina Raui), a 55 year old anestesiologist who came to Yemen in 2014, under contract, to work in a hospital (no name provided).

Unfortunately Ms Валентина Раю / Raui , who is 55, has lost contact with her family.
Last time her brother and friends heard from her was for Easter. On the occasion, she promised to return to Moldova on August 15 for the summer holidays.
Her home and Yemeni numbers are disconnected and Ms Валентина Раю / Raui has never made it home.
Due to the current conflict, Moldova has no diplomatic mission in Yemen.
If anyone recognises her or is aware of her whereabouts, if anyone has recent information, can help, please contact, on Facebook, one of her concerned friends here

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Original message
Прошу помочь с поиском человека!ЕЕ зовут Валентина Раю,ей 55 лет.Она медработник,анестезиолог.Наша семья дружит с ней вот уже лет 10.В 2014 году она уехала по контракту на работу в Йемен,в госпиталь.Мы общались с ней по скайпу,писались по мылу.Родни у нее нет.Есть брат в Страшенах,они редко общались, адреса не знаю,есть домашний номер-он отключен.С Пасхи 2016года она на связь больше не выходит,обещала приехать 15 августа 2016года,мы переживаем почему ее нет на связи столько месяцев.Общих знакомых у нас нет.Может с помощью ваших постов найдутся люди кто с ней общается,может она кому звонила по телефону??Одна надежда что она появится 15 августа здесь….Прошу перепосты.Любую информацию пишите в коменты.в личку,звоните по моему номеру 068156448

Yemen, where schools are bombed ‘just because’

A friend writes: ‘Before war, Yemeni children were still studying here. They had a place to study at, a tree, a straw bale house or just whatever it was.  9
After Houthi came to libe
rate us from corrupt and incompetent government and after Al Saud came to help us build a better country without militants, our children lost everything schools, trees, caves etc. Dangers are surrounding them everywhere. Go to hell, all of you.’

 

 

The war on Yemen, commenced by the Saudi led Coalition has brought us all to provide numbers, like automatic machines: 3 millions internally displaced, 9 million with no access to water, 21 million underfed and with no access to food, 10.000 killed (mainly civilians), 16.000 maimed for life: there is a number for everything and a name to accompany each case. And numbers skyrocket from one week to the other.

 

According to Unicef, over 3000 schools had to close doing to the ‘ongoing conflict’  (why no one calls it an aggression is still beyond comprehension) leaving almost 2 million children with no education.

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On Saturday, August 13, a school (private home-school) in Juma Bin Fadhel  area of Saada was purposely airstruck by the Saudi led Coalition, leaving 10 children dead and over 20 injured.
Saada, declared military zone by the Saudis, has been a target of every single bomb available in the 21st century. Everything has been dropped on its soil, something close to nothing still stands.
Saudis claim there was no school there: only a children-soldiers recruiting and training centre, hence, bombing justified.

In a week filled with Saudi’s war crimes – at a rate of 1-2 per day – we just want to reitarate that Kudos go to the population: those teachers who never gave up on Yemeni children and parents who continue to send their kids to ‘school’ (whatever that means now).
What the world does not get is the vastitude of this war: schools are considered recruitment places for child soldiers, hence, bombed.
Schools are bombed just because everything else has already been bombed. Schools are bombed because the uncle of the cousin of someone whose relative teaches in the school is Houthi or has a drop of Iranian blood in his veins.
Schools are bombed as collateral damage.
Schools are bombed because the carnage of the innocent hurts more and there is a pleasure in breaking the spine of Yemen.
Schools are bombed because the ‘taking of Sanaa’ the media keeps on filling its mouth with, passes through war crimes. One after the other, one filthier than the other.
The vast majority of Yemeni children goes to school empty stomach because 80% of the population is food insecure (famined), still, teachers are there and children walk to whatever stands as a school.
A paranoid urge to bomb has pervaded Saudis: something unseen before in history. Satanic.
But Yemenis continue to teach and children being educated. What is left of them, that is.
Resilience and courage are Yemeni.
The rest is understood.
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Happy Birthday Shafilea Ahmed

You are turning thirty tomorrow, Shafilea.
Our common friend Alex Jones , who has been campaigning so actively for you and all the girls trapped, sold, potentially married off, passed on from one family to another, asked me if I wanted to ink down a thought and wish you happy birthday.
Alex said: ‘It´s her birthday’. We never speak about you in the past tense. Especially with Alex, I can say that everything he does is centered on you.You are his determination to fight and help.
We know too well we failed you Shafilea. Not only your family did, we are-on many fronts- partners in crime.
We, who did not read well your poems, who did not pay attention to your cry, your begging for help, your burning throat and your disappearance.
We failed you and all the 5000 girls killed annually in the name of an honour which is not honourable at all. Maybe more than 5000: statistics are always an abstract entity and this is one of those crimes – as it runs in the family circle – extremely under reported.

 We failed you and your family alike. We should have helped your parents, your enlarged family where everyone is an Auntie, Uncle or  cousin and has a say, to know better.
We should have helped everyone around you to understand that the happiness of your own child is the happiness of the universe; there is no shame in rejecting a suitor or marrying later on in life. Simply, to fulfill a dream, a personal vision.
Instead, fear of gossips and shame engulfed everyone.
The people supposed to be protecting you and guiding you to a future, were the ones to  suffocate you and your liberty.
You are not gone, you live with us Shafilea.
Our gift to you – while you are turning thirty in a few hours time – is to continue and advocate, keep our eyes open and never, never stop.
We will continue in your name which, according to the Kabalarian philosophy, implies that ”Your idealistic and sensitive nature gives you a deep appreciation for the finer things of life and a strong desire to be of service to humanity”.
We can only try to serve humanity and appreciate the life you were denied.
We will dream your dream of freedom.
Happy birthday Shafilea. Wherever you are, fly high.


Shafilea Ahmed  was just 17 when she was killed by her mother and father, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, for living a Western lifestyle and refusing to marry the man from Pakistan who they tried to force her to wed.
Shafilea’s parents believed she would bring shame on the family. Her father suffocated her in front of her siblings with a plastic bag. Her parents wrapped her in bin bags, and dumped her body in a lake.

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Huffington Post Women: ‘Honour Killing ’ Victim Shafilea Ahmed Remembered In Devastating Picture Reenacting Her Murder –  07/14/2015 03:29 pm 15:29:29 | Updated 14 July 2015 

 
For more information on the campaigns, activities or if you know of any girl potentially 13516525_1078681928860224_5898854304051567851_nin danger: In Memory of Shafilea Ahmed Facebook page.

’14th July marks Shafilea’s birthday. Her parents tried to extinguish her existence but she is the light that’s broken the darkness and been the inspiration to so many lives around the world.Together, we will build her legacy’

CAAT – Campaign Against Arms Trade – for Yemen

”I work for Campaign Against Arms Trade and this morning we have won the right toCA take the UK government to court over the sale of British weapons that have been used by Saudi Arabia in the bombings of Yemen”.

 

The message was followed by the article of The Guardian ‘British arms exports to Saudi Arabia to be scrutinised in high court’

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The article clearly states :
‘A UN report leaked to the Guardian in January found “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians in the Saudi-led strikes, and identified 2,682 civilians killed in such strikes.

The report found 119 strikes that it said violated international humanitarian law, including attacks on health facilities, schools, wedding parties and camps for internally displaced people and refugees.

The high court case calls for the government to suspend all current export licences and refuse all new licences to Saudi Arabia where it is possible the weapons could be used in Yemen, while the business secretary, Sajid Javid, reviews whether the sales are legal.’
CAAT – Campaign Against Arms Trade – issued a press release , immediately:

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  • High Court grants judicial review into arms exports to Saudi Arabia, following unprecedented case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Extensive evidence suggests Saudi Arabian forces have committed war crimes in Yemen
  • UK has licensed over £2.8 billion worth of arms since the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen began

The High Court has today ruled that Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), represented by human rights lawyers Leigh Day, can bring a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills’ decision to continue arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The arms sales came despite serious allegations and compelling evidence that there is a clear risk Saudi forces might use the equipment to violate international humanitarian law (IHL) in their ongoing bombardment of Yemen.

Over 6000 people have been killed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid. Despite this, the UK has continued to arm the Saudi regime, with over £2.8 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began last March, including licences for bombs and air-to-surface rocket components and a £1.7 billion licence for combat aircraft.

The claim follows reports from a range of prestigious international organisations including a UN Panel of experts, the European Parliament and humanitarian NGOs, which have accused Saudi forces of serious breaches of IHL. These include:

  • A failure to take all precautions in attack as required by IHL
  • Attacks causing disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian objects.
  • A failure to adhere to the principle of distinction and/or the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and those not directly participating in hostilities.
  • The destruction of Cultural Property and/or a failure to adhere to the immunity to be afforded to such property during armed conflict.

Despite this, the UK government has licensed over £2.8 billion worth of arms since the bombing of Yemen began. The weapon categories included for arms exports since the bombing of Yemen began include approximately:

  • £1.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

This is a historic decision and we welcome the fact that arms exports to Saudi Arabia will be given the full scrutiny of a legal review, but they should never have been allowed in the first place.

The fact that UK aircraft and bombs are being used against Yemen is a terrible sign of how broken the arms export control system is. For too long government has focused on maximising and promoting arms sales, rather than on the human rights of those they are used against.

Successive governments have pulled out all stops to keep the arms deals flowing. Recent years have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop a corruption investigation into arms exports to Saudi, David Cameron flying out to to Riyadh meet Saudi Royalty, and Prince Charles sword dancing to secure sales for BAE Systems.

The claim, which will now progress to Judicial Review, calls on the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while he holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation.

Andrew continued:

The arms export controls do not work, but how can they when the government is actively promoting arms sales and working hand in glove with regimes like Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi Royal Family’s influence is imprinted all over Whitehall’s approach to arms sales and the Middle East.

If the government cares for the human rights of those in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the wider region then it must end its support for the Saudi military and its complicity in Saudi state violence.

Rosa Curling from the human rights team at Leigh Day, which is representing CAAT, said:

It is crucial that the courts consider whether the ongoing sales of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is unlawful. The overwhelming evidence from those who are, or have been, working on the ground in Yemen is that the Saudi coalition is acting in breach of international law, killing thousands of people and destroying vital infrastructure. To continue to grant licences in such circumstances, is unlawful. We hope the Court will now intervene in this matter and order the government to reconsider without further delay.

 

For further information please contact Andrew at media@caat.org.uk or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673232.


This is only the beginning, hopefully, of a new chapter.
The final lines of the message are a request, for everyone, to get involved and speak up.
It is our chance to say what it is like to be at the receiving end of unlawful airstrikes, of what this war meant to the entire country:
”On Monday 11 July we are organising a protest as it is the 50 years since the UK government set up its department for arms sales. We wondered if you might have a message we could give to the government about why we shouldn’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, or about what is happening in Yemen? Solidarity and strength from London”

You may contat CAAT with your thoughts at: action@caat.org.uk

 

The photo was taken this morning, 30 June 2016, in front of the High Court

The War Stories Collector

‘I made a website called Uncloak that shares the stories of people living in war zones and the incidents and experiences they had. Until now I’ve published four stories. And I’m looking for more.
Uncloak was made to share the incidents and stories that happened to people in all war zones. Not just Yemen.’
If you grew up in Europe, you had your grandparents and relatives telling you how WWII was. What it felt like to be under bombardments, to be cold, have family members being deported, neighbours killed.
Stories ran in the family, circle of acquaintances.
The oral handing of personal stories was as effective as your history books. As if history made sense because it was hitting home.
It hit home for the war in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Viet Nam war, Afghanistan,  Iraq, Chechnya and an endless list which knows no borders.Salah is a young Yemeni, hurt by the war. He agrees – like many Yemenis I talk to these days – that there is no side to take any longer. Just the side of peace.
I tell him I unfortunately have many stories from so many places from Africa to Middle East but have little time to collect them and he replies:
‘If there is any need, I’m willing to help. In any possible way. Also, I still haven’t updated the site to specifically say this due to power outages, but even if these stories happened to people who don’t speak English that won’t be a problem. I’m willing to speak to them to understand their experience to be capable of writing it down and publishing it. Another option would be if they can write their experience in Arabic, I will translate it to English and post it.’

Ali

He has commenced a  sensitive project.
‘I want Uncloak to share the experiences and incidents that happen to normal, ordinary civilians living throughout the world away from the manipulation of media and politics, because if you notice, every group only talks about the hardships and problems of people who are ON their side.. This is a huge problem that creates a big rift between people of the same country or nation. Civilians, no matter what their views on politics/religion are, are the main victims of these war and shouldn’t be prioritised according to their views. I hope this war ends soon. Too many people died for nothing.’

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We must never forget and Salah is willing to collect the survivors’ stories.
I am afraid his will be an endless project. Somewhere, it will always hit home

 

For further information: https://uncloak.github.io/

Yemen: the flowers gone

I am finding out many of my neighbours have become ‘martyrs’.
All the young ones. The happy ones. The ones who wanted to travel, get engaged.
The ones working in the family corner shop, the taxi drivers, the students, the ones who helped me when I had the accident and maybe the ones involved in it; the ones who had no plans at all but did make a choice to go and fight. ‘It’s our duty’ they always tell me while I feel my duty is to protect them. At the end, we gave them this world, the fertile ground of wars included.
They started leaving on small buses in April 2015 (the war started on March 26 of the same year) from the Old City of Sanaá full of hopes. With a Kalashnikov and a small copy of the Holy Quran in hand.
They are heading north, They are going South my neighbours would tell me.
Don’t worry, Dear, Allah is with them.

They died in Mareb, Bab el Mandab, at the border, in places you have rarely heard of
The flowers are all gone.
They continue dying.
I hate social media. I hate WhatsApp messages in the middle of the night.
I could say it politely ‘Down with wars’. I won’t. FUCK WARS


photo: Reuters