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Peace News log archive: April 2014

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

Peace News co-editor Emily Johns tells the story of Walden Pond Housing Co-op,

ImageLast night, 21 people crowded into the Friends Meeting House in South Villas, Hastings, to hear Peace News co-editor Emily Johns tell the story of Walden Pond Housing Co-op, which was set up in 1998 and now owns a house and a flat in the town.

The main point of the evening was to explain 'How to Set Up a Housing Co-op', with a lot of help from the Radical Routes handbook of the same name (44 pages, £3 or download for free here). Radical Routes is a Britain-wide network that started in Birmingham in the late 1980s, now consisting of of 24 housing co-ops, 6 worker co-ops, and 2 social centres.

Walden Pond Housing Co-op started life in London in 1997 supported by what was then called Jigsaw Housing Co-op in Oxford (also a Radical Routes member). Despite having members who were almost all claiming housing benefit (because they were unemployed or low-waged), the co-op was able to rent houses in North London which landlords didn't want to rent to HB claimants. The co-op took out 'company lets' which were more acceptable to landlords.

Later on, after being moved on repeatedly by landlords selling their houses, the co-op decided to buy a house in Hastings, the poorest part of South-East England and with the lowest-priced property. The purchase price was met with loanstock borrowed from friends, family and fellow activists; a mortgage from Triodos Bank, one of the few to understand lending to housing co-ops (Ecology Building Society and the Co-op Bank were also mentioned); and a top-up loan from Radical Routes.

In later years, a Radical Routes loan helped Walden Pond to buy a nearby garden flat.

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San Sebastián Bachajón on the anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán

Juan Vazquéz Guzmán Vive!Last year, Peace News featured the story of the assassination in Chiapas, Mexico, of the community leader and defender of the land, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. In recognition of the first anniversary of his killing, 'Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!', have been called, from Thursday 24 April to Thursday 8 May. As part of this initiative, the screening of the film Bachajón - Dispossession is death, Life is resistance is being promoted internationally.

'What the government does is send people to jail or order their killing like Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Our struggle is not for economic or political power. It is for the people, the mother earth and the territory.' – Marcelo Mariano López

On 24 April 2013, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, much-loved spokesperson and activist in defence of the people, the land and the territory of the ejido (communal landholding) of San Sebastián Bachajón, was killed with six gunshots in the doorway of his home, in what was widely interpreted as a political assassination. His killers, and those who ordered his killing, remain unpunished, and the plans of the government and corporations to dispossess the ejidatarios (common landholders) of their territory, in order to construct a luxury tourist development, continue. But the indigenous Tzeltal community of San Sebastián Bachajón is staying organized, carrying on the struggle for their rights and keeping alive the memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and his work in the service of his people.

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Covert US and British support for Syrian rebels has continued, despite overwhelming public opposition.

When the Coalition Government was defeated in parliament over military intervention in Syria last summer many activists probably thought that was the end of the matter. After all Prime Minister David Cameron had conceded ‘the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.’

What many people don’t realise is the UK was interfering in the Syria war before the vote – arming and training the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad Government. And although a US-UK military strike has been averted, the UK is continuing to support the rebels.

'Rat lines'

According to Seymour Hersh’s latest expose in the London Review of Books, from early 2012 MI6 was helping the CIA transfer weapons from Libya to the Syrian rebels. Funding for this ‘rat line’ came from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. After the September 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi (likely targeted because of its role in these arms transfers), Hersh notes that the US – and presumably Britain – ended its involvement, although the rat line continued without them.

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We are sitting on the floor in a simple outhouse room attached to the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s compound, the unheated space is normally used for teaching local children various classes. Habib and his mother Mariam sit in front of us motionless, Mariam wears the burqa so it is not possible to read her face and ascertain how she might be feeling, the tentative expression on Habib’s face tells us that their life is hard.

It was around 2 months ago when I first met 12 year old Habib, he arrived on the doorstep with some of his friends wanting to join the Street Kids Project being run by the APV- an effort to help some of the 60,000 street kids of Kabul. Habib’s face looked concerned as he clutched his weighing scales- the tool of his trade- 5 Afghanis a go, around 5p.

Since then I have bumped into him a few times. Once outside our local bank- it was the first day of snow and he sat in the doorway shivering, his scales by his side, his ragged thread bare clothes offered small benefits to the freezing cold. I then saw him a few weeks later with his friends, who also work the streets, they were playing tag by the river, their faces beamed with exhilaration as they ran up and down a small unpaved road.

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Afghan Peace Volunteers

On the 28th of March, 2014, at about 4 p.m., the Afghan Peace Volunteers heard a loud explosion nearby. For the rest of the evening and night, they anxiously waited for the sound of rocket fire and firing to stop.  It was reported that a 10 year old girl, and the four assailants, were killed.

Four days later, they circulated a video, poem and photos prefaced by this note:  “We had been thinking about an appropriate response to the violence perpetrated by the Taliban, other militia, the Afghan government, and the U.S./NATO coalition of 50 countries.

So, on the 31st of March 2014, in building alternatives and saying ‘no’ to all violence and all forms of war-making, a few of us went to an area near the place which was attacked, and there, we planted some trees.  -- Love and thanks, The Afghan Peace Volunteers

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