News in brief

Over the edge

As PN was preparing to go to press, we received an unexpected notice from Reading-based Nuclear Information Service, which monitors UK nuclear weapons systems: ‘It is with regret that the Board of the Nuclear Information Service (NIS) have taken the decision to part company with our Director Pete Wilkinson. We would like to thank Pete for his efforts over the previous 18 months and wish him all the best in the future.’

Pete Wilkinson, a co-founder of Friends of the Earth and of Greenpeace, was named director of NIS in December 2013.

United houses

Two London housing communities are facing eviction by One Housing Group, a ‘not-for-profit’ which operates ‘almost 15,000 homes’ in the London area.

Islington Park Street is a diverse community of 18 people, providing secure housing to low-income, single adults in housing need, with ‘a commitment to supportive communal living’.

The residents say: ‘Many of us are vulnerable and will be seriously affected if we are evicted from our home.’

Crescent Road is home for 21 adults and 3 children, some of whom have lived in the building for over three decades.


Divided country

As the last PN was going to press, 30 international women peace activists crossed the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea, to mark International Women’s Day for Disarmament (24 May).

The 2015 Women’s Peace Walk had intended to walk across at the Panmunjom ‘truce village’, where North and South Korean soldiers stand metres apart in a permanent face-off over the border. Instead, the women had to cross by bus, on the western part of the border.

Nepal ‘progress’

The draft Nepali constitution has met with vociferous opposition from Maoist groupings as well as from the Hindu royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party–Nepal. Both Maoists and RPP-Ns have burnt copies of the document.

Activists from the oppressed Madhesi ethnic minorities challenged former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on 20 July as he collected feedback at Gaur in Rautahat district in the Madhes.

Despite a ruling by the supreme court that the constitution should define the boundaries of the eight federal provinces, the draft delegates this task to a federal commission. This contravenes the interim constitution, which says that the constituent assembly will define the boundaries of new provinces.

The international commission of jurists warned on 17 July that the people of Nepal needed more than 15 days of public consultation on the draft constitution, and the draft needed amendment in a number of areas to safeguard human rights – especially in relation to restrictions on the rights to free speech, expression, information and press freedom, and the freedoms of association and assembly.

Women’s groups are contesting discrimination in the constitution, for example giving instant citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali men; but forcing foreign men married to Nepali women to wait 15 years for citizenship.

Western Sahara

Britain’s leading canned fish brand John West will soon be selling sardines from occupied Western Sahara, under a partnership between brand owner MW Brands and Moroccan cannery Oceamic Laayoune.

The sale of Saharawi resources without benefiting the Saharawi people is illegal under international law.

Oceamic Laayoune and its parent company Sarma Food are both based in Western Sahara, and both are owned and managed by Moroccans, not Saharawis. Both companies mainly employ Moroccan settlers, and take fish from Moroccan fishing vessels in Saharawi waters.

Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

Interestingly, MW Brands has signed the ‘sustainable seafood charter’ with global conservation charity WWF.

In another act of resource theft, British-Irish oil (and fracking) company San Leon was set to drill in Western Sahara in August.

San Leon, which has offices in Grosvenor St, London, told the Irish media on 13 July that the well was located in Morocco’s ‘Southern Provinces’. This is a term that is only used by the Moroccan government – to refer to Western Sahara.

The Irish group, Global Legal Action Network, has said it may take legal action against San Leon.

Turkey 0 Kurds 0

The Turkish peace process started going into meltdown on 11 July, when the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) declared an ‘end to the cease-fire’ declared in 2013.

It is thought that the main Kurdish organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) does not have authorisation from its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, which is why the end of the ceasefire has been announced by the KCK (of which the PKK is a member) rather than the PKK itself.

The KCK said Turkey’s building of barracks, dams, and roads for military purposes had violated the truce.

London Black Revs (2)

Earlier in the year, there were two groups in London both calling themselves ‘London Black Revolutionaries’ (LBR), with rival Facebook pages. On 16 July, we finally heard from the people running the ‘original’ Facebook page.

The ‘new’ LBR, which has since re-organised itself as ‘Black Dissidents’, told their side way back on 26 May. The basic story was that many members of LBR had found it hard working with the founder of the group, Arnie Joahill AKA Arnie Hill, and had tried to get him to accept a more collective, democratic way of working.

Hill is then said to have expelled the 20 other members of the group, leaving himself the only member of the group. He temporarily closed down the group’s presence on Facebook (he was the only one with passwords for the website, Twitter and Facebook, and with control of the email list).

In their long reply on 16 July, the ‘official’ LBRs made lots of counter-claims, but did not dispute the claim that there had been a mass expulsion (of 10), leaving fewer people as LBR members (6) than were expelled.

The ‘original’ and ‘new’ LBR statements:


A year ago, in July 2014, two brave London peace activists set off from London to sail to Lebanon in solidarity with Syrian refugees.

Maria Gallastegui and Simon Moore crossed the Channel and most of France in a tiny 16-foot Wayfarer dinghy.

Back on 17 April, the pair wrote: ‘It is with sadness that we announce that we will not be continuing with the Sail4Syria trip. Due to various reasons (including logistical and financial) we have decided that is not sensible for us to continue the trip.’

Sail4Syria raised £1692.06 for Syrian Eyes, a grassroots group of Syrian refugees based in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon.

Make me 1...

Stop burn-out: ‘Sustaining Resistance & Empowering Renewal’, 31 October – 9 November, the Pyrenees:

Close to the edge

As PN went to press, Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic were on hold as an ice breaker was forced to return to Oregon for repairs, and environmentalists pressed US authorities to withhold the final licences needed by the oil giant.

On 15 June, ‘kayaktivists’ including Seattle city council member Mike O’Brien confronted the Polar Pioneer drilling rig as it left the port of Seattle. The coast guard detained 25 people for violating the safety zone around the rig; they were fined $500 each.

On 17 June, indigenous activists and Greenpeace volunteers tried to intercept the Polar Pioneer in inflatables.

On 3 July, there were actions across Europe. On 18 July, there was a national day of action in the US, with events in 13 states and in Washington DC opposing Shell’s Arctic plans.