News in brief

Hunger strikes

Also on 10 May, Ofer military court upheld the administrative detention of Fuad Assi and Adib Mafarjeh, both hospitalised after 39 days on hunger strike.

Mafarjeh had reportedly been vomiting blood and was refusing medical examinations by Israeli authorities.

Around 500 Palestinian are being held on administrative detention, without charge or trial.

On 11 May, Sami Janazreh suspended his 69-day hunger strike for one week, after an Israeli military court postponed his appeal for a week. Janazreh’s weight had dropped to about 100 pounds as his body suffered kidney failure.

Trans teen jailed

On 29 March, Aiden Katri, 19, became the first Israeli transgender woman to be jailed for refusing compulsory military service – in Prison Six, a men’s jail.

Aiden said, as a conscientious objector, she could not enforce oppression in the occupied Palestinian territories. She added: ‘I struggle against my oppression – my gender oppression as a trans woman and my ethnic oppression as a Mizrahi [Middle Eastern-origin] Jew, and if I turn a blind eye to an oppression of another people, this would be hypocrisy.’

Women refuseniks

On 4 May, two Israeli women conscientious objectors were sent back to prison for continuing to refuse military service with the Israeli defence force.

Omri Baranes, 18, and Tair Kaminer, 20, were each sentenced to 30 days. Previously, Omri and Tair had spent seven and 95 days in prison respectively for this offence.

In Israel, military service is compulsory for all citizens over 18, except Arab Israelis, Orthodox women, and people unable to serve for medical reasons. Pacifists can refuse – but must prove that their conscientious objection is not related specifically to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Kurdish crisis

April and May saw an escalation in the Turkish civil war, with government forces and Kurdish PKK guerrilla fighters both increasing their levels of violence. During May, the Turkish government also sponsored a new ‘Northern Army’ coalition of anti-government forces in northern Syria to contain the Syrian PYD Kurdish insurgency, and to create a ‘security zone’ bordering Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Aachen Peace Prize has been awarded to the group of 1,128 academics who called in January for an end to Turkish state violence against the country’s Kurdish population.

Academics for Peace, from universities inside and outside of Turkey, were condemned by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called for them to be prosecuted for ‘treason’ and ‘terrorism’. Dozens of signatories have since lost their university jobs, and many have been put on trial.

Western Sahara

The Moroccan police have refused to allow an autopsy to determine the cause of death (in custody) of Brahim Saika, an activist in occupied Western Sahara, who died in hospital on 15 April.

Brahim was arrested on 1 April after organising demonstrations and hunger strikes by unemployed Sahrawi against Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company OCP.

OCP took over Western Sahara’s phosphate mine after Morocco invaded and occupied the territory in 1975 – Sahrawis have been systematically excluded from employment.

Brahim was tortured by police after his arrest, and went on hunger strike. He somehow slipped into a coma within days, before dying.

Nepal crisis

There was, rightly, considerable international concern when one of Nepal’s best-known dissidents, journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, was arrested on questionable grounds by an anti-corruption body on 22 April. (Dixit was released 10 days later by the supreme court.)

There was less concern globally at the wave of arrests earlier in the year of Madhesi organisers, or at the lack of action over the deaths of 44 protesters and bystanders shot dead by security forces during the six-month-long protests in the Madesh/Terai.

On the bigger issue of impunity for war crimes committed during the decade-long civil war, human rights groups have condemned the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (UML) for agreeing with the Maoist opposition the withdrawal of all civil war cases, granting amnesty even for murder and rape.

In May, two former army chiefs were accused of authorising civil war crimes including the shooting dead of 12-year-old Rupa Chaudhary in front of her parents, on 21 July 2002, for allegedly cooking food for Maoist insurgents.

Hand in glove

On 8 April, there were co-ordinated protests by Sussex Stop Arming Israel at the Thales headquarters in Crawley, Sussex, and by Birmingham Palestine Action at the Elbit drones factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire.

Thales UK and Israeli-owned Elbit worked together to build Britain’s Watchkeeper drone, based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone which has been used extensively over Gaza.

The night before, on 7 April, there was an anti-drones protest outside Thales UK by Innovative Minds, ‘an Islamic group using the medium of the internet to campaign on issues effecting the Ummah’.

Left hand, right hand

On 10 May, British peace activist Lindis Percy was arrested for ‘breach of bail’ outside the NSA/NRO Menwith Hill spy base and held overnight for at Harrogate police station.

At Harrogate magistrates court the next day, the charge of ‘breach of bail’ was withdrawn!

Her trial is scheduled for 14, 15 and 22 September.

Lindis had been arrested at
NSA/NRO Menwith Hill spy base on 8 March and on 15 April under section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a power created to stop ‘significant’ and ‘persistent’ anti-social behaviour.

Neck & neck

Jeremy Seabrook’s The Song of the Shirt: The High Price of Cheap Garments, from Blackburn to Bangladesh was the British radical book of the year, winning the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing 2016.

The shortlist was: Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Verso (reviewed in PN 2590–2591); Mel Evans, Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts, Pluto Press (reviewed in PN 2582–2583); Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith, Blacklisted: The secret war between big business and union activists, New Internationalist; Rhian E Jones, Petticoat Heroes: Gender, Culture and Popular Protest in the Rebecca Riots, University of Wales Press; and Katrine Marcal, Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? A Story About Women and Economics, Portobello.

Stranger no stranger

More than three-quarters of the British public would accept refugees in their neighbourhood or home, according to an Amnesty International survey published on 18 May.

Out of the 27 countries in the Refugees Welcome Survey, people in the UK were the second-most willing to make refugees welcome in their own homes (29 percent).

Amnesty is calling on governments to resettle 1.2m refugees by 2018, and to commit to the UN’s proposed permanent system for sharing responsibility to host and assist refugees.


On 10 May, an Israeli military court in Ofer in the West Bank ordered Palestinian scientist Imad Barghouthi to remain under administrative detention (without charge) for two more months for anti-occupation remarks on Facebook and on TV.

Barghouthi, professor of theoretical space-plasma physics at Al-Quds University outside Jerusalem, was arrested by Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint on 24 April.

European academic and human rights organisations wrote to Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner for research, science and innovation, arguing that Barghouthi’s arbitrary arrest violated the agreement under which Israel enjoys access to the European Union’s research programmes.