Welcome to Peace News, the newspaper for the UK grassroots peace and justice movement. We seek to oppose all forms of violence, and to create positive change based on cooperation and responsibility. See more

"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky

  • facebook
  • rss
  • twitter

Eight days a week

There were over 750 peace actions listed for the third annual Campaign Nonviolence week of action, 18 – 25 September. Around 700 of those were in the USA, in every state (though 20 were aspects of the three-day ‘World Beyond War’ conference in Washington DC).

Also part of Campaign Nonviolence (CNV) this year was the ‘1000 Nonviolence Trainings Project’, which at the time of going to press listed 637 trainings in 2016. CNV had six possible categories of training, including ‘communicating nonviolently’ and ‘spiritually-based nonviolence’. Trainings could include ‘strategic movement building’, ‘peacebuilding and restorative justice’ and ‘anti-racism’.

CNV is a project of the US Christian peace group, Pace e Bene.

More info: www.paceebene.org

Jailhouse rock

On 25 August, 18-year-old Israeli conscientious objector Omri Baranes was finally accepted as a pacifist by an Israeli defence forces (IDF) committee and released from detention on conscientious grounds. She had served 67 days over three separate sentences. She is now exempt from military service.

Just over a month earlier, on 14 July, the IDF exempted Tair Kaminer, a 19-year old Israeli conscientious objector. She had received six successive sentences, amounting to 155 days altogether, in military jails. She was released as being ‘unfit for duty’ because of her ‘poor and severe behaviour’ – because she opposed the IDF’s policies in the occupied territories, and therefore refused to serve.

In prison, the pair received support from a small network of activists, called the Refusers’ Solidarity Network, established less than a year ago.

I want to break free

On 11 September, Israel’s high court rejected petitions by human rights groups and the Israeli medical association (IMA) to quash a law the Israeli parliament passed last year permitting force-feeding against a prisoner’s will (if a doctor judges their life is in danger).

This flies in the face of the world medical association’s Malta Declaration that the practice is ‘never ethically acceptable’. The IMA abides by the Malta Declaration; so far no Palestinian hunger-striker has been force-fed.

The authorities have avoided deaths of hunger strikers by releasing them when their heath has become critical, sometimes arresting them again when their health has improved. In early September, the high court temporarily suspended the administrative detention orders of three hunger strikers, Malik al-Qadi, and brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul. Their detention orders may be reinstated if their conditions improve. The two brothers had been on strike for more than 60 days, and al-Qadi nearly 60 days.

Can’t buy me love

Good news. On 22 September, an East London pension fund with assets of £735m became the first local government pension scheme in Britain to decide to exclude all fossil fuels from its investment strategy (over the next five years).

The chair of the Waltham Forest pension fund committee, councillor Simon Miller said: ‘Not only does this mean the fund will not be invested in stranded assets but [it] will be actively investing in cleaner, greener investments to the benefit of our community, borough and environment.’

Bad news. We can’t afford to burn even the oil, gas or coal in the wells and mines we’re already exploiting, according to the latest data.

Leading climate activist Bill McKibben writes in the New Republic (22 September) that mines and wells in operation worldwide contain 942 gigatons worth of CO2, over twice as much carbon as we can release if we want to stay below a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperatures.

Topics: Climate Change

Mirror me

On 13 September, military whistle-blower Chelsea Manning finally won the right to be given gender reassignment therapy, five days after she started a hunger strike. This will be the first time a trans prisoner in the US has received this treatment.

Chase Strangio, Chelsea’s attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, commented: ‘This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea. It was the government’s refusal to provide her with necessary care that led her to attempt suicide earlier this year; and it was all the more troubling when she became subject to an investigation and possible punishment in connection with the suicide attempt.’

Topics: Gender | Prison | Repression

Fixing a hole

The US bureau of prisons will end the use of private prisons over the next five years, the US justice department announced on 18 August.

The change comes after the racism of the criminal justice system has been pushed to near the top of the political agenda by the Black Lives Matter movement; after powerful investigative reporting by the Nation and other journals; and after a damning 11 August report by the inspector general of the justice department, which found that ‘in most key areas, contract [private] prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita’ than comparable state-run prisons, without providing significant savings.

This decision covers 20,000 prisoners. It does not cover 100,000 people held in state and local private prisons; or 25,000 immigrants held in private prisons while facing deportation; or 18,000 people held in private prisons before trial by US federal marshals.

Topics: Prison

Turkish war

In October, Syrian Kurds plan to launch a constitution for northern Syria, according to Kurdish politician Hadiya Yousef, quoted by Reuters in early September. She said that the political developments would take place despite Turkey’s anti-Kurdish incursions into northern Syria that began on 24 August.

In early September, the continuing crackdown inside Turkey itself led to the dismissal of 24 Kurdish mayors in the southeast, and the suspension of 1,151 Kurdish teachers.

In a separate move, the government has arrested nearly 40,000 people suspected of links to the religious Gulenist movement since a coup attempt in July.

In mid-September, jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan called on the government to revive the peace process, saying: ‘If the state is ready... we have a plan and this problem can be ended in six months.’

The message was relayed by his brother Mehmet, after a hunger strike by 50 Kurdish politicians and activists forced the government to allow the visit.

Topics: Turkey

Nepali peace

At the beginning of August, Nepal’s political merry-go-round installed Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as ‘Prachanda’, as prime minister once again after the previous premier resigned in the face of a vote of no confidence.

Observers are sceptical of Prachanda’s promises to resolve the Madhesi protest movement, which springs out of the lowlanders’ sense that they have lost out in the new federal carve-up of the country.

The Federal Alliance and United Democratic Madhesi Front protested in a number of plains towns on 19 September, the first anniversary of the constitution.

Topics: Nepal

Western Sahara

Both Morocco and the Polisario Front of Western Sahara suffered reverses on 13 September. An EU legal official declared in an advisory opinion that the waters and lands of Western Sahara are not part of Morocco (after 41 years of illegal occupation), and therefore could not be covered by any EU-Morocco trade agreements.

However, advocate general Melchior Wathelet also ruled that the Polisario Front (Western Sahara’s national liberation movement/government-in-exile) was not the sole representative of the people of Western Sahara, ‘because it is conceivable that Spain, the former colonial power of that territory, still has responsibillities in that regard’.

The Polisario Front is recognised by the UN as the political representative of the Sahrawi people, but, according to Wathelet, it should not be recognised by the EU as their economic representative, leaving them without a voice in EU decision-making.

Topics: Western Sahara

When doves cry

British arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be suspended until there is an independent inquiry into possible Saudi war crimes in Yemen. That was the verdict in mid-September of two parliamentary select committees (business and international development). The British government has licenced over £3bn-worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia since the conflict began.

Later in September, it emerged that Britain had stopped the EU setting up an independent international inquiry into the Yemen war.

In August, Oxfam said the Britain had gone from being an ‘enthusiastic backer’ of the Arms Trade Treaty to ‘one of the most significant violators’.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) judicial review of the arms sales will take place in January (see PN 2596–2597 for background).

Topics: Arms trade

Nothing compares 2 U

On 21 September, 80-year-old Indian peace activist Satish Kumar marked the International Day of Peace by completing a 50-mile walk from the source of the Thames to Oxford. He then helped to launch a three-day Resurgence Festival on the theme ‘One Earth, One Humanity, One Future’.

In 1962, Satish walked for nuclear disarmament and peace from India to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington DC.

In August, Satish stood down as editor-in-chief at Resurgence & Ecologist after 43 years of editing the magazine, over half his life.