News in brief

As you sow

In late September, Voices for Creative Non Violence UK launched a campaign to raise awareness of the mass displacement of Afghans and the country’s food crisis.

VCNV UK is asking schools and peace groups to plant ‘Afghan Peace Gardens’, perhaps with Persian Roses and white poppies.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers launched the project with a planting action in Kabul.

More info from Voices for Creative Non Violence UK:

One shiny toy

The British armed forces are spending £30m developing their own raygun (‘laser directed energy weapon’) called, wait for it, ‘Dragonfire’. The raygun (‘beam director’) was unveiled by the group of arms companies working on it at the DSEI arms fair in London in September.

Dragonfire could be used to provide short-range defences against air or sea attacks, and against drones. The laser could be used for tracking, dazzling the sensors of, or damaging or destroying, its targets. Each shot might cost only a few pence.

Tests will start next year, and there will be a ‘major demonstration’ in 2019.

61 shining stars

Direct action news from the US from the Nuclear Resister about actions around the Hiroshima-Nagasaki anniversaries, when we remember the destruction of those cities by US atomic bombs in August 1945.

On 5 August, the day before Hiroshima Day, four activists from the Brandywine Peace Community were arrested for blocking the entrance to Lockheed Martin in Pennsylvania. They were holding a photo of a Japanese child taken in Hiroshima after the atomic bombing.

Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the production of nuclear weapons includes building the Trident II D5 nuclear missiles carried on US and British Trident submarines.

The four arrested were: Beth Centz, Patrick Sieber, Tom Mullian, and Paul Sheldon.

On Nagasaki Day, 9 August, 48 people were arrested during a die-in outside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the US equivalent to Britain’s Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory.

This came after 250 people took part in a a ‘March for Nuclear Abolition & Global Survival’ to the lab, which delivered a copy of the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Also on Nagasaki Day, Christian peace activists Bill Frankel-Streit and Eric Martin refused to go into the designated protest zone at the Pentagon and were arrested on the pavement while holding photographs of Nagasaki victims.

They were part of a group of 30 faith-based activists who marched behind a banner saying: ‘US Nuclear Bombing of Nagasaki, August, 9, 1945 – Repent’.

An earlier ceremony at the White House, on Hiroshima Day, was also organised by Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, and also involved 30 people.

On 14 August, seven people were arrested for blockading the entrance to the US Trident base at Kitsap-Bangor. One of their banners read: ‘No Nuclear Strike On N. Korea!’ The seven arrested were: Philip Davis, Susan DeLaney, Ryan DeWitt, Sarah Hobbs, Mack Johnson, Ben Moore and Charles (Charley) Smith.

Nuclear Resister subs are $35:

Nepal votes

As PN went to press, the final results were coming out from the third and final round of voting in the Nepali local elections. These were the first council and mayoral elections to be held in the country in 20 years.

Holding these elections (in new, redefined, provinces) completes an important part of the peace agreement that ended Nepal’s 10-year civil war in 2006. Another success was the demobilisation and partial integration of the Maoist guerrilla army.

However, the human rights section in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has not seen much progress.

On 30 August, Nepalis marked the International Day Against Enforced Disappearance by calling for action on thousands of enforced disappearances during the civil war – including those taken as part of a systematic state policy.

The commission of investigation on enforced disappeared persons, set up two years ago, has so far failed to answer relatives’ questions.

Meanwhile, Nepal continues to suffer from inequality and poverty. The government’s $12.2m aid package for farmers following the devastating August floods is likely to go to rich landowners and not to tenant farmers (who tend not to have the documents needed to make a claim).

The floods killed 160 people, ruined crops and wrecked irrigation systems, and damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes.

Western Sahara

On 6 September, the European court of justice (ECJ) heard oral arguments on EU imports from Morocco of goods originating from, or processed in, Western Sahara.

Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975, and exports stolen Sahrawi resources including vegetables, fish, solar energy and phosphate. It has also licensed oil exploration.

The ECJ case was brought by the UK Western Sahara Campaign (WSC), which brought a case that the British government was unlawfully allowing such goods to be imported into the UK under an EU trade agreement with Morocco.

In a high court judgment handed down in October 2015, judge Nicholas Blake said: ‘I conclude that there is an arguable case of a manifest error by the [European Union] commission in understanding and applying international law relevant to these agreements.’ He ordered the referral to the ECJ.

The ECJ ruled last December that no EU trade agreement with Morocco could be applied to Western Sahara, and the people of the territory must consent to any arrangement affecting them.

Sahrawi organisations from occupied Western Sahara and from refugee camps in Algeria wrote to EU ministers and officials on 31 August asking the EU to respect the ruling.

Let’s meet again

A new peace movement direct action affinity group has been set up in London. The ‘Mad Hatters’ group was formed after a lock-on blockade on 6 September, ‘No to Nuclear’ day, during the set up for the DSEI arms fair. (There were 10 arrests outside the ExCeL Centre.)

David Polden writes: ‘More or less the same group of people organised last year’s anti-nuclear “Mad Hatters’ Tea Parties” during the month of action at the Burghfield nuclear bomb factory, and also in Parliament Square in support of a CND lobby.’

If you would like to join or find out more, contact David on 020 7700 2393 (Mon or Thurs) or:

Let’s meet again again

Two Israeli women were both imprisoned twice in one month for refusing to do their two-year compulsory military service.

On 4 August, Noa Gur Golan, 19, was sentenced to 30 days’ detention in military prison. She had served 14 days for an earlier refusal. Hadas Tal, 18, was sentenced to 20 days’ detention on 14 August.

On 31 August, they were both sentenced to 30 more days in prison after they refused military service again.

Hadas said: ‘I refuse because it is important not to let this system continue without resistance. The refusers who sat in prison before me did not end the occupation, but there is great significance to our acts — in raising awareness and creating public conversation.’

1 December is Peace Prisoner Day! More info from War Resisters’ International:

No THAAD you

A South Korean activist has died in Seoul in a protest against the US THAAD missile defence system being deployed in South Korea.

Cho Yeong-sam, 58, shouted: ‘THAAD must go, peace must stay’, before setting himself on fire with paint thinner on 20 September.

A coalition of activist groups said: ‘A person has died because THAAD was illegally deployed. This is government-initiated murder.’

Over 30 protesters (and six police officers) were injured at a demo against THAAD in the village of Soseong-ri on 7 September.