Omar was released in July 2012 and is now on probation until the end of his 18 month sentence in May 2013.
The good news is that Omar will be released in 11 weeks and will have only served half of his 18 month sentence. He will doing a useful DIY workshop soon and is getting on well with everyone. Please continue to write to him.
Afghanistan is a desolate place when we observe it from a comfey chair. Its people seem either enraged or broken. The poverty comes caked in the dust and blood of endless warfare. It is a fertile land that can produce more than enough to feed its population, but its recent history denies the human spirit from flourishing there. As far as we can tell it is even crushing the spirits of those who come to enforce their values, however noble they are.
Over the last few weeks negotiations with the Taliban broke down when US soldiers were found to have incinerated copies of the Quran. There was mass outrage and opportunistic rallying. Demonstrations raged over the borders in Iran and Pakistan whilst the heady war drums of jihad beat out their nostalgic rhythms. Within days six British soldiers were killed and the atmosphere in the entire region was palpable from our armchairs.
There’s no doubt Kandahar was full of vitriol whilst the occupying troop encampments shook with their own indignation. A soldier abroad, on duty became a terrorist in the midst of this. A cold, battle hardened mind, having completed two tours in Iraq, went from house to house killing civilians in what can only be called a psychotic episode. Immediately it is the action of a man used to shock and awe strategy and unable to work with a withdrawal strategy. Then it has its own place as a result of America placing its values in an imperial war chest.
South and Central America, Asia and Africa had the USSR investing arms and intelligence resources and the USA did not only the same but sent their military to fight billions of dollars worth of wars. This went on for just over forty years with both sides getting returns on their investment. The American policy of troops on the ground did not raise any any questions until Vietnam. Still, the US never considered their military presence abroad may cause the locals to despise them. Their culture is adored the world over but their military might is even more widely disdained. This Cold War two superpowers which still maintained the military apparatus and foreign interests and Afghanistan had been one of these political pawns.
The USSR invaded Afghanistan in the early eighties planning to expand its territory in Asia and the heroin trade was something their Mafia would have enjoyed assisting with. The Afghan resistance came from many backgrounds and across genders as women trained and formed their own resistance movements. The whole nation put on the war paint. America’s involvement in supplying arms and intelligence fanned the religious flames in this question. Ronald Reagan would suffer no godless heathens from Russia. Then came the camps of foreign volunteers from the Muslim world who shared the local faith and, at least, the language of the Quran. With US arms and intelligence on their side and after a long war Russia withdrew in the early 90s.
The country was still recovering from this as the Taliban were elected to power. Their laws enforced the denial of education, and segregation, for women. There is no doubt this group was made up of veterans of the was, including some who decided to settle. They had lived war for several years and saw this as more a way of life than civilian life. They had no treatment for PTSD but the training camps stayed open. Wars in Bosnia, and Kosovo, where NATO troops would be supplemented by a Mujahideem resistance, had people volunteering to be trained and fight. People from across Europe and the world trained in camps in Afghanistan preparing to defend Muslims against the Serbian genocide. This is the calibre of the Afghan resistance, but it resulted in the madness of 9/11.
Since then the war paint has reappeared and the Americans and Brits have been in Afghanistan. The country has little identity or sense of nationhood or self-governance. President Karzai’s regime is rejected by much of the country outside Kabul. After tens years of this the average twenty one year Afghan is probably pretty angry about the situation.
We see the Afghan police and army, that those occupying forces have trained, on our televisions. They seem weak and malnourished. British troops have described them as ‘lazy and incompetent’. The problem is that no Afghan with any heart could commit himself to work with forces that had subjected his backyard to the force of shock and awe. There are tough Afghans out there but it is more likely they are helping the Taliban. They would probably relish being trained by some of the most experienced guerilla fighters on the planet. Even in Somalia they have only been operational since the late 90s. The Viet Cong have nothing on these guys.
The concept of the Mujahid training and praying and fighting as one is a nostalgia dream to most Muslims. The 7/7 bombers, the 9/11 bombers, that French bot who went crazy in Toulouse; they fail to graspe they are alone. In Afghanistan the dream is true as it has been harvested by Western Interventionism. Across the Arab world there is a push towards democracy and equality on gender. In America, as in Afghanistan, there is a move towards religious fervour. A nation founded on freedom of religion and independence from empire is selling itself Scientology, The Tea Party and Mormonism. There seems little room for charity on health care. America intended to share its ideals with the world. In Mecca there is a Starbucks and a Burger King but slavery is still legal. American values it seems are only as deep as your pocket these days.
The American soldier, even a CIA agent, signs up to protect his country. The late Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne wakes up having forgotten that he has dodgy connections with different companies. He fights for his autonomy, his freedom, his identity. I hope that struggle bears fruit for all Afghans soon.
Omar was moved on 12 hours notice from Wandsworth to Peterborough Prison, apparently without explanation at some point between 2nd January and 9th February 2012. It is a prison privately run by Sodexo, where the male section of the prison is normally only for male prisoners from the Cambridgeshire area.
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This article was submitted to national prison magazine Not Shut Up. The editor approved it for print but the Head of Education at HMP Wandsworth blocked its final publication.
The winter is closing in but still the Arab Spring bursts through the concrete like some unstoppable rose, spreading seeds across the globe. Over there, across the Mediterranean, Syrian and Egyptian resistance reintensifies in the face of relentless oppression and tyranny. These are obvious police states that slaughter their citizenry with the contempt and brutality that only a state can wield. Russia has not had bloodshed from its police state but there are mass arrests and a sincere mistrust of the questionably elected Putin regime. I wonder how our system compares.
I was locked up for throwing a joke shop smokebomb at Topshop, for 18 months. Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe are serving four year sentences for creating facebook pages during the summer riots. There were countless pre-arrests of street performers before this year’s royal wedding, people who were planning to express their wit. Pile on the mass arrests at student and TUC protests against the cuts, the police harassment of St Paul’s protestors and the bully boy tactic of destroying homes at Dale Farm that were not even regarded by the misers at the local council as illegal, and we see a public image of freedom of protest with a police that sinks to Putinesque depths to keep those protests muffled to below the level of the carnival that expresses the heart of a protest.
There may be such a thing as reasonable protest for those who wield power. This generation saw millions turn out for peaceful protests against the Iraq War. The same generation saw that voice blindly ignored and so shouts louder. People have a right to express their dissent in any way they see fit, that doesn’t impede public safety. My incarceration, and those of countless others banged up for voicing dissent is the act of a sick state on a clampdown. Cameron may say society is sick but it was society that organised the clean up after and during this year’s riots. Those on a riot heard a father with a murdered son give a heartfelt speech and listened to reason. The political tactic of threats of water canon and tear gas went unheeded over the three days. Sympathy was the social touchstone for disturbance to end.
Inflated prison sentences for protestors are simply a gateway to more unemployment on release. So, if you want a job, keep calm and carry on, as the t-shirt says. Conform and comply. Unless you’re a banker who gambled off sub-prime assets. Increase your bonus. Have a bail-out. Unless you own a corporation that dodges taxes with offshore accounts. Have a Knighthood. (Yes, Topshop) The English judiciary have plainly pursued a highly politicised notion of justice when it comes to protest. They seek to demonise a popular movement while our taxes will be splurged at the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Police states, like Syria, are a bit less underhandin dealing with dissent. They switch off the internet, kick out all foreign journalists and get dirty. When I was there, the winter before last, I stayed in a Palestinian refugee camp. Facebook was blocked but there was a way around it. I couldn’t watch the Old Firm game on the telly, but there was a way around it. You just had to resist that clampdown. A local family gave me a hand-woven keffiyeh. I made friends with one man I kept in touch with. I called him this spring when his town rose up. The camp had been occupied by the army and they gave him three choices. Be killed, be imprisoned or go on the run. It was that stark a choice. My friend was still on the run when I travelled to London for my sentencing. I wore that keffiyeh in the dock that day. It gave me humility and strength.
That spirit of resistance raging across the Middle East is turning the exhaust fumes of dictatorship into the oxygen of freedom. It stops war machines in their tracks, washes tear gas away in the morning, mourns its dead, remembers those in prison and fights for real freedom. A freedom we all envision in our hearts. A freedom the power hungry fear. A freedom whose day I am doubtless is coming if we work together. A freedom of the indivdual that requires only society to take care of business.
The hilarity, good old David Cameron and his quiet glove puppet are having a relationship crisis. It seems Sir Nicolas of Clegg is upping his role to that of Emu. Rod Hull would be regularly attacked by his puppet Emu as he did his stand up routine in the good old days. You probably remember it fondly if you’re an old git like me. With Clegg and Cameron now all their friends are taking sides and its getting a bit serious. At least with Emu we knew it was just a show, but it appears to be a political rift that might bring about an election.
There was chubby cheeked David in Brussels when it all went wrong for him. The great Sarko, another entertainer from France had a bit of a spat with him it seems. A French diplomat described Cameron as ‘a man who turns up to a wife swapping party without his wife’. David Cameron had legitimate demands for a level of fiscal autonomy, but he was out of the loop. If only David had been at dinner with Angela Merkel and Sarko the night before things may look better for him. The problem is he made a stupid decision a while ago and has no friendships in Europe. No one likes him and is very alone.
You see David Cameron won Conservative Party support by appeasing a load of right-wing ultra nationalists in his own party. He did that by signing the party to an EU voting bloc that is replete with anti-semites, homophobes and ultra-nationalists from Eastern Europe. The kind of people who have been so alienated during Soviet times that a social democratic state would send them running for the home made weaponry. People raised on stories about the halcyon days of royal rule when pogroms kept the Jewish population low.
In short, David Cameron made friends with the wrong people. He thought he could get away with using that as a vote winner, but he forgets the ultra-bureaucracy created by the modern state. He was out of the loop, he missed out on the dinner before the big dinner in Brussels. Then everyone in Brussels treated him like a pariah for putting forward a proposal without consulting the elite. Its like turning up at Buckingham Palace to have an audience with the Queen, just on the off chance. Its not gona happen.
Then he got home and his quiet friend and kingmaker (just like Emu was to Rod Hull) was alright for a bit. Then Sir Nicolas’ friends said its not alright. This could screw up manufacturing interests in favour of the financial services sector. So now they’re all fighting. People talk of a rift in the coalition, but the opposition can only talk. Milliband says nothing of note.
With Rod Hull it appeared at times that Emu was alive. A real orange and purple ostrich attacking his handler with all guns blazing. In politics those blank expressions, occasional frowns, hollow eyes, straining grins. There is no life in this puppet show.
Give me the Muppets any day. They might have some sensible policies. Wouldn’t dinner with Kermit and Miss Piggy be far superior to Sarkozy and Merkel. Certainly more human anyway.
Friday morning there’s a knock at the door. A policeman takes you into custody and you are taken to a station, interviewed and kept in the station cells until a court appearance on Monday morning. For some Celtic fans this is happening to them regularly.
Filmed by FIT team for 90 minutes, identified, tracked down and individually prosecuted. Our money is being spent in the desperate crackdown on the singing of songs. Singing ‘Boys of The Old Brigade’ amounts to a sectarian breach of the peace in Glasgow. Thus arrest and convictions will rise in the next crime report. Republican songs are not sectarian in my opinion. There are certain religious lyrics in some songs, but republican songs are about republicanism. ‘Boys of The Old Brigade’ commemorates the Easter Rising of 1916. A song that evokes the Republican spirit of unity in the face of oppression. Of rebellion against authority, a concept that would be best celebrated, not repressed.
To have this level of investigation, intelligence gathering and prosecution on the singing of songs is not legitimate in a country that claims to support the spread of democracy. There is no violence in sharing in this carnival. No one comes to any harm, no property is damaged, all that happens is people remember the Rising. Even the Queen laid a wreath for those who fell in the Rising. It is a shame her court can not prosecute her for her sectarian action. The idea of that is as laughable as the money being squandered prosecuting this thought crime.
This very year a man assaulted Neil Lennon at Tynecastle and walked on the grounds that he denied calling the Celtic manager a fenian bastard, despite the fact he kicked Mr Lennon live on satellite television. Here may be brutality, but it is also evident in the actions of the state.
Football is an arena of colour, pride. passion and celebration. To be proud of ones roots is not illegal. At Celtic Park this has meant being proud of being founded by Irish immigrants and welcoming Glasgow’s refugee population with regular football tournaments. To be passionate about Republican politics is not illegal. To celebrate these ideas in song? This could be an imprisonable offence. Meanwhile, if you organise attacks on muslims and their friends the police will let you go after minimum investigation. The idea that the government is planning to pass a bill on football fan’s behaviour is simply troubling. It’s time to stop rambling……there’s work to be done.
The press label the Scottish Defence League and it’s English kin, ‘a far-right group’. When a group attacks a charitable insitution as it fundraises on a city centre street that is no longer far-right, it is purely a hate group. On Saturday 19th November 2011 several members of the SDL attacked the collection stall of the Glasgow Palestinian Human Rights Campaign on Buchanan Street, in the middle of the city’s self proclaimed style mile. An act that brings disgrace upon the city and shame upon the vile trolls who express violent contempt for humanitarian efforts.
The GPHRC is a cause that inspired me politically. It finds higher education for poor Palestinians amongst a breath of grassroots humamitarian work. Organised by a tireless Glaswegian couple I have known for over a decade, they have shown an exemplary level of political integrity and have the accounts to prove that all funds they raise go to help Palestinians living under illegal Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
For this they were physically attacked and their stall overturned by people who claim to promote Western values over Islamic terrorism. This group regularly organises demonstrations in Scotland and, due to some spectacular defeats, have resorted to street level attacks on humanitarian activists, but still some people claim it is best to ignore them. I have no doubt that direct action is the only way to deal with those who organise such actions. From my cell I wish I could be more involved.
When extraordinary people have to face the idiocy of violence, because they collect money for a country, which is majority Muslim, (Leaving aside that many Christians, born in Palestine have not only organised armed resistance against Israel, founded political parties that refused to recognise Israel and laid down their lives wholesale in the cause of Palestinian independence. Leaving that to one side), this is clearly the fruit of an insidious prejudice against Muslims and their allies being stoked by the same forces that caused a holocaust in Nazi Germany. There may be men who claim to remember the war dead. They are men who refuse to recognise that those who laid down their lives fighting fascism and those who are being killed simply occupying Afghanistan promoting a weak leader who needs replacement are martyrs for very different causes.
The GPHRC stall will carry on it’s good work, unmoved by the actions of a few idiots with no concept of humanitarianism. The Israeli Defence Force with a stock pile of tear gas and a primed water cannon could not stop the organisation of that stall. It is a product of the spirit of reistance and that comes from the heart.
The SDL, it seems, have no heart and no humanity. It makes me wonder about their friends among the football casuals. When you compare their actions to those of Cairo’s ultras. There they have faced tear gas and live fire fighting for freedom from the US backed military regime. They carry on struggling, refusing to take a patsy as a compromise. Here a group of football fans is trying to undermine the fight for freedom. These imbeciles need to learn some lessons before they fall into the abyss that is their own collective arsehole.