Mandela was awarded the freedom of the city of Glasgow. My sons met him outside Glasgow City Chambers, just after the ceremony but were then too young to recall the smiling eyes of the man and the air of peace and gentle power he generated.
Before his presidency, Mandela was of course an anti-apartheid activist and high ranking leader of the African National Congress and its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, translated “Spear of the Nation.”
Following his 27 years or so in prison on convictions for various crimes including sabotage but not murder, Nelsons switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation led the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.
Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even by former opponents.
In a speech at the City Chambers in Glasgow on 9 October 1993, Mandela said:
“While we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free.”
Thank you Nelson.
You changed the world.
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Itinerant Scots have been accused of many musical misdemeanours. Musicologists have built careers tracing the global paths that Scottish traditional music has wandered along, injecting swing into cowboy music, adding Hebridean angst to the blues and a hint of bothy life into bluegrass. Since the heady days when The Old Blind Dogs linked New Deer with New Orleans there’s been a consistent interest in setting traditional Scots tunes against global rhythms. Along those lines, and on the face of it, this looks like an interesting CD release from Huntly’s Deveron Arts, reviewed by Graham Stephen.
Brazilian musician Allysson Velez, inspired by ceilidh music, recognised rhythmic links with his own tradition and its African slave roots. He teamed up with Omar Arif, a West African musician living in the area, and a handful of local musicians, including fiddle maestro Paul Anderson. The result is Ceilidhcatu, promoted as ‘a transcultural community of art’.
What I expected was a cross-cultural stew of shared enthusiasm with musicians sparking off each other’s playing and musical styles.
This may well happen in a live situation, but much of this recording lacks a dynamic spark, sticking to repetitive, unadventurous arrangements and never quite matching its ambitions.
Too often it sounds like two styles brought hesitantly together, shyly inter-mingling, but happier to stick to familiar territory. That, you may argue, is itself a fundamental tradition in the NE.
Not that there is anything wrong with the performances. The musicians play well, which is frustrating, because at times the formula works, giving hints of the possibilities. The relentless African drum patterns, for example, enhance the gloom and menace of Twa Corbies.
Driven by Anderson’s strong fiddle, The Devil In The Kitchen set threatens to take off, demanding to be pushed into overdrive by some strong percussion. When the drums arrive, however, they stick to a repetitive groove regardless of changes in the tunes, where subtle shifts and textures would have brought the set to life.
Opening track Scotland The Brave also suffers from this sense of deceleration, giving a feeling that the two elements have been brought together separately, rather than being a natural bonding. The traditional songs and tunes chosen are also very familiar. Perhaps a choice of material beyond the standard session repertoire might have enhanced the project.
Significantly, the strongest tracks are duets featuring only Velez and Afif, their hypnotic Maracuta rhythms echoing the legacy of slave trade links between Brazil and Africa. Set against this, an unexpected unaccompanied version of The Rovin’ Ploughboy, perfectly sung by Shona Donaldson, somehow encapsulates the aching soul of the NE bothy ballad while Steve Brown’s pipes on Farewell To The Creeks sit well in natural sound effects.
Awa ower in Swedish watters Ye micht hear some affa screams As a wee fishie in the sea Connachs a fyow chiels’ dreams . Iss hungry fishie it wid seem His a likin fer mannies’ bas They creep up fin yer sweemin An grab them wi their jas . Fin yer awa ower in Sweden Skinny dippin micht nae be gweed Thae fishies fae roon aboot Wid queue up fer a feed
Next week you have the chance to catch a screening of two powerful, and ultimately life-affirming, films that capture the strength and dignity of the individual human spirit.
The film screenings have been organised by the Aberdeen Group of Amnesty International, in collaboration with the Belmont Cinema.
On Monday 18th February (at 6.00pm) you can see the documentary film Waste Land.
Filmed over nearly three years, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz from Brooklyn to his native Brazil to work with the “catadores” – people who pick recyclable materials from the world’s largest rubbish dump, Jardim Gramacho, just outside Rio de Janeiro.
Muniz’s collaborative project with the catadores, as they create photographic images of themselves out of garbage, reveals both the spirit and dignity of the people and the power of art to express their plight.
Waste Land was the winner of the Amnesty International Human Rights Film Award 2010 and of the Audience Award for Best World Cinema Documentary Sundance Film Festival 2010.
On Thursday 21st February (also at 6.00pm) is another chance to see Persepolis – a beautiful animated film version of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel about growing up in Iran, as the country moves from the Shah’s regime to fundamentalist Islamic state.
Events are seen through the eyes of Marjane herself, a rebellious teenager, who chafes against her lack of freedom and expression.
“When I tell people it’s a lo-fi animation, largely in black-and-white, about Iran, they put their heads in their hands and make a low groaning sound. But I’ve seen those same people bounce happily out of the cinema after seeing it as if they had had some sort of caffeine injection.” - Peter Bradshaw, Film Critic, The Guardian, April 2008
The Group will also have a small stall in the cinema lobby prior to each film, so if you want to ask any questions about what we do or find out more about Amnesty International, now’s your chance!
So in the chilly days of February, why not treat yourself to a thought-provoking and inspiring trip to the cinema?
Aberdeen SPSC extends an open invitation to the above event which will take place upstairs in the Blue Lamp at 7:00pm on Friday 24th August.
The evening is part of Aberdeen Against Austerity’s Summer Lecture Series and will feature talks and discussions, on the parallels between the struggle for justice in South Africa and Palestine.
Speakers, Tommy Campbell and Harry Bygate, will address the struggle against South African apartheid in Aberdeen and aspects of Israeli apartheid, including freedom of movement, political prisoners, ‘settlements’, water, access to land and the JNF and energy resources.
Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, has pledged her support to a Guide Dogs’ campaign to highlight the issue of guide dogs being attacked by other dogs and recently met with guide dog owners and their assistance dogs to listen to their own experiences.
Research by the charity has revealed that more than eight guide dogs are attacked every month. These attacks can result in the guide dogs being unable to work and, in some cases, they can never work again.
This can have a devastating impact on the owner as they are then unable to go out independently whilst they wait for a new guide dog.
This also has financial implications for the charity, which pays the full costs of a guide dog – approximately £50,000 throughout its lifetime.
Guide dog owner William Sharkey told Dame Anne about an incident involving his assistance dog Lily:
“As a newly qualified guide dog owner, I was very angry when Lily was attacked by two dogs in Aberdeen city centre. I was particularly horrified that the owner took no action to restrain their dogs and afterwards I didn’t think it was worth reporting to the police as I was unable to identify the owner. The incident really knocked Lily’s confidence and it took some time for her to return to her normal self.”
Although the recent announcement by the Westminster government to introduce compulsory micro-chipping in England is a welcome step forward, there is still more work needed to protect guide dogs and their owners from these vicious attacks.
With concern increasing about the number of attacks by other dogs on guide dogs, the charity is also calling on the Government to give police the power to treat an attack on an assistance dog as seriously as an attack on a person.
David Cowdrey, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs said:
“There were 147 attacks on guide dogs between June, 2010 and December, 2011.
“We believe that an attack on an assistance dog should be considered as an attack on the person, to reflect the fact that a guide dog is a vital mobility aid and that such attacks are very distressing for people who are already vulnerable.”
Dame Anne said:
“I was shocked to hear of the high number of attacks on guide dogs, as are those constituents who have contacted me about this issue and I will be lobbying the government to ensure meaningful measures are introduced to protect guide dogs and their owners.
“Although the Scottish Government has already rejected compulsory micro-chipping, I hope that they will follow suit to ensure that guide dogs in Scotland are protected.
“I would also call on anyone who witnesses an attack on a guide dog to help the police in identifying the offending owner.”
At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.
The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.
These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.
While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.
The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars: many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.
The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.
There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.
David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.
Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.
Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:
“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”
Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.
• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment: 0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports: 1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms: 27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms: 54%
Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year. In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.
Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world. The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.
Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:
• 2007 9651 million (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008 4367 million
• 2009 7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010 5819 million
Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.
Columnist Will Self - “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”
BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.
The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.
The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.
A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.
As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).
The study estimated that the cost of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.
Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.
Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.
The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.
Curriculum for Excellence has afforded Harlaw Academy pupils the opportunity to embrace Citizenship in more diverse contexts that ever before, and a Staff Working Group on Citizenship was set up almost 3 years ago. For the last year the group has included pupils, who have played a major role in the running of the group and decision-making procedures. Depute Head teacher Aileen Hunter tells Voice readers.
Pupils in the group were very interested in forging a link with pupils in a school abroad, and unanimously favoured the work of RSVP Charity which has as its Trustees several representatives in Aberdeen. This charity supports children in the Bugarama region of Rwanda by providing a daily meal at primary school, and sponsors older children to receive a secondary education at boarding school – “Education today for Zero Aid Tomorrow.”
Harlaw Academy has agreed to sponsor 5 children to attend boarding school for 6 years and the Citizenship Group’s responsibility is to ensure that adequate funds are raised to cover the costs of sponsorship.
Harlaw pupils are allocated to one of 5 Houses – Albyn, Carden, Holburn, Victoria, Waverley – and, as from January 2012, each house sponsors a child – Jeremy, Jean-Pierre, Giselle, Emmanuel, Esther. The initial cost per sponsored pupil was £20 for their starter pack at boarding school, followed by £10 per month for fees for 6 years.
The launch of the partnership with RSVP Charity reached its climax on 19th March 2012 when the entire school population celebrated AFRICA DAY. In the lead-up to the event fund-raising event were organised, for example “Harlaw Spring (and Summer) Clean”, Forest Walk, end-of-term Talent Show, Rowing Challenge, “small change” collections at House Assemblies.
Each of the 5 House Captains selected an African country for their house to represent – Madagascar, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa. The Head Boy and Girl, and the Senior Management Team represented Rwanda. On Africa Day pupils were encouraged to dress in the colours of their country’s flag and contribute £1 to RSVP Charity. One pupil dressed as a “mummy” and collected £25 from staff and pupils in the canteen.
Staff from all curricular areas devised class-work to articulate with the Africa Day theme in preparation for an exhibition of material in the school hall which was open to all staff and pupils throughout the day. Each house was responsible for a display of material.
Pupils worked in house groups in class on activities such as population pyramids, investigation of an issue of concern and how it is being resolved (animal extinction, poverty etc), African singing, African literature, mining, African masks, African dancing, African Flags, water-carrying race, letter to Pittodrie Football Club requesting used football boots which will be taken to Rwanda.
The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.
Canteen staff baked cup-cakes and a large cake iced in the colours of the Rwanda flag. The school technician filmed and photographed pupil presentations, fund raising events, assemblies and displays.
Africa Day was preceded by a series of Assemblies led by the House Captains who introduced their sponsored child and gave a brief profile of their chosen country. The Head Boy and Girl led 3 Assemblies that gave pupils and staff information on Rwanda and the RSVP Charity, and highlighted the background to why the children need our support.
We were thrilled that Jean Main (a trustee of RSVP Charity ), Simon Mbarushimana (also a trustee, formerly a sponsored Rwandan child and now a doctor at A&E in Aberdeen) and our school chaplains attended one of the assemblies.
The events and projects detailed above are all documented in photographs, video footage and a display in the school’s Meeting Room.
The launch of the project, including Africa Day, was reviewed by Senior Management of the school who commented on the scope of awareness-raising among the entire school community. The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.
The Citizenship group will review the launch at their next meeting in April, and continue to plan for the next stages in the project – direct communication with the sponsored pupils, the prospect of a visit to Rwanda by staff and pupils, and strengthening the links with the school community and RSVP Charity through Jean and Simon.
On March 1st the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be hosting three exciting speakers at Aberdeen University: Fathe Kdirat and Itaf Njoum Karma from Jordan Valley Solidarity, and Leehee Rothschild from Boycott from Within (Israel).
Fathe and Itaf, both Palestinians, will be discussing Israel’s destruction of communities and the environment in the Jordan Valley, and the on-going illegal Israeli settlement construction that continues to drive Palestinians from their land.
The Jordan Valley makes up a large section of the West Bank, around 28% in total. It has been one of the worst affected areas of the West Bank during the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967.
The occupation saw the Jordan Valley’s population drop by 88% and was thereafter the site of Israel’s first settlements.
Since the occupation Israel has gone about taking almost complete control of the area. This map (click to follow link) published in December 2011 by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that 15% of the Jordan Valley comprises settlements (blatantly illegal under international law[i]), 27% comprises nature reserves, often used to control natural resources such as water supply (to the detriment of Palestinians) and 56% comprises closed military areas.
In addition, 87% of the Jordan Valley is designated Area C, i.e. under Israeli control. The 1993 Oslo Accords divided the occupied West Bank into 3 sections: Area A, under the full control of the Palestinian Authority (3% of the West Bank); Area B, under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli military control (25%); and Area C, under the full control of Israel (72%). Designating land as Area C gives Israel unlimited autonomy to do as it pleases and to ignore the rights of Palestinians. For example, according to UN OCHA 94% of Area C planning applications submitted by Palestinians were denied between 2001 and 2007.
One of the main focuses of Israel policy in the area is to clear the Jordan Valley of its Bedouin population. In September 2011 the Israeli government announced its plans to expel 27,000 Bedouin from their homes and lands in the Jordan Valley. This process is due to be completed in the next 3-6 years; the initial stages have already begun.
The role of activism, resistance and international solidarity is crucial in the fight to prevent this attempted ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley. Fathe and Itaf will talk on how Palestinian communities and internationals are working together to witness, catalogue and resist Israel’s actions, and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel.
One crucial component of the BDS campaign is the small but important resistance movement within Israel itself. This includes the campaign group Boycott from Within.
“We, Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel, join the Palestinian call for a BDS campaign against Israel, inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid. We also call on others to do the same.” Boycott from Within Website
Organisations like Boycott from Within are operating within a state becoming increasingly reactionary to the growing success of the calls for the end of the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians within Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian (the three main tenets of the BDS campaign). In July 2011 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed an anti-boycott bill, criminalising those who support boycotts of Israel or its illegal occupation and settlements.
The bill has implications for individuals and organisations alike; for example companies deciding not to source products from illegal settlements in the West Bank may be barred from government contracts. More recent Knesset bills have turned their attention to NGOs working in Israel, such as groups aiming to promote human rights.
One such law proposes to place a limit on the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments and institutions, meaning many will be unable to function.
Leehee Rothschild will be speaking about her involvement in internal resistance movements such as Boycott from Within and Anarchists Against the Wall, as well as exploring issues of propaganda within the Israeli education system.
The talk starts at 7pm on March 1st in room 268 in the MacRobert Building at Aberdeen University. For more information contact: Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk
[i] for example see the International Court of Justice ruling 2004, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN Security Council Resolution 446
A group of Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in South India, on an extensive UK and European tour, will be giving a performance at the Sanctuary, Queens Cross Church, on Monday 21st November. Their performances of masked dance and sacred chant have enthralled audiences from all over Europe.
‘The Power of Compassion’ offers a taste of Tibetan monastic culture with dramatic and colourful costumes, masks and musical instruments – including the great Dungchen or Long Horn, traditionally played from the roof of Tibetan monasteries.
The dances are interspersed with prayers and chants from the monastery using traditional instruments such as bone trumpets, drums and cymbals. The performance has been described as “A psychedelic whirl of chanting, dancing, drums, cymbals and processions” (The Times)
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet was founded by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447, and became one of the major centres of Buddhist learning with over 6,000 monks and students, and the seat of the Panchen Lama, second only in importance to the Dalai Lama.
Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, and the 14th Dalai Lama’s escape into exile ten years later, it became impossible for the monks to have freedom to practise their religion inside Tibet. Consequently, several of the monks escaped into exile and re-established their monastery in 1972 in the large Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe, South India.
Now numbering around 300 monks, the monastery is once again regaining its reputation as a great centre of learning. It is internationally renowned for preserving the unique Tibetan culture and the tradition of masked dance and sacred music.
The UK and European tour in 2011 is organised by the Monastery’s UK charity. Proceeds from the tour are sent directly back to the monastery to support the monks in their day to day work, ministering to the spiritual and physical well-being of the local Tibetan community, and also to help with building projects as their numbers expand.
The performance at the Sanctuary, Queens Cross Church on 21 November will be at 7.30pm with tickets at the door: £8/£6 concession.