Jan 192017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

VisitAberdeenshire is teeing up for success by heading Stateside to showcase Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s world-class golf facilities to a global audience.

The tourism organisation will visit the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando from 24-27 January – one of the world’s biggest golf shows – where they will meet with key industry professionals in a bid to boost the region’s golf tourism trade.

The trip is the latest initiative in VisitAberdeenshire’s drive to increase golf tourism in the north east of Scotland, following sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Open last year.

Jenni Fraser (pictured), business development manager at VisitAberdeenshire, says,

“Golf has long been one of the biggest draws for visitors to the north east, attracting both leisure and business tourists throughout the year.

“Holidaymakers looking to play at some of the world’s most famous links courses, and business visitors using the fairways for networking and incentive travel, have lots to discover in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“Golf is worth around £220 million to the Scottish economy every year, and it is estimated that golfers spend 120% more than other visitors. With such fantastic facilities in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, there is a real opportunity for local golf courses and tourism businesses to capitalise on and benefit from that income.

“By attending the PGA Merchandise Show – a major event in the golf world – we’ll be able to communicate the strength of the offering that we have here in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to hundreds of key contacts.”

Research commissioned by Scottish Golf Tourism and VisitScotland shows that Scotland is third on a list of desirable golfing destinations across the globe (#1 Spain, #2 Portugal, #5 Ireland, #9 England).

Jenni continues,

“The north east of Scotland is home to over 50 top golf courses, including some of the sport’s most recognisable names: Royal Aberdeen, Trump International, Cruden Bay and Newmachar. But it also features some of the UK’s quirkier and more historic courses, including Britain’s highest 18-hole course at Braemar, and Fraserburgh where play dates back to at least 1613.

“Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have something to offer golfers of all levels, whether serious enthusiasts looking to tick a renowned course off their bucket list or casual players seeking a friendly nine-hole challenge. From stunning links courses to incredible inland courses, the north east has it all.”

VisitAberdeenshire will be joined at the PGA Merchandise Show by tour company Bonnie Wee Golf, which creates exclusive golf trips to some of the most exclusive courses in Scotland – including many in the north east – and Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course.

David Harris of Bonnie Wee Golf says,

“For a long time, golf has been a key attraction in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and every year we see golfers coming from America to play some of the most famous courses in the world, right on our doorstep.

“The chance to visit one of the world’s biggest golf exhibitions with VisitAberdeenshire is a fantastic opportunity to network with industry professionals, discuss the sport’s latest developments, and show what we in the north east of Scotland have to offer the global golfing community.”

Andy Burgess of Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf Course adds,

“We are delighted to be partnering with VisitAberdeenshire and Bonnie Wee Golf at the 2017 PGA Show in Orlando. We have been attending the show for the last seven years, and as a result have welcomed hundreds of American golfers to stay at Meldrum House to play golf around the north east.

“Attending events like the PGA Show sends out a very positive message and shows that we are serious in developing our international golf market, encouraging as many global visitors as possible to experience golf in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”

For more information about golf facilities and in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, visit www.visitabdn.com/attractions-and-activities/golf

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Jan 192017
 

Eileen Wheeler of Sunrise Partnership

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

A charity that helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one has been delivered a ray of hope from global investment management group, Aberdeen Asset Management.

Sunrise Partnership will be able to provide almost 60 specialist sessions for children and young people up to the age of 18 living in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire whose lives have been affected by loss and bereavement, after receiving a four-figure donation from Aberdeen Asset Management.

The sessions allow youngsters to learn coping strategies tailored to them that help prepare them for the future.

The free and confidential support continues for as long as is needed, with referrals coming from schools, health and social work departments, third sector organisations and self-referrals too.

For younger children, using tools like puppets, books, arts and crafts and worksheets can be helpful in breaking down barriers to make easier for them to express feelings and emotions. There’s no limit to the amount of support provided and it’s not unusual for children to revisit them months or even a couple of years later as they get older and may have a different understanding of their grief.

Eileen Wheeler, manager of Sunrise Partnership, explained that loss is not always a bereavement; support is also provided for children in kinship whose natural parents may not be able to care for them.

Eileen said:

“Every case is treated individually and sessions are tailor made for the child. There is no complicated referral process or forms to fill in. We are just a telephone call or an email away from anyone who may need us.”

The bulk of the charity’s work has been in Aberdeen City, but it has also supported children in Peterhead, Aboyne, Banchory, Inverurie, Kemnay and Kintore, travelling to children and families to ensure services are accessible to all.

The charity has been providing its specialist one-to-one, sibling, family or group sessions in City and Shire since its formation  in 2014, and last year received 52 new referrals.

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Aberdeen charity committee said:

“Sunrise Partnership seeks to provide the best possible support for children and young people through its specialist sessions, allowing them to achieve their true potential despite a significant loss or bereavement in their lives. To be able to help such an inspirational charity, and young people, in the city where our company was founded is very important to us.”

Sunrise Partnership can be contacted on  07827 755735 or by emailing: support@sunrisepartnership.org

Aberdeen Asset’s Charitable Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Jan 212016
 

Scottish Grocers' Federation, Pete CheemaWith thanks to Sarah Masson.

Independent retailers have welcomed the support shown for their industry from Christian Allard, MSP. The North East MSP attended Scottish Grocers’ Federation’s event at the Scottish Parliament to coincide with the publication of their Scottish Local Shop Report 2015.

The report highlights the value of local independent convenience stores to communities with 87% of retailers currently involved in community activities.

The report also illustrates that there are more convenience stores per head of population in Scotland than there are in the rest of the UK and that convenience stores provide over 44,000 jobs, including valuable services such as post offices, bill payment services and ATMs.

The SNP MSP has always backed local businesses – acknowledging their importance to local economies throughout Scotland today. The North East MSP has praised the community value of local shops, recognising that they support local producers as:

“they make Scottish products accessible for everyone buy, eat and trust local.”

Scottish Grocers’ Federation Chief Executive Pete Cheema said,

“We were delighted that Christian Allard was able to join us at our event. The support of MSPs is vital in ensuring a prosperous and sustainable independent convenience store industry in Scotland.”

Commenting Christian Allard said:

“It is important that we recognise and support local businesses in our communities especially because local shops tend to be resilient to economic changes.

“Local stores are a large part of what our communities are made up of and this report provides the evidence that clearly shows the community value of local convenience stores in Scotland.

“The report crucially looks at the active role that local stores play in both urban and rural communities. They are constantly evolving and changing to meet the many needs of the people they serve. The independent corner shop is as much a part of the past and present as it is the future.”

 

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Sep 072015
 

Oil Strike cover By Mike Shepherd.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of first oil from the Forties field in September 1975.

A quick search of the internet and you will find photographs of the Queen inaugurating the Forties field on the 3rd November 1975. But don’t tell her majesty, the Forties field was already in operation by that time.

It wasn’t quite the first oil on stream from the UK side; the Argyll field had been producing since June that year, but given the scale of the Forties development, it was a major event.

The Forties field figures prominently in my new book Oil Strike North Sea which is out next week.

In terms of reserves it is the largest field in the UK North Sea and deserves attention for that alone; but not only that, I was to take a prominent role in its development and this allows me to give a first-hand account of what it takes to operate a North Sea field.

Between 1981 and 1986, I was responsible from the geology side in planning a large number of wells in the oil field. I worked both onshore and offshore. After planning the wells in British Petroleum’s (BP) office in Dyce, working closely with the drilling engineers, I would then go offshore to monitor the reservoir section. Amongst other responsibilities, I would tell the drillers when to stop once we were below the oil pay.

The Forties field wasn’t the first commercial oil field discovered on the UK side, that honour goes to Amoco’s Montrose field which was discovered in 1969. When Amoco discovered oil in the first well, the offshore personnel were astonished. They were looking for gas and had no idea that there was oil in the North Sea. Other companies had come across oil shows in wells before, but had kept this highly secret.

There were no sample jars for oil on the rig, so the first sample of commercial oil in the North Sea was brought onshore in a pickle jar that had been grabbed from the rig’s galley.

Amoco had hired the Sea Quest drilling rig from BP to drill the well and handed it back afterwards. The BP geologists were rather surprised to find that a copy of a log showing that oil had been found had arrived with the rig. It had been accidently left on board.

BP had identified the Forties prospect on their seismic data, a massive dome covering 90 square kilometres. It looked enormous and the unintended gift from Amoco gave them comfort that there could be an oil field there.

Yet the BP management had been most reluctant to drill the prospect and for good reasons too; the oil price had been low since 1950 as a result of the large-scale production from the Middle East and North Africa, and a large offshore field requiring very expensive infrastructure could not be assured to make a profit. On top of that, the engineering capability of providing the infrastructure was an unknown, the oil companies had never ventured into such deep and stormy waters.

One of the reasons BP drilled the discovery well was out of desperation. BP had been thrown out of several countries after the oil had been nationalised and the future of the company was somewhat uncertain at the time. It was only with the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when the oil price quadrupled on the back of OPEC sanctions, was it likely that the North Sea would be a profitable concern.

The Forties field is still producing after forty years, with over 2.7 billion barrels of oil recovered. The current operator Apache is still actively chasing the remaining oil in the field by drilling new wells. The Forties field, like many other fields in the North Sea had not been expected to have produced for as long as they have. It’s a testament to the amazing skills developed in the North Sea that our fields have recovered so much oil.

The book launch for Oil Strike North Sea is at Waterstones in Union Street on Wednesday 9th September at 7pm, all are welcome.

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Nov 142014
 

With thanks to Christina Elliott.

Photo Credit the bridge 2 - Creative Commons

Lions and tigers from Chipperfield’s circus are being over wintered in the Northeast of Scotland. Photo Credit: The Bridge – Creative Commons

Local people concerned for the welfare of lions and tigers from Chipperfield’s circus being over wintered at the circus high school are holding a demonstration to protest the use of all wild animals in circuses.

The protestors wish to send a message to Holyrood and to circuses that confining and exploiting wild animals for entertainment is not acceptable to the British public in the 21st century and that any further delay in prohibiting such acts is unacceptable.

The demonstration against the use of all wild animals in circuses is due to take place on Sunday Nov 16, 11.30am – 3pm at the Circus High School, Cairnglass Croft, Inverallochy, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. AB43 8UT.

28 countries around the world now have national restrictions in place and yet Scotland and the rest of the UK are still debating the issue.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government undertook a public consultation on the issue but a response to its outcome has been delayed until the new year.

ADI (Animal Defenders International) President Jan Creamer commented:

“ADI applauds efforts by Kevin Stewart MSP to ban circuses from using wild animals in Scotland. Without action from government, the arrival of big cats in Aberdeenshire could be the first of many, making Scotland a destination for circus suffering that it has not been for years. We can’t let that happen.”

Further information on animals in circuses can be found here: http://www.ad-international.org/animals_in_entertainment/go.php?id=249&ssi=10

A video, filmed at the Circus High School by Victor Beattie, showing characteristic ‘pacing’ behaviour associated with animals living in cramped, stressful or unnatural conditions can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152896934243092

Demonstration against the use of all wild animals in circuses.

Sunday 16th. November 2014, 11.30am – 3pm

Circus High School,
Cairnglass Croft,
Inverallochy,
Fraserburgh,
Aberdeenshire.
AB43 8UT.

Contacts:

Kevin Stewart MSP
Tel: 0131 348 6382
Email:Kevin.Stewart.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

FYI: MOTION NO: S4M-11344

Contact for protestors:

Christina Elliott 07415663890

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Oct 312014
 

windmillbluepic2By Bob Smith.

A wanner’t lonely as a clood
A stravaig’t throwe hills an pines
Fin aa at eence a saw aroond
A host o bliddy win’ turbines
Abeen the loch reachin ti the sky
Their massive blades a did espy

Conteenyus as the stars aat shine
They sproot on the taps o hills
Streechin in an nivver eynin line
We’re telt they’ll cure oor energy ills
Meybe nae ten thoosan at a gleck
As alang ma waak a did trek

The waves in loch aside me dunced
As turbine blades they did turn
A swore, a shook, a fairly prunced
An a near fell in a burn
A gazed an gazed in sombre stare
As whirlin blades they rent the air

Aft fin on ma cooch a lie
In vacant or in turmoil mood
There flashes in ma myn’s eye
An image a see fit’s nae good
An syne ma hairt wi anger fills
As a see crockaneetion on the hills

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 28/10/2014
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Sep 122014
 

Robbie Shepherd, 2By Bob Smith.

‘Ay ay fit like e day?’
Comes oot o a nor’east mou
They’ll nae ask aboot the FTSE
Jist fits the price o a coo

Es wither his bin affa gweed
The barley’s in fine fettle
If tatties hud their price
The wife’ll git her new kettle

Are yer hennies aye still layin?
An tatties weel set in the dreel?
Man a wis noo jist thinkin
Yer calfies leuk affa weel

Nae funcy spik fae fairmin fowk
Jist stracht an ti the pynt
Incomers micht git offendit
Wi their nose pit oot o jint

Bit tak the fowk as ye fin ‘em
Git used ti their nor’east wyes
It’ll tak a file ti fill their beets
Ye micht struggle ti reach their size

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

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Jul 182014
 
Hot-Seats-2

The Hot Seats tour Scotland for the sixth time.

A band that has appeared at just about every major festival in the UK, Virginian livewires The Hot Seats, return to tour Scotland for the sixth time, says Brookfield Knights promoter Loudon Temple.

After gracing Gateshead’s Summertyne Americana Festival, Scottish fans will get the chance to hear blistering material from their brand new album, officially released to coincide with their arrival.

The Hot Seats have been praised following performances at prestige events including Celtic Connections, the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival, Maverick Festival, HebCeltFest, Speyfest and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

They picked up a Herald Angel, the biggest accolade possible from Edinburgh, for their outstanding contribution during a sell-out run at The Spiegeltent.

They were hailed as one of the outstanding acts at last year’s Shetland Folk Festival, winning attention with their fiery brand of blistering Appalachian old-time mixed with left-of-centre bluegrass and a sprinkling of their own compositions.

Frontman Josh Bearman, a multi-instrumentalist, like several of his sidekicks, said they were delighted to be heading back to NE Scotland where they are no strangers.

It’s great to play on the big festival stages, but we love it too, whenever we get a chance to take our music into the more intimate performance spaces,” he said,“We’re playing at three UK festivals this year, as well as returning to some smaller clubs and halls, so the balance is just how we like it.”

The band started out fine-tuning their skills on the redneck bars and college clubs circuit where they experimented with a suitcase-full of assorted toys to supplement the guitar/mandolin/banjo/fiddle/bass line-up, employing everything from jawharp to washboard, tin can percussion and vintage trap-kit drum set.

Their original music is simultaneously hard to classify and is instantly identifiable, combining the virtuosic soloing and tightness of bluegrass, the band-driven rhythm of old time, the jerky bounce of ragtime, and the swagger of good old rock and roll.

NE Scotland dates are:

Thursday July 24 Universal Hall, Findhorn
Friday July 25 Glenbuchat Hall, Strathdon
Saturday July 26 The Salmon Bothy, Portsoy

According to the critics…

“Astounding” – R2
“Old-time music with attitude” – The Washington Post
“Bonkers but brilliant” – Maverick magazine
“Sensational” – The Herald
https://aberdeenvoice.com/2013/07/the-hot-seats/

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Apr 042014
 

In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the last part of his four article series.

libyatankpicLibya is an artificial state like much of the Middle East and Africa, carved out in the colonial era of early 20th century by Italy. After independence in 1951 Libya was ruled by a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, Libya’s only monarch, who presided over an essentially tribal society.
On 1 September 1969, a small group of military officers led by 27-year-old army officer Muammar Qaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris, launching the Libyan Revolution.

Following the murder of Qaddafi in October 2011 and the collapse of his allies,  the National Transitional Council (NTC)  were recognised by the NATO powers at the same time however countries like Cuba and Venezuela who had offered to broker negotiations left their embassy’s in Libya.

The NTC from its outset was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood who are now, of course, out of favour with their erstwhile NATO backers.

In August 2012 a new Assembly was elected dominated again by the Brotherhood as in Morsi’s Egypt or Tunisia.  The Muslim Brotherhoods ally Nuri Abu Sahmain is President of Libya. Mohammed Magarie replaced Mostafa Abdeljali in August last year as Head of State and Ali Zeidin replaced Abdurrahim al-Keib as Prime Minister in November last year following internal and external difficulties.

The latest news on March 12th throws Libya into even greater turmoil.  Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeiden was deposed on March 12th and fled to Malta, the Maltese government confirmed, on a stopover toward a reported destination of Germany.

Zeidan fled his country immediately following a vote of no confidence which ended his roughly one-and-a-half-year term as prime minister of the North African country. The hasty departure of the ex-diplomat rendered moot any attempts to arrest him.

Zeidan, who during his term as prime minister was once kidnapped and held for hours by armed militants, failed in recent days to stop rebels in the country’s east from controlling the sale of crude oil there. In spite of armed forces loyal to the government ensuring that a tanker called “Morning Glory” remained in harbor in Al-Sidra – the city has been held for months it left port and escaped flying a North Korean flag.

Back in Tripoli the blunder turned the mood in the provisional parliament against Zeidan. The subsequent no confidence vote was later criticized by Libyan media as a “trick” on the former prime minister.

Rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran now appears to be the winner in the war of nerves over the strategically vital oil harbors. Until July 2013 he was commander of the unit sent to protect the oil installations, explains Libya expert Amanda Kadlec of the Chatham House think tank in London.

“This gave him ease of access to all the port facilities throughout Libya”  

His supporters have occupied three terminals, she says, and he has called for a separate government for a portion of eastern Libya. It remains unclear how many fighters Jathran commands, but according to Kadlec, reports range anywhere from 800 to 20,000.

Numerous accounts confirm the reality that lawless bands, armed by NATO during the war with modern weapons and which include foreign and local Al-Qaeda and other jihadists, are carrying out daily bombings across the country in the struggle for local control. Tripoli itself has numerous armed militias controlling various sections of the capital.

The general picture in Libya is that of developing armed struggle between local tribal militias and the Brotherhood that controls the central government with leaders in the provinces of Cyrenaica and Fezzan seeking to break away from Tripoli.

Congress has summoned militias allied to the Brotherhood to the capital to try to prevent a coup. As a result, the main opposition party, the centre-right National Forces Alliance, has deserted Congress together with several smaller ethnic parties, leaving the Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party heading a government with crumbling authority.

The July 2013 coup in Egypt against Morsi has further weakened the government which had intended to support Morsi with finance from oil revenues.

Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias who act outside the law, demand bribes for services and help perpetrate rampant corruption. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June last year and a further 44 were killed in Tripoli on 8th September.

The unreported Libyan diaspora

Prior to the 2011 “revolution” Libya had a population of 5,613,380 of whom roughly 2 million are now either internally displaced in camps or outside of the country. Official statistics suggest that 1.2million are now living in Tunisia, 400,000 in Egypt and 30,000 in Chad with others scattered around the world. We hear virtually nothing in our media about this and very little about the deteriorating situation inside Libya.

Libya exports terrorism

According to the New York Times, 13th June 2013, some of the more militant Islamic factions are now fighting in Syria and arms for the Islamic groups are coming from Libya.

However, Qaddafi’s assertion in 2011 that the rebels included Al-Qaeda groups was dismissed by the Western media. Prior to the conflict Al-Qaeda sympathisers had trained in Afghanistan then, on their return to Libya, started a bombing campaign. This led to arrests and imprisonments but ACCOR they were let out on amnesty largely according to the Amnesty 2010 report on Libya due to the influence of Qaddafi’s son Salif.

Though the NATO intervention against Qaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Qaddafi’s tanks and planes would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has chosen to ignore the continuing and escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.

The strikers in the eastern region Cyrenaica, which contains most of Libya’s oil, are part of a broader movement seeking more autonomy and blaming the government for spending oil revenues in the west of the country. Foreigners have mostly fled Benghazi since the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the US consulate by jihadi militiamen in September 2012.

Violence has worsened since then with Libya’s military prosecutor Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar, in charge of investigating assassinations of politicians, soldiers and journalists, himself assassinated by a bomb in his car on 29 August last year.

Rule by local militias is also spreading anarchy around the capital. Ethnic Berbers, whose militia led the assault on Tripoli in 2011, temporarily took over the parliament building in Tripoli. The government called on the Supreme Security Committee, made up of former anti-Qaddafi militiamen nominally under the control of the interior ministry, to restore order.

At least 19 prisoners received gunshot shrapnel wounds, with one inmate saying “they were shooting directly at us through the metal bars”. There have been several mass prison escapes this year in Libya including 1,200 escaping from a prison after a riot in Benghazi in July.

The Interior Minister, Mohammed al-Sheikh, resigned last year in frustration at being unable to do his job, saying in a memo sent to Mr Zeidan that he blamed him for failing to build up the army and the police. He accused the government, which is largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of being weak and dependent on tribal support.

Other critics point out that a war between two Libyan tribes, the Zawiya and the Wirrshifana, is going on just 15 miles from the Prime Minister’s office.

 the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back

The surrounding area both Sudan and Mali and of course Syria have been greatly affected by Qaddafi’s fall. There has been civil wars in Mali and conflict in the Sudan. Al Qaeda has used Libya as a training ground for sending combatants into Syria.

In the rocky mountains and uncovered wastes of south-western Libya, al-Qaeda’s North African branch has established a haven after French and West African forces drove them out of their fledgling Islamic state in northern Mali a year ago.

Now, according to interviews with local soldiers, residents, officials and Western diplomats, it is restocking weapons and mining disaffected minorities for new recruits as it prepares to re-launch attacks.

It is an al-Qaeda pattern seen around the world, in hot spots such as Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan and increasingly in North Africa: seemingly defeated, the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back – pointing to the extreme difficulties involved in countering their growth and influence.

On Saturday January 18th 2014, a group of heavily armed fighters stormed an air force base outside the city of Sabha in southern Libya, expelling forces loyal to the “government” of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, and occupying the base. This report has been confirmed by the Saudi Gazette in an article dated 22nd January:

“The Tamenhint air base 30 km northeast of Sebha is reported to be back in pro-Qaddafi hands after Tebu forces from Murzuk who were guarding it withdrew. They unilaterally pulled out Monday evening [Jan. 20] claiming that the government was deliberately exploiting clashes in Sebha between Tebus and Awlad Sulaiman in order to divert attention from moves to replace it with a new administration.”

At the same time, reports from inside the country began to trickle in that the green flag of the Jamahiriya was flying over a number of cities throughout the country.  Despite the dearth of verifiable information – the government in Tripoli has provided only vague details and corroboration – one thing is certain: the war for Libya continues.

Since mid-January forces that remain allied with the former Jamahiriya political and economic system set up by Qaddafi have taken control of several cities and towns in the south. Clashes have also been reported around the capital of Tripoli, where nationalist forces have fought pitched battles with militias and military forces backed by the GNC regime. (Libya Herald, 20th Jan)

These developments have prompted French Admiral Edouard Gillard in the Washington post to appeal for a fresh NATO intervention.

Dissatisfaction is growing among the Libyan population. Once the most prosperous nation in Africa, with a standard of living that exceeded several European countries, the conditions inside the country have drastically deteriorated since 2011. The decline in living standards, the failure of the regime to rein in the militias that terrorize the population, the collapse of the oil industry and widespread corruption have drawn broad criticism, even among the favoured elites.

Another decree issued in January prohibits scholarship students and public employees from speaking out against the conditions prevailing in Libya. According to AllAfrica.com:

“It calls on Libyan embassies abroad and others to draw up lists of names and refer them to the Prosecutor General for prosecution.”

What is certain is that unrest will continue for some considerable time and the civilians who NATO and the UN Security Council resolution 1973 was meant to protect will be those that suffer the most and it is almost certain that the world will continue to turn a blind eye. 

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Mar 282014
 

libyatankpic-nggid03917-ngg0dyn-380x260x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the second part of a new four article series.

As in the whole of the Middle East human rights abuses were of considerable concern under the Jamahiriya Government. The Amnesty International Report in 2010 in its introduction makes the following point:

“Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed and the authorities showed little tolerance of dissent. Critics of the government’s human rights record were punished. Former detainees at Guantánamo Bay returned to Libya by US authorities continued to be detained; one died in custody, apparently as a result of suicide.

“Foreign nationals suspected of being in the country irregularly, including refugees and asylum-seekers, were detained and ill-treated. An official investigation began into the killing of prisoners at Abu Salim Prison in 1996 but no details were disclosed and some of the victims’ relatives who had campaigned for the truth were arrested.

“Hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance and other serious human rights violations committed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s remained unresolved, and the Internal Security Agency (ISA), implicated in those violations, continued to operate with impunity.”

What Amnesty fails to report however, is that health services and education were available to a high standard to everyone, food and electricity was heavily subsidised, all the population had been housed and the position of women in society was better than anywhere else in the Middle East or Africa, and in many ways better than many Western countries. The situation in Libya was also far from straightforward.

Numbers of men, particularly from Benghazi, had gone to Afghanistan to the Al-Qaeda training camps then returned to Libya and started a bombing campaign. The largest grouping of Al-Qaeda prior to the conflict fighting in Iraq came from Benghazi.

According to West Point authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman,

“Saudi Arabia took first place as regards absolute numbers of jihadists sent to combat the United States and other coalition members in Iraq during the time frame in question. Libya, a country less than one fourth as populous, took second place. Saudi Arabia sent 41% of the fighters.”

According to Felter and Fishman,

“Libya was the next most common country of origin, with 18.8% (112) of the fighters listing their nationality stating they hailed from Libya.”

Other much larger countries were far behind:

“Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common origin countries with 8.2% (49), 8.1% (48), and 7.2% (43), respectively. Moroccans accounted for 6.1% (36) of the records and Jordanians 1.9% (11).”

This means that almost one fifth of the foreign fighters entering Iraq across the Syrian border came from Libya, a country of just over 6 million people. A higher proportion of Libyans were interested in fighting in Iraq than any other country contributing mujahedin. Felter and Fishman point out:

“Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia.”

“But since the Al Qaeda personnel files contain the residence or hometown of the foreign fighters in question, we can determine that the desire to travel to Iraq to kill Americans was not evenly distributed across Libya, but was highly concentrated precisely in those areas around Benghazi.” ( See chart below from the West Point report, page 9 )

Report

Unsurprisingly, Qaddafi and his government saw them as a threat to the stability of Libya. Apart from the sanctions, this was a major reason why Qaddafi came to the agreement with the West which was facilitated by Tony Blair.

None of this excuses the human rights abuses, but does put them in a wider context.

What can be said is that for the majority of people in Libya, life was good; however, if you went against the regime, watch out.

Though human rights violations in Libya under Qaddafi were bad, what followed in the wake of the so called ‘revolution’ far outstripped the human rights abuses of his time.

Armed militias continue to commit serious human rights abuses with impunity, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and unlawful killings. Thousands of people suspected of formerly supporting or fighting for Qaddafi’s government remained detained without charge or trial and with no means of remedy. The most famous of these is Salif Al-Islam, Qaddafi’ second son, who is still being held by one of the militias in Zinan.

Tens of thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in areas perceived to have supported Qaddafi in 2011 remain internally displaced and continue to be at risk of revenge attacks and other abuses. Undocumented foreign nationals faced arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, exploitation and torture or other ill-treatment.

Human Rights Watch recently posited the possible reasons for Libya’s current lawlessness. In a dispatch posted on 20th October 2013, Human Rights Watch described mass executions carried out by Libyan rebel groups on the day of Qaddafi’s death. In the days that followed, HRW gathered hard evidence of the executions and of who was responsible, which it presented to transitional authorities shortly afterward; to date, no investigation has been carried out.

“The failure to investigate systematic executions helped set the stage for the militia lawlessness in Libya today,” wrote Fred Abrahams, special advisor to HRW’s program office.

“Impunity for those and subsequent crimes sent the message that Libya’s armed groups stand above the law.”

Law 38 granted amnesty to those who committed crimes if their actions were aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution” against Qaddafi.

On the 23rd October 2013 Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, stated that:

“two years after the conflict, Tawarghas and other displaced communities are still waiting for justice and effective reparations for the abuses they have suffered. Many continue to face discrimination and live in under-resourced camps with no solution in sight.”

Human rights Watch in their 2013 report have said:

“As of October, roughly 8,000 people were in detention. The majority of them were held for more than a year without charge or due process rights, including judicial review and access to a lawyer. The Ministry of Justice holds around 3,000 detainees, around 2,000 are held by the Ministry of Defence or Supreme Security Committee. The rest were being held illegally by various armed groups.’’

Given that most of the country is being run by militias the figures are likely to be in reality much higher.

Conditions in militia-run facilities varied, with detainees in some facilities reporting repeated torture and deaths in custody. Conditions in state-run facilities appeared to improve, although there continued to be cases of abuse and some deaths in custody.

Following rising violence the Interior Minister Mohamed Khalifa al Sheikh resigned in August last year

Non-Libyans from sub-Saharan Africa, mainly migrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, facing harassment, arrests, ill-treatment in detention, forced labour and no regulated access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sporadic armed confrontations between militias across the country have caused hundreds of deaths; the victims included children and other civilians not involved in the fighting. Impunity remained entrenched, both for gross human rights violations committed in the past and for ongoing human rights abuses by armed militias.

Amnesty UK Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Libya Researcher, reported the following:

The authorities have failed to break the stranglehold of the militias. Hundreds of armed militias that fought against Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s repressive regime now pose the greatest threat to human rights in Libya.

“In 2012, our researchers visited the country and found evidence of a catalogue of abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, unlawful killings and forcible displacement. All are casting a shadow over post-revolution Libya.

“Torture is rife in Libya. It is carried out not just by military and security entities but also armed militia groups operating outside of legal frameworks.

“When our researchers visited 11 detention facilities in central and western Libya used by various militias, there was only one facility in which detainees did not report torture and ill treatment. In ten, detainees showed us injuries resulting from recent abuse.

“At least eleven people detained by militias have been tortured to death.

“So far, not one person has been brought to justice for these human rights violations. There have been no effective investigations into cases of torture and deaths in custody.” 

Following rising violence the Interior Minister Mohamed Khalifa al Sheikh resigned in August last year. Some 500 prisoners in Tripoli jail undertook a hunger strike to protest being held for two years without charges. When the government ordered the Supreme Security Committee to restore order, they began shooting prisoners through the bars. Where was the outcry from the West? In July 1200 prisoners escaped a jail after a riot in Benghazi. In short, lawlessness and anarchy is spreading

The position of women

Whilst Islamic law established almost equal rights for women in relation to divorce for the past 1,400 years, under the Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya Government the rights of women became greatly enhanced. Women were granted equal rights to men with many younger women in the cities wearing western clothes and thirty percent were in employment, which compared well with many other Middle Eastern countries.

Women were also increasingly seen driving, shopping and travelling without husbands or male companions, a practice which is forbidden in some countries in the Middle East. Child brides were banned and the minimum legal age to marry placed at 18. Women became lawyers, judges, aircraft pilots, army commanders and Ministers in the Government. It has been suggested that women had a stronger position in Libya than in any country in the world. By all accounts, the rights of women have taken a severe setback since the destruction of Jamahiriya, particularly in areas held by Al Qaeda.

Religion

According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 report, attacks against religious minorities started in October 2011, and intensified in 2012. Armed groups motivated by their religious views attacked Sufi religious sites across the country, destroying several mosques and tombs of Sufi religious leaders. Armed groups attacked churches in at least two incidents in Tripoli in May and September. The government’s security forces have failed to stop the attacks and have made no significant arrests.

Ethnic displacement

Amnesty International has said that a total around 65,000 people are internally displaced across Libya, not just Tawarghas, but members of the Mashashya tribe from the Nafusa Mountains, residents of Sirte and Bani, Walid, and Tuaregs from Ghadames too.

The Tawarghas, ethnic black Libyans, are among those who have suffered the most. More than 1,300 Tawarghas are estimated to be missing, detained or were subjected to enforced disappearances, mainly in Misratah. Most were seized by militias and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, such as electric shocks, whipping and beatings with metal bars or water pipes in detention.

Amnesty International has asked the Libyan authorities to investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and indiscriminate torture, including of victims perceived as pro-al Qaddafi. 

The European Union (EU), last year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and its member states have been assisting the Libyan authorities in tightening border security and developing “an integrated border management strategy” in order to curb “illegal migration” to Europe at the expense of human rights. Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the EU to fully protect the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and put in place a satisfactory system for assessing and recognising claims for international protection.

Migrants in Libya are often perceived to be a threat to national security. Since May 2012, the Libyan authorities have deported 25,000 persons.

“EU funding should be used to promote and protect human rights in Libya, especially while the country is still recovering from a recent armed conflict and confronted with a legacy of abuse,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui from Amnesty International has said.

“It is deeply troubling that EU funds appear have been used to support detention centres where thousands of foreign nationals are unlawfully held.  Asylum-seekers and refugees who are entitled to international protection and should only be detained because of their status in the most exceptional circumstances are among those routinely detained and abused in detention.”

Libya’s immigration detention practices not only violate the country’s international obligations under refugee and human rights law and standards, but they are also at odds with EU human rights obligations as well as EU standards concerning the detention and return of third country nationals.

Libya’s Constitutional Declaration, adopted in 2011, declares that the “state shall guarantee the right of asylum by virtue of the law”. It is urgent the authorities translate this principle into real action and adopt legislation establishing a national asylum system.

Amnesty International has urged the EU, and member states, not to enter into further agreements on migration control with Libya until the government demonstrates that it respects Human Rights.

Thousands of people deemed to have entered Libya “irregularly” have been held in detention for months before their deportation, without access to a lawyer or the ability to challenge their forcible removal and/or detention.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui from Amnesty International (AI) has said:

“The Libyan authorities must amend their legislation by setting a maximum detention period pending deportation for migrants.”

AI also found evidence that the Libyan authorities have resumed deporting foreign nationals diagnosed with infections such as hepatitis or HIV after compulsory medical tests were introduced earlier this year. No individual should be deported on the grounds of their medical condition. Hassiba continued:

“Reintroducing compulsory testing for foreign nationals and deportation on the ground of their health status amounts to scapegoating them and only proves how inadequate Libya’s public health policies are.”

At the time of AI’s investigation a total of 5,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants were held in 17 “holding centres” under the Ministry of Interior, in addition to an unknown number of detainees held by militias. AI’s delegates also met a small number of unaccompanied children, sometimes as young as 10, who had been detained in at least three “holding centres” for months.

Many of the “holding centres” visited had extremely poor hygiene standards exposing those held there to the risk of disease, including chest infections and chronic diarrhoea.  At the “holding centre” in Sabha, where some 1,300 were being held last May, detainees were held in filthy, overcrowded rooms.

The prison also lacked a functioning sewage system – and piles of garbage filled the corridors. Around 80 detainees – who complained of itchiness on their hands and genitals, suggesting a scabies infection – were held in a courtyard in the sun as treatment, but became dehydrated due to extended exposure to sun.

Denying detainees proper medical care is inexcusable. Libya’s government must show the world it is serious about protecting the rights of all individuals in Libya, whatever their status and nationality.

To date, NATO, which waged the air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, has failed to investigate properly at least 72 civilian casualties caused by its airstrikes. The UN Commission into Libya also received written reports from the authorities stating that NATO launched about 3,000 airstrikes on several civilian and military targets in Libya. According to the same unverified reports, these strikes resulted in the death of 500 civilians and 2,000 injured.

The same reports stated that NATO had targeted schools, universities, mosques, and others civilian locations. According to the same sources, 56 schools and three universities were directly hit by these strikes. Furthermore, it is claimed that NATO airstrikes have resulted in the closure of 3,204 schools, leaving 437,787 students without access to education.

Security Council members that initially championed resolution 1970 referring Libya to the ICC have been largely silent on Libya’s obligation under that resolution to cooperate with the court.

The Truth About Libya: NATO Crimes & Mass Media Lies Exposed! Reported by Russia Today in 2011.

Though some of the people in Libya have benefited for the majority life has turned into nothing short of a nightmare.

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