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Kurdish activists begin hunger strike in London

20 Kurdish activists will be on hunger strike from the 13th to the 17th of March in protest against increasing repression in Turkey. 

Fedbir, the Kurdish Federation of the UK, will be staging the hunger strike on the northern terrace of Trafalgar Square, in parallel with similar actions which have been taking place within Turkey and across Europe.
 
Hundreds of prisoners in Turkish jails, including imprisoned members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party and other elected officials, have been on hunger strike since the end of February. The hunger strikes are a desperate plea to the Turkish government to halt the latest clampdown on Kurdish political organising and protest. In the last three years, over 8000 people - including elected MP’s mayors and local councillors, journalists, students, human rights activists, and academics - have been sent to prison in what Prime Minister Erdogan’s government refers to as counter-terrorism operations.
 
These operations constitute major violations of human rights. Arrests have been made over speeches, newspaper articles and poetic expression that support Kurdish rights in Turkey. Amnesty International has recently expressed its concern over the vague and broad anti-terror laws in Turkey. Turkey has defined terrorism not by actions and tactics but by political aims, which has led to thousands of individuals being prosecuted for membership of a terrorist organisation or for denigrating ‘Turkishness’.
 
The strikers are also demanding freedom for Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who is currently jailed on the prison island of Imrali in almost complete isolation and without access to lawyers since July 2011. 36 members of Abdullah Ocalan’s defence team were also arrested and imprisoned in December 2011.
 
 
For more information contact Fedbir, Kurdish Federation UK.
[email protected]

  • Written by Anita de Klerk
  • Category: Comment

The DPP’s war on ‘hooligan’ protestors.

commentDirector of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, today announced new guidelines in relation to prosecuting protesters. In short, he is attempting to distinguish between “good” and “bad” protestors.

  • Written by thestylishkidintheriot
  • Category: Comment

Radicalised by Tesco

Tesco Logo sppofTesco and companies like them have enormous power over the lives of their workers, and their behaviour shows that they can't be trusted writes Tesco worker Alex Francis.

  • Written by Alex Francis
  • Category: Comment

Comment: Social media and freedom of speech in universities

On Saturday 21st January 2012 the following email was sent to all students at the University of East Anglia (UEA):

A message to all UEA students from the Registrar and Secretary:

Facebook and other social media provide a wide range of valuable opportunities for you to find out about facilities available to you at UEA, enhance your learning through the exchange of ideas and views, comment on your UEA experiences and keep in touch with friends. However, you need to be aware that anything you post (however innocently intended) on your own blog, web page or on Facebook or similar sites, may, if it includes, for example, ill-judged views, inaccurate information, or personal remarks directed against others, be seen as potentially defamatory or libellous.

Any statement you publish may be legally actionable. Even comments which simply contain factual inaccuracies can potentially cause loss or damage to individuals or jeopardise their safety. You may be personally liable for the consequences.

You also need to remember that you remain subject to the University’s regulations covering acceptable standards of behaviour, the proper use of IT facilities, and harassment and bullying. In the event of a serious breach of these regulations, on Facebook or elsewhere, the University will not hesitate to take action which could lead amongst other things to withdrawal of your IT access, and to a fine or suspension (or even in the most extreme case to expulsion) under the University’s Code of Discipline for Students.

So, do think carefully before posting comments about others.

Brian Summers
Registrar and Secretary
UEA”

First let me put this email in context. It comes at a time when senior management at UEA are the subject of widespread criticism for their handling of the School of Music closure. The decision to close the school was arrived at via an internal review undertaken in secret having consulted with no Music staff or students. Then last week FOI requests for emails between members of senior management that referenced the closure were rejected on grounds of ‘public interest’ prompting renewed public criticism.

It is quite clear from the wording and tone of the email that this is no friendly warning but instead represents a clear threat to students: criticise us and we will do everything in our power to punish you, both through the universities internal disciplinary procedures and the courts.

This appears to be part of a continued campaign by British universities to silence political dissent on campus. At the end of last year Sheffield and Birmingham universities both applied for and were granted injunctions that prohibited protest on any part of their campus. Sheffield later withdrew the injunction after uproar from the student body and the wider public. However Birmingham’s still remains in force and has attracted widespread condemnation including from Amnesty International, Liberty and the Index on Censorship. Of course this email is not nearly as serious as these examples but is nonetheless evidence of a worrying trend.

The ability to debate, discuss and criticise is an integral part of the university experience for many students. Universities have a responsibility to facilitate and encourage such behaviour even if they are the subject of the debate, discussion and criticism. This point is well made in a Universities UK publication “Freedom Of Speech On Campus Rights And Responsibilities In UK universities.”:

This role in promoting debate extends also to relations with students. Students have always been at the forefront of protest movements and campaigns and for a number of students their time at university is the period when their thinking is challenged and re-shaped whether in relation to politics, religion or other areas. This is a valuable part of university education as it is precisely through exposure to a wide variety of views that students have the opportunity to develop important skills in the analysis and refutation of accepted ideas, positions and modes of behaviour.

Not only is this email evidence of UEA management failing in their responsibilities as advised by Universities UK (the representative organisation for the UK’s universities) but also potentially contravening Section 43 of the Education Act 1986 which provides that:

persons concerned in the government of any establishment... shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.”

Freedom of speech does not include the right of students to make offensive or personal attacks on members of staff and the university would be right to assert that to be the case. However that is not the message that this email is intended to convey. At a time when universities are the subject of massive reductions in Government spending (cheered on by Vice Chancellors rubbing their hands at the prospect of charging £9k for the ‘privilege’ of an education) senior management are inevitably going to be the subject of criticism from students desperate to defend their universities from course closures, redundancies and spending cuts. Any attempt to prevent dissent, whether it be through the banning of protest on campus or through threats against students engaged in critical discussion of university decisions, must be rejected if we are to preserve what is left of what it means to be part of a university community.

  • Written by Cal Corkery
  • Category: Comment

Len’s honest truth: recovery starts with ending austerity

megaphoneUnite general secretary Len McCluskey has come out all guns blazing against the Labour leadership’s ignominious collapse into Osbornomics. After a week in which whatever backbone the Labour frontbench once had crumbled, his intervention is vital – and entirely correct.

The economic case against the government’s spending cuts is simple. If government cuts its spending, demand in the economy falls. If demand falls, firms sell less. Firms that sell less make redundancies and cut wages. Demand falls further. The entire economy becomes locked into a vicious downward spiral. Cutting in a recession makes the recession worse.

This is the macroeconomic mechanism that has been known for at least 80 years. It’s what the great liberal economist John Maynard Keynes described, writing during the Great Depression – attacking George Osborne’s slash-and-burn ancestors.

Yet McCluskey has been attacked by George Eaton, writing at the New Statesman, for failing to recognise the “changed economic reality”. Until he does, Eaton warns, he will not be an “honest participant in the debate”.

Fine. Let’s take the Coalition’s terms of the debate as our starting point. Even if shrinking the debt was an absolute economic priority, it is economically illiterate to think this can be done through spending cuts. Take Greece – an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. Greece, at the end of 2009, had a national debt of 130 per cent of GDP. Two years of aggressive austerity have followed. Greece’s national debt is forecast, this year, to hit 189 per cent of GDP. By squeezing the economic life out of the country, austerity has made the debt problem worse, not better.

On a less dramatic scale, the same process is at work in Britain. The deficit is worsening because Britain is heading back into recession. And Britain is heading back into recession because the cuts are starting to tear demand out of the economy.

It is the failure of the Coalition’s economic policy that has got us here. That is the “new economic reality”. Osborne, Cameron and Clegg may lack the wit to see this themselves. But there is no reason for the rest of us to follow their delusions.

A programme for recovery should start with ending austerity. In a recession, government should be spending, not cutting. That means a programme public investment to create sustainable jobs and rebuild the economy, with the interests of workers and wider society at its heart.

The complete reverse of, in other words, the Coalition’s current efforts. We have a hard fight ahead. But a mass movement against austerity is there to be built.

  • Written by James Meadway
  • Category: Comment

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