‘La Jungla’, después de la batalla

Europe

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El desmantelamiento de parte del campamento de refugiados en Calais (Francia) se percibe, nada más poner un pie en el embarrado descampado, por el olor a chamusquina de las chabolas devoradas por las llamas después de los primeros altercados con la policía, y por el ruido de las palancas y sierras que los operarios utilizan para tirar abajo las cabañas.

Cada día desde primera hora de la mañana, trabajadores de la Oficina Francesa de Migración e Integración (OFFI) y de la Prefectura acuden al asentamiento guiados con un mapa que disecciona la zona sur de ‘La Jungla’, apodo con el que se conoce a este lugar, en pequeños pedacitos para ver qué zona toca desmantelar. En esta ocasión, se trata del refugio de una familia iraní que se sube al techo de su chabola con mantas para evitar el desalojo. La policía rodea la zona y espera que la familia desista en su intento. Al día siguiente, no hay rastro de su cabaña.

Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) apunta que muchos inmigrantes se están marchando a otros campamentos cercanos que “están en peores condiciones” en la costa entre Calais y Dunkerque, 44 km de distancia. Se teme que se destruya una ‘jungla’ pero se reproduzca en otros sitios. “Los desalojos no solucionarán la crisis de los refugiados sino que el problema se extenderá a otros puntos de Francia”, alerta Pascal Frohely de la ONG francesa Secours Catholique.

Una de las opciones que ofrecen las autoridades francesas a los afectados es mudarse a contenedores prefabricados, instalados en una zona del campamento con capacidad para 1.500 personas. En una de estas caravanas metálicas vive ahora Abdalá con su hijo y 10 personas más. “Las condiciones no son buenas porque aquí sólo podemos dormir. No nos dejan cocinar, no hay duchas y los servicios son insuficientes”, se queja este afgano mientras se lava los dientes con una botella de agua.

El recinto no cuenta con ningún punto de agua pero sí con fuertes medidas de seguridad. “Es como una prisión. La zona está cercada con vallas y controlada por agentes y cámaras 24 horas”, explica Pierre Calina de MSF.

Muchos de los refugiados se niegan a vivir en estos contenedores no sólo por sus carencias básicas sino porque para entrar y salir del recinto se les piden sus huellas dactilares como método de identificación y temen que si consiguen saltar a Reino Unido, las autoridades británicas los devolverán a Francia por estar registrados.

Las lonas de casi todas las chabolas tienen grafitis reivindicativos siendo el más repetido We just want to go to England” (Sólo queremos ir a Inglaterra). La mayoría de los habitantes de ‘La Jungla’ viven en el campamento porque su objetivo es llegar a Reino Unido, y Calais es la puerta de entrada desde donde intentar pasar escondidos en camiones que cruzan diariamente el canal de la Mancha en ferries y trenes por el Eurotunnel.

Al final del día, los autobuses fletados por el gobierno francés se marchan casi vacíos del asentamiento tras esperar a ver cuántos refugiados aceptan subirse para ser llevados a otros centros de acogida, repartidos por el país en ciudades como Montpellier o Toulouse a más de 900 km de Calais.

Kamal no tiene tiempo para viajes. Llegó hace tres meses y está inmerso en la construcción de una chabola en la zona norte de ‘La Jungla’. “Tengo una cabaña en la parte sur pero creo que en una semana van a derribarla así que tengo que estar preparado”, dice.

Kamal se pasa toda la mañana llevando palés de madera con una carretilla al nuevo terreno que tiene cercado y listo para construir. Cuando llegó a Calais levantó su primera cabaña convirtiendo un trozo de lodazal en un refugio bien armado y aislado. Tiene hasta un ciervo de plástico en miniatura que cuelga de una de las paredes como decoración, además de contar con una cocina camping gas, asientos de madera y una estufa casera fabricada con un barril.

“No voy a abandonar ahora que sólo queda hacer un pequeño esfuerzo para llegar a Reino Unido”, comenta Kamal. Su viaje hasta Calais lo empezó hace tres años cuando tuvo que huir de Sudán. Cruzó la frontera con Chad sobornando a unos soldados con 500 dólares, después llegó a Libia donde pagó a traficantes 600 para llevarlo a Siria, 200 para llegar a Turquía y 1.000 para cruzar en barco a las islas griegas. “Aquí me quedé sin dinero pero conseguí un trabajo en negro durante un año hasta que ahorré para venir a Calais”, recuerda Kamal.

La situación se ha tensado tanto en esta primera semana de desahucios que 10 iraníes se han cosido los labios y puesto en huelga de hambre, pocas horas después de que sus chabolas fueran destruidas. Aseguran que mantendrán la protesta hasta que se paren los desalojos y piden que un representante de la Oficina de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas visite el campamento.

Los mensajes y conversaciones de los habitantes de La Jungla se han vuelto más duras y críticas con su actual país de acogida. “Pensé que Francia era un país de libertad, igualdad y fraternidad pero ¿qué ha quedado de los principios de la Revolución Francesa?”, se pregunta uno de ellos.

Mientras el día a día sigue en este campamento, se escucha la llamada al rezo para los musulmanes, las tiendas siguen con sus negocios al mismo tiempo que los equipos de limpieza continúan trabajando para derribar a mano chabola a chabola. Uno de los refugiados que contempla a los operarios hace la pregunta que está en boca de todos estos días: “¿es este el final de ‘La Jungla’?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March For England Embraces Brighton

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Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 11.06.02Every year on the first Sunday after St George´s Day (23 April), the March for England takes place in Brighton. Some people mark it in the calendar as a celebration of English patriotism, others cross it as a racist and fascist event.

It brings to the city, nationalists from across England to march, local anti-racists and anti-fascists groups to counter-protest and the security forces from all around the country to keep both groups apart and avoid violent clashes.

This year, about 200 people have taken part in the main nationalist march and between 400 to 500 counter-protesters have turned out to oppose them, welcoming them with the musical rhythm of Black is Black and several banners saying ‘Racists are not welcome here.’

One of those banners is held by a young girl on the seafront, who prefers not to be named. She says without taking her eyes off the march, “everything they say about being not racist or facist, is a complete lie. You can look at what they write on Internet and forums. This is just a front for their very racist and violent groups. They are not welcome in Brighton and they come here purely to rile people because they know this is a multicultural and liberal city.”

A few meters from where the girl stands, Mark Able hands out flyers against the march and copies of the Socialist Worker newspaper. He defines the event as “a horrible, racist and facist march that we keep having to put up with every year in Brighton even though very few Brighton people, if any, want it here. They come down and try to intimidate people but we always get a good turn out of anti-fascists and anti-racists.

John, who takes part in the march wearing a St George’s Cross flag as a cape, opposes and rejects all that has been said above. He explains, “the March for England is a day to highlight traditional values, cultural heritage and to remember the past. It is a celebration day”.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much joy and celebration. Hundreds of security personnel confine the nationalists inside a line of police, then police vans, and mounted policemen create another circle and finally, barriers are displayed along the seafront to separate both groups as much apart as possible.

Michelle Banks, all dressed up in white and red colours, says “I come down to Brighton from Somerset every year and used to do it with my kids, but not anymore as the confrontation has become worse”.

When asked, why not march somewhere else where they could do so without such opposition she responds, “the opposition we find makes me to want to come to Brighton even more. It is a free country and it is our right.”

In the city there is general consensus to reject this march. The main parties in the city held a meeting weeks before the event took place calling to ban or move the march somewhere else. Their message was clear. ”Please, don´t come here. It is not about politics. Your union does not represent our city and you are causing trouble”, affirms Lianne De Mello, from the Green Party.

Parties and community groups state that the march only causes problems for residents, intimidating the diverse communities of Brighton, disruptions for tourists, businesses and public transport, as the march takes place in the city centre. Last year, the police operation alone cost £500,000.

The stand that the police have taken is to maintain the same route as previous years. “The police keep them confined to one place in order to control them and limit the amount of trouble that can be caused. They march and then they head back to the train station and leave the city at the end of the day until the next year”, concludes De Mello.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Promesas de Tierra’, música que no entiende de conflictos

Middle EAst

Músicos de Promesas de Tierra

El sonido del qanun que toca el palestino Ali Amr se mezcla con la melodía de la flauta dulce de la israelí Tali Rubinstein y el violín del jordano Layth Al-Rubaye. Unos segundos más tarde se unen los sonidos de la guitarra española y el zapateao flamenco. El resultado es ‘Promesas de Tierra’, un disco que no entiende de fronteras, en el que se fusionan la cultura sefardita, cristiana y andalusí.

Músicos de Jordania, España, Israel y Palestina, que fueron o son todavía alumnos en la prestigiosa Escuela de Música de Berklee, se han reunido bajo la batuta de Javier Limón, productor de discos como Lágrimas negras, y director artístico del Instituto Mediterráneo de Música en Berklee.

Es un proyecto que abre la ventana a una nueva propuesta sonora, que se apoya en la diversidad cultural. “Mientras los judíos aportan la organizacion, el arreglo y la armonía, los palestinos aportan lo contrario, la improvisación y la melodía. Es bonito y curioso juntar estas dos culturas, una tan dedicada y respetuosa con lo que se ha pactado como la sefardí, y otra tan loca y dada a la improvisación como la árabe”, explica Limón desde Republica Dominicana donde se encuentra impartiendo una clase magistral.

‘Promesas de Tierra’ ha dado la oportunidad de ver una imagen no muy frecuente, israelís y palestinos tocando juntos. El productor español afirma “estos chicos empiezan a ser de las primeras generaciones liberadas de los prejuicios que tanto alejan a sus predecesores”.

Entre este grupo de músicos destaca Ali Amr, joven palestino que empezó a tocar el qanun a los seis años, mostrando a una edad temprana su virtuosidad con este instrumento y con el cante. Ha viajado por todo el mundo con su música, pero este disco le ha brindado una oportunidad única. “En Palestina, nunca podemos tocar con músicos de Israel debido al problema político. Este ha sido uno de los pocos proyectos que me han permitido tocar con ellos”, explica Amr.

Tali Rubinstein también empezó a tocar a una edad temprana, 12 años. Durante el servicio militar, obligatorio para hombres y mujeres en Israel, continuó su pasión por la música.y formó parte de la banda musical de la Fuerza Aérea.

Rubinstein cuenta que fue un poco raro al principio tocar con alguien de Palestina, “nunca antes había tocado con un palestino. No había tenido la oportunidad ni si quiera de conocer a ninguno hasta que llegué a Boston para estudiar en la escuela de música. Y esto me hizo pensar qué extraño que somos de la misma región pero nunca había conocido a nadie de allí. Entiendo el porqué pero fue extraño que no hubiera pasado antes”.

Limón afirma que muchas veces la mejor música es resultado de un gran dolor, “hoy en día, algunos de los mejores músicos provienen de Oriente Próximo, una de las partes del mundo más conflictiva”.

Promesas de Tierra es un proyecto que muestra que la música no entiende de conflictos  y que, en cambio, ayuda a construir puentes entre pueblos enfrentados.

Como recita la caratula del álbum, “estos chicos son las promesas de una tierra prometida”.

“It is easier to be a journalist in Syria than in Egypt”

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The number of reports of arrests, harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists in Egypt, as well as, violent attacks, has increased considerably in recent months. Therefore some could argue that media has become one of the main targets of the Egyptian government.

“The latest salvo in a propaganda campaign by the state-run and pro-military news media” in Egypt is a leaked video showing the arrest of two journalists in December 2013, reports The New York Times concluding that “the goal is to paint the arrested journalists as part of a terrorist conspiracy”. Both journalists shown in the video are established correspondents who were working for the English language affiliate of Al Jazeera.

Peter Greste, is one of Al-Jazeera journalists detained on suspicion of broadcasting false news in the service of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. He sent a letter from prison asking “how you do accurately and fairly report on Egypt’s ongoing political struggle without talking to everyone involved. (…) The state will not tolerate hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other critical voices. The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government.”

Many professional associations and media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and others, have condemned the arrests and called the Egyptian government to put an end to their “arbitrary imprisonment” of journalists that are seen as spies or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Egyptians see a journalist as a traitor, someone who has an agenda and plot to destroy the country. The situation has deteriorated to the point that walking in the street with a camera is one of the most dangerous things”, explains Sergi Cabeza, a Spanish freelance journalist who has covered the Egyptian revolution since its beginning, during an interview.

Journalists working in Cairo denounce the hostility and violent attacks they suffer not only from the security forces, but increasingly from civilians. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, correspondent for Democracy Now in Egypt, tells the story of an Italian journalist friend who was “surrounded by an angry mob that set upon him with fists and sticks after a man began screaming that he was a member of Al Jazeera”.

Cabeza says, “it is easier to work as a journalist in Syria than in Egypt, at least it was before journalists faced to be kidnap.” He explains, “in Syria, the threat is a bomb, but you can walk in the street with a camera and you can interview anyone without being attacked. However, in Egypt you face huge hostility from the society.”

The government and its supporters say foreign media are distorting the situation in Egypt, which they argue is on the path to democracy. The Egyptian authorities have always sent the message that they seek a broad consensus, hearing and representing all the voices of society, in particular since they deposed Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last summer.

But the reports from Egypt claim that even tourists who take a picture of the Nile can be taken to the local police station because someone has confused them with journalists and reported them to the Egyptian authorities.

These incidents are just some among many that journalists in Cairo can tell. Kouddous says that these acts against media professionals “are direct result of a state-sponsored vilification campaign against journalists in general, and Al Jazeera in particulars.”

With the new anti-terrorist law, journalists are now prohibited from having or disseminating Muslim Brotherhood publications or recordings and face a possible five-year jail sentence if they violate the ban. “This prohibition and the arbitrary arrests of media personnel constitute grave threats to freedom of information in Egypt,” affirms Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Media professionals asked the Egyptian Minister of Information if interviewing a member of the Muslim Brotherhood would be considered a crime but they have not received a clear answer, although some examples incline the scale to an affirmative answer. A Dutch Journalist fled Egypt after she was accused of “fabricating news” and being member of a terrorist plot, reports The Guardian. She states that she was targeted because of meeting Aljazeera journalists in Cairo.

Where the country is heading is not very optimistic. Cairo Institute for Human Rights reports that during the referendum coverage in January the Egyptian media “have stigmatised those who hold opinions that differ from their own” and “deliberately abandoned standards of diversity and balance, choosing instead to wholeheartedly support and leaving no space for opposition or ambivalent voices.”

The Egyptian regime has silenced those voices that are critical and dissident and allowed only those that support its actions. These practices towards media and journalists remind of the ones used in another conflicts such as Yugoslavia, where divisions in society aggravated and moderate and minority voices were excluded. Cabeza defines that the current situation is seen by the Egyptian regime as a picture in black and white, “either you are with us or you are against us.”

Article published on Media Diversity Institute

Egyptian regime accused of crimes against humanity at The Hague

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Protest in EgyptMore than 3,000 km away from Tahrir Square, a testimony  from a witness of a protest in Cairo was being read out. “I saw the bulldozer run over 20 or 30 people. I was shouting and screaming telling the police to stop. The bulldozer did not stop (…) The policemen were shooting into a crowd of hundreds of people. We all started running away in a massive panic. I saw many people  getting injured. I saw many people  getting shot at this time”.

This is an extract from one of the testimonies that a group of lawyers have submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as evidences to accuse the Egyptian regime of crimes against humanity.

Tayab Ali, who is one of the lawyers that leads the case, explained during a press conference in London that they accuse the military regime of “murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, persecution against an identifiable group and enforced dsappearece of persons”.

In total, they have verified 1.120 people killed since the military coup on 3rd July 2013 but they are in the process of investigating more killings so it is expected a higher number.

The international team of lawyers called for the ICC to investigate allegations of widespread and systematic acts against civilians. “If the state does nothing, then the ICC will exercise its jurisdition to show that there is not a gap that perpetrators can slip out of. Impunity will not rein”, said the lawyer Rodney Dixon.

The complaint presented to the ICC identifies individuals from the Egyptian regime accused of these acts, but their names have not been realised to the public.

It is unclear how far they will be able to go with this accusation as Egypt does not recognise ICC jurisdiction.  The team stated that the ICC can act if it receives a declaration from the government. They state that Morsi government  remains the lawful and democratically elected government of Egypt and they have issued that declaration to permit ICC to investigate.

The lawyers also stated that all different parties involved could be investigated. “It is not limited to a particular group. It is for the prosecutor to decide who  will investigate and it is posible that the jurisdiction could extend before the start of the coup”, stated Dixon.

While back in Egypt, the gap within the Egyptian society keeps widening. Some collect firms for General Abdulfattah al-Sisi to run for presidency while others call for the restablishment of Mohammed Morsi as a President, who in a few weeks will go on trial.

Brighton: the heart of independent and alternative shopping in the UK

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North Laine

‘Bizarre’, ‘quirky’ and ‘unique’ are the most common words heard in Upper Gardner Street when sellers describe what they have on display in the flea market in Brighton.

Passers-by can purchase wares from French 1895 vintage fabric to Victorian antiques. A 110-year-old clock, an 80-year-old wooden golf club and a shooting stick are some of the items on sale at John Magee’s stall.

John is one of the longest-standing sellers at this market, coming every weekend since he was a schoolboy. “It used to be much more crowded decades ago. Even during the Second World War, we still managed to sell stuff but when the war ended it got much better as people needed to buy many things”, John remembers. He is now 90 years old and still comes every Saturday to accompany his son who has taken over the business.

This flea market is located in the heart of the North Laine of Brighton; an area that “used to be narrow strips of farmland that was worth nothing. But today it has turned into a vibrant area with independent shops that you cannot find in another town”, explains the chair of North Laine Traders Association, David Sewell.

In the mile between Brighton Station and the Royal Pavilion Palace, there are more than 200 shops and 30 cafes; most of them locally run by their owners.

One of them is ‘Vegetarian Shoes’; a local shop that produces and sells the usual stuff as snow boots, trainers and sandals, but without using any animal material.

Christopher, who has worked at the shop for two years, says, “Brighton has an important veggie and vegan community. In the North Laine, there are 6 vegetarian cafes, a vegetarian supermarket and our veggie shop. We have many customers who come from across the country and Europe to shop here.”

A few metres down the street, there is another shop called ‘Cyber Candy’ that imports sweets from around the world to be sold in the UK. Among the sweets they sell there are South Korean cereal boxes and space freeze-dried strawberries, but its star product is the cheese and bacon crickets from California.

Ben Caton a regular customer of Cyber Candy explains, “there are things that you cannot find in the high street but only in Brighton where they have very creative, alternative and quirky stuff.”

‘Another night on Earth’ – a film about Egypt through conversations in taxis

Middle EAst

One of the things that characterises Cairo is its chaotic traffic and the constant noise of taxis’ horns as they try to snake through the streets. The taxis and Cairo are exactly where the film ‘Another Night on Earth’ takes place.

A taxi, a driver and passenger are the three main elements of this film that tells the story of ordinary Egyptians debating and arguing about the present and future of the country since the Revolution.  An uprising, that continues more alive than ever after the last protests that let the army to take over, ousts the President, Mohammed Morsi, and dissolves the Parliament.

The film captures the opinions of the passengers through conversations in taxis.  The director of the film, David Muñoz, chose this way to tell the story because “Egyptians spend so much time in taxis due to traffic jams and the taxis are private spaces that allow people to talk calmly with strangers”.

Despite the film being shot from May to September 2011, the same dialogues can be heard today in the streets of Egypt. One of the passengers stated, “If there is a new president and he makes a new constitution, and we are not convinced, we will carry on the protests. If there is no change, we will force him to resign”.

Another passenger asked, “Where is the revolution? This is not a revolution. Revolution means change at all levels and we are still the way we were at the start, or worse”.

Muñoz affirms, “there is a clear need for change embedded in the people that is irreversible. Everything that I recorded in 2011, I see  today. The problems they had in 2011, they still have in 2013”.

He shot 70 journeys where all kinds of people got into the taxis, including big families, women, children and men. They all talked about different topics, ranging from politics to social problems such as unemployment, education and health.

During one of the journeys, the taxi driver argues with two Muslim women about the protests in Tahrir Square.  While the driver criticised the impatience of the protesters that cannot wait for results, the women defended them – “Nobody wants to wait now, they want it all now, because of the lies and deception they have seen since birth. They never do what they say”.

Religion is also addressed in the film. A woman and a driver discussed the possibility of an Islamist government, forcing women to wear the hijab on the streets. The passenger highlights the right to choose and he thinks of his daughter as an example. “She is the one who has to decide if she wants to wear it or not. The normal thing is for everyone to make up their own minds”.

The 52- minute documentary focusses on the problems of ordinary Egyptians and stays away from the mainstream media discourse. Muñoz found himself fascinated by the Egyptian people “who are very extrovert and brave, who do not close their mouths, and who say what they think without second thoughts or fears which we have assimilated in the West”.

Article published on yourmiddleeast.com