Afghanistan: Hidden Voices from a Forgotten War

Few remember that the war on Afghanistan started a month after 9/11, and now, 18 years later it seems no closer to ended than the day it started.
A forgotten war, it is now the longest in US history and is estimated to have claimed 150,000 Afghan lives and a confirmed 455 British soldiers.
Afghanistan has been classified the most dangerous country in the world, while UN data indicates that more civilians are killed or injured due to armed conflict than anywhere else in the world.
But still there is hope inspired by grassroots actions and civil society organizing. Dr. Hakim, who is himself a source of hope, will tell about the positive things that are happening, in the midst of the horror of ongoing war at this public meeting In the Teacher’s Club on October 2nd.

Submission to Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality: Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process

Afri is an Irish justice and peace organisation based in Dublin. Afri’s goal is the promotion of global justice and peace, and the reduction of poverty; this includes, but is not limited to, the progressive reduction of global militarisation, and responding to the threat of climate change, corporate control of resources and water, and interference with food sovereignty.

As part of our promotion of global justice, we have in recent years focused on the shortcomings and failures of the Irish state’s system of receiving international protection applications. To this end, we have raised awareness of Direct Provision through our work in schools as part of the Global Citizenship initiative of Irish Aid.

In April 2017 Afri attended a presentation by MASI in the AV Room of Leinster House to members of the Oireachtas about the sudden introduction of a new 60-page questionnaire by the IPO (International Protection Office) sent simultaneously to thousands of asylum seekers in the Direct Provision system with a 20-day deadline to complete it – with legal advice. As this was clearly impossible for the vast majority, if not all, of the international protection applicants in Ireland issued with this deadline, it spread panic and dread among people already under stress from the strictures of living in the Direct Provision system that ties them to food and shelter in conditions over which they are given absolutely no say. After this presentation, we asked Donnah Vuma from Zimbabwe, who spoke movingly at that AV Room presentation, to be one of the leaders of our annual Afri Mayo Famine Walk from Louisburgh to Doolough, May 2017. This is what she said:-

I feel humbled and yet honoured to be here today. I have found it a challenge to say a few words.  But I remember those who walked this path before, the people who sacrificed their lives to seek relief for the masses of their village. They did not second-guess themselves, they took the challenge with swiftness, in the worst of weather and on empty stomachs with nothing but the will to survive.

In whatever part of the world we may be, we need to remember those that are treated with injustice and inequality for the sake of their political opinions, religion, race and gender. We also need to remember the thousands of families – including infants and the elderly fleeing war and violence in Syria who have to walk more than 1400 miles to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary in the hope of finding peace and a future. Above all, we need to remember those who sacrificed their lives fleeing on coffin ships or those who were condemned to workhouses during the great Irish Famine – An Gorta Mór.

People fleeing their homes, whether during the Famine in Ireland or the war in Syria have brought to mind the words of poet Warson Shire “No-one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”. Amongst us are those who I am here to represent. They have travelled from countries afar to seek refuge among us.

No-one puts their children on a boat unless the water is safer than the land. I stand in deep solidarity and respect with those that have made such courageous journeys in the past, present and unfortunately in the future, in the hopes of finding safety.

Unfortunately, Ireland has delegated the questionable system of Direct Provision to take care of those seeking asylum. Seeking asylum is by no means criminal, no one should be punished nor condemned for seeking asylum in another country, no one should serve what seems to be an unending sentence for a crime unknown to one.

It is not acceptable to have a safety net yet to live in constant fear and uncertainty of your future. It is painful to live a life in limbo, not to be able to prepare a meal for your children, to be denied the right to work to be able to provide even the bare necessities for your family .. to have your dignity taken away and to be restricted from contributing positively to a society or community that has welcomed you and shown you love.

Till this day, I pray for a better way. I can’t help but feel hopeless and heartbroken. In my heart, surrounded by masses of people, often in the same predicament, I feel all alone. I close my eyes and picture home. I can’t help but wonder and ask the questions:- is Direct Provision doing enough to address the needs of asylum seekers? Whom is the new International Protection Act intended to protect? Need this country of plenty witness yet another catastrophe? How many more people under Direct Provision should we see lose their sanity or spiral down into chronic illnesses before we say enough is enough”

  • Donnah Sibanda Vuma, of Zimbabwe, international protection applicant, residing for five years in Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre, Meelick, County Clare, managed under contract to RIA (Reception and Integration Agency) by international corporation Aramark, at the Afri Mayo Famine Walk, May 2017.

It is to be noted with alarm that many international protection applicants who submitted their cases around that time – May-June-July 2017 – without getting legal advice in order to comply with the 20-day deadline printed emphatically in bold on the official letter they received, are about now or in the near future, if they’ve suffered rejection of their application, grappling with threats of deportation.

This historical violation of applicants’ UN-guaranteed rights has never been satisfactorily dealt with  by the IPO (International Protection Office).  The injustice inflicted on many hundreds of asylum seekers at that time when the International Protection Act regulations were being introduced has never been owned up to nor have any measures been put in place to restore those people’s international rights to protection, which includes transparent process. It was not a transparent process for people trying to meet an impossible deadline, and declining to take legal advice in order to “do the right thing”. It would be a serious dereliction of Ireland’s international duty were anyone to suffer deportation on account of the botched introduction of IPO procedures in spring-summer 2017.

On the issue of deportations, Afri notes with horror that many people have been summarily and forcibly deported without reference to their relatives, including their children. One such case, Vahmra Haratyunyan, having been in Direct Provision for years, and subsequently lived in Galway, was summarily rendered incommunicado and deported to Armenia in August 2018, and his three-year-old daughter Aline and partner Viktoria left to face life without him. Their case was highlighted in the Jimmys’ Hall Today event Afri supported in the Town Hall Theatre Galway in September 2018 during the run of the Abbey Theatre’s Jimmy’s Hall, about Leitrim man Jimmy Gralton, deported for his political beliefs as “an undesirable alien” in 1933. Afri has deep concerns that the issue of wrongful deportation is an institutional phenomenon in Ireland today, as much as in 1933.

In July 2018, Afri was co-convenor with MASI and Anti-Racism Ireland of an event hosted by the Abbey Theatre Dublin, Ireland’s national theatre, called Jimmy’s Hall Today, during the run of the play Jimmy’s Hall there. First Lady Sabina Higgins participated by reading an extract from Edna O’Brien’s novel The Red Chairs prescribed by the author herself, a refugee of sorts from Ireland once upon a time.

The contributions, as well as speakers of testimony enduring DP and extracts from Jimmy’s Hall, also included a  dance piece, It Takes A Village, devised by choreographer Catherine Young, that included thirty dancers from Direct Provision centres in Kerry, Longford and elsewhere. Among them was a Pakistani nurse, Vekhash Khokhar, four years in DP, who was under threat of a deportation order deadline that very date. He spoke from the Abbey Theatre stage about how he would fly out that evening, and hoped to return soon, and asked all present to do all in their power to spare others on stage the fate he was enduring. Despite verbal assurances from several official sources of easing his way back to Ireland once he left the state before the deportation order took effect, once out of sight he has never been given any assistance, and is struggling to continue his life in Pakistan, despite all the issues of danger that drove him to apply for asylum in the first place.

In February 2019 Afri were partners in an event organised by Rose Kelly in Moville, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, where a hotel was designated for use as a Direct Provision centre, with first-hand testimony of Direct Provision from Donnah Vuma and from Fathi Mohamed of Somalia, living with her baby daughter in Ballyhaunis Direct Provision centre for two years.

“It would be amazing to see more of this around the different towns in Ireland, because then we can start to really show the government how unsuitable the system of Direct Provision is, and how we don’t need reform of the system, we need the system to be totally abolished. But it’s also important that people can easily integrate into their communities, and easily pick up where they left off their lives at home, to be able to come into this community, carry on with their lives, and be able to contribute” – Donnah Vuma in Moville, February 2019.

Afri considers that the increasing dispersal of Direct Provision centres to remote regions makes it impossible for people to take up whatever drastically-limited work opportunities might present themselves, as travel is often an enormous problem, and they are not allowed to acquire driving licences while in Direct Provision, a bizarre regulation that defies logic and seems purely punitive.

The IPO interview that every applicant faces for refugee status, possibly the most important of their lives, with their and their childrens’ future depending on it, takes place in the IPO offices in Dublin’s Mount Street. That is a long journey from many DP centres, especially one like Moville, where the shortest travel time, using public transport, would take between 12 and 15 hours each way. How can one be expected to function with alertness in those circumstances? It’s a dereliction of international protection responsibilities that seems almost designed to inflict punishment rather than offer a process of protection.

Recommendations:

  1. The Direct Provision system was designed to be punitive, a “pull-factor deterrent” when it was devised, and it is an enduring and ugly stain on Ireland’s humanitarian reputation since its introduction as a temporary measure almost two decades ago, and must be abolished completely and replaced with a process that respects international protection applicants and treats them with dignity, as is their right as human beings, and as is Ireland’s responsibility to provide as signatory to UNHCR directives.
  1. Reappraisal and right of re-submission for all international protection applicants caught up in the alarming and haphazard introduction of the International Protection Office procedures in 2017 that has resulted in possible wrongful rejection of refugee applications due to lack of legal consultation opportunity, and pursuant deportation orders against people who did not receive due transparent process as described in UNHCR directives on asylum seeker reception procedures.
  1. Forcible deportations must be ended, and the rights of children and partners of those faced with deportation to the rights of parental and/or relationship association must be given due regard and precedence.

 

€1000 raised at Fundraiser to support anti war activists

An Afri public meeting, which took place in the Teachers’ Club in July, featuring Veterans for Peace Members Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff raised €1000 to support Ken and Tarak, while they await trial in Ireland.

The elderly campaigners, in their “Veterans for Peace” sweatshirts, addressed the audience about the reasons for their actions and their commitment to opposing US militarism which they stated was a major cause of misery around the world, including to serving members of the military themselves (quoting a figure of 22 suicides per day), along with being a major cause of world pollution.

Ken Mayers explained that the USA has 800 military bases around the world in addition to its 400 on its own territory, the infrastructure, fuel expenditure and waste of the total which he stated is a major cause of pollution. (This is presumably without even taking into account the use of nuclear-generated power and disposal of radioactive material, or depleted uranium projectiles, such as used in Iraq or the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.)

Both men belong to an organisation called Veterans for Peace which campaigns against the US militarisation of the economy, war, interference in the affairs of other states and for better treatment of veterans. Recently they also supported a campaign against concentration camps for migrants along the US-Mexico border.

Ken Mayers, 82 years of age and Tarak Kauff 77, spent 13 days on remand in Limerick jail, where their toilet did not flush unless they poured buckets of water into it. Other than that, they said they were treated well and the other prisoners treated them “like celebrities”.

The reason for their bail being refused during that period was Garda objections that they would flee the jurisdiction. Tarak Kauff exposed the illogicality of this ‘fear‘ to the audience, explaining that they had taken their action at Shannon knowing that they would be arrested and wanting to use the trial to expose what was going on at Shannon airport: “For us not to attend that trial, they would have to physically drag us away from there!”

They were eventually granted bail on condition they remain within the Irish state and having to surrender their passports, due to Garda objections again that they might flee, also not to approach any airports. On July 10th the Court turned down their appeal against these conditions, though the judge said that he might review that decision if the case were to be moved to the Dublin District Court, where the waiting list was much longer. The defendants and their solicitor, Michael Finucane, will be seeking to have the case heard outside Clare, where it is believed a fair trial relating to a Shannon protest is unlikely. A trial date is expected in September or October.

Ed Horgan took the floor after Mayers and Kauff to speak about the one million total of children killed in the Middle East as a result of war and sanctions and urged action to prevent further loss of children’s lives.

Then Emer Lynam opened the meeting to questions.

In reply to questions from the audience about the cost to themselves, Ken Mayers revealed he was due to be on his honeymoon by now with his bride.

RESISTANCE IN MUSIC AND SONG

Music for the evening was provided by veteran campaigner John Maguire who sang a song he had composed back at the first demonstration at Shannon airport, with a chorus that the audience soon got the hang of and joined in.

RoJ performed a song also of his own composition, accompanied by Paul O’Toole on guitar and Nimal Blake on cajón. Later, O’Toole also sang a song of his own, about the child who lost both his arms to US imperialist ‘smart-targeted’ bombing, then going on to sing one of Dylan’s numbers. Both RoJ and O’Toole are long-time professional performers and have produced CDs of their material.

All performers were warmly applauded.

The evening was a fund-raiser and it could be seen that the collection bucket, although covered, was stuffed with notes. Ken and Tarak also have a Fund Me appeal and Afri is also receiving some donations for them through the Internet.

Based on an article by Clive Sulish

Save the Earth, Abolish War

Joe Murray of Afri with Bruce Kent, President of the Movement for the Abolition of War, who celebrated his 90th birthday on the week before the conference!

Joe Murray recently attended a conference in London, organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War entitled ‘Save the Earth, Abolish War’. Below is a short report on the meeting.

Save the Earth, Abolish War

The first speaker was Peter van den Dungen of the International Network of Peace Museums, who referenced the title of a book he recently bought entitled ‘the end of the world generation’. He described as ‘diabolical’ and ‘the road to destruction’ the philosophy based on the theory ‘if you want peace, prepare for war’.  He argued for the abolition of war and rejected the notion that it was not achievable – in the same way as people in the past rejected the notion that slavery could not be abolished; that women should not have the vote; that child labour was acceptable and that the dreadful practise of duelling was an honourable pursuit.  Our ideas of right and wrong change, over time – and it is now well past time that the very idea of war was consigned to the dustbin of history.

The Second speaker was Dr Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility, who outlined the impact of war and militarism on our Planet in clear and graphic terms.

Human activities emit GHGs and cause global heating and climate disruption.

60,000 US Military vehicles run at 6 miles to the gallon

F-35 fighter planes do 0.6 miles to the gallon – 100 times the pollution level of a new car

B-2 long range bomber does 0.3 miles to the gallon  – 250 tonnes of C02e per ‘mission’3.2 million tonnes of CO2e emitted by UK military in one year  – higher than the carbon emissions from Iceland

BAE Carbon emissions were 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e 2017/18

The pentagon is the world’s largest Institutional consumer of petroleum.

US military emits 59 million tonnes of CO2e

US arms industry emissions for 2017 – 280 million tonnes CO2e

War on terror has caused 3000 million tonnes of CO2e

Military responsible for at least 5 to 6% of emissions compared with cars which cause Cars 15%;

Farming 15%; Civilian airlines 3%

Reducing the military boot-print

US negotiators successfully argued for military carbon emissions to be excluded from targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (Clinton Administration) but they were included under Paris agreement.

Military emissions are going downwards (slightly) under slogan “more fight – less fuel”.

Taking action

Highlight the high military carbon bootprint

Highlight the huge imbalance between military and climate spending

Point out that security goals are better served by shift from military to climate spending

Make link between climate and peace (war)

Arms conversion – successful examples

Factory making windmills in Hull – Centre for Green industry in Hull – taking jobs from the military

 

Make war history

Shift to public transport

Shift towards plant –based farming and consumption

Resisting U.S. War Machine & Ireland’s Complicity in War Crimes

Afri is proud to host ‘Veterans for Peace’ Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff for a public meeting in the Teachers’ Club on Wednesday, July 17th at 7.30pm.

Afri Solar Lights in Kenya

Where the lights shine

                                        Christina Sote with Joe Murray

 
I had the privilege of visiting Kenya this summer and meeting some of the people who’ve received solar lights as part of Afri’s partnership with Development Pamoja. I was amazed at the difference that a small and relatively inexpensive solar light can make to people’s lives.
 
In the company of James and Maasai from Development Pamoja, we visited many homes where the light was shining and were told of the benefits it had provided. For example, Christina Sote (see short video on our YouTube channel) uses it as a torch, if she hears rustling outside after dark, she can check to see if there is a snake about. She also uses it when she is cooking, to help her grand children when they are reading at night as well as to charge her phone, saving her a walk of many miles, which she used to have to do.

Likewise, 28 year old Judy Chelangat lives in the village of Lomolo with her eldest son, Matthew who has a disability. Judy says the solar light helps her to care for her children in the evening, helping with cooking and other chores. The solar panel also enables her to charge her mobile phone and to keep in contact with the local clinic regarding Matthew’s health.

We also met Oscar Kiprotich, who is thirty four years old and has suffered from multiple sclerosis for fifteen years. Oscar, who is wheel chair bound, lives with his mother and twelve year old niece Florence. The solar lamp allows Oscar to read in his bed in the evenings. It also enables him to assist Florence with her homework when she returns from school.
In the context of a world facing the threat of climate change, this is a small but significant way of positively impacting people’s lives, in a way that is viable and sustainable and provides an example for all of us – in our fossil fuel addicted society.
 

Joe Murray
Afri Coordinator

 

Donate now online using our secure iDonate service: https://www.afri.ie/donate/

Some Practical Information about the Annual Famine Walk

The 2019 Walk will take place on Saturday, May 18th.

Registration and opening ceremony
1. Registration takes place in the local town hall in Louisburgh.
2. This will be followed by the opening ceremony, which will last approximately 20-25 minutes.
3. Shuttle buses will take participants to the start point, following the opening ceremony.

The Walk
1. The walk is 11 miles (approx.), walkers should walk on the left-hand side.
2. A shuttle car will be available during the walk for anyone who gets into difficulty.
3. No parking is available at Delphi Lodge.
4. Dogs must be kept on a lead.
5. Portaloos are available along the route.
6. There will be a tea/coffee (no food) station at the half way mark (approx).

Sunny and Peter: From Darkness Into Light

Sonia, ‘Sunny’ Jacobs and Peter Pringle are both death row survivors. Sunny was exonerated in 1993 after 17 years in Prison while Peter had his conviction quashed in 1995, having spent 14 years in prison. They met in Galway while campaigning against the death penalty and are now married and living in Connemara, where they’ve established The Sunny Centre to help other death row survivors and those who’ve been wrongfully convicted. They spoke at Afri’s Féile Bríde ‘Light out of Darkness’ in Kildare on February 3rd, 2018.

Dáil calls time on fossil fuel exploration in historic vote

Press cutting from Irish Times

Bill to end offshore drilling licences passes first legislative hurdle

The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has described the Dáil vote in favour of the Climate Emergency Measures Bill on the 8th February 2018 as “historic”. The Bill, proposed by People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, would end the issuing of licences to explore for oil and gas in Irish waters. It passed the second stage debate and was referred to the Climate Action Committee by 78 votes to 48, with cross-party support emerging to overcome Government opposition to the Bill. (more…)

Launch of Mary Manning’s Book, ‘Striking Back’

The Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike has become iconic in the pantheon of great acts of resistance around the world – but it wasn’t always so.

The young strikers had to endure hardship, rejection, demonization and more in the course of this extraordinary act of solidarity.

Mary Manning’s book, ‘Striking Back’ , written with Sinèad O’Brien not only provides a first-hand account of the strike from start to finish but also interweaves her own story – exemplifying her great courage and integrity – at a personal and political level.

Afri are proud to have supported the Dunnes Stores Strikers and to promote this excellent book by Mary Manning.

CETA, Fancy Socks and Corporate Power

Afri’s focus on An Gorta Mór is about looking at causes and consequences and, especially at its relevance for today.  The ‘Great Hunger’ had many causes, including colonialism, blind allegiance to laissez faire economics and loss of biodiversity leading to over-dependence on one variety of potato.  These issues remain totally relevant today as, for example, ten large profit-driven corporations control the vast majority of the food we eat.  It is in this context that Afri has been campaigning to highlight serious concerns around the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).  Not only is this deal about further promotion of intensive agriculture, but most worryingly of all, it includes the toxic ‘Investor Court System’.  This short film outlines some of the issues involved.

 

The Standing Rock Water Protectors

Below is a short film, made by RoJ, about the Standing Rock Water Protectors, following a visit by Chas Jewett to Dublin.  To read more about Chas’ visit go here.

Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Adopted

Press Release from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, on the 7th July  2017 states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons.

Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.

On adoption of the treaty, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said:

“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security.

No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do.

Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.

It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.” (more…)

Protest during visit of Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau

From left to right: Lisa Patten, Andy Storey, Joe Murray and Gráinne O’Neill at the Stop CETA protest on the 4th July 2017. Photo: Derek Speirs

A protest took place today outside Government Buildings to coincide with the visit of Canadian Premier Trudeau. The protest was in opposition to the proposed EU Canadian Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement and to call for the rejection of the deal by the Irish Government.

The protest was organised by Comhlamh and supported by Afri and participants expressed concerns as to how CETA will compromise laws which protect health,  the environment, and the rule of law in the EU.

Participants also urged the Government to hold off on any vote to ratify the deal until the European Court of Justice examines the legality of CETA under EU law. Protestors are particularly alarmed by the notorious Investment Arbitration System, included in the deal, which allows foreign big business to sue Governments when their actions impact on their profitability.

The Water Protectors

Chas Jewett, Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Water Protector. Photo by Derek Speirs

Chas Jewett, from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Standing Rock Water protector, spoke in the Teacher’s Club on Monday evening at an event supported by Afri, Comhlamh, Feasta and Friends of the Earth.  This public meeting was part of a tour around Ireland visiting Cork, Galway, Cloughjordan, Leitrim and Dublin.  Chas is a tribal organiser who lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, and aims to encourage people to engage and mobilise.

Since 2016 the Standing Rock Reservation has been the scene of a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline which aims to bring oil from Canada into the US through Native American lands over fears of contamination of drinking water supplies.  The existing Keystone 1 pipeline has leaked 26 times.  

Chas spoke about the legacy issues of the 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the First Nations people.  In 1873 General Custer found gold in the Black Hills which led to people being moved – without compensation – and separated into various different reservations, one of which is the Standing rock reservation.   (more…)

The Water Protectors

Venue: The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square

Date:  Monday, June 26th

Time: 8pm

Standing Rock was a beacon of hope for the world where indigenous people from all over the United States came together to resist corporate power and protect the water that is their life.  Chas Jewett is one of those protectors.  This public meeting will draw out the links between the Standing Rock action and threats to water in Ireland and worldwide and the need to continue protecting our water and our planet.

Speakers:

Chas Jewett, Standing Rock Water Protector & Cheyenne River Sioux

Oisín Coghlan, Director, Friends of the Earth, Ireland

Speaker (tbc) from anti-fracking group, Love Leitrim

 

Organised by Afri, Comhlamh, Feasta and Friends of the Earth Ireland

Significant Move Towards Ban on Fracking Welcomed by Afri

Outside Leinster House following the passing of the private members bill (presented by Tony McLoughlin TD for Sligo-Leitrim)
banning fracking from Ireland. Here members of ‘Love Leitrim’ and supporters who campaigned to have fracking banned. Photo by Derek Speirs.

31st May 2017

Afri has welcomed the completion of the Bill to ban fracking which today passed all stages in the Dáil and will now go to the Seanad. “This is a victory for people power and for community resistance”, according to Joe Murray. Afri would especially like to congratulate Love Leitrim who led this persistent, determined and successful campaign.

We also pay tribute to the community in Rossport for the part they played in this success as it was John Monaghan who first alerted the community in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, to the dangers of fracking and who urged the community to organise and resist.

Film by Dearbhla Glynn on fracking

Remembering; Celebrating; Solidarity

Find out who is going on facebook here.

Freedom beckons for Chelsea Manning

From Left to Right: Joe Murray, Afri Co-ordinator, Susan Manning (mother of Chelsea Manning), and Gerry Conlon at a solidarity event in 2013. Photo: Derek Speirs

Chelsea Manning was never one to take the popular or easy route in life. The decision to release classified information that would rock the world of military secrecy and murder would lead to her vilification and brutalization. But Chelsea did it because she believed in the truth: ‘I want the people to see the truth…because without information you cannot make informed decisions.’

Afri became involved in the ‘Free Chelsea Manning’ campaign when peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly organised for Chelsea’s family, who have strong Irish connections in Kerry and Dublin, to make a visit to Ireland. We organised a programme of events including a public meeting in Trinity College attended by Chelsea’s mother, aunts and uncle and addressed by Chelsea’s aunt Sharon as well as by the former Guildford 4 member, Gerry Conlon.

That was an evening of deep emotion: Gerry Conlon, tragically no longer with us, spoke with his trademark passion, principle and anger at how legal and political systems in Britain had crushed his own life and extinguished the life of his father, Guiseppi Conlon. He praised the courage of Chelsea Manning and lamented the fact that there was no similarly brave whistle-blower in the British system when he and his father and Maguire relations were incarcerated on completely spurious charges.

As a result of that visit to Ireland, Donal O’Kelly was inspired to initiate the Manning Truthfest, consisting of artists, musicians and activists who crossed the Irish sea in the Spring of 2014 and 2015 and again in the Autumn of 2016 to sing songs and play music in solidarity with Chelsea and her Welsh-based family and to protest the inhumanity of the 35 year sentence imposed upon her.  Afri was a central part of this extraordinary seaborne solidarity!

During one of those visits, Chelsea’s uncle Kevin, a life-long Manchester United supporter, said it would have been easier had Chelsea chosen any other name than that of a rival football club to mark her female identity!  Chelsea never dodged difficult decisions…

The commutation of Chelsea’s sentence is perhaps the best thing that Barack Obama will have done in office. But Chelsea, together with tens of thousands of other US soldiers, should never have been in Iraq, where they have succeeded only in laying waste to the country and its people. And Chelsea should never have been in prison in the first place. (more…)

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Welsh-Irish Family

The Welsh-Irish family of imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning has issued the following statement in response to the announcement that President Obama has commuted Manning’s sentence.

We are all overjoyed that Chelsea will soon be free.

Chelsea exposed wrongdoing and was punished for being a whistleblower. We regret that it has taken so long for President Obama to commute the sentence and are outraged that Chelsea has been forced to endure such abusive treatment in prison. We agree with the UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez that some of this abuse amounted to torture.

We sincerely hope that Chelsea will now be able to get on with the rest of her life and that she finds happiness and fulfilment in whatever she chooses to do. There will always be a welcome for her here in Wales.