Scottish efforts to highlight the illegality and horror of Israeli action against Palestine are having effect around the world. But more can be done. That was the message from a meeting of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign tonight (Thursday 9 July 2015) in Glasgow.
West Dunbartonshire Councillor, Jim Bollan of Alexandria, said flying the Palestinian flag from the Council buildings last year had people ‘queuing round the block’ to take photographs. The Council’s unanimous decision to do that highlighted the suffering of the people of Gaza who were under bombardment from Israel at the time. ‘People got involved, posted it on facebook and social media and showed there can be no peace in Palestine without justice,’ said Councillor Bollan. ‘West Dunbartonshire was the mouse that roared. There was a crazy reaction around the world.’
Former air transport engineer in Gaza, Waseem Abuaglain, said the Palestinian flag being flown on the West Dunbartonshire council building was well received by people in Gaza. ‘When I talked to family and friends there, they were happy because it showed that people outside care. That is a really important message.’
Both speakers emphasised the need for the world to know about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Said Councillor Bolland: ‘More than 520,000 families have been displaced, 20,000 homes destroyed and 244 schools damaged by Israeli attacks. The slaughter continues but both the United States and the UK say nothing. The West stands back and allows this to happen.’
Said Waseem Abuaglain who ‘restarted life’ in Scotland: ‘Electricity is now only available for six hours a day – it was eight. Supplies of everything are only a fraction of what is needed because of the restriction on lorry coming in.’
He said that a three minute warning can be given for a rocket attack but it takes more than that time for people to get out of some of the buildings and get out of the area being attacked. He instanced a family home of five storeys which was flattened. ‘That is only one of thousands of houses destroyed. The people cannot ‘move on’ with their lives. They can only continue to live on top of the rubble for there is no place to go. Gaza is a time bomb, now,’ he said.
He also detailed how the airport – where he once worked – has been destroyed by Israeli attacks. ‘This was a civilian airport with commercial flights from many countries. Not only is it destroyed now, the farms round about it are also destroyed. Israeli bulldozers dug up the runway which cost $60 million.’ He commented that Israeli fears of ‘security’ at the airport were unfounded because the Israelis themselves controlled the security.
Glasgow City Council’s Nice surveillance system which is used in the city centre, was developed by Israel in Gaza and includes the most advanced face recognition techniques. ‘It is a disgrace that it is being piloted in Glasgow,’ said Councillor Bolland. ‘This needs to be challenged.’
Dr Karen Bett who is treasurer of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and who chaired the meeting in Renfield St Stephen’s chapel, said: ‘Scotland by its actions shows that we can change things. We show that Palestine matters.’
The Campaign believes that concerted actions and international pressure including boycott, divestment and sanctions could result in justice and peace in Palestine in the same way such efforts brought an end to apartheid in South Africa.
More information: www.scottishpsc.org.uk a
Champion boxer Amir Khan distributed Eid toys to young patients in the recently opened Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow today (Tuesday 7 July 205). ‘An amazing hospital and staff,’ tweeted the current Silver Welterweight title holder later.
Channelled through the charity Colours of Islam, the gifts celebrate Eid, the religious holiday Muslims observe at the end of Ramadan, the fasting month when it is customary to give to charity and to support good causes.
Kirsten Sinclair, Director of Fundraising at Yorkhill Children’s Charity said: ‘We have a longstanding relationship with Colours of Islam and would like to thank them for the smiles and laughter they bring to our young patients at Eid every year.’
Refana Saleem from Colours of Islam said: ‘We are thrilled to have worked in association with the Amir Khan Foundation in visiting the newly opened hospital. And we are delighted the children can enjoy their new toys. We would also like to thank all our dedicated supporters, sponsors and volunteers for all their work over the years.’
On a tour of the UK during Ramadan, Amir was guest at a charity dinner last night in Glasgow which raised funds for good causes including the Amir Khan Foundation. He tweeted: ‘Amazing ifthar dinner in Glasgow. So much love and generosity shown by the Scottish people for the AK Foundation.’
Twice world champion, Amir has fought at lightweight, light welterweight, and welterweight. He is the youngest British Olympic boxing medallist, having won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, aged 17.
The Yorkhill Children’s Charity has funded more than £5m in equipment and service delivery at the new hospital including a £1m interactive play area which is the first of its kind in Europe.
Services transferred from the old Yorkhill Hospital to the Royal Hospital for Children at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow last month.
‘Things are getting worse.’ That was the comment from Glasgow Girl, Amal Azzudin at the end of a celebration to mark ten years since she and school friends at Drumchapel High School lobbied to prevent one of them – from an asylum seeking family – from being deported. Their campaign was successful. But the seven Glasgow Girls had to continue to fight against other asylum seeking families being deported. Their story was subsequently made into TV documentaries and a stage musical.
The Celebration in the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sunday 14 June 2015, was part of Refugee Festival Scotland. It marked ten years since the Glasgow Girls hit the headlines and 30 years of the work of the Scottish Refugee Council.
An exhilarating live performance of songs from Cora Bissett’s musical was given by some of the original cast of the play and volunteer singers.
The BBC documentaries ‘Tales from the Edge,’ and ‘The Children Who Disappear’ telling of the Glasgow Girls’ campaign, were to have been screened at the event. But for reasons of copyright and cost, they were not shown. However, both films are freely available online.
While school girls, the Glasgow Girls’ fought to keep their friend, Agnesa in Scotland. Subsequently, they publicly shamed the then, Scottish Government’s First Minister, Jack McConnell. He had promised a ‘protocol’ so that dawn raids would not happen again in Scotland but failed to deliver it. They asked him ‘When will you keep your promise?’ when they collected an award for the best political campaign at a major political awards ceremony.
Said Amal, who is now working in the community mental health field: ‘Today we have got to have good representation at Westminster and see how much influence they have. There has to be a fairer system. That is the only way to make a difference. Westminster has to re-think this.’
Roza Salih, another of the Glasgow Girls who is now an Equality and Diversity staffer at the University of Strathclyde’s Students’ Association, said: ‘There also needs to be a change in public attitude. I think that teachers could play a key role in educating children. After all, they are role models for young people.’
Margaret Wood, co-chair of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees commented: ‘The Government’s attitude to the rights of migrants and asylum seekers is getting worse. They are being used as scapegoats in an attempt to divide people as austerity bites. Britain has signed up to international laws supporting people’s rights to seek asylum and rights for migrant workers. Yet, again, people in Scotland – peaceably and politely – will have to make life as difficult as possible for those in Government, remind them of that fact and keep them to the letter and the spirit of those laws. We haven’t signed up to their racist agenda.’
She added: ‘People who are claiming asylum in the UK are still being deported. Dawn raids still happen. The first thing the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Home Secretary , Theresa May, did after the election this year, was – go on a dawn raid.’
The funeral of Sheku Bayoh – the black, Kirkcaldy, man who died in Scottish Police custody on Sunday 3 May – will take place on Sunday 7 June in Kirkcaldy.
His family invite those who knew him and those who support their search for justice for him, to the funeral. The funeral procession will start at 12 noon from Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy where he died. This is the street where an alleged incident of a man brandishing a machete brought nine police officers to the scene. From there the procession will march to Kirkcaldy Police Office and then to the local Mosque for prayers and tributes. Sheku will be laid to rest in Dysart Muslim cemetery.
At a funeral reception afterwards well-wishers will be allowed to give their tributes and share their good memories of Sheku who was 31 and had lived in Kirkcaldy since he was 17. He was born in Sierra Leone, moved to London aged 11 then went to Kirkcaldy to join his sister who lives there and works as a nurse.
His family invite friends to the funeral and the reception as they wish support on the day and for their campaign to seek the truth of what actually happened and fight for justice of Sheku. Ade Johnson, Sheku’s brother-in-law is the contact point for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheku was working for British Gas and training to be an engineer. He and his partner have two sons, Tyler aged 3 and Isaac aged 4 months.
A family statement said: ‘Sheku Bayoh came into contact with Police Scotland officers from Kirkcaldy Police Station on Sunday 3 May 2015. He did not leave police custody alive. The family wants to know the truth of what happened and are appealing to members of the public to come forward to tell them what they saw at Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy. Sheku was only 31 years old when he was suddenly and cruelly taken from us. We are all devastated and still in shock. Our loss is great.’
A dignified campaign to alert people to the death of Sheku Bayoh (31) in police custody in Kirkcaldy in Fife was aired at an STUC meeting in Glasgow on Tuesday 26 May 2015.
Father of two, Sheku was born in Sierra Leone and brought up in London before moving to Kirkcaldy when he was 17 to join his sister who lived there. Said sister Kadi Johnson: ‘It is unbelievable what’s happened.’
According to the family’s lawyer, human rights champion Aamer Anwar, the British Gas employee died in police custody on Sunday 3 May. Mr Anwar said six police vehicles and nine police officers apprehended him when it was alleged he was seen in the street, carrying a knife. Batons, CS spray, handcuffs and leg restraints were all used. ‘He lost consciousness and never recovered. He was dead and taken to the Victoria Hospital where his sister works.’ But Mr Anwar added: ‘He died at 4.30pm. At 6.30pm police alleged a police officer had been stabbed in the incident. That was wrong. No one was stabbed. There is no evidence of a knife. That would have been totally out of character. He continued: ‘Now, 23 days later, the nine police officers refuse to speak to an independent investigation ordered by the Lord Advocate. This is a family tragedy and we want the truth in order to get justice.’
Kadi’s husband Ade Johnson also addressed the meeting. He said the family wanted answers. ‘He was with us the night before he died as it was my daughter’s birthday,’ said Mr Johnson. ‘I can only say he was joyful then and was looking forward to things in the days ahead. We expect the police to tell the truth. But we have now had five different stories from the police and we’re confused.’ He continued: ‘But we want to be sensible. If – like Baltimore and other places – you come out fighting and angry; that’s not good. We want our focus to be the truth. Find answers to our questions. The stories we’ve been told so far, make no sense.’ Mr Johnson thanked all the people who had offered support on the facebook Sheku Bayoh Campaign for Justice. ‘We’ve had phone calls and emails of support from around the world. Sheku loved Scotland and the people of Scotland. And they will not stand for what has happened. We need to know who did what. If there is a corrupt side to the police then that needs to be rooted out.’
Mr Anwar concluded: ‘We have to fight for justice. In my 14 years of working in the community and supporting cultural diversity in the community, it is sad to see the police sitting on the other side. I’m disappointed in the police.’
Protesters, wanting to shut down Dungavel Immigration Detention Centre near Strathaven, will descend on the prison on Saturday 30 May.
Organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) the demonstration is supported by the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, and community activists from across Scotland.
A recent STUC motion said: ‘Detention is a blight on our asylum system. People being held indefinitely in Dungavel have committed no crime.’ The UK is the only European country which has no limit on the time permitted to detain people seeking sanctuary.
According to the BBC in January, 185 people were detained in Dungavel. Two had been there for more than a year while 32 had been there for more than six months and a further nine for more than three months. Children are not supposed to be detained in Dungavel but fears were expressed at a meeting in Glasgow a few days before the demonstration, that they were being held there before being send to detention centres in England.
Church and human rights authorities have been refused permission by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to visit the prison to see if reports of people detained there being on hunger strike over the conditions and over their unlimited detention, were true.
Speakers at the rally are expected to include Glasgow Girl Amal Azzudin who, as a school girl, along with her peers, challenged the removal of one of their class mates whose family was seeking asylum. Their challenge was successful and the story of their fight was later made into a successful stage musical.
A former home of the Dukes of Hamilton, the Dungavel property is run by the Home Office via a £25million, 5 year contract with GEO, part of the company which runs Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and private jails in the United States.
For more information and to book a place on the bus: www. stuc.org.uk/dungavel #ShutDunga
One week on from losing his seat as MP for Glasgow South, Tom Harris admits he’s not used to the idea yet. ‘My wife, Carolyn, worked for me so it means she’s redundant as well,’ he said. However he – and all the other MPs who are out of a job – have two months to wind up their offices and enable paid staff to move on.
‘I stopped getting paid on 8 May,’ says Tom, in a matter of fact way. ‘But I’m not panicking at the moment. ‘I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. An alert for my regular surgery came up on my phone and I just deleted it. That was a relief.’ He said that the four constituency surgeries each month were never well attended. ‘Most people phoned or emailed me with their problem.’
However, he still gets up early. ‘Our two sons are at primary school and I have to take them there, so that’s a good routine. But I want a new job.’ The family was prepared in advance for defeat and everyone has been ‘nicely supportive,’ said Tom. ‘It wasn’t a shock. Everyone is quite relaxed about it.’
When he goes to London soon to sort out things like the lease on his flat and office, he expects to meet up with some people who may have job offers. ‘Writing or something along those lines,’ speculated the former journalist and public relations professional.
Revising his CV, he commented: ‘It is 16 years since I looked at my CV, so that’s instructive!’ Now he reckons he can add on skills he learned as an MP and Government Under Secretary of State for Transport under Tony Blair, in the Department of Transport under Gordon Brown and as Shadow Environment Minister under Ed Miliband.
It’s early yet, but he’s looking again at the novel he’s been writing. ‘I don’t plan to be a sad act and put all my hopes into writing a best seller,’ he said in his laconic way. But he has had ‘Why I’m Right and Everyone Else is Wrong,’ published. This collection from his popular blog ‘And Another Thing,’ was an easy read of comments along the political way interspersed with thoughts on a wide variety of other, less serious, issues.
At his veledictory constituency Labour Party meeting he told his colleagues he didn’t want to get involved with public debate on the future of the Scottish Labour Party. ‘I’ve a lot of respect for Miliband. I think he would have made a far better Prime Minister than people gave him credit for. In Scotland, the Labour Party situation could hardly get worse. But I support Jim Murphy. It is difficult to see if there can be recovery. It will certainly take some time to work out. Whatever happens I am for the UK or nothing. I’m not for a Scottish Labour Party.’
Commenting that everything was ‘in a state of flux’ he added: ‘I’ve no truck with nationalism. I don’t think the nationalist route is the way to save Labour.’
Allowing others to debate and dissect the dogma dilemmas, Tom has taken time to catch up on reading, watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and spending time with his family and walking his dog.
He added: ‘I went to the Emirates (where the count was held) early when I’d been alerted to the fact that I was going to lose. To be honest, at that point, it was like a weight had been lifted off me.’
On a 65.99% turnout in Glasgow South Constituency, SNP’s Stewart McDonald won over Labour’s Tom Harris who had been local MP for 14 years.
Tom Harris (LAB) 14,504
Ewan Hoyle (Lib Dem) 1,019
Stewart McDonald (SNP) 26,773
Brian Smith (Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition TUSC) 299
Kyle Thornton (CONSERVATIVE) 4,752
Alastair Whitelaw (GREEN) 1,431
Total valid votes 48,778. Electorate 74,051.
In Glasgow South West Constituency the turnout was 40,965 representing 61.87% of the electorate. Incumbent Ian Davidson of the Labour and Co-operative Party lost his seat with 13,438 votes compared to the 23,388 cast for Christopher Stephens of the Scottish National Party.
Bill Bonnar Scottish Socialist Party 176
Ian Davidson Labour and Co-operative Party 13,438
Sarah Hemy UK Independence Party (UKIP) 970
Gordon Alexander McCaskill Scottish Conservative and Unionist 2,036
Isabel Nelson Scottish Liberal Democrats 406
Christopher Stephens Scottish National Party (SNP) 23,388
Sean Templeton Scottish Green Party 507
In Glasgow North 36,987 of the 60,169 electorate actually voted – representing 61.47%. The result was a win for Patrick Grady of the SNP over Ann McKechin (LAB)
Martin Bartos, Scottish Green Party 2,284
Russell Benson, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol 154
Patrick Grady, Scottish National Party 19,610
Lauren Hankinson, Scottish Conservative and Unionist 2,901
Angela McCormick, Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 160
Ann McKechin, Scottish Labour Party 10,315
Jade O’Neil, Scottish Liberal Democrats 1,012
Jamie Robertson, UK Independence Party UKIP 486