Saturday, 21 December 2013

Don't forget Syria's civilians this Christmas

I noticed a 24 hour news channel in my gym earlier, whose on-screen headline stated, inanely: "CHRISTMAS SHOPPING". Elsewhere, in the real world, millions of Syrian refugees huddle together in camps dotted around the Middle East (one if which I visited in June in Kurdistan Region, Iraq).

A worse fate befalls those left in their home country - a country where the world chose, collectively, to ignore crimes against humanity and the subjugation of human rights such as the "right to life, liberty and security of person" which it proclaimed in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. 

We must not turn our back on Syria's civilians, and we must not accept the argument of those who claim that our responsibility ends at the gates of refugee camps. We are all made less secure when our fellow humans are treated so appallingly by a dictatorship, yet the nations of the world choose not to protect them. 

Only this week, it was reported that the Assad regime continues to rain barrel bombs (literally barrels containing high explosive and shrapnel, normally dropped from helicopters) on civilian areas. And yet we were and are told that a No Fly Zone, like the one that protected Iraq's Kurds from the Saddam Hussein regime's genocide against them, is impractical and unachievable. This despite our multi-multi-million pound Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes, which we were told were essential in order for us to have the capability of breaching advanced air defences. 

Most of the civilians murdered in Syria were killed and continue to be killed by conventional weapons, not WMDs. Yet the deal on WMDs is dressed up as a diplomatic triumph. Only those sitting in safe, secure countries are in a position to exult diplomacy in such a way. Let's hope that the Geneva II negotiations can silence the Weapons of HUMAN Destruction. Thus far, diplomacy and expressions of outrage have not halted the regime's jets, helicopters, mortars and sieges.

Inaction in the face of great evil, is a form of action. We are witnessing a disastrous non-intervention. We must do more and not forget Syria's civilians as we celebrate Christmas. 

Meg Munn MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan, told me earlier today that there are now 13,000 children at the Domiz refugee camp, yet there are just four schools. 

Please donate to help build another school in the Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq .

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mandela chose my distant relative G F Watts' painting 'Hope' for his prison wall

Hope by George Frederic Watts


In Gordon Brown's moving tribute to Nelson Mandela he mentioned that Nelson Mandela hung on his Robben Island prison cell wall, a facsimile of the above painting by British pre-Raphaelite artist G F Watts. I am indirectly related to G F Watts on my mother's side. It's good to know that a (very) distant relative of mine helped inspire the fortitude and hope of Nelson Mandela while he was cruelly imprisoned by the Apartheid state. Interesting to note too that 'Hope' is also said to be President Obama's favourite painting.

Gordon Brown said in the House of Commons on Thursday 9 December:

"Hung by Mandela on the bare walls of that bleak prison cell was a facsimile of the British painting by a famous artist, Frederic Watts. The haunting image he had in this prison cell was of a blinded girl sitting on top of a globe of the world. The painting, entitled “Hope”, is about the boldness of a girl to believe that, even when blinded and even with a broken harp and only one string, she could still play music. Her and Mandela’s belief was that even in the most difficult and bleak of times, even when things seem hopeless, there could still be hope. I believe that that explains why over these past few days we have both mourned the death of Mandela and celebrated his life with equal intensity. Who else could unite the whole world of sport unanimously, in every continent of the world, with applause? We are mourning because as long as Mandela was alive we knew that even in the worst of disasters, amidst the most terrible of tragedies and conflict, amidst the evil that existed in the world, there was someone there, standing between us and the elements, who represented goodness and nobility. And we are celebrating today because the lessons that we have learned from him will live on. He teaches us that indeed no injustice can last for ever. He teaches us that whenever good people of courage come together, there is infinite hope".

You can find out more about G F Watts at the Watts Gallery.

More about the painting 'Hope'.