UN Human Rights DAY (and Christmas)

Christmas was approaching fast but protests were still coming at a furious pace, and on December 10th I was kept busy, though I did spend a little time with the Santas at what has now become an annual Santacon, a rather alcohol-fuelled mass invasion of the streets by hundreds or probably thousands of Santas of both sexes along with elves and a few reindeer. It’s an event that has become rather toned-down over the years under considerable pressure from the police who don’t approve of a little merry mayhem on the streets.

But there were also more serious events taking place. My day began in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament where protesters were forming a human chain against the danger to human rights posed by leaving Europe. December 10th is UN Human Rights Day and protesters in various cities were holding similar protests against the threat of Brexit under our right-wing Tory government to workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, to the right of free movement around Europe to live in the EU and for EU citizens to live here and to disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Along the road in Parliament Square on my way to the tube I met a couple of people in elaborate if not entirely convincing rhinoceros costumes. The fact they only had two legs and particularly the bright blue shoes one of them wore were something of a give-away. They were being photographed to ‘Save the Rhino’ but I didn’t have time to stop and talk and only took a couple of pictures.

The tube took me to Oxford Circus. I could have taken a bus, but traffic holdups in London make the tube a much better way to get around in Central London, even though I had to walk up from Oxford Circus to Broadcasting House, where another UN Human Rights Day protest was taking place, against the failure of the BBC to report on people wrongly held in prison around the world, including Irish Republican prisoners held in Northern Ireland, Mumia Abu Jamal on Death Row in USA, Palestinians held in Israeli jails, victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey and more.

My next stop was Mornington Crescent, a station that always gives something of a sense of achievement, and today my day was feeling a little like playing that popular game. As I came out of the station I could see in the distance the rather fat red line of the North London Santacon approaching in the distance from Camden Town and rushed to join them. I followed them into a small park where they stood around and then began a little jousting.

Then it was back to Mornington Crescent for a trip down the Northern Line to Charing Cross and the short walk down Whitehall, where several more human rights protests were taking place opposite Downing St.

Probably few in the UK know where Balochistan us, let along about the human rights abuses taking place. I only know because I’ve photographed several earlier protests about the situation there. It’s another of the legacies of our Empire and the disastrous partition of the Indian sub-continent when we decided we had to get out in 1947. Balochistan, on the Pakistan-Iran border became a part of Pakistan, retaining some autonomy, but was absorbed fully in 1948 – since when Balochs claim they and their culture have been brutally repressed both in Pakistan and in Iran. They claim over 25,000 Balochs have disappeared – abducted, tortured and killed by Pakistan police and security forces, and their bodies abandoned in desert areas.

Next to them the Guantanamo Justice Campaign was holding a Human Rights Day protest calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture. Obama failed to meet his promise to end the illegal camp and Trump seems likely to worsen the situation for those still held there. It’s a depressing prospect for those concerned about freedom and human rights.

Finally, as I was getting ready to leave for home, a small group of women from WAVE (Women’s Action against Violent Extremism) came along the street from where they had been protesting in Parliament Square, and stopped to hold a protest opposite Downing St. They called for help for the Yazidi women who were targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq. Their protest was a part of 16 days of action begun by UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha who escaped from ISIS in 2014.

Save Yazidi women and girls
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest
London Santacon 2016
BBC censors prison struggles
Save the Rhino
Silent Chain for Europe


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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