Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Just a year ago

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Just a year ago on Saturday 18th January I was going up to London as usual on a Saturday morning to photograph a number of protests. The day didn’t get off to a good start, as when I arrived at the location for the first event I was the only person there. I was a few minutes early, so I hung around, but when the actual time arrived and there was still only one person there (and even the organiser on Facebook hadn’t turned up) I gave up and left.

Before Facebook it was rather more difficult to share information about any protest, but now anyone can post an event. There is some indication of how much support any event has attracted, with Facebook showing the number of people who have clicked to show an interest or attend, but the numbers are incredibly unreliable. Interest means little or nothing, and often the great majority of those who perhaps thought on a Wednesday evening they might go change their minds if it means getting out of bed early on a wet Saturday morning. So its not unusual to find something doesn’t happen, though it is sometimes rather unpredictable.

Fortunately it was a fairly short walk to Downing St, where on the pavement opposite there was something for me to photograph. While a few of the global rich were meeting at the World Economic Forum on the exclusive Swiss mountain resort of Davos, The Equality Trust, who I’d not heard of, but get funding from the EU, together with nine other organisations were holding holding an event as part of what they described as “a mobilisation by thousands of people in more than 30 countries worldwide to demand a fairer, more equal and sustainable future.” And for once the 94 who had said they were going on FB wasn’t that far from the actual attendance.

And though it wasn’t the most exciting protest I’ve covered it was certainly hard to disagree with what they were calling for:

  • good quality education, accessible housing, decent jobs and healthcare for all
  • an end to poverty wages, cuts in public spending and the decimation of social rights
  • an end to hunger and homelessness in the world’s sixth-largest economy
    fair and progressive taxation and an end to tax breaks for the wealthy
  • a wellbeing economy that serves people and planet, instead of profiting from environmental destruction.

As often when I’m covering a protest at Downing St, there was another taking place that I hadn’t been aware of, with a small group of protesters against Brexit calling for the release a report that had been completed before the December election but was held up by Boris Johnson because it revealed important Russian interference in UK politics including large donations to the Conservative Party and pro-Brexit campaigns.

From Downing St I walked up to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where two events were taking place. Since the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16 2014 there have been regular vigils in memory of the 304 victims, including the 250 high school children who were drowned after being told to ‘stay put’ on a lower deck. These silent vigils, mainly by Koreans or those with Korean relatives took place monthly for several years but are now quarterly.

Also on the north Terrace, elaborate preparations were taking place by Anglo-Iranian Communities in the UK and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran’s National Council of Resistance of Iran for a rally in support of the anti-regime protests following the admission that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane. These protest in Iran have been suppressed with illegal force by the clerical regime. I was unable to wait for the start of the protest as I wanted to cover another event, and later abandoned my plans to return.

At Oxford Circus I joined protesters from Earth Strike, organised by the Revolutionary Socialist Group, who were handing out leaflets before their series of protests along Oxford Street outside banks and stores involved in the exploitation of the Global South and the destruction of the environment.

I went with them as they walked up and down Oxford St, stopping outside shops including HSBC, H&M, Microsoft, ee, McDonald’s and Zara for short speeches about the particular contributions these companies are making to climate change and how they exploit workers and resources in the South.

By the time it had got too late to be worth returning to Trafalgar Square and instead I went west to a protest close to the Russian Embassy in Kensington. Russia’s support has saved President Assad in Syria and they were protesting the war crimes of Assad and Putin against the people of Syria in Idlib province.

Russian support, particularly air support has enabled Assad to defeat and drive back the Syrian rebels who would otherwise probably have driven him from office and set up a more democratic government. Since mid-December Assad has waged a brutal and unprecedented military campaign with air raids that have targeted hospitals and markets and killed hundreds of civilians. Over 500,000 have fled from their homes but are unable to escape as the Turkish border is closed.

I talked with the protesters, many of whom I recognised from earlier Syrian protests. The situation in Syria is desperate and the Syrians, given hope in the early years by Western countries, have now been abandoned by the international community. One of the women had been saying her prayers at the protest, and unfortunately as I said to her there seems now to be little else we can do but pray and hope.

Against war crimes in Idlib
Earth Strike Oxford St rolling protest
‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Support for Anti-regime Protests in Iran
Release the Russia Report
Fight Inequality Global Protest


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Eight events

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I find that I was wrong to suggest in an earlier post that covering seven events on Human Rights Day was a personal record, as on Saturday 17th December 2011 I managed to photograph eight protests.

It was a big day for UK Uncut, protesting about the failure of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to get major companies operating in the UK to make proper contributions to our tax revenue. If HMRC had got them to pay up, there would be no need for the massive cuts in public services that were being imposed by the government after the financial crisis. UK Uncut claim that corporate tax doging costs the UK £25 billion a year, four times the amount of the cuts.

Their protest began with UK Uncut’s Santa and two helpers calling at the Westminster offices of the head of UK tax collection with a present, a card and a sack of barbecue charcoal. Dave Hartnett, the man in charge of HMRC had recently let Vodaphone who owed £6 billion pay only around a fifth of what they owed, losing taxpayers £4.75 billion as well as giving an £8 million handout to Goldman Sachs. Mr Hartnett was about to retire with a massive pension despite a series of blunders which cost us a fortune.

As I wrote:

The UK seems to be loophole central for the rich, not just for taxes but also for the kind of fraudulent unregulated creation of imaginary money that has sustained and grown the City since the ‘big bang’ and lies at the epicentre of our current world financial crisis. Doubtless it is too much to hope that Mr Hartnett will be called to account for his relatively small part in this process, but as a taxpayer it pains me to think of him retiring and enjoying an excessive civil service pension for his misdeeds.

A rather larger group of protesters met on Oxford St to protest outside Topshop against the failure of the Arcadia group to pay UK tax on its UK earnings. Sir Philip Green, who took huge amounts of money out of the group eventually leading this year to its collapse with a vast hole in its pension fund, runs a vast empire that includes Topshop, BHS and Dorothy Perkins, but exploits a loophole in that the business is owned by his Monaco-based wife who does not have to pay income tax.

Police had come out in large numbers to protect Topshop, although the protest was expected to be (and was) entirely peaceful. They obstructed the press who were attempting to report on the event, lying to us that we would be allowed to re-enter the store to cover the protest inside, and then aggressively moved on the protesters claiming with little justification that they were causing an obstruction; as I commented, it was clearly a large block of police that were obstructing the pavement and not the protesters.

Police behaved rather better when the protest moved on to Vodaphone, making no attempt to stop the protest on the pavement outside the shop, while forming a line to prevent more than a few early arrivals to get inside the shop.

The protesters made effective use of a ‘Human Microphone’ to shout out in unison a series of short statements about the reason for the protest; they stated that when they first protested about Vodaphone they were told the £6 billion of tax dodged was “an urban myth”, but they had now been told it may have been £8 billion. The protest continued with them singing a number of Christmas carols specially adapted for the event, including:

Away in a mansion
On my four poster bed
You lie outside freezing
While I'm resting my head

The stars in the bright sky
They sparkle like jewels
The ones that I paid for
By robbing you fools

and as I left had begun dancing on the pavement.

I left for Downing St, where Syrian Kurds were calling for an end to the massacres being carried out in Syria by the Assad regime forces – and on that day alone at least 32 civilians including two children were killed.

Kurds form almost a fifth of the Syrian population, and during the continuing civil war in the country have formed an autonomous region in the north of the country which became called Rojava. At the protest they were arguing for Syria after the war to become a federation, with considerable autonomy continuing for regions such as this, though many Kurds also support the formation of a separate nation of Kurdistan, including the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. Since the end of 2011 the situation has moved on with Turkey invading and occupying some of the Kurdish areas of Syria and the support of Russia for Assad which makes his eventual victory seem inevitable and the future looks even bleaker for the Kurds.

Also protesting opposite Downing St were a group of Congolese, continuing the protests in London against the election fraud, rapes and massacres and calling on the British government to withdraw its support from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities and voted out by the people.

The continuing problems in the Congo region are the terrible consequence of the western exploitation of the area’s mineral resources such as Coltan – needed for mobile phones, the computers and other electronic devices on which our lives and the media now depend. But those media “have so far taken relatively little interest in the desperate situation of the people in the Congo. They seem to be being sacrificed while the vast natural resources of their country are being largely stolen by underhand deals which enrich a few in their and neighbouring countries while the industrialised world turns an almost totally blind eye to the violence and injustice.”

The protest outside the US Embassy celebrated the withdrawal of US troops, but also demanded that mercenaries still in Iraq should also be expelled, and the war criminals prosecuted. Iraqis also want an end to the looting and pillaging of Iraq’s natural resources and an end to government sponsored executions there. They were joined by Syrian supported of the Assad regime want the US to stop their attempts to interfere with events in Syria through UN resolutions and other means.

The BBC came in for criticism from the Iraqis as “a Patronizing Media Channel, With Racist Undertones, towards Arabs & Islam” and being “Deceptive and Inaccurate” and they asked “Why does it not report on the wide spread asset looting and corruption taking place in Iraq?”

Also outside the US Embassy was a vigil on the 24th birthday of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning whose pre-trail hearing was taking place. The protesters who included members of Veterans for Peace and Payday Men’s Network called him an American Peace Hero for leaking evidence of US war crimes.

It was beginning to get dark by the time I reached the Egyptian embassy where Egyptians had come to protest after the military attacks on protesters in Cairo, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 500.

It was a protest that was slow to start – and when I arrived on time I found only one person there. I waited, feeling increasingly frustrated as the light was disappearing rather faster than protesters were arriving. Half an hour later around 25 people had come and more were arriving and I took my pictures and left.

Egyptians Protest At Embassy
Bradley Manning Birthday Demo
Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US
Congolese Protests Continue
Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop
UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Rojava, Bolivia & Ecuador

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

One of the things that makes it hard to leave London is the diversity of the communities that have made their homes here, making this an exciting place. Throughout its history Britain’s population has been enriched by immigration and although immigrants have not always been made welcome they have made a very positive contribution to our society. Among them have been many religious and political refugees and asylum seekers, and many continue to support the causes in their home countries while in London.

While our media generally give little attention to protests – except for those rare occasions involving individual violent acts or anti-establishment acts such involving insults against national heroes such as the writing of graffiti on the plinth of the Churchill statue or attacking statues of slave traders, the protests by ethnic communities against events in their home countries are almost entirely dismissed as what one newsroom at least refers to as “tribal matters”.

Of course they are wrong, as well as being xenophobic. We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected and globalised, and Brexit, taking us out from under the wing of Europe will give even more importance to events happening around the rest of the world, including Rojava, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Rojava is important not just to those who live in this Kurdish-controlled part of Syria and to Kurds in general but the rest of us around the world. It was the Syrian Kurds who with US air support who were able to defeat ISIS but as a model of a democratic system dedicated to equality, the liberation of women and ecological justice that could serve to provide the system change we need to overcome climate disaster and to resolve the problems of the middle east and elsewhere.

After ISIS were defeated, Trump brought US forces out of the area, leaving it open for Turkey to advance into Syria – with the aid of Islamist forces and the aim of destroying the Kurds. Through NATO we give Turkey support and doubtless supply arms while Russia, backing President Assad are happy to see Syrians who don’t support him exterminated. The Turks have huge superiority in weapons and seem very likely to acheive their aims, but are then likely to establish an Islamic state in the area rather than withdraw back to Turkish territory and we could well then see a war between Russia and NATO forces.

If you rely on the BBC for your news you will know probably know very little about what is going on in northern Syria and the protesters, mainly Kurds but with some support from the British left, gathered outside Broadcasting House a year ago today on Sunday October 13th 2019 to condemn the poor BBC coverage and hope to persuade them to do more. I met them there and marched with them as far as Trafalgar Square; they went on towards Parliament but I stopped to cover two other protests over events abroad.

Ecuadorians living in the UK had come to call for the resignation of President Lenin Moreno who they say is their worst president ever. Many there were from indigenous groups who have been hardest hit by public service cuts, particularly the ending of fuel subsidies. Protests had been causing chaos in the capital Quito since these were announced two weeks earlier. The austerity measures had been demanded by the International Monetary Fund in order for the country to get a £3.4bn loan. After Brexit we could well see Britain having to meet similar IMF demands whose aim is to protect and promote international capital and corporations at the expense of the poor.

As the Ecuadorians left they were replace by Bolivians who held a lively rally with music and dancers in support of President Evo Morales, who was seeking a fourth term in elections a week later on 20 October.

Morales, the first Indigenous president, and his Movement for Socialism (MAS) greatly reduced poverty, cut the influence of the USA and multinational companies and made Bolivia a model of economic growth. Although popular among the poorer citizens, his policies had not endeared him to the wealthy or to the United States.

Although the election results made Morales a clear winner, with just enough votes to win on the first round, it was followed by violent insurrection amid claims of electoral fraud. Morales fled the country and resigned as President claiming there had been a coup after armed intruders broke into his home. He was offered political asylum first in Mexico and later moved from there to asylum in Argentina.

Although an Organization of American States investigation found there had been voting fraud, later studies by US political scientists and experts on Latin American politics concluded there was no statistical evidence of fraud. Despite being voted in by the Bolivian people, a warrant was issued in December for the arrest of Morales on charges of sedition and terrorism.

More about the three protests on My London Diary:

Rally supports Bolivia’s Evo Morales
Against Ecuadorian President Moreno
Solidarity with Rojava – Kurdish Syria


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Syria 8 Years On

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Syria has certainly been one of the saddest stories of recent history. The optimism of the Arab Spring in 2011, encouraged by Western governments and then totally let down by them, becoming the second deadliest war of the 21st century so far (after the Congo). By 2016 it had seriously wounded or killed 1 in 10 Syrians. It is currently estimated that over 5 million refugees had fled the country and perhaps 8 millions are displaced inside it, from a total 2010 population of 21 million.

As so often around the world, the US had completely misread the situation in the area, not least in its 2003 invasion of Iraq which provided fertile ground for the growth of ISIS, which with covert support from both US allies such as Turkey and enemies such as the Assad regime also became a major player in Syria. At least it had the sense to support the Kurds who became the most effective force in the fight against ISIS thanks to US air power.

But both politically and militarily the US was totally outsmarted by Russia, who came to the defence of the Syrian regime (and also took some decisive action against ISIS.)

It is very hard to see much hope for the future of Syria, even though the civil war appears to be coming to a possibly bloody close in Idlib. What shape will that future take, and what will happen to the currently autonomous region of northeast Syria, the Kurdish area of Rojava, seen by many, but probably not the Syrian regime or its Russian supporter, and certainly not by Turkey as a model for a new federal and democratic Syria.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary: 8th Anniversary of the Syrian Revolution


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