Syria: 360° of destruction #ImagineBelfast

After five years of war and against all the odds, civil society still survives inside Syria. Unsurprisingly, a key priority for activists is to document the impact of the war on civilians and to appeal for help from the international community. Since early 2011, Amnesty has been working closely with Syrian media activists to help them do just this. Following training and new equipment, they’ve helped us collect 360° photography to document the devastation caused by barrel bombing on cities across … Read more

Between a rock and a hard place: Syria’s women refugees #IWD16

The BBC’s Lyce Doucet is reporting a ‘rare moment of quiet’ in Syria amid the cessation of violence after five years of bloody civil war. Only the most churlish would refuse to celebrate the momentary calm after the storm. Only the most hopeful would expect it to lead directly to permanent peace. Meanwhile, the civilian population will continue to bear the brunt. Here, in advance of International Women’s Day, my colleague, Liz McKean, Amnesty International UK’s Programme Director for Women’s … Read more

Imagine… the Great Big Politics Quiz is back

What a time for politics fans to be alive! RoI general election tomorrow, NI Assembly election in May, topped off by perhaps the most important poll of the year, the EU referendum on June 23rd. If all that wasn’t exciting enough, the Great Big Politics Quiz returns next month as part of the fantastic Imagine Festival of Ideas & Politics! The Festival runs from March 14-20, with the Great Big Politics Quiz taking place on Friday 18 March in its … Read more

Syria Still Dreams of Freedom

Rejecting the choice between Assad and ISIS, Syrians living in the UK argue a third way is possible, and seek support in reclaiming the dream they rose up for in 2011: a democratic and free Syria.  [dropcap]B[/dropcap]efore conflict overcame his native country, Amer Masri left Syria to study genetics in Edinburgh. “You know, like Dolly the Sheep,” he jokes. Living in the UK, he learned about democracy, and what it felt like to have the freedom to speak out, something … Read more

Britain’s Postwar Wars

The list of wars involving the UK since 1945 is long and chaotic. Looking at some of them especially the most recent does suggest some themes which are not especially encouraging when one considers the prospect of British involvement in Syria. In the early post war period most of the conflicts Britain was involved in were either against expansion of communism (Greece and Korea) or else imperial entanglements. Greece and Korea had fairly clear objectives and the prospect of functional … Read more

Labour, Syria and the problem with mandates…

DEMOCRACY OR POLITICS: Labour is asking for a two-day debate as a sticking plaster to cover for the lack of compressed wisdom it would get from a functioning internal party debate Labour MPs need some armour if they are to make a principled decision to support the government, and they will have to expose themselves to endless suspicion if they don’t…

Foreign Policy row could favour Miliband

The developing spat over foreign policy between Ed Miliband and the Tories is interesting. It is very rare for specific parts of foreign policy to be debated in a partisan fashion during an election unless they relate to macro longterm issues such as Europe etc. From the BBC reporting Miliband: “David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya was a country whose institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own,” he said. “The tragedy is that this … Read more

Attacking Islamic State vs protecting civilians in Syria?

With the start of US-led air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria this week, and Parliament due to vote today on British military action in neighbouring Iraq, attention is once again focused on the conflict which has cost so many lives since 2011. When G8 leaders met in Fermanagh last year, they committed themselves to helping to bring peace to Syria. The soaring death toll in the sixteen months since, at the hands of Syrian state military, opposition forces and … Read more

Syria: Does Ireland have the resources to deal with intra state conflict?

It’s been an article of recent considered thought in foreign policy circles that inter state war is being replaced by intra state conflict. Today there was panic when the UN announced that forty three peacekeepers had been ‘detained’ by “an armed group”. #454288150 / There are an estimated 130 Irish soldiers with the 44th Infantry Group at Camp Faouar on the Syrian side of the UN ‘area of separation’, in the Golan Heights. They are part of the United … Read more

Stopping Islamic State in Iraq: parallels with Vietnam

The ongoing disaster that is Iraq continues. When the Americans (with British help) invaded Iraq in 2003 I must confess to feeling it has the potential to become another Vietnam. As time has gone on that appearance has strengthened centrally in that like Vietnam the Americans would have been wiser not to invade and having made that error the best way to compound it was to leave. The spectacle in Vietnam involved refugees and poor treatment of the old South … Read more

Belfast Film Festival – Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Albania, Maze/Long Kesh and Belfast

The annual Belfast Film Festival starts tonight and runs for 10 days showing 121 films. I’ve blogged elsewhere about some of the festival highlights. There’s certainly plenty of local and international films to challenge, entertain or even offend. I thought I’d bring some of the international/conflict/political films to the attention of Slugger readers. Sunday 30 March at 21:00 – Noirland – Dublin Road Moviehouse – Northern Ireland’s first crime anthology from writer/director Philip Henry. Three stories following one man who … Read more

“Adding more weapons to this volatile situation could destabilise the entire region…”

The Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers were in a sunny Downing Street garden yesterday, welcoming that suspect package, and extolling the virtues of demonstrating “peacefully, positively, constructively” [Is that with, or without, a Thompson sub-machine gun? – Ed]  Without, probably…  ANYhoo, on the same day Sinn Féin released the text of what appears to be a different speech to that delivered in Downing Street by the Mid Ulster MP Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness – made at … Read more

Big Politics Pub Quiz: one day to go!

There’s just a day to go before the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz, so we hope you’re busy swotting up from Schott’s Almanac of Political Trivia, BBC Democracy Live, Hansard, 1996 Forum Election manifestoes and your box-sets of The Thick of It / The West Wing (delete as applicable). Some of our legislators will be among us, laying down the law from the quizmaster’s chair from 7:30pm or thereabouts in The Black Box. This year, we’re raising money for the emergency work of the Red Cross … Read more

Big Politics Pub Quiz: one week to go

There’s just one week to go before the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz, and as Malcolm Tucker once memorably said: “I’ve got a to-do list here that’s longer than a f#cking Leonard Cohen song.” The politicians are coming down from the hill and they’re headed for The Black Box. Tuesday 20 November, from 7:30pm to be precise. Currently confirmed to take a turn in the quiz-master’s chair are UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt; Environment Committee chair, Anna Lo MBE; Policing Board … Read more

Red Cross reaches besieged Homs. You can help.

All war is terrible. But there is something particularly terrible about a city under siege. Think of Derry, Leningrad, Sarajevo. That’s been the fate of Homs in Syria since Spring 2011. It was there that reporter Marie Colvin was killed by Syrian government shelling in February of this year. Who knows how many residents, whose names we don’t know, have shared her fate before and since. Most of the city is now under government control but fighting continues in certain … Read more

Hopes fading for Syria ceasefire

A four-day ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha has come into effect, albeit patchily, in Syria. The BBC’s Lina Sinjab reported this morning from the capital: Damascus hasn’t had a quiet morning for a long time, but so far, the ceasefire is being honoured. During the Eid holiday people visit cemeteries where their beloved are buried and put flowers on their graves. There are thousands of new graves to be visited today Yet, almost as soon as … Read more

Great Big Politics Pub Quiz 2012

For those who missed the Slugger for Syria post, this is an event announcement to confirm that the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz is back, this time to raise funds for the Red Cross / Red Crescent Syria crisis appeal. In Syria the need is desperate and the situation is deteriorating. Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers are risking their lives to provide a lifeline for everyone in Syria caught up in the conflict, supplying emergency food, shelter and medical care. … Read more

Slugger for Syria

“An artillery shell had just landed and the hospital entrance was a grotesque tableau of blood, bodies and tears. A small team of doctors set to work against a soundtrack of bombs and bullets.” So began Ian Pannell’s BBC report from Syria last week. His words and pictures were moving, distressing, enraging: “Two-year-old Ahmed screamed in terror and agony as a surgeon sewed his scalp back into place. His head had been torn open when a rocket landed on his house … Read more