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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky

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Pleas for Kings Bay 7

The Kings Bay Ploughshares activists were still awaiting sentencing in the US when PN went to press. They face up to 10 years in prison each.

Supporters are organising a letter-writing campaign, writing to the judge ahead of sentencing. No date for sentencing had been set at the time of going to press. It might be in February.

The seven were convicted in October of trespass, ‘depredation’ and destruction of government property and conspiracy, after breaking into a US Trident submarine base on 4 April 2018.

Topics: Anti-war action

Ahmad free!

On 13 January, the Israeli authorities released Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Zahran (42) from administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial. Ahmad had been on hunger strike for 113 days demanding to either be released or put on trial.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expressed its congratulations to Ahmad on his victory, describing his steadfastness and commitment to struggle as ‘an inspiration to all those around the world who support the Palestinian people and their just cause of return and liberation’.

African school strikers

The UK Student Climate Network is circulating an appeal from Fridays for Future Cameroon. Two climate school strikers in Cameroon in West Africa, Hamadou Sarki and Ibrahima Sali, were arrested during the September strike. They were only released after paying €2,200 each in bail – which is not going to be returned, they’ve been told.

Their families raised the money by selling their land and homes and Fridays for Future Cameroon is trying to raise €10,000 to enable them to buy new plots of land and build homes on them.

Topics: Climate Change

Afghan activists freed

On 26 December, 27 Afghan peace activists were released by Taliban insurgents after being held for 45 hours.

The activists from the People’s Peace Movement (PPM) were detained by the Taliban in Farah Province, western Afghanistan. Their six-car delegation was part of a national speaking tour urging all sides to agree to a ceasefire.

The PPM, which began in early 2018 in Helmand province, said this was the fourth time its peace marchers had been kidnapped by the Taliban.

The group carried out a 32-day, 260-mile peace walk from Kabul to Balkh in August 2018. Many walkers were barefoot.

This was a continuation of their first action, in March–June 2018, a 430-mile peace walk from Helmand to Kabul. (This led to their first name, the Helmand Peace March.)

Topics: Afghanistan

Yemen

After one of the quietest months in the Yemen war, heavy fighting began again in late January, with the UK-backed, Saudi-led coalition resuming airstrikes and ground attacks, and the Houthi rebels launching missiles and carrying out raids.

A suspected Houthi missile strike on 18 January killed 116 Yemeni government soldiers in the central province of Ma’rib.

This may lead to a major escalation in the war, and the end of tentative peace talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, the major force in the war.

The escalation may lead to fighting around the crucial port of Hodeidah, where a ceasefire has held for a year after the deployment of UN troops in four ‘observation posts’ in the city.

Helen Lackner, author of Yemen in Crisis (Verso, 2019), points out on OpenDemocracy that the presence UN troops since January 2019 ‘forced the [Saudi-led] coalition to abandon its plan to conquer Hodeida, leaving it without a military strategy to defeat the Huthis’. The troops are from UNMHA (the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement).

Lackner goes on: ‘This was one factor which encouraged the Saudis to start direct negotiations with the Huthis, and was probably the main reason for the UAE to announce its military withdrawal from Yemen in mid-2019, which has only been partially implemented.’

Topics: Yemen

Western Sahara

The British government is taking action – the wrong action – on Western Sahara.

As the UK leaves the EU, it wants to bring the EU-Morocco Association Agreement into British law, which would mean continuing to trade in resources stolen from Western Sahara by Morocco. Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975.

The agreement will be ‘laid before parliament’ until 11 February – without a debate or a vote in the house of commons.

UNISON, Global Justice Now and other major bodies have written in protest to the government.

In December, the Federal Crimson, a huge ship carrying 51,000 tonnes of conflict phosphate, was met by a peace flotilla as it arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The 15-kayak flotilla was protesting against the illegal importation of Saharawi phosphate.

The protest was inspired by the Peace Squadrons which were crucial in the campaign to make New Zealand free from (visiting) nuclear weapons.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union also gave a letter of protest to the captain of the ship, after the Council of Trade Unions (New Zealand’s TUC) passed a resolution condemning Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and calling on the New Zealand government to halt the importation of Saharawi phosphate.

Topics: Western Sahara

Lesbian capital of UK

During January, Hebden Bridge town hall in Yorkshire was home to an exhibition called ‘Our Greenham’.

It featured photos, leaflets, badges, interviews, song sheets, banners and even a camp kettle from Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

One of the organisers, Judith Baron from Calder Valley CND commented: ‘It feels particularly appropriate to revisit Greenham as an epicentre of resistance to nuclear weapons at a time when Donald Trump is tearing up the nuclear treaties which have helped keep the peace for decades.’

Witty placard required

The Peace Museum, Bradford, is the only British museum dedicated to the history of peace.

For their exhibition ‘Protest in Our Time’ which opens on 26 April, the museum is looking for objects from recent peaceful protests like Extinction Rebellion.

If you have an item which could be of interest, please get in touch: info [at] peacemuseum.org.uk

We’re in the money

At the beginning of January, the national audit office declared that three projects needed to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear weapon system are currently forecast to cost £1.35bn more than originally budgeted.

They may end up costing even more than the current estimate of £2.5bn.

One of the projects (‘Project Mensa’) is a new nuclear warhead assembly (and disassembly) facility at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield, one of Britain’s two nuclear bomb factories.

Another is a new BAE Systems shipbuilding structure in Barrow-in-Furness to build the Trident replacement ‘Dreadnought’ submarines.

The third infrastructure project is at Raynesway near Derby. It will help Rolls-Royce to develop and produce new nuclear reactors for the Dreadnought submarines.

Nearly half the extra costs to these projects were due to starting construction too early and having to make changes later.

Topics: Nuclear Weapons

Just say ‘No’

84 percent of young adults around the world say that it is never acceptable to use nuclear weapons, according to a new poll carried out for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The poll surveyed more than 16,000 people aged 20–35 (‘millennials’) in 16 countries and territories, half of them experiencing violent conflict.

83 percent of British millennials said it was never acceptable to use a nuclear weapon, almost exactly the global average.

Just over half of millennials around the world thought it was more likely than not that a nuclear attack would occur in the next decade.

Topics: Nuclear Weapons