Kurds march against Turkish State attacks

Edmonton & Tottenham, London. Sun 7 Feb 2016
Women make victory signs as they march holding the banner 'UK Stop Supporting Turkey'
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Almost 500 Kurds march through North London in protest against attacks on Kurdish cities in Turkey since last June's election which have killed over 400 civilians and against imprisonment of opposition politicians, human rights activists, journalists, students and mayors. They ask for intenational solidarity to call on Turkey to stop its crimes in Kurdistan, and to end attacks on Kurds who are fighting ISIS.

The marchers, almost entirely from the Kurdish community, met up at Angel junction at Edmonton. The protest had been called by the Democratic Union Initiative, the coalition of the Kurdish Left in Europe, and as usual they came with a wide and rather confusing range of flags. There were the usual pictures of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999; the Truth and Justice flags with images of the three Kurdish women politicians assasinated in Paris, flags for the PKK, the KKK, the YPG, AvEG-Kon (European Confederation of Oppressed Immigrants) , Federation of Democratic Rights in Europe (ADHK), Socialist Women's Union (SKB), the KJAR (Free Women Society of East Kurdistan), Partizan, Day-mer and Day-mer Youth and almost certainly others I missed or failed to recognise.

Many of the women had traditional Kurdish headscarves and sometimes a scarf in the red, yellow and green of Kurdistan. A few men wore these scarves too, though most were simply dressed in dark or black clothes. Apart from a banner from the Paddngton Branch of the RMT there was no presence from the British left, who don't appear to have woken up to what is happening in Turkey and in Kurdistan.

Since the success of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party in last June's elections there has been an increase in Turkish state actions against the Kurdish areas of Turkey, with curfews and the imposition of martial law, and arrests of anyone opposed to the AKP government. Kurdish areas have been under seige, with attacks by tanks and artillery, and snipers targetting homes. More than 400 civilians have been killed in the last 7 months, and politicians, human rights activists, journalists, students and mayors have been imprisoned- 30 mayors in the last few months. Hundreds of thousands have been threatened and forced to flee their homes.

Britain and the EU support Turkey despite what is happening, turning a blind eye to these attacks and arrests, and also to the Turkish state involvement in the refining and smuggling of oil from ISIS controlled areas which provides ISIS with over a million pounds a day to support their murderous activities and win the fight to gain and hold territory. Turkey has helped too by attacking the Kurds who have been leading the fight against ISIS, and is said also to be attacking Kurds outside the Turkish border.

The banners at the head of the march were carried by women and included two in English, one showing Erdogan as a blood-crazed maniac with the text 'Murderer Erdogan's Turkish Government Killed These People' and the other the simple text "Turkish Military Bombing Kurdish Towns Killing Civilians!!!'.

The march gathered in late afternoon, and darkness was beginning to fall as the march set off. I walked with it to a little past White Hart Lane before I felt tired and had to leave. As it set off I'd listened to the small contingent of police escorting it talking and deciding there were around 300 present. The last thing I did as I left was to stand in one place as the march went past and count those going past. It wasn't easy and I may have missed a few as parts were very densely packed, but I made it around 475. I'd be surprised if I was more than 10 or 20 out, but of course others may well have joined it after I left.
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Junior Doctors Rally & March

Waterloo Place & Downing St, London, Sat 6 Feb 2016

Doctors fight for the NHS quoting Nye Bevan
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Several thousand doctors attended a rally in Waterloo place before marching to Downing St for a sit-down in surgical masks against the imposition of new contracts they say will destroy the NHS and make it unsafe for patients.

NHS Doctors already work 24/7 and many carried placards for those unable to attend because they were at work or have left the UK rather than put up with changes proposed by Jeremy Hunt. At the rally various medical staff and researchers showed clearly how Hunt has been misleading the media and public about the need for changes in the contract, carefully selecting evidence that supports his case while ignoring the much wider evidence against it.

The junior doctors were supported in the protest by consultants, GPs, nurses and other medical staff who all see the contract as a part of an attack on the NHS to move towards a privatised medical system - and many leading politicians have financial interests in the companies that are crowding in to benefit as this takes place.

Doctors who have left the NHS to work abroad were asked to contact the march organisers, who printed out their details for around 200 red placards with the message 'You've driven me out Jeremy... Stop bleeding the NHS dry' and giveing their name and where they had gone. There were also several times as many blue placards for doctors who would have liked to have been at the protest but were working for the NHS on Saturday afternoon so unable to attend.

Dame Vivienne Westwood and her son Ben, also Vanessa Redgrave came to speak in support of the junior doctors, and there were a number of spirited performances by the National Health Singers. Towards the end of the rally several thousand surgical masks were handed out for people to write messages on and wear when the march reached Downing St.

When the doctors sat down on Whitehall I couldn't see the back of the crowd which was filling the roadway, and although not all were wearing surgical masks, most were, making a rather unusual spectacle. Four of the leaders of the junior doctors protest went to Downing St to deliver their message, but emerged after a few minutes to make the announcement that the people inside No 10 had refused to accept any message from them.

Clearly the government aren't prepared to listen. The junior doctors are on strike again on Wednesday, and it is widely expected that Jeremy Hunt will announce on the following day that he is to impose the contract. I think we are in for a long fight which will bring our health service to its knees. Already overstretched and with huge staff shortages things are about to get much worse.

Of course it isn't just junior doctors; new income rules for immigrant workers are likely to lead to up to 30,000 nurses being deported, and the cutting of bursaries for nurses and now proposed for all other medical courses will have disastrous effects. Add to this the effects of PFI which is bankrupting hospitals leading to privatisations and its hard not to see the end of the NHS as we have known it as inevitable.

It's almost certainly too late to save the NHS in its current incarnation. The only solution is the kind of radical change that happened before under Nye Bevan and others to create a new NHS. But for that we would need a new revitalised Labour party in power - or a people's revolution. Don't hold your breath - and don't get old or ill.
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Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest

Old Bond St, London. Sat 6 Feb 2016
Customers urged not to buy engagement rings which contain Steinmetz Israeli diamonds
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Protesters from Inminds.com outside diamond dealers including De Beers and Tiffanys close to St Valentines Day urge people not to buy engagement rings these shops sell using diamonds from Israel's Steinmetz Diamonds Group. They say Steinmetz supports the Israeli Army's Givati Brigade accused of war crimes in Gaza including the massacre of 29 members of the Samouni family in 2009.

There are no diamonds mined in Israel, but it is a major centre for cutting and polishing of raw diamondsm which is Israel's largest manufacturing export. The industry's sales of around $10bn a year contributes around $1 bn a year to Israeli military and security industries.

The Steinmetz Diamonds Group which supplies companies including De Beers and Tiffany supports the Israeli Givati Brigade through the Steinmetz Foundation.

I photographed the protest outside De Beers and left as they were moving on to protest outside other stores in the street selling Israeli diamonds, including Tiffany.
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Kurds protest against Turkish PM

QEII Centre, Westminster.Thu 4 Feb 2016

A woman holds a photograph of a child killed by Turkish government attacks as she shouts
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Kurds protest outside the QE2 Conference Centre in Westminster where Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu was attending the conference hosted by David Cameron on aid for Syria. Kurds accuse Turkey of atrocities against Kurdish civilians in Turkey and of supporting ISIS by exporting ISIS oil so they can attack Kurds in Syria and Turkey.

I left while people were still arriving with around a hundred protesters there making a great deal of noise and they would probably have been audible across the road in the conference centre. A number wore scarves in the colours of the Rojavan (Syrian Kurdistan) flag and there were other flags with pictures of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, jailed in Turkey since 1999, as well as those of the YPG, AvEG-Kon, (European Confederation of Oppressed Immigrants), the ADHK Confederation for, Democratic Rights, Socialist Women's Union (SKB), KJAR (Free Women Society of East Kurdistan) and others.

One of the banners showed Turkish Presdient Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R.T.E) as a deranged, demonic murderer and a poster accused the Turks of genocide against the Kurds. Many at the protest held large photographs showing the devastation and corpses of children and women killed in the Turkish air raids on Kurdish towns in Turkey.

Another banner from Day-Mer turkish and Kurdish Community Centre showed a figure representing the UK supporting another representing Turkey who in turn was supporting a figure labelled ISIS, with blood dripping from a sword in his right hand and the message 'UK Stop Supporting Turkey'.
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Syrians protest at donor aid conference

QEII Centre, Westminster.Thu 4 Feb 2016

Syrians with a banner 'Putin Get Out of Syria'
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Syrians protest outside the QE2 Conference Centre in Westminster where the conference on aid for Syria was taking place. They pointed out Syria as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, displacing 50% of the Syrian population, half of them children, with 5 countries - Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt - taking 95% of the refugees and called for an end to hunger sieges and the Russian bombing of Syria.

There was a high level of security with many heads of government and other leading politicians from around the world attending the event, and Victoria St and other roads around the area were closed to traffic, with the area around the conference centre fenced off, and protests being allowed to take place on the other side of Broad Sanctuary.
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Close Guantanamo 9th Anniversary

US Embassy, London. Thu 4 Feb 2016

All of those present were people I've often photographed at these protests over the last 8 years
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London Guantanamo Campaign celebrated the ninth anniversary of their regular protests - at first weekly and now every month outside the US Embassy since February 2007 with a protest in solidarity with prisoners still held there and calling on Obama to keep his promise to shut it down.

Several of those present have also taken part in the weekly vigils outside the Houses of Parliament for Shaker Aamer, now thankfully back with us. But the embassy protests every month - and on special occasions - will continue until Guantanamo closes and indefinite detention ends. And I'll try and photograph them at least occasionally, as I have done over the years.
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Central Hill Estate

Upper Norwood, London. Tue 2 feb 2016

London Prospect - and people in the estate are fighting to keep their homes
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There is only one real problem with the Central Hill Estate in Upper Norwood. Which is that the estate, owned by Lambeth Council, was built in an age when architects and planners were proud to design the best they could and councils keen to house their tenants to the highest standards, but it has lasted into an age where government policy aims to get rid of all social housing and councils are out to join developers in profiting from redeveloping with lower standards and higher densities for private sale.

The estate was superbly designed by Rosemary Stjernstedt (1912–1998) working for Lambeth borough under Ted Hollamby (1921-99) and benefitted from their experiences with earlier and socially less succesful schemes, several already listed. The 374 houses and flats (more have been added since at one end of the estate to bring the total to 456) were well built by John Laing Construction to plans that made superb use of the site on a hillside with extensive views across Central London and the estate was completed in 1974.

In 'The Buildings of England', Bridget Cherry and Nicolaus Pevsner are perhaps rather grudging in describing it as 'one of Lambeth's most ambitious housing developments' but go on to praise its 'tiers of elegant white-brick terraces', 'ingenious planning' to give all flats front doors at ground level and 'interlocking plans' to 'give each living room a distant view.' The estate also had large areas of open space, play areas, community buildings and a district heating system.

The whole is on a much more human scale than other large developments of the era, with a design that has proved succesful in encouraging community. People like living on the estate and all I talked to when walking around taking pictures were very positive - except for the one council employee who came out from the upper Norwood Community Resource Centre to ask me what I was doing. A survey answered by 150 residents recently found only two in favour of it being demolished. It has been a safe place to live, with below average crime levels - perhaps having the police station at its south-east corner has helped.

Like all social housing, the estate has suffered from neglect and poor maintenance, and the properties need refurbishment and bringing up to modern energy standards. Considering the age of the estate the cost per dwelling assessed by Lambeth Council is relatively moderate and only a fraction of that of new building. But so far, Lambeth Council have not been prepared to consider this, and have released no details of the plans they have to demolish all or most of the estate - or what would befall tenants and leaseholders. On the evidence of previous 'regeneration' schemes in London, they can expect a very raw deal, with most or all having to move to areas with cheaper housing.

It all comes down to money, with an apparent complete disregard for the residents from the Labour dominated council (59 of the 63 Lambeth councillors are Labour). The site is one that would make private developers salivate, with its wide views across London. Like most such schemes it would doubtless be approved on the basis of including a proportion of social housing, but such promises then are allowed to disappear or are severely whittled down as it is decided to be uneconomic to provide them. It would be possible to increase the number of houses and flats on the current site without demolition (or with very limited demolition) but the existing high-quality architecture would severely limit the possibility of building large numbers of new housing units on the cheap and the presence of social housing would make it harder to sell them at high prices on the market.

Last year the residents woke up to what Lambeth Council and architects PRP are planning and to the possibility of huge rent increases should they be allowed to stay or rehoused in what will undoubtedly be inferior properties on the current site, and began to fight, forming 'Save Central Hill' with a Facebook group, a web site and protests. They are supported by Architects for Social Housing who are developing alternative plans for the refubishment and enlargement of the existing estate - which Lambeth have recently stated they would like to see, although it seems unlikely they will give them serious consideration not least because it would be much harder to find the finance for a scheme which retains current tenants and leaseholders.

The pictures I took today show most of the areas of the estate, and include a number of images with a very wide angle of view - typically around 145 degrees. It wasn't my first visit to this estateto take pictures - I had photographed it previously in black and white and colour in 1996, when I had spent some time photographing the considerable display of graffiti - noticeably absent now. The area then had a far less welcoming and friendly feel.
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IWGB Picket Southwark Court

Southwark Crown Court, London. Mon 1 Feb 2016

The cleaners make a lot of noise to get their protest noticed
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Striking cleaners in worker-run union IWGB picket noisily outside Southwark Crown Court where they work demanding that cleaning contractor MITIE pay them a living wage.

The IWGB members were there for an all-day picket with drums, horns and placards at Southwark Crown Court, London, during their one day strike. Some had come at 9am and others were expected after I left around 2pm, with the picket continuing until 5pm.

Cleaners who work at the court are employed by MITIE, which supplies various services to the government and have been shown by various investigations to provide an extremely poor record of service, particularly at immigration centres such as Harmondsworth and Campsfield, cutting corners to boost their profits by inadequate staffing and poorly trained and managed staff - all to contribute to their profits of £49m in 2014, and the huge salary of over £1.5m to their boss Ruby McGregor-Smith.

The cleaners they employ to clean Southwark Crown Court are on the statutory minimum wage of £6.70 per hour, £2.70 an hour less than the London living wage set by the GLA as the minimum required to live on in the city. They also say that they are mistreated, humiliated and harassed by MITIE management. As their placards say, 'We are NOT the dust we clean' and they like all workers deserve to be treated with dignity and to be paid enough to live on - the London Living Wage.

The IWGB were in good spirits and determined to continue with their protests and further strikes until their demands are met. A number of those entering and leaving the protest expressed their support and some stopped to sign a petition supporting the cleaners.
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London Images

London, February 2016
to come

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my london diary index

Feb 2016

Kurds protest Turkish State attacks
Junior Doctors Rally & March
Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest
Kurds protest against Turkish PM
Syrians protest at donor aid conference
Close Guantanamo 9th Anniversary
Central Hill Estate
IWGB Picket Southwark Court
London Images


Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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