Diary of a Misanthrope

News, views and nihilistic ramblings from a London based writer and filmmaker. Contributor for VICE News, BBC World Service, BBC News, ITV News, NBC News Al-Jazeera English, High Times and The Daily Star (Lebanon).

Four years on the hope of Libya’s revolution lies in ashes

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IS Militants burn confiscated musical instruments in Barqa

In a photo report posted online today, Libyan Islamic State militants can be seen setting fire to confiscated musical instruments in the Libyan region of Cyrenaica. In recent months Islamist extremist groups affiliated with IS have seized swathes of territory across the country implementing their radical interpretation of Islamic doctrine in areas under their control. Some of these interpretations include bans on smoking and musical instruments. The burning of seized musical instruments comes just days after Libyan Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts that had been kidnapped by the group.

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Forces from Libya’s new regime fight Gaddafi troops in Sirte as one of their comrades plays the guitar on 10 October, 2011. (Photo credit: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images).

Rivers of blood flow through the streets of Douma

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Image posted by Douma activist Abusalah al-Doumi

As Syria’s war reaches its fourth year the images of suffering meted out against the civilian population have continued to shock the world, as social media documents almost every brutal chapter.

Who is Sydney gunman Man Haron Monis?

Been a while since I have updated anything here, I have largely been working in broadcast so there haven’t been too many opportunities to publish anything. Today is my first day at Channel 4 News however and I was able to publish this on the Sydney Café siege:

Self-styled sheikh Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee, is named as the gunman who took hostages in Sydney. Here’s what we know about him.

News

Man Haron Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron and formerly Manteghi Boroujerdi, has been named by Australian authorities as the lone-gunman who held several people hostage in a café in Sydney’s central business district.

Message of ‘peace’

Monis posted the following on his website on the same day he entered the Sydney café: “Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia.

“If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society. The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are.

“Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.”

Convert to Sunni Islam

Monis, an Iranian refugee and former Shia cleric living in southwest Sydney, is 50 years old and has been living in Australia since 1996. He is believed to have recently converted to Sunni Islam after posting “I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah” on his website earlier this month.

Monis, along with his current partner Amirah Droudis, was arrested and charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, mother of two Noleen Hayson Pal, late last year.

Pal was stabbed and set alight on the staircase of her apartment in Sydney but both Monis and Droudis were released on bail after the case was deemed “weak” by magistrates.

Offensive letters

Monis and Droudis gained notoriety in Australia after sending numerous offensive letters to the grieving families of seven Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan within days of their deaths between 2007 and 2009.

He pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to the malicious letters after a four-year legal battle to have the charges thrown out. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service in September 2013.

After Monis’s guilty plea he spoke outside court and said: “From now on when I want to advise people not to kill children I should do it by hand delivery, not by using postal service!”

Sex crime charges

Monis was also arrested by Australian sex crimes squad detectives in April and charged with the indecent and sexual assault of a 27 year-old woman at his property in 2002.

During a recent court appearance in October 2014 he was charged with a further 40 sexual offences, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to six other women.

Police allege that Monis was operating as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” at the time of the alleged offences.

He is currently on bail for these offences and was due to appear in court in relation to indecent and sexual assault charges in February.

Read this article over at Channel 4 News

Polish Fascists Attacked a Music Festival in Tottenham on Saturday

A piece I wrote for VICE on a fascist attack I witnessed and filmed last month. Link to the full article here.

On Saturday, a group of about 20 Polish far-right nationalists attacked the audience at a family event called Music Day, held in Tottenham’s Markfield Park. It was billed as “an all day celebration of music in tandem with celebrations across the world” and seemed to have passed off peacefully enough, as you’d expect a family music festival to. However, as it was drawing to a close, a group of skinheads rushed the stage, assaulted several members of the crowd and events team, and left one man in hospital with stab wounds. The crowd managed to push the skinheads back into a small corner of the park, before four riot vans turned up to shut down the melee and arrest several people for breaching the peace.

Footage shows festivalgoers and the far right exchanging missiles, including flares. Another video shows a man getting arrested wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan, “Wielka Polska”, meaning “Great Poland”. The attackers were from a group of far-right Polish immigrants known as Zjednoczeni Emigranci Londyn (Emigrants United London). The police confirmed that a 22-year-old Polish man was charged with racially aggravated common assault, religiously aggravated common assault and common assault. Police said that another man – aged 22 – was arrested for racially aggravated common assault after a man’s kippah was pushed from his head.

I spoke to Rob, one of the organisers of the event, about what happened.

VICE: Hi Rob, can you tell me a bit about what went down on Saturday?
Rob: You know, this was clearly marked as an inclusive family event and it turned into fucking Armageddon. We have held this event for several years and never had any problems before. It had been a great day in the sun and everyone was having a good time.

Did you know about the group beforehand?
Well, while we were setting up two people from the local council came and warned us that “the BNP” were having a rally [in the area] today. So the council knew this was a possibility but I have no idea why it was presented to us as “the BNP” when these were clearly Polish nationalists. The council told us that they were aware of the situation and that there would be a police presence in the park all day. We sent out a text to alert people but we thought everything would be fine. But – at the moment when these guys came – there were no police around and that’s when it kicked off.

How aware of Zjednoczeni Emigranci Londyn were you before the event? 
We know they’ve been in the park and in the community for a while. We have seen their stickers and racist graffiti popping up over the last few months and there have been some standoffs between us and them, a few words here and there, but nothing violent. They have been waving nationalist flags and displaying aggressive behaviour, but nothing like this. This is the first physical confrontation; we did this event last year in the same place and it went off without a hiccup.

How did the fight start?
We were just coming to the last DJ set and the group came, I’d say there was about 50 of them, but only ten to 20 were the ones instigating the trouble. I was stood there with a friend immediately as they came and we stood against them. Before anything, one guy stole a beer from our bar, cracked it open and walked away. We tried to stop him from doing that and the beer was taken from his hand by one of us asking him to pay for it. Then another guy got on the stage for some reason. He was obviously inebriated, the way he was moving. By this point, more of them had started to congregate at the back of the stage. We instructed them to get off, but not a hand was laid on them. He asked us to move out of the way so he could get down and we let him do that, walking past a line of us peacefully to get back to his crew.

Okay. So how did that escalate?
There was then a standoff as they drew up to us, there were more of us and we were standing face to face. There was a conversation between the two groups in Polish – one of our guys was confronting the group in Polish as to why they were here making trouble and asking them to leave. The guy who stole the beer then started shouting in Polish, “Are we going to fucking do this, guys?”

Immediately after this, the skinhead who had been arguing with our friend in Polish punched him in the face. He fell to the ground and crumpled into the wheel of one of the vans. Once that happened, they charged at us. One of our group was stabbed once and he fell to the ground. Punches, bottles and flares were thrown and the fascists retreated into the rose garden.

Sounds pretty horrible.
There were babies there, you know? There were broken bottles being thrown, and there were children in prams. Could you imagine what would have happened if a baby had got hit in the face with a bottle?

Is the guy who got stabbed OK?
The stab was shallow and didn’t get to the kidney, it was superficial and he is going to be OK. Several people were injured though; two of our guys were left with large open wounds on their foreheads. We were lucky we had two paramedics in attendance.

Where were the police when this was happening?
We were let down by the police. They knew [the far-right nationalists] were going to be there and when we needed them the most, they weren’t there. There couldn’t have been more warning, so we feel disappointed there weren’t active police stationed for the duration of the day. They had been seen in the park all day; I had been told there had been an arrest made prior to the [main attack].

Polish far right stickers in Markfield Park

In a statement, North London Anti-Fascists referred to Zjednoczeni Emigranci as a “a relatively small but hardcore group”. Made up of ultra-nationalist Polish immigrants, they have about 350 members on Facebook. Their Facebook page seems to have been pulled for now, but when it was up was littered with ultra-nationalist iconography, racism and links to videos and stories about Polish football hooliganism.

The group are known to the local community, and according to several locals they have been a presence in Markfield Park for some time. A local skater said that he’d seen a rally take place in the park three months ago and that a group of about “200 of them were assembling and displaying nationalist flags, lighting flares and talking through megaphones”.

A local business owner and retired police officer who wishes to remain anonymous, said his business had been broken into three times by the same group over the past couple of years. “It’s been a while, a good few years. They had nearly 500 people in the park yesterday,” he said, “They’ve been congregating here, slowly building, over the last three and a half years now. This group has been causing a lot of issues here by drinking, damaging property and robbing people.

“We have been working with the council and the authorities but they are getting worse and worse and now we have a fascist Polish party here trying to rule the country. All of them are youths and full of energy and this is really worrying for us.

“We need help and protection from the authorities,” he continued, “we have our children that use this park and these guys are out of control. I have seen one of them getting arrested about six times in this park but he still comes back like nothing has happened to him, every single time.”

Unite Against Fascism have organised a rally outside Tottenham Town Hall today at 6PM, under the slogan, “Nazis Out of Haringey”. Meanwhile, North London Anti-Fascists have warned that, “We will not stop until every piece of ZE graffiti and stickers are removed or covered up, and their events so opposed by antifascists that they are forced to abandon them… if they dare to try to intimidate the communities of North London again we will be there to oppose and stop them.”

@OzKaterji

 

On Militancy and Resistance in Gaza, Palestine.

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In memory of Ahed, Zakaria, Mohammed & Mohammed Bakr and the countless lives destroyed by racist ideologies worldwide.

If you are 7 years old and living in Gaza, you are witnessing the 3rd major Israeli bombing campaign of your life, leaving thousands dead and even more injured and homeless. You almost certainly live below the poverty line and you are lucky if you have access to running water and electricity, which for the most part are cut off.

You have no passport and cannot leave Gaza, even to seek medical treatment as you are denied by a racist border guard.

Couple that with the likelihood that if you are 7 and living in Gaza you have almost certainly seen someone you know killed in front of you by an Israeli bomb.

How can you expect a 7 year old growing up in this hell not to grow into an 18 year old militant. I am 27 years old and have spent my whole life growing up in London, yet I am sickened to the point of apoplexy by the injustice of it all. It is difficult enough for me, a rational, non-violent atheist, not to want to arm myself to the teeth and fight to preserve the lives of the innocent. The Zionist state of Israel’s very existence depends upon ethnic cleansing and apartheid, yet the narrative driving everything is that Hamas is the problem.

Anyone that has lived the life that I have just described would find out quickly that to an ideology that views your very existence as a demographic threat that we are all Hamas anyway to these people. I don’t have a single ounce of condemnation in me for any Palestinian that grows up to be a militant, even a vile, murderous racist one. When you take away an entire people’s humanity you can expect nothing less.

Palestine will only be free when its people are freed from their chains, given the vote and had their humanity restored by tearing down the ideology that imprisoned them in the first place. Hamas is not the problem. Zionism is.

‘When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.‘ – Nelson Mandela

Tiocfaidh Ar La – Our day will come. No justice, no peace, no compromise.

Israel Killed Five Palestinians and Detained More than 400 in West Bank Raids

My latest for VICE:

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron. All photos by Oren Ziv

On Thursday, June 12, three teenage Israeli settlers between the ages of 16 and 19 were kidnapped while hiking through the West Bank in Palestine. Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaer were reported missing after last being seen hiking between Jewish settlements in the Hebron area in the West Bank late on Thursday evening.

Since the kidnappings, Israel has detained more than 400 Palestinians, including the speaker and several elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in ongoing raids across the West Bank. Of that number, 282 are allied to Hamas, the Israeli army says.

Israeli security forces also killed five Palestinians. Many are describing the actions of the Israeli army as “collective punishment.” The initial phase of the operation was described by Haaretz as “more a general strike against Hamas.” After two weeks, the Israeli government is finally starting to lower the public’s expectations of actually finding the missing teenagers. “As time passes, concern for their lives grows,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told reporters near Hebron on Tuesday.

Jewish students pray for two of their friends that were reported missing on Thursday night.

Israeli political figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have accused Hamas of being responsible for the kidnappings. The Israeli government have presented no evidence to support these claims yet, but say that they have “unequivocal proof” that they will make it public soon. Hamas have denied involvement and dismissed the accusation as “stupid.”

One of the Palestinian victims in the crack down, 19-year-old Ahmed Sabbaren, was shot in the chest and killed as Israeli soldiers stormed the al-Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah. I spoke to a B’Tselem spokesperson, Sarit Michaeli, who told me more about what happened. “During an Israeli military raid on al-Jalazoun refugee camp, youths confronted the army with stones and clashes ensued,” he said. “The army responded by shooting the youth in the chest with a live round. It’s quite common for IDF incursions into Palestinian communities to lead toconfrontations between youths and the army, that are one of the major causes of death and injury in the West Bank.”

Israeli soldiers tie up a Palestinian youth in the West Bank town of Halhul.

This escalation of tensions follows Hamas’s recent signing of a reconciliation agreement to end a seven-year division with the Palestinian Authority and the formation of a new unity government. Many political commentators have claimed that the Israeli government are using the kidnapping as political cover to remove Hamas’ political leadership in the West Bank and drive a wedge between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in advance of the upcoming Palestinian elections.

Writing for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, military and strategic analyst Alex Fishman said the kidnapping had created a “one-time operational opportunity” that Israel would use to “castrate” Hamas and suppress its “strongholds in Palestinian Authority territory to the greatest extent possible.”

Right-wing Israelis burn the Palestinian flag and shout racist slogans during an anti-Palestinian protest at the Gush Etzion junction, next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem

The disappearance of the teenagers has certainly created the political space for a crackdown within Israel. Anger has been spreading. A Hebrew Facebook page entitled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist” has nearly 20,000 likes with dozens of photos and comments inciting racial hatred and calling for the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.

Israeli soldiers searching a Palestinian in Hebron

With the recent growth of the Boycott, Divestment ,and Sanctions movement and the collapse of the US-led peace initiative, Israeli commentators are talking about the cost of indefinite occupation.

The author and prominent Jewish studies academic Marc H. Ellis summed it up well in an opinion piece for Mondoweiss. “In occupation, the innocent suffer,” he wrote. “Can it only be Palestinians who suffer? There is a cost to occupation. Even the powerful have to pay a price. Jews have to pay a price—when they’re occupiers. Missing Jews are a terrible to price to pay. But, then, Israeli jails are filled with ‘missing’ Palestinians. So return the missing—on all sides. Including the land and ethics and service to one’s own people. When all the missing are returned then we could begin again. A fresh start, honouring all the missing, which, in justice, would be returned.”

But the return of the three teenagers is looking increasingly unlikely as time goes on.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri demanded the Palestinian unity government take responsibility and protect Palestinians from Israeli aggression: “The Intifada is the greatest event in the history of the Palestinian people, and it renews itself every time there is an escalation in Israel’s aggression,” he warned. “Resistance through every channel is the legitimate right of the Palestinian people.”

The cost on both sides of the conflict could be set to rise.

Follow Oz Katerji on Twitter.

On Tonight’s UKIP Victory and Britain’s Lurch to the Right

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 02.25.01Although the news that Nick Griffin has lost his seat as an MEP has brought me some joy tonight I am reminded of my earliest memory of racism. I must have been no older than 6 and watching a party political broadcast on TV with my father, pointing at the mosque we used to attend together surrounded by worshippers on a sunny day on-screen.

My father had to explain to me that this was a BNP broadcast, and the man talking to camera was explaining that he wanted people like me and my father out of the country because we were Muslim. It is hard to summarise in words how that felt to a child, or how it still feels today to be a victim of racial abuse, my best description would be that it feels like getting kicked in the stomach.

But really, I take no joy from today’s results. BNP racism has not been defeated in the polls, instead it has been assimilated and overtaken by a more nuanced, socially acceptable and insidious form of bigotry and our country and the rest of Europe will suffer as a result.

 

High Times – Lebanon Hash Growth Report

I was published in High Times late last year, it’s not online so here is the unedited article for your consumption.

Chilling out in a Bekaa Valley Hash Farm

Chilling out in a Bekaa Valley Hash Farm

Cannabis farming in the Baalbeck region of Lebanon is an ancient practice that goes back to beginning of recorded history. The plant is indigenous to the region and grows without care or watering.

The farmers do not usually process the plants themselves instead choosing to sell their crop to drug lords in exchange for a relatively small return. They earn not much more per hectare than the revenues they could get from other crops and resort to Cannabis because they do not have the seed capital necessary to start up orchards or grow tomatoes or other crops ventures. For Cannabis they do not need to buy seeds, invest in irrigation or pay for fertilizers. Drug lords then process the leaves into paste or oil and these are gangs usually affiliated with the contraband networks and the more extravagant gun battles and kidnappings associated with the drug trade in the region.

At the lower end of the industry you have farmers cultivating and selling the crop earning a subsistence income. However these farmers are fiercely protective of their fields and are often willing to use force to protect them from state intervention.

In 2012 armed farmers fought off state employed bulldozers sent to destroy the illegal plantations. A ceasefire was only called after government ministers promised financial compensation for the farmers which never arrived.

As a result of the Lebanese government’s inability to provide compensation to the farmers there is a temporary block on the destruction of Cannabis farms.

Once the crop has been harvested and sold it is processed by locals who then sell it to traders or to the local market and this part of the trade is controlled by a number of tribal families. Then you have the drug lords who ensure contact with international networks and export the drug. They are also generally members of local tribal families, however their power is derived from their alliance with the de facto forces controlling the political scene at a specific period.

According to sources close to the trade the smuggling routes used for all of this traffic are controlled by Hezbollah. With the tightening of the sanctions on Iran, money flowing to Iranian-backed party was reduced and as a result drug-smuggling has become a much needed fund-raising activity.

Some of the recent political developments in Lebanon are heavily linked to the local drug trade. According to local sources the recent bout of clashes between Hezbollah and Lebanese security forces headed by Ashraf Rifi were triggered by losses of revenue from government clamp downs on the trade. The recent spate of high-profile gun battles and kidnappings in Arsal also stem from families with deep ties to the local drug trade.

Most traditional smuggling routes go through the Arsal Jur which is a border mountain area that slopes down into Syrian territory. Arsal Sunni families work together with Shi’ite tribal families along the smuggling routes and according to sources many of the recent flare ups have been caused by deals that have gone bad due to the worsening situation in Syria.

On the ground things are also getting worse for the casual smoker, prices have increased on average by 50% a year over the last 3 years, meaning that 100 grams now will set you back around $500 with prices set to continue rising. “They have arrested 160 smokers and dealers in the last few weeks” said a local Beiruti resident. “We can’t get smoke anywhere now, it is becoming really hard to find, very expensive to buy and dangerous for us to locate.”

Pretty glad I published this and hope to do more for High Times, also links awesomely well with my VICE documentary:

Lebanon’s Hash Farm Wars

Got to host my own VICE News documentary, filmed in Lebanon at the end of last summer’s harvest.

Lebanon’s Illegal Arms Trade

Here is the 2nd documentary I filmed with VICE in Lebanon with my colleagues Rami Aysha, Phil Caller and Aris Roussinos following up on Lebanon’s illegal arms trade at the heart of its sectarian issues.

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