Monday, March 14, 2016

Syria crisis, five years on - a nation set back decades

‘If you dare give those to Bashar al-Assad, I swear I’ll find you and beat you up.’
Back then the threat seemed jarringly unlikely and would have been laughable had the situation not been so bleak - in retrospect it reflects somehow a relatively simpler time.
The words were not growled by an AK47-toting militant nor patrolling soldier but a knee-high four-year-old anxious not to be caught in an aid worker’s photos beside Lebanon’s Syrian border.
Fear and even desperate aggression from a child were expressed in the context of bogeyman Bashar al-Assad, the man behind an onslaught by rockets, barrel bombs, chemical weapons and shoot-to-kill street thugs.
Since that encounter in Akkar in September 2013, Syrians’ plight has been exacerbated still further - and more convolutedly - by bloodthirsty emergency and surge of Daesh, Russian air-strikes and chaotic ‘peace talks’.
And still the Arab Spring revolt that became a government crackdown that became a gruelling civil war that become a global crisis displays few signs of hope or progress, only the promise of decades more misery...

"These memories keep coming back - and I'm glad they do": Michael Sheen on Syria's lost generation

They could be kids running carefree in Port Talbot or on the streets of London - or even the teenage offspring of Hollywood stars.
Instead, they are the civil war-scarred, homeless, helpless and forced-old-before-their-time children cast adrift by five years and counting of carnage in Syria and spreading beyond.
Children as young as seven are being forced by armed groups to fight in Syria’s civil war which reaches its five-year anniversary on Tuesday, a Unicef study has found.
And as many as 8.4million children are now thought to have been harmed by the civil war which began in March 2011 with Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Among those confronted by such enveloping despair - and the odd glimmer of hope - has been The Damned United, Frost/Nixon, The Queen and The Passion actor Michael Sheen, also a Unicef UK ambassador who spent last week in neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mercy mission: the expats, holidaymakers and actors fishing refugees from the sea

Distraught and bedraggled families are being fished from the Aegean Sea by holidaymakers, retired expats and star actors - while officials look on.
Men Behaving Badly’s Neil Morrissey and The Full Monty’s Hugo Speer have told Metro of their experiences helping desperate refugees arriving off the Greek island of Lesbos.
They found despair among the hundreds fleeing civil war, poverty and persecution back home, defiance from local volunteers - yet some impotence from authorities meant to help and protect.
Razor-wire-surrounded reception centres are often the refugees’ first official sights on European Union land - ‘more like prison camps’, Speer said.
And official agencies have to hang back unless a boat is actually sinking, for fear of being accused of people-smuggling themselves for helping people across international borders.
Other volunteers have felt less constrained, with Morrissey telling: ‘You feel you have to do whatever you can to help - you can’t just stand by and watch.’

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

"Love These Goon Shows!"

‘Take it away, wanna hear you play ‘til the lights go down...’

Ah, RIP Sir George Martin. 

In an uncharacteristic blip of a Queen’s English slip, the Holloway-born, Bromley-schooled producer said in advance of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: ‘It’s going to be a stonching [sic] record.’
They all were. He did so much to make them so.
The Beatles provided the tunes - whatever David Cameron might have, inevitably clunkily, claimed - and the genius flights of fancy, but their producer was necessary to give them studio reality.