Here is a small sample of work I’m proud to have written when an agency feature writer for women’s weekly magazines
- Bella magazine
- Best magazine
- The Sunday Express
Sample of worked featured in The Palestine Telegraph
London, July 5, (Pal Telegraph) – Shaker Aamer, 42, is a British resident who has been held in Guantánamo Bay for seven years. He is a legal permanent resident of the UK, married to a British national, with four children all born and living in London.
Despite President Obama’s promise to put an end to the torture – Aamer has been left behind.
Shaker has long been cleared for release by the United States. He has never been charged by the United States with a crime and has never received a trial. However, he has been repeatedly abused and subjected to extended isolation in Guantánamo Bay.
Bush’s administration’s thought – up torture methods violating international human rights for the ‘war on terror’, were signed off by President Obama in the beginning of this year. Executive orders were made to shut down Guantanamo Bay detention center, administration officials say it could take a year. After seven years, with no charge or trial, Shaker Aamer’s life is still no closer to normailty.
Seized in Pakistan in late 2001, Shaker Aamer has been abused and tortured in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. In August 2007, the British government called for his release along with four other men. THEY have all since returned to the UK. Shaker has never been charged or tried yet HE remains the last Londoner still in there.
In a speech Obama stated that Guantanamo Bay must be closed, no one – least of all worried politicians in Congress – should fear that transferred terrorist suspects will be turned loose on American soil. But the world needs reminding of U.S. values, which uphold the importance of human rights.
Six months later Aamer is still waiting for freedom.
Aamer’s story starts when, at the age of seventeen, he ran away from an abusive family home in Saudi to America to join a family he had known from home. He spent the next few years travelling in Europe and the Middle East, before moving to London where he met his wife and married. Their first child, Johina, was born in 1997, His son Michael was born in 1999, Saif a year later and little Faris in 2002- after his father had been imprisoned.
While in London, he worked as an Arabic translator for the solicitor who advised him on his immigration case. Helping refugees, friends say, put Shaker where he loved to be – as counsel, listening and advising. But in the end, it was his dedication to the welfare of others that led to his detention in Guantánamo Bay.
In June 2001, Shaker went to Afghanistan to do voluntary work for an Islamic charity. He stayed in Kabul, which was at peace at the time. But after September 11th, the bombing of Kabul began. Fearing he would be taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance, who were suspicious of all Arabs in Afghanistan he went into hiding with an Afghan family.
But his freedom didn’t last long. Soldiers arrived at the house, stripped Shaker of his belongings and took him away at gunpoint. For the next two weeks Shaker was sold to various groups of soldiers, who accused him of killing their leader and beat him mercilessly.
The abuse continued, and when Shaker and four other Arab prisoners were driven out of Kabul one night, he thought the end had come and they were to be executed. Instead, the sound of a helicopter and American accents filled him with relief. “Americans!” he thought. “We are saved!”
In fact, his transfer to US forces marked the beginning of a new nightmare. Shaker arrived at Bagram Air Force Base at the end of December 2001 – the start of terrible abuse that has lasted seven years when transferred to Guantanamo Bay. America, world leader in democracy – had no charge and denied him a fair trial.
In Bagram Airforce base the abuse claimed by Aamer was they denied him food, US personnel would dump freezing water on him. This treatment, combined with the bitter Afghan winter, caused Shaker’s feet to become frostbitten. He was chained for hours in positions that made movement unbearable, and his swollen, blackened feet were beaten.
He was refused the painkillers he begged for. Shaker began to say whatever the US wanted, whether it was true or not. Satisfied with confessions made by a man desperate to end his torture, the US military transferred Shaker to Guantánamo Bay in February 2002.
Yet Shaker Aamer’s spirit has proved indomitable. When the military police beat up a prisoner while he was praying, Shaker initiated the first hunger strike at Guantánamo. More than three hundred prisoners began refusing meals. The Americans negotiated with Shaker, promising changes in the camp conditions.
But the promises were broken. When the hunger strike began again in September 2005, Shaker was placed in solitary confinement as punishment. He has remained alone in a six foot by eight foot windowless cell ever since. At breaking point and willing himself to die, Shaker was force fed liquid food through a tube shoved down his nose.
Lawyers based here in London, with the organisation Reprieve have finally cleared Shaker for release and his nightmare should come to an end. The British government have requested he is returned to the United Kingdom, but negotiations with the US ceased in December 2007 and have not been renewed. Meanwhile Shaker, whose psychological and physical state we can only guess, is still alone in his cell – waiting.
Dubai, May 7, (Pal Telegraph) – A British woman living in Dubai is battling for the right to see her children after a traumatic stint in prison. Marnie Pearce, 40, originally from Berkshire, England, was jailed for adultery by a Dubai court for three months and as a result lost custody of her two children.
Her Egyptian estranged-husband, Ihab El-Labban, whom she was convicted of cheating on, has full custody of their two boys, Laith and Ziad aged eight and four. Since her release in April, the authorities have suspended he deportation to allow her to seek legal access to her children. Just after her release from jail last month Marnie said: ‘For a moment it felt good to be free, but I didn’t have the right to see my babies and I desperately wanted to cuddle them.”
Marnie is now with friends in hiding, whilst she recuperates from her ordeal in jail. Speaking to a reporter in Dubai, Marnie said: ‘Being separated from your children is the worst punishment a mother could imagine. Not being able to wake up with them feels as if I am serving a life sentence.’ Marnie’s nightmare started in March when, she was accused of adultery on the basis of evidence purportedly showing she had cheated on her husband. Mr El-Labban is reported to have walked into the family home with several police officers in March this year. Marnie was having a cup of tea with a colleague’s brother-in-law. Miss Pearce claimed the accusation of adultery to be false.
She believed her husband may have framed her to get full custody of the children and avoid paying alimony. El-Labban has denied framing his ex-wife and insisted it was she who had an affair. Miss Pearce, who finally received her divorce decree absolute last month, said she and the man were arrested and interrogated by police. But the man had since been released without charge. Miss Pearce’s lawyer is working on her right to see her children and won’t comment on the case any further at this stage. Miss Pearce said: “I am desperate for the British embassy to help me but I feel no one is listening to me.”
In Dubai, non-Muslim adulterers cannot be punished by flogging but can face up to 18 months in prison. Marnie’s separation from her children is not an isolated case.According to Safe Kids, an international child abduction charity, child abductions within the family have increased by 85 per cent since 1995.
West Bank, July 16, (Pal Telegraph) - Ezra Nawi, an Israeli Jew who peacefully protested against Jewish settlers and occupation forces in the West Bank is set to be imprisoned.
Mr Nawi is due to be sentenced in court on August 16 – without international intervention he could face years behind bars.
Ezra Nawi, 57, a plumber by trade, has also been a human rights activist for years in the area known as South Mt. Hebron. Nawi’s persistent non-violent activity in the area is aimed both at aiding the local population in its plight to stay on their lands. But also at exposing the situation in the area to both the Israeli and international public eye. His presence has thwarted settlers and soldiers who view him with contempt. Army jeeps stalked him as he helped the locals.
The Palestinians, in this small desolate area in the very south of the West Bank, have been under Israeli occupation for almost 42 years; they still live without electricity, running water and other basic services, and are continuously harassed by the Jewish settlers who constantly violate both Israeli and International law. They are backed by a variety of Israeli military occupation forces, all of which operate in an effort to cleanse the area from its Palestinian inhabitants and create a new demographic reality in it.
The settlers, military occupation forces and Israeli police have a strong interest to restrict Ezra’s movement and ban him from the area. He was pronounced guilty of assaulting a police officer who was demolishing a Palestinian house on July 22, 2007. Ezra and his supporters claim he has been falsely accused to get rid of him. He will be sentenced on August 16, 2009.
The demolition and the resistance to it were captured on film and broadcasted on Israeli news. As depicted on the film (can be viewed on Youtube), Nawi, the man dressed in a green jacket, not only courageously protests the demolition, but after the bulldozer destroys the buildings he also tells the border policemen what he thinks of their actions. Sitting handcuffed in a military vehicle following his arrest, he exclaims:
“Yes, I was also a soldier, but I did not demolish houses… The only thing that will be left here is hatred…”
His arresting officers claim that the non-violent resister had assaulted them – although the claimed assault was not included in their original statements. The whole incident (barring the alleged assault) was caught on film, but the presiding judge believed the police. The sentencing was delayed because so many supporters turned up in court, some bearing a petition with 15,000 signatures.
Mr Nawi is asking a bigger question of his countrymen: who is perpetrating the greater violence? Is it people like him, or is it a state which bulldozes Palestinian shacks while protecting the homes of South Hebron settlers which the rest of the world considers illegal.
Nawi has received threats on his life from the settlers in the past. The chief of the investigations in the Hebron Israeli Police once admitted that what Nawi is doing in the area is “exposing the dirt laying under the rug…” Ezra Nawi’s efforts have been fruitful in the sense that the attempt to cleanse the South Mt. Hebron from its Palestinian inhabitants has become a visible, internationally acknowledged issue.
Rebel Mr. Nawi, from an Iraqi Jewish family, attributes his activism to two things: as a teenager, his family lived next door to the leader of Israel’s Communist Party, Reuven Kaminer, who influenced him. And he is gay.
“Being gay has made me understand what it is like to be a despised minority,” Mr. Nawi said.
Several years ago, he had a relationship with a Palestinian from the West Bank and ended up being convicted on charges of allowing his companion to live illegally in Israel. His companion was jailed for months.
His family do not understand his priorities and outspoken stance for the Palestinian’s rights. His mother says she thinks he is wasting his time. “My mother gave birth to me in Jerusalem when she was 14,” said Mr. Nawi, one of five siblings. “So my grandmother raised me. And she spoke to me in Arabic.”
Also many Israelis, when told of his work, wonder why he is not helping his own. Mr. Nawi has an answer:
“I don’t consider my work political,” he said between phone calls as he drove. “I don’t have a solution to this dispute. I just know that what is going on here is wrong. This is not about ideology. It is about decency.”
*For more information on how to help Ezra see http://www.supportezra.net/ and www.freeezra.org
Story from New York Times, Guardian and Support Ezra.net