Balwant Singh death penalty stayed

Khalistani separatist Balwant Singh’s execution, which was due to take place at the Patiala Central Prison this Saturday, has been halted.

A state-wide general strike, or bandh, was held on Wednesday. Following the submission of a petition against Balwant Singh’s execution from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the hanging was put off.

Many Sikhs regard Balwant Singh Rajoana to be a fighter for justice for the Sikh peoples. But under Indian law, he had committed the crime of the murder of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.

Beant Singh, who was blamed for many atrocities against suspected Khalistani separatists during his time in office, died in a car bomb that also killed 17 others. The family of Beant Singh have also asked for the Balwant Singh’s pardon, for the greater good.

Worldwide protest

Since Balwant Singh’s sentence was announced, there had been protests raging throughout Sikh communities worldwide, demanding the calling off of the punishment.

Young Sikhs in support of Balwant have managed to make quite an impact in the Social Media world. They have been posting extensively on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and various blogs.

Some Balwant supporters have even compared Balwant Singh to the influential revolutionary Bhagat Singh, who led the Hindustani Socialist Republican Association, which fought against British cononial rule during the 1920s and 30s.

But many other Sikhs consider this comparison to be disrespectful to Bhagat Singh, who was an Indian nationalist, not a separatist.

Capital punishment debate

Nobody has been executed in India for many years now, leading to Sikh suspicions of discrimination on the part of the court.

But even though the court had reduced the sentences of the others who were responsible for the assassination upon appeal, Balwant Singh had chosen not to appeal. He refused to be legally represented.

Mr. Singh has expressed his outrage at the disproportionate response to various events. He highlights that many responsible for the murder of thousands of Sikhs in 1984 have still not so much as faced trial.

The BJP has said that capital punishment should be scrapped altogether, although its approach to the issue has been ‘selective’, according to the Dal Khalsa. The ruling Congress Party has not taken a hard stance for or against the death penalty.

Many, including Mumbai bomber Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, have been on death row for many years now. This leads to the question of psychological damage done to those languishing in prison.

The controversy over Balwant Singh’s punishment has led to a renewal of the debate on capital punishment in India, and indeed a renewal of many pro-Khalistani sentiments worldwide.


Three conversations, three epic stories

Mobile media technology master Ilicco Elia, entrepreneurial journalist Don Omope and Mediastorm’s Brian Storm have agreed to talk to us about how and why their respective fields are changing, and their roles in that process.

Video journalist David Dunkley-Gyimah, our lecturer at the University of Westminster, has managed to pull some strings in the media world once again. After our chance to talk to the inspiring and award-winning director Eliot Rausch on Skype a couple of weeks back, this is our chance to broaden our horizons even further. The rapid growth of technological capability was resonant throughout all three our conversations, affecting the abilities of storytellers, journalists and even ordinary netizens.

Mobile technology

During his 20 years working for Thomson Reuters, Ilicco Elia was able to pioneer mobile services for the international news agency. He explains to us, while intermittently checking one of his six mobile phones, that mobile technology is no longer about how fast the internet or device is, but rather about how the consumer feels when using it. For the first time, smartphones such as the iPhone enable us to communicate with each other in ways that didn’t seem possible even as recent as 5 years ago. He smiles at the prospect of what mobile technology will evolve into in the coming 5 years.

Mobile technology has had a great impact on the practices of journalists too. Ilicco is reminisces of the first time he had encouraged a dis-believing colleague at Reuters, photographer Finbarr O’Reilly, to take a mobile phone with him into the field. But as the photographer and his camera equipment were battered by rebels in Chad, the mobile phone he had taken as backup suddenly became more useful than he had previously thought. Not only did the mobile phone provide the last resort backup, but it’s GPS function allowed him to be rescued.

For reporters, the mobile phone can facilitate a different kind of interview than a camera can. Many interviewees feel less intimidated by a mobile phone, and open up more in front of it. On top of this, as Ilicco elaborates, mobile phones allow journalists to film or photograph something, and send it directly back to the agency. Mobile technology therefore, doesn’t attempt to take away the role of the journalist, but to allow them more flexibility.

Taking control

Creative “Jack of all trades” Donald Omope has been making giant steps in the field of Entrepreneurial Journalism. Being able to photograph, shoot video, report, write and communicate well is impressive enough as it is. But knowing how to talk and interact with news agencies and broadcasting companies in way that they realise your worth, sets Don aside from the rest of us. He advises us that there are two ways to get to the top as a journalist. “You can start at the bottom of a company and slowly work your way up,” he says, “or you can build yourself up independently so that companies sought after you.” And that’s the approach he has taken.

And every step of the way, he has retained complete control over his life by making choices only for the benefit of his passions. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Westminster, he worked, saved up his student loan and even invested in stocks and shares in order to pay for his camera equipment.

During the 2011 riots in London, Don photographed the action in Tottenham. Don describes, that after arriving at the scene, it didn’t take him long as a local to suss out who was going to be the easier party to focus on, rioters or police. But it wasn’t that easy. At one point, he found a police baton crashing down on his head and camera, after repeated harassment to stop photographing them. But he knew his rights as a journalist. Later, as he spoke live to the BBC, he began to read out the badge number of the police officer who had attacked him, as he watched the colour disappear from the officer’s face.

“If you don’t have an idea, then you’ve got no hope (in this industry),” he exlains to us. It is important to look for your own niche, in which there is currently something missing. Then when you have your idea, you must use all the skills you have to make that idea materialise.

The days when one could get by with one skill are long gone, and Don has shown that being self-sufficient financially and journalistically can bring you closer to your dreams. With his passion in Film and seeing a gap in the market for it, he set up a website called African Screens, the only online magazine focusing on the African Film Industry.

Storytelling that counts

Brian Storm emphasises that storytelling itself has not changed over time, but changes in technology now mean that it is possible for anyone to tell a story and make it global. “It transcends all platforms, all devices…it’s still about telling stories.” The aim of award-winning multimedia production studio Mediastorm has been to tell stories that every human being can relate to, that get us thinking about what binds us as a people.

He takes us back to 1994 when  he was at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He had been working for a newspaper in Missouri as a stills photographer. But troubled by only being allowed 2 photos per story, he decided to create a platform that didn’t limit how a story is told – Mediastorm.

Besides its impressively high quality productions, what sets Mediastorm apart is most definitely its attitude. “Journalists go around pretending that they can be objective, but that’s impossible,” he says, “you can be fair to your subject, but you can’t be objective.” Preferring to call themselves storytellers, as opposed to journalists, the staff at Mediastorm, “don’t fit a traditional model, we fit what we care about.”

Some productions such as Walter Astrada’s ‘Undesired’, bringing light to the suffering of many Indian women as a consequence of gender inequality, have been criticised for being unbalanced. But Brian strongly upholds that their aim is to raise public awareness of these issues, and by provoking the emotions that it does, more people want to watch it.

He has a similar attitude to the Kony 2012 video, which has come under heavy fire recently. He applauds director Jason Russell for being able to get 30 billion people thinking about a topic they didn’t previously know about. Brian also surmises that critics of the video are simply envious that they weren’t able to do something with as much impact.

Three conclusions

After the day of talking to such inspirational characters, we walk away with many ideas buzzing around in our minds. Don empowers us by telling us that if we wish, we are able to control our own careers and stay close to our passions. Ilicco, by his example alone, shows us how much technology can develop in such a short space of time, making the lives of journalists incredibly flexible. And Brian Storm reminds us that although technology may be changing, the fundamental things that make us human remain the same.

The wisdom of Eliot Rausch

Thanks to today’s technology, lecturer David Dunkley Gyimah, my class and I, were able to Skype with award winning editor, director and storyteller Eliot Rausch about what goes behind his intimate and humanistic style of documentary-making.

Eliot Rausch’s documentaries, including ‘Last minutes with Oden’ and ‘Pass the bucket’, are able to touch hearts, inspire and empower. His style of film-making has been described as raw, and tends to focus on people who would otherwise be ignored. He is addicted to trying to capture the human spirit, which comes alive in times of suffering.

Though he began his career in Graphic Design, and later taught himself to use Final Cut Pro and After Effects. He then entered the world of advertising and also began making music videos. The atmosphere of success that surrounded him led him into drug addiction. Throughout his struggle to get clean, Eliot was accompanied by Jason Wood, or Woody, who featured in Elior’s first masterpiece outside the commercial world – ‘Last minutes with Oden.’

Touching documentaries

‘Last minutes with Oden’ is a short documentary portraying the end of a beautiful relationship between Eliot’s friend Woody and his loyal dog Oden. The loss of such a loving creature was even too much for the crew, as their tears welled up while filming. After tens of thousands of views and likes, the piece ended up winning the 2010 Vimeo Awards for Best Video and Best Documentary, some of the greatest accomplishments in the online film community. But he explained how he was filled with an odd emotion afterwards, as if he had exploited a dear friend’s weak moment.

In terms of the creativity in his documentaries, he found many of the choices of shot, frame and subject instinctual. When initially brainstorming how to shoot Amy Purdy, a double-leg amputee, in an episode of ‘Pass the Bucket‘, someone had suggested showing her snowboarding. But Eliot found more beauty in the simplicity of showing Amy in her home environment, adjusting her prosthetic leg as a part of her daily routine. “Simplicity is more profound,” he says. The entire series of ‘Pass the Bucket’ focuses on the human aspects of top sport personalities’ and artists’ lives.

The key to a human story

When asked about the challenges he has faced, he told us how important it is to keep your initial aims and intentions alive. He had started off in the industry with a pure heart and the intention to create change in the world. And admitted that the spotlight of winning awards and earning a fair amount of money had caused him to temporarily sway away from that purity. “I don’t want to die with trophies in my hand, I want to go out knowing that really tried to make change,” he said in this video about his life.

He went on to emphasize how the key to documentaries like his own, is to be close to the people you are filming. Building a rapport or a relationship with them, will allow you to “get so close to their reality that it’s uncomfortable.” As a good listener, and trusting in his own footage and pre-visualisation enough to take a step back, Eliot is able to let his subjects breath. This is something needed in the kind of touching, human stories that he tells. “I am immersed in culture and relationships,” he says, “and when I’m connected with a story, the camera is secondary.”

Eliot used the money won in the Vimeo Awards to facilitate a project about the lives of three illegal immigrants in the US. He gave them each a camera, and asked them to document their own lives. Eliot’s edit of their footage can be seen in the film ‘Limbo, launching this June.

Thanks to Eliot Rausch for giving us a glimpse into the mind of such an honest and talented storyteller.

Human Traffic

Photo: Ira Gelb / Flickr

Photo: Ira Gelb / Flickr

Between 100,000 to 800,000 people are still being trafficked into the European Union annually. As policy-makers are busy thinking up new ways to control immigration in the UK, Jody-Lan Castle asks whether enough is being done to tackle human trafficking.  The Metropolitan Police’s specialist Human Trafficking unit was closed down in 2010. As the exploitation of men, women and children continues, this documentary asks Baroness Kennedy QC, Paul Donohoe from Anti Slavery and Sarah Walker from the English Collective of Prostitutes, where is current trafficking legislation going wrong?

The featured image is by Ira Gelb / Flickr.

Langar: Faith in Food

We started, as all visitors do, by taking off our shoes and covering our heads. For those who don’t usually wear turbans or a scarf, there are spare ones provided. As we followed the grandiose staircase upwards, the Sikh’s holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, housed under a golden canopy, came into view. After bowing in respect and sitting for a while to take in the sweet sounds of the holy book being sung aloud.

Gurdwaras, or Sikh temples, practice their service to Humanity by providing this free, round-the-clock kitchen. People of any race or religion are welcomed to eat Langar, which consists of solely vegetarian food, while sitting on the floor with everybody else. This dining style was introduced by the Sikh founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji as a symbol of everyone’s equality, a theme that is resonant throughout the Sikh Faith.

The whole system, from food preparation to cleaning up, is run by volunteers who offer their help and service selflessly. This is what in Sikhism is called Sewa. And those who give Sewa are Sewadars. The most warming part of this is that they don’t expect anything in return. As Gurdeep Singh took us on a tour around the kitchen, we watched as women tossed and beat dough into round, flat shapes to make chapatis. At the next table, men were leaning over a burning hot-plate, flipping the flattened dough until it was slightly browned.

Sewadars like Gurdeep Singh devote time to serving Langar almost every day. Preparing the dishes, which range from daal (lentils) to kheer (semolina), starts at 2 in the morning in order to feed hungry mouths by 5 a.m. In a continuous cycle throughout the day, trays are taken, filled and emptied by visiting worshippers, and given to another group of Sewadars who are in charge of washing up. By 9 or 10 at night, the kitchen is sparkling clean again, ready for another day of hard work to begin again in a few hours time.

The day that the Gurdwara is pulsing with energy and life is on a Sunday. The Sewadars, along with the the Chefs, feed from 5,000 to 10,000 people on this one day. We stood in the fridge among gallons upon gallons of milk that would all be used in one day to make kheer. 

After a long day, we took a metal tray from the pile. A ladel-full of daal, vegetable curry and kheer was added to our tray as we moved along. We were also offered chapatis, masala tea and jalebi, a sweet battered pretzel doused in syrup. As we sat and ate this delicious meal, the Gurbani, or devotional songs, played continuously, echoing throughout the spacious rooms, soothing the soul.

Southall is home to the grand, awe-inspiring Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara. But this isn’t the only place in London you can join this community experience. Upton Park and Southfields are also home to major Gurdwaras, as well as the oldest Gurdwara in Europe in Shepherd’s Bush.

Multimedia by Jody-Lan Castle and Bibek Rajbhandari, article by Jody-Lan Castle.

The global talent pool of the English Premiership

Arsenal were the victors of last night’s match in come-back against Aston Villa. But who was it all up to? Two goals by Robin Van Persie, and one by Theo Walcott. And the squad behind them were from the Czech Republic, Cameroon, Poland… With a team who 82% from abroad, this got us thinking how dependent are English teams on foreign talent? And what is the impact of this?

Audio recording and editing: Jody-Lan Castle and Michelle Shi

Turks likely to become criminalised for genocide denial

France’s large Armenian community are likely to help push the law through, which makes the denial of genocides a criminal offence.

The French Senate has been asked to drop the proposed law by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Following last month’s passing of the law by the National Assembly, Turkey’s relations with France had ceased.

France’s ethnically Armenian population numbers at around half a million according to the BBC. Turkey speculates that the move to approve the controversial law is an attempt at gaining more votes.

The bill could mean that Turks in France may be forced to admit to the Armenian genocide due to fear of a 1-year imprisonment and hefty fines. The topic remains one of the most controversial topics in Turkey, which allegedly led to the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

France’s move denotes a sense that not all European countries are keen on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. There remain three key factors that Turkey must improve upon, including admitting to the Armenian genocide, treating the Kurdish population equally and giving up Turkish Cyprus. If this new French law is passed, it will seem like Turkey’s European dream is getting further and further away.

A stab in the back for the Gurkhas

The Ministry of Defence’s new wave of cuts will make more than one in ten Gurkha soldiers redundant, most likely from the older generation.

Photo (Jody-Lan Castle) : Here the Mayor of Folkestone, Susan Wallace, says Namaste to members of the Nepalese Community.Over 45,000 Gurkhas have died in battle to date in the name of Great Britain. They fought bravely alongside British troops in conflicts such as Kosovo, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the World Wars. But now, only 3 years after winning the Gurkha Justice Campaign, the Gurkhas are set to bear the brunt of the Ministry of Defence’s second round of cuts. The announcement came on Tuesday that the British Armed Forces will shed an extra 2,900 soldiers, including 400 Gurkhas, in its attempt to save £4.7billion.

Former Councillor of Folkestone in Kent, Dhan Gurung, has accused the Ministry of Defence of discrimination due to the disproportionate number of Gurkhas to be axed compared to their British counterparts. But according to Defence Minister Philip Hammond, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is necessary to clean up after the preceding Labour government’s overzealous defence spending.

The Defence Minister also commented that the review is likely to affect mostly Gurkhas who have already served for 6 years or more. The move also seems to intentionally target the older Gurkhas. The changes in the maximum years of service for Gurkhas, from 15 years to 22, mean that Gurkhas will remain in service until much older ages. So ironically, it is those who have served this country the longest that will be made redundant.

Though many Gurkhas currently fear for the future of their careers, there are attempts at keeping UK-Nepal relations strong on a local and national level. Nepalese Artist Ajaya Deshar is holding his exhibition In Search of Peace in Folkestone, Kent, home to over 350 Nepalese families and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. The exhibition’s opening ceremony brought the local and Nepalese communities together to share in the Nepalese culture.

Racial relations in Folkestone, Kent

Amid all this discussion about racism in the UK, here is a look at how Folkestone in Kent is doing in terms of its racial relations.

Folkestone is a multicultural town, including large groups of Nepalese, Bangladeshi and Eastern European people.

These graphs show that the number of White British people has gradually declined over the past 10 years, and the number of ethnic minorities has risen.

The Nepalese Community is probably the most prominent ethnic group in Folkestone. In 1997, when the Gurkhas’ base was moved from Hong Kong to the UK, Folkestone became home to the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Now, over 350 Nepalese families live there. Here’s Susan Wallace, the Mayor of Folkestone, telling us about the Gurkhas.
In January 2011, an Afghan teenager was stabbed and killed by another Afghan boy. The cause was said to be a tribal feud. This incident polarised the public in Folkestone, and racial relations became tense. The newspapers at the time said that some parts of Folkestone were becoming ghettos.This is Barbara Witham, Events Organiser for Folkestone Town Centre Management and one of those responsible for Folkestone Multicultural Festival, commenting on the stabbing of an Afghan teenager in Folkestone last year.As the Economy worsens and unemployment stays high, the relations between ethnic groups in Folkestone will be strained. Hopefully, Folkestone will remain a peaceful seaside town.For a more detailed report, including public opinion and an interview with Bijay Hitan from the Nepalese Community of Folkestone, listen to this.

Racism issues at the forefront of British Media

Racism is becoming a part of everyday dialogue in Britain. The stories that have made the headlines are making us aware of the problems at hand, but are racial relations getting better in the UK?

Britain is a multicultural country, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. But economic hardship, a majorly biased Media, and general ignorance cause relations that were already tense to be strained even further.

The 23-year old Indian student Anuj Bidve, who was shot dead in Salford, is the most recent victim of racial discrimination in the UK. And 18 years after Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death just for being black, his racist killers have finally been sentenced. Debate continues over the Metropolitan Police’s disproportionate number of stop and searches of black youths, which may have led to London’s violence in the summer of 2011.

The issue of race has even become a serious topic in the world of Sports. The Commons culture committee, made up of MPs, is set to start its inquiry into racism in Sport following the increasing number of racism allegations against key sports figures. England captain John Terry is currently still being investigated for allegedly shouting racist remarks at Anton Ferdinand.

A recent survey carried out by thinktank British Future and the Observer newspaper found that people living in Britain who were not born there identify as strongly with Britain as those who are British-born. But the YouTube sensation ‘racist tram lady’, from South London, whose racist ranting has split opinion among Brits online, has renewed the bigoted idea that non-white people can’t be British. The most disturbing thing is that some people agree with what she said on the tram.

The Daily Mail and the Sun continue feed the general public with anti-Immigration propaganda, giving the impression that it is foreigners who are ‘stealing our jobs.’ The previously mentioned Observer survey also found that British people feel that people born outside of the UK, who reside in Britain, are having negative influences on crime levels, the availability of housing and jobs and the National Health Service. Yet, they did admit that those born outside Britain were having a positive influence on the Food Industry. Not surprising considering that most Brits see curry as their national dish.

As unemployment, funding cuts and a threatening recession strain the country further, and the Olympics just around the corner, the coming summer could prove a difficult and tense time for Britain. 2011 saw the Student protests, the London riots and the ‘Occupy’ movement. The last thing London needs during its year in the light of the Olympic torch is a repeat of last year’s civil disobedience and a discontented citizenry. Changes need to be made.

Article also published here:

Another one bites the dust

A Nation is weeping at the death of their not-so-beloved leader Kim Jong-il, as he has died of heart attack, just months after the world was rid of Muammar Qaddafi.

I’m sure in the minds of some starving North Koreans, the thoughts, “Finally” or “Thank God” are going through. But of course on the outside they are putting on that over-dramatic staged outcry.

Every time an evil leader dies, I wonder if it is true. But that’s up to conspiracy theorists to ponder. More important right now is what is going to happen to North Korea.

Trouble to come

Asian stock markets plummeting give us some clue as to the unstable time that the country is about to go through. New leadership, nuclear arms and a poor citizenry are not a good mixture.

Kim Jong-un, who is supposed to the successor to the leadership, has only been in the public eye for around a year. It is not yet sure how the people will accept him or whether he is capable of leading at all.

As with many authoritarian states, internal strife leads to an attempted diversion of attention. This is usually by creating trouble externally. That is why especially the US, South Korea and Japan are on alert.

But as the situation is in the early stages, it’s near impossible to be able to decipher the moves of the most unpredictable state on earth.



Occupy Wukan!

While the world is participating in the mass hysteria of occupy protests, a little village in Guangdong, China is staging its own…only this time against local government officials.

The last straw for the 10,000 residents of Wukan, Guangdong, was when a member of the village was allegedly beaten to death by local police. After many years of putting up with corruption from local officials and police, they have had enough.

The villagers don’t blame the central Chinese government, and in fact still have a strong support for the Chinese Communist Party. However, they are blaming the corruption which they believe is rife locally.

Most of the tension between the local government and the residents of Wukan has been over land disputes, as the villagers’ land is slowly taken over by developers.

Probably due to government fear of ‘Occupy-style’ protests or ‘Arab-Spring’ revolutions starting in China, the village has been stormed by baton-armed police officers. Tear gas was also allegedly used.

Coincidentally, the villager who is believed to have been killed by police, though they deny it, was a spokesperson trying to sort out the land ownership causing the disputes.

As with the Arab Spring, citizens are starting to call for Democracy. They want to elect their local leaders. And with the power that the Chinese people have when unified, looks like the Chinese government has something to worry about.

Serving Pironi and Prosecco to the Mail on Sunday

Just a normal day in class, and a normal day at work. Well so I thought. Until I found myself having a B52 shot at the expense of one of the newspapers I loathe the most, the Mail of Sunday. After yesterday’s blogpost ranting about the Daily Mail, I ironically turned up at work to find Bob from the Mail on Sunday was hosting a party at our restaurant.

Standing behind the bar eavesdropping on people’s conversations, I didn’t hear anything more exciting than men moaning about the stress of having a wife and kids.

I did expect a bunch of bigots ranting about the state of Britain and immigrants stealing jobs, but I guess they save all that for their newspaper.

Funnily enough, it seems like Daily Mail staff have a certain look about them, which I’m not able to describe. All I know is, I will know a Daily Mail journalist if he walks into the room!

I overheard that the Telegraph’s party was on tonight too. Again my bad luck rears its ugliness…why couldn’t the Telegraph hold their party at ours!

When the food came out, some of the chicken seemed undercooked. One of them came to me and said jokingly, “We’d best send these back, unless you’re trying to send our entire department down with food poisoning?” And I had a little giggle to myself.

Not everyone at the party worked for the Daily Mail, there were some delightful people.

Bob, though I didn’t catch his last name, was very talkative. Well…at least to my white work colleagues.

When I asked everyone if they needed us to call taxis for them, he turned to everyone and said “does anyone need taxis? This………..(long pause)….woman is asking.” “Go on! Call me something racist, I dare you!” I was thinking in my head.

There seemed to be a consensus among my work colleagues and I, that the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday is not a very nice newspaper. And my boss couldn’t seem to understand why, “I love them ‘cos they’re Fascists”, he said giggling.

Before anyone asks, no of course I did not get any contacts! I have a conscience you know!

The Daily Mail proves its ignorance once again

How on earth is the Daily Mail allowed to publish what it does, calling it Journalism?!

This week’s evidence of the Daily Mail’s ignorance and laziness was written on the 3rd December entitled: “Alarming rise of Muslim ‘honour attacks’ in the UK as police reveal thousands were carried out last year.”

My first bone to pick is that there was no evidence in the information released by the police that the majority, or any, of the victims or attackers were Muslims. In fact, Religion wasn’t included at all.

Though the common conception is that honour-killing is a Muslim phenomenon, there are actually high numbers of these crimes in some Sikh and Hindu communities too.

But of course, the Daily Mail has to play on the Islamophobia which is now in the public’s conscience, which was planted there by irresponsible press like the Daily Mail in the first place.

“Culprits hailed ‘heroes’ in the community for carrying out the attacks” it says. Again, not true. This sentence is meant to be assumed to be a fact, as it is featured in a bulleted list, giving it importance. It also seems like the Daily Mail is trying to imply that the whole Muslim community agrees that honour-killing is right, which we all know isn’t true.

Besides its outrageously biased writing style and basing fact on opinion, it also has quite shocking discussion section, asking crass questions like: “Are white children becoming the minority in British schools?” The kind of question designed to provoke bigots and BNP-supporters to rant about foreigners.

Hardly surprising that an online newspaper, whose entire front page is celebrity-ridden, doesn’t know how to write news.

Fame Asylum: Thinking out of the box to change popular opinion on asylum seekers

If someone asked you how you would try to change the public’s perception of refugees and asylum seekers, the last thing that would come to mind would be to form an asylum seeker boy-band in 2 weeks. But nothing escapes the mind of Richard Dedomenici.

The Platforma Festival, a collection of talks, performances and displays of artwork by and about refugees, has run from 29th November to the 4th December.

It has given me another chance to see ‘Fame Asylum‘ by Richard Dedomenici and listen to his reflections on the project 5 years after it was broadcast.

The man himself

Renowned for coming up with thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, or to some, jaw-dropping Live Art, Richard Dedomenici isn’t your average film-maker, or artist.

He spent part of 2004 wandering around Chicago with a plastic bag over his head and hands tied behind his back, in the same fashion as prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Then spookily days later, the prisoner abuse scandal was availed in the Iraqi prison.

“I want to create the kind of uncertainty that leads to possibility” he says on his website, where one can get a real sense of what live art is.

Show Aims

The documentary, art project, TV show, however you may perceive it, ‘Fame Asylum’ was aimed at poking fun at the genre of talent shows but eventually became a part of it. It was structured with all the X-Factor/Pop Idol elements; auditions, rehearsal, performance.

The difference this time is that this talent show also aimed to take away the stigma that exists around asylum seekers and refugees due to negativity portrayed in the mainstream press.

Richard had wanted people who wouldn’t usually come into contact with asylum seekers, but who would watch talent shows on TV, to interact with asylum seekers through the project. Some people who commented on the show by email had expressed their change in opinion towards asylum seekers after watching it.

Richard admitted to losing a lot of control over the project as Channel 4, who commissioned the piece, had preferences.

The show provokes emotions at both ends of the spectrum. There is the comedy of four asylum seekers who begin dancing out of time, and singing out of tune. But there is also the heart-breaking story of each individual’s plight, having lost family and traveled alone far from home at a young age.

Status, as the group was eventually named, consisted of Long from Vietnam, Saeed from Iran, Aaron from Albania and David from Nigeria. 

Asylum Issues

Many of the issues in the lives of asylum seekers are covered in the show. Aaron, after making his life in the UK, is ashamed to let his English friends know that he’s an asylum seeker due to the stigma around the term.

David, having relied on the Church since coming to the UK, battled between performing on stage or going to Church when they need his assistance.

Unaccompanied minors are asylum seekers who come to the UK under the age of 18, without the supervision on an adult. They are allowed to stay in the UK under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As Saeed was approaching 18 when the show was being filmed, he faced deportation.

Richard had had doubts before starting the project, wondering if making the boys into a boy-band for 2 weeks only for it to cease to exist afterwards, was being fair or not. But the ‘Status’ boys reflected positively afterwards.

Apparently when Richard and the boys watched the show back together, emotions were high.Status didn’t get snapped up by a record company, but Richard is glad of it. He thinks they are all capable of much more than that.

Though his original priority had been to create an art project, it soon changed to be the interests of the boys in Status.

My Reflection

With years experience working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and the issues that they face, I feel Richard Dedomenici’s project had a genuine intention to change public opinion.

We all try different ways to tackle the problem of the negativity towards this vulnerable group, but none of us have thought outside of the box.

‘Fame Asylum’ helps us to realise that there are no limits to what we can do. And even if the things we do only change a few opinions, then we’re on our way to getting there.

The reality of the infotainment era that we are in, is that people don’t like to deal with serious issues. The only way we can get ordinary people to look deeper into issues like Asylum, is to make them entertaining. And that’s what Richard Dedomenici has done.

What has the world come to when people agree with racist tram lady?

When people commenting on the youtube video of the ‘racist tram lady‘ and agree with her, it makes you wonder what kind of world are we living in?

It is one thing that a woman with a child on her lap spurts racism on a tram. That I have already responded to in a previous post.

But when some of those commenting on the incident can see where she’s coming from? Now that’s scary.

Fellow blogger Rae on ‘I’m a diva nerd’ wrote a commendable post in response to Emma West’s rant titled ‘An open letter to Emma West, the racist on the tram.’

But some of the comments the post received were quite shockingly outrageous! One bigot by the name of Bill commented, “If we were given the choice, we would not now be a multi-cultural country.”

It gets worse. He later said, “the British destroyed the NATIVE Indians and their land, and now we British and our land are being destroyed.”

“I think it can be blamed on a general degeneration of society, which immigration has contributed towards,” he commented.

Rae managed to bounce back with further comments in the debate. But to know that people in Britain still truly believe this kind of thing is true makes me and like-minded people uneasy.

A youtube user SeekTheSeventh said, “I can’t decide which is better, the fact she said what millions others are think or her face at the end of the video.”

And SeekTheSeventh might be right. We don’t know how many people think this way. People who are polite to our faces, and are internally cursing our existence?

Possibly the most shocking of all, and most probably a BNP/EDL member, was this one by youtube user rcfdx:


– DEPORT all the two million plus who are here illegally;

– DEPORT all those who commit crimes and whose original nationality was not British

– REVIEW all recent grants of residence or citizenship to ensure they are still appropriate

– OFFER grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently

– STOP all new immigration except for exceptional cases

– REJECT ALL asylum seekers/NIGGERS who passed safe countries on their way to Britain”.

I don’t think I need to mention how wrong the ‘N’ word is, but as for the rest of the comment, it sounds like a BNP and EDL manifesto. It fails to recognise that people in need do come to the UK for a safe place to stay and genuinely do so. It also marks people like myself (those of foreign descent resident here), though born in the UK, as foreigners. What would happen to the UK if what this person wanted actually happened? It would fall apart.

Anyone who dares to pretend that this kind of ranting is expressing one’s right to ‘freedom of speech‘ must be clinically insane. This is outright racism, and it is illegal. Fingers crossed that the police don’t let this one slip. An example has to be made of the ‘racist tram lady’, to show others like her that they are wrong.

Correction: SeekTheSeventh had not intended the comment to agree with the ‘racist tram lady’. They in fact had wanted to express the opposite. Thanks for emailing me.

From one Brit to another: response to ‘racist tram lady’

Tram Lady,

Firstly, I am British. If I were on that tram when you were performing your bigoted speech, you probably would have shouted “and you’re not English either, are ya?” at me too. But I was born and brought up in Kent.

Personally, I still consider those who have lived in the UK for a while, and who have become a part of our society, as fellow Brits. But there is no argument when it comes to whether people like me (non-white Brits) are British or not. Of course we are.

I love MY Britain. A Britain which is decades ahead of where your conscience seems to be stuck. Today’s Britain is trying to be and should be a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, that combine to make a strong and active nation. But thanks to people like you, it’s impossible to unite.

What have you done for “your Britain”? Not that I like to make assumptions, but in the intoxicated state you were in, I doubt very much.

What have people like me done for our Britain is more the question. Like-minded white and non-white British people are doctors, teachers, engineers, policemen, firemen. We are an irreplaceable part of British society.

Watching you slur your vile words while your son sits on your lap, made me feel physically sick. Don’t ever utter the words “freedom of speech“. Thankfully, even someone you do consider to be English, told you that you were wrong. And for the sake of irony, I hope the policeman who arrested you was black.

Sea runs red with whale blood

The waves crashed with a red tint on the shore of the Faroe Islands today as hundreds of pilot whales were slaughtered for the annual tradition of ‘Grindadrap.’

The meat from the kill is divided up among the communities of the Faroe Islands, where they have consumed the whale meat for over a thousand years.

Pilot whales are not the only sea creatures killed as a part of their annual tradition; beaked whales and dolphins are also hunted.

The Faroe Islanders have been practicing the tradition carried down from their Viking ancestors for centuries, and show no signs of stopping.

But the way in which the whales die is troubling the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They say that after the whales’ spines are severed, they are left to bleed to death slowly.

Though whaling is not permitted in Denmark, the Faroe Islands are self-governing and are therefore entitled to abide by their own laws on whaling.


Against Japanese whaling

The Bob Barker anti-whaling ship arrived yesterday at Hobart, Australia, in the lead-up to Japan’s whaling season.

The ship is manned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and is aiming to prevent the whalers from carrying out their hunt, which the Japanese government has given them another $30 million to carry out.

The Sea Shepherd’s leader Paul Watson says that the Japanese are no longer concerned with the act of whaling, but more about not backing down to the anti-whaling ship.

The same anti-whaling campaign carried out last year had forced the Japanese to return without killing any whales. But this year, they are determined.

The same kind of anti-whaling ship may be able to make a difference in Denmark if it embarked prior to ‘Grindadrap’ next year.


Photo: puttsk 

‘One Tiger Eight Breasts’ and yet another investigation


Looks like the Chinese government is intent on making Chinese activist Ai Wei Wei famous.

Every time he does something, they investigate him for it, and he jumps back into the headlines.

This time he has been taking his clothes off, joining four naked ladies, perching on little wooden stools and giggling, all the while being photographed.

All in the name of Art of course.

But the Chinese government doesn’t see it that way. And now he has found himself under investigation yet again.

The piece is titled ‘one Tiger eight breasts’. And is not the first piece in China in which an artist has posed nude in their own work.

He has only recently disappeared from the spotlight of paying a 15 million yuan tax bill along with the help of the Chinese people.

Of course, the Chinese government couldn’t give a damn about pornography, but are probably using it as a way to try to keep Ai quiet.

Though it doesn’t seem to be working.

Now that Ai has reached the eyes of the international community, thanks to the internet, they won’t be able to do much to stop him.

They may respond however, by cracking down harder and harder on internet users, and increasing internet policing.

They know the power of the web, and the potential threat it poses to the stability of China.