On Wednesday 4th February, the Two Sides One Story tour held it’s final night in Cardiff’s Student Union, with nearly 1000 people in attendance (and more turned away) it was by far and away the largest political meeting in Cardiff for some time. Those who gathered to hear the two former detainees and former guard from the world’s most notorious prison were surely bracing themselves for tales of brutality, suffering and depression. Indeed all these subjects were covered in depth, however there was plenty of laughter too.
Cageprisoners‘ (who organised the tour) spokesperson Moazzem Begg is a particularly good public speaker who has talked at similar events in Wales before, but this was the first time that Omar Deghayes, another former detainee, has spoken in Wales . The very presence of ex-guard (and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War) Chris Arendt at an event of this nature is historic in itself and what he had to say made it even more so. Rather than attempt to report on everything that was said, we await the editing and uploading of a film of the event which should appear soon, in the meantime other articles (and here), reports and comments have appeared online.
Guantanamo Detention camp is one of the most potent symbols of the Bush-Blair era and their ‘war on terror’. It is directly due to this strategy of military intervention to further western interests that so many refugees currently in the UK have had to flee their homes in search of a safer place to live. Of course Western imperialism has being ‘destabilising’ the so called ‘developing world’ to the effect of displacing so many people for a very long time. Omar Deghayes himself came to the UK as a refugee, a fact which was used as an excuse by the British government to fail to offer any support for his plight.
Sami Al Hajj, who was also meant to be taking part, was unable to attend due to the British government only granting him an entry visa on the final day of the tour. Since his very recent release from guantanamo, Sami joined a Free Gaza aid ship that attempted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza during the most recent Israeli onslaught. As the meeting had been organised by Cardiff Stop the War Coalition, much of the discussion after the speeches focused on the situation on Gaza, and local actions in solidarity with people there. Wales has a strong link with the conflict, and there have been numerous demonstrations about the latest round of atrocities.
The International Solidarity Movement, an activist organisation which works to help the Palestinian people under occupation, have called on No Borders to take action against the closed border around Gaza. While we condemn the Israeli occupation, its recent attacks on Palestinian civilians, and of course its closing of the borders around Gaza, what action we, or other groups across the network will take remains to be seen. However, the thorny issue of nationalism, which is very much tied up in the struggle of the Palestinian people, is something that we in No Borders have strong opinions about. Nationalism, beyond being a dead end for the liberation from oppression on a global scale, also easily overlaps with xenophobic attitudes, attitudes which anyone who believes in equality must oppose. These issues are the subject of a radical socialist forum on 11th February, we encourage anyone of a left wing persuasion or with a strong opinion either way to attend.