From 1 to 12 November, one of the world’s most significant conferences on environment and climate change, known as COP26 – the 26th Conference Of the Parties –takes place in Glasgow. It is the first major test of the Paris Agreement of COP21 in 2015, which was a new international climate agreement, applicable to all countries, aiming to keep global warming at 1.5°C to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as recom-mended by the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change).
Peace organisations around the world are demanding action for peace, disarmament and de-militarisation, including a complete end to nuclear weapons.
It is now well recognised by major charities, policy makers and senior military personnel that climate change can lead to soil degradation, competition for scarce resources, mass migration and instability, thus greatly multiplying the threat of war.
Still barely acknowledged, though, is that war itself contributes significantly to climate change through the whole cycle: ore extraction and manufacture of equipment and weaponry; trials and training with massive fuel use; the maintenance of vast numbers of buildings; the use of fuels and explosives in warfare, plus resulting fires; and, often overlooked, extensive rebuilding of devastated infrastructure with its reliance on carbon-hungry cement and steel.
SGR (Scientists for Global Responsibility) estimate that around 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions result from military-related activity (see www.sgr.org.uk ) yet there is no obligation on nations to count these emissions, nor to include them in reduction targets.
By the time you read this newsletter the Conference will be under way, and you may have heard or read about its progress (or lack thereof) and other events taking place in Glasgow. Scottish CND have produced a very comprehensive Toolkit for COP26. It includes a programme of Climate and Peace events and actions, links to petitions and open letters, and resources.
Saturday 6 November 2021 is the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. As world leaders meet in Glasgow, towns and cities across the world will take to the streets demanding global climate justice.
Meet outside the Bank of England at 12 noon, before marching to Trafalgar Square for a rally at 3pm. The Climate not Trident bloc will meet by the Duke of Wellington statue, between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street. Look out for the yellow CND banner!
As the demo clashes with our stall date we may not have enough people to carry our banner, so please text Rosemary on the day if you wish to locate KPC members.
In normal times CND Conference takes place over one weekend, with the AGM and Policy Conference on the Saturday, and invited speakers and workshops on the Sunday. If, like me, you have been attending these events for years it is an opportunity to catch up with familiar faces from other groups from all over the country.
But as with most events these days the Conference this year took place by Zoom link, over two weekends.
Saturday 16 October
Kate Hudson (CND General Secretary) presented a report on the achievements of the last year:
Council election results and Policy resolutions can be seen at https://cnduk.org/about/cnd-conference/cnd-conference-2021/
Sunday 24 October
In the morning session of the public conference on the Sunday, speakers discussed the global impact of the UK’s illegal nuclear arsenal increase - will the 40% increase in nuclear warheads lead to a new arms race, and will it increase the risk of nuclear war? Speakers were Professor Paul Rogers from the UK; Vijay Prashad from the Tricontinental Institute in India and across the Global South; Colonel Ann Wright from Veterans for Peace in the US; and Ruth Rohde from the Arms Information Centre in Freiburg, Germany (who suggested that with a new coalition of parties since their elections, there is a chance that Germany might follow Norway’s lead and join the Meeting of the States Parties of the TPNW in Vienna next year).
The afternoon session looked at Britain and the TPNW, assessing the legacy of Britain’s nuclear tests and what it would need to do to sign up to the nuclear ban, with Talei Luscia Mangioni, a campaigner for a Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific; Rebecca Johnson, who has worked extensively on the UK and TPNW compliance; and Alan Owen, from LABRATS, campaigning with nuclear test veterans. The TPNW is the first treaty to recognize the needs of indigenous people harmed by the testing and development of nuclear weapons.
Both sessions were extremely instructive, with a wealth of resources and links to further information provided by the speakers. You can follow the conference and find links to all the resources at
The London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) has been campaigning since 2006 for the return of all British residents from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, the release of all prisoners, the closure of this prison and other similar prisons and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. Human rights for all.
As the final US troops left Afghanistan two weeks ago, and the Taliban rolled into Kabul, taking the Presidential Palace on August 15 after President Ashraf Ghani fled, the presence of one particular Taliban member, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, caught the attention of the western media, when he declared that he had been held at Guantánamo for eight years.
Guantánamo: the mere mention of the word, from the mouth of a conquering Talib, standing in the very place so recently occupied by the US-backed president, reinvigorated the right-wingers in Congress, and in the US media, who had been worried that President Biden might finally close their beloved gulag once and for all.
Once upon a time, the merest mention of Guantánamo had summoned up images of bloodthirsty Al-Qaeda terrorists, hell-bent on the destruction of America. However, over the years, as the horrors of Guantánamo leaked out to the world, revealing the use of torture and other forms of abuse on prisoners who, for the most part, were not involved in any kind of terrorism at all, defending its existence became more difficult. By his second term, even George W. Bush was aware that it was an embarrassment, and left office having released 532 of the 779 men he had imprisoned there.
When President Obama tried to close it, however, he met fierce resistance from Republicans, who slowed prisoner releases and successfully kept its closure from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, Obama released nearly 200 men in his eight years in office, and by the time Donald Trump took over, only 41 were still held. Branding them all terrorists, Trump refused to release any of them (with the one exception of a Saudi who had agreed to a plea deal in his military commission trial, and was sent back to Saudi Arabia to ongoing imprisonment).
When President Biden took office, however, there was a renewed glimmer of hope that the prison would be closed. There was, finally, a widespread recognition that indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial, for nearly 20 years, is wrong, and critics. including Senators and members of the House of Representatives, urged him to close Guantánamo. Last month Biden actually released a solitary living prisoner, Abdul Latif Nasser, sent back to his family in Morocco.
In their September newsletter, LGC announced that as of October 2021, it would cease to hold its monthly Shut Guantánamo! demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London. Inspired by the permanent anti-Iraq War vigil outside Parliament by late campaigner Brian Haw, in February 2007 they started a regular monthly (weekly until 2008) protest outside the US Embassy in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and to remind the US authorities that their illegal prison camp was not forgotten. At the time, they said that they would discontinue their protests once Guantánamo was shut, little realising it would still be open for business 20 years later. They moved their protest online during the pandemic lockdown, but this summer returned to their regular protest. However, with falling numbers of attendees and the fact that the remaining 39 prisoners are largely unknown to or forgotten by the general public, they have decided to suspend this form of protest.
Members of KPC/CND supported these protests, especially when they were campaigning for the release of Shaker Aamer, a UK resident who was detained in Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for 13 years, finally being released in 2015. Our member Noel Hamel has continued to protest regularly over the past decade.
Noel says: “We are very sad to discontinue the regular monthly protest though we remain concerned. It is a principle that people aren't seized and abused randomly. 760 innocent prisoners were released, some many years after they had been ‘cleared for release’, because there was no evidence of wrong-doing. It isn't clear why this happened so slowly over time. Little is understood about the 39 remaining or the processes they are subjected to or why. Many people falsely believe prisoners were encountered in suspicious circumstances ‘on the battlefield’ in Afghanistan - not so. The details and stories of the prisoners could fill volumes. Overwhelmingly prisoners weren't apprehended in a recognised legal manner but were seized with prejudice and bigotry being the principle motivators. Guantánamo and everything associated with it has set back the course of judicial processes by centuries, and for 39 men it continues.”
LGC remains in solidarity with the remaining prisoners, those who have been released, many of whom continue to suffer persecution and the effects of illegal US detention and torture after their release, and other prisoners subject to arbitrary detention and torture worldwide.
They thank everyone who has joined them at these protests since February 2007. When appropriate, they will continue to protest outside the US Embassy, calling for justice for present and past prisoners and the closure of Guantánamo. They hope supporters will join them at future protests until Guantánamo closes.
The Israeli Defense Ministry on 19 October 2021 issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.” The groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. The designation, made pursuant to a 2016 Israeli statute, effectively outlaws the activities of these civil society groups. It authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who work closely with many of these groups, said in a joint statement:
“This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians. While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations. The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.
How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders. We are proud to work with our Palestinian partners and have been doing so for decades. They represent the best of global civil society. We stand with them in challenging this outrageous decision.”
Please ask your MP to sign EDM 583 ‘Proscribing of Palestinian human rights organisations’.
Journeymen Theatre is coming back to Kingston Quaker Centre with two of their plays on Quaker themes on 26 and 27 November 2021. Performances start at 7.30pm, preceded by refreshments from 6.30pm.
What led a 17th century woman in her fifties to leave a comfortable home in a remote East Midlands region, to become a travelling Quaker Minister, enduring persecution and prison, confronting Cromwell and Charles II, making the dangerous Atlantic crossing several times and ending her days in Jamaica?
Hooton and other early Quakers experienced the English Civil war and its aftermath in all its viciousness; indeed in terms of suffering and loss the English Civil War had a destructive impact greater than either of the two World Wars of the Twentieth century. Out of this crucible of war there emerged what historians usually call 'The Protestant Sects' - Ranters, Seekers, Baptists, Muggletonians and Fifth Monarchists and, of course, Quakers.
Looking at Hooton's life and sufferings as a Quaker casts a clear light into the tangled skein of seventeenth century religious belief, when the most important issue facing men and women was that of individual salvation. She and the early Quakers turned this issue on its head by advocating and embracing a radical, practical and socialist theology. As the Quaker Epistle of 2021 says: ‘Our Quaker forefathers were wild about their faith’. And they challenged the establishment.....is it time to rewild our Quakerism? Elizabeth Hooton's answer would be a resounding ‘Yea’!
Ron's spent a lifetime in prison and the outside world is no longer beckoning. He, like thousands of others, will see out his days inside. He's come to terms with that but being part of the UK's ageing prison population is bringing its own challenges, particularly for those whose job it is to make the 'system' function.
Kathy becomes part of Ron's life as a newly appointed Quaker prison chaplain. Ron is something of a spiritual tourist, having visited a range of faith-based destinations before arriving at Kathy's Quaker group. She in turn is both idealistic and overwhelmed by what she experiences.
The play explores the complexities of the UK penal system and how this impacts upon both inmates and those who work within it. In particular it exposes the pressures and stresses caused by the increasing number of elderly men who will see out their days in prison cells.
KCRS has at last been assigned a Syrian refugee family for resettlement in our local community. The family, consisting of mother, father and two young children, is scheduled to arrive in the UK in early November and must self-isolate in their apartment for at least 10 days and be tested twice for the Covid virus.
KCRS’s job is to support them during their self-isolation, then as they start to become familiar with their new environment and, over the next year or so, as they try to become self-sufficient.
The United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered international law in January 2021. Countries across the world are supporting this historic agreement which bans nuclear weapons in participating states and is generating international momentum towards global nuclear abolition. But the UK government refused to even participate in the talks and now says it will never sign.
But towns and cities around the world – including Washington, Paris and Manchester – are bypassing their governments’ opposition and becoming Nuclear Ban Communities, as they sign up to support the TPNW.
A small group has been formed in Richmond to take this forward. It has suggested a Resolution in support of the TPNW which the council could pass and the plan is to get one person in each ward to send the letter, with this Resolution, to their three councillors asking for their support. If you live in the London Borough of Richmond and are willing to take part in this, please contact Hilary.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND