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Brave Little Sternums by Matt Broomfield

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Fly on the Wall Press  £10.99 + p&p

Mural, linking the anarchist influences on Rojava

Difficult and defiant are two words that come to mind on thinking about this new book of poems from Matt Broomfield. Recently published by Fly on the Wall Press, the collection deserves to be widely read and promoted. For those familiar with what has happened and is happening in Rojava, these poems will undoubtedly deepen their appreciation of what has been achieved there – and at what cost. For those less aware, this work is a stepping-stone to further engagement.

Resistance and rebellion arise all the time, but its enemies are more ruthless than ever. Take the Arab Spring and the huge hope it was born of and inspired. Think of the aftermath of Syrian uprising – about the vicious war directed against the rebels. Or of those who had the temerity to rise up in Egypt, or Libya or Bahrain. In each case the retribution was fierce.

Perhaps this is why Rojava is so important. Who would have given those who live there a chance against NATO’s second biggest army, Turkey. Against ISIS and its brutal mutations, or against Syria’s cruel Assad regime. Not to mention Russia and the United States waiting in the wings. If it’s true that you are known by your enemies then that must say something highly significant about what Rojava stands for.

Feminism, anarchism, democracy …

To give you a sense of what this is aobut I include here the Wikipedia entry for Rojava:

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), also known as Rojava, is a de facto autonomous region in north-eastern Syria. It consists of self-governing sub-regions in the areas of Afrin, Jazira, Euphrates, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Deir Ez-Zor. The region gained its de facto autonomy in 2012 in the context of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War. While entertaining some foreign relations, the region is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria or any state except for the Catalan Parliament. The AANES has widespread support for its universal democratic, sustainable, autonomous pluralist, equal, and feminist policies in dialogues with other parties and organizations. North-eastern Syria is polyethnic and home to sizeable ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Turkmen, Armenians Circassians and Yazidis. Supporters of the region’s administration, state that it is an officially secular polity with direct democratic ambitions based on an anarchistic, feminist, and libertarian socialist ideology promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability, social ecology and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity, and that these values are mirrored in its constitution, society, and politics, stating it to be a model for a federalized Syria as a whole, rather than outright independence …

Rojava is a living example that another world is possible. Ethnic strife is not inevitable, dictatorship is not inevitable, patriarchy is not evitable. There are other ways to live and all credit to the people and political forces in Rojava who have carved out a different way to living based around the practices of real (participatory) democracy.

It is into this world that Matt Broomfield arrived in 2018. Rojava had held back ISIS and then played a key part in eliminating its presence in the north Syria region. But Turkey was only waiting to strike, invading in 2018 and again in 2019. All the time, while fighting these wars of self-preservation against its many enemies, Rojava continued to build a new type of society. The price has been high and if Brave Little Sternums speaks of anything then it is of these losses and the gains that were made. Matt Broomfield summarises the situation at one point:

“The revolution is living, ugly, beautiful, writhing, self-contradictory, hopelessly compromised, and utterly worth fighting for.”

Matt Bloomfield was interviewed by MedyaNews about Brave Little Sternums. Towards the end of the interview he reads and discusses a number of poems from the book.

ghazal: 80km from Shengak City [is at 15 minutes in the MedyaNews podcast.] Using the word heval – Kurdish for comrade – the sweep of this rhythmic poem is broken repeatedly by its jarring declarations. Coffins are carried down the Tel Kocker road/ no matter how heavy, heval/ mothers will reach and wail for the coffins/ no matter how empty, heval.

for Hevrin Khalef [at 20 minutes] I recall reading about the brutal roadside slaying of Hevrin Khalef in 2019. A Kurdish journalist and activist, her car was ambushed by a Turkish army backed paramilitary group. She was dragged from the vehicle and beaten before being murdered. This bleak poem which opens with powerful lines – The temptation is to elide/ normalise or over-indulge/ and not to inhabit – succeeds in personalising this activist’s death, extracting it from those accounts that have appeared online and testifying to her bravery. The truth is not the sum of abrasion but the abrasions attest to the truth.

For Anna Campbell (Helin Qerechox) [at 29.30 minutes] is another powerful poem managing to capture the impossibility of not acting in certain circumstances. Moral courage is everything and of course Anna Campbell had this. She travelled to Rojava and fought with the YPG, losing her life in a missile attack by Turkey in 2019. Her family have fought a long battle to have her body brought home but have (at the time of writing) not been successful. The poem conjures a difficult angst, each section building up to, but never quite reaching its point. As in Above all, we would also/ in our thousands we would also/ believe us, heval/ at any cost we would also

Containing over forty poems, background material on Rojava, some photos and and observations by the author we are indebted to Fly On The Wall Press for publishing this collection. Do cconsidering buying this book – as both the author and the publisher need support in today’s difficult bookmarket. And of course Rojava needs as much attention at it can get. Despite all that’s been achieved it survives on a knife edge today.

Buy the book directly from Fly on the Wall Press here  £10.99 + p&p

More Links

Brave Little Sternums, poems from Rojava by Matt Broomfield – Medya News

Journalist Banned From 26 European Countries

Rojava – Revolution Between a Rock and a Hard Place (WSM, Ireland)

Solidarity Books @ Cork

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Solidarity Books is a new bookstore on Douglas Street in Cork.  Directions with a google map are here. radical books in Cork at last! It is an initiative by Cork anarchists to provide a bookstore in the heart of Cork – a place where you will be able to get those many and varied publications that the ‘corporates’ like Waterstones won’t stock.  In terms of books alone, the shop is a very welcome addition to the scene in Cork – which, to not put too fine a point on it, is diabolical.  Sure you can pick up the odd book on Chomsky and that’s not a bad place to start but if you are looking for anything else around town… forget it.

At one time there was two or three left leaning bookstores in Cork.  When I was growing up there was a great shop over on South Main Street which had a wide range of radical books.  You could get all the cheap editions of Marx’s works as well as a range of generally critical publications.  I got my treasured copy of ‘Ireland and the First International‘ there – although I recall being very disappointed to read in same that the Cork branch of the International Workers Association has sided with Marx rather than Bakunin on the crucial issue of how the International should be organised!  Well, let’s face it, that wouldn’t happen today.  Anyway there was a few shops in the past and the range of books was, while not huge, it was varied.

So very nice to see  new shoots of life springing up.   At the shop there’s a section on anarchist/ libertarian and socialist books.  There is a very good  current affairs and Irish politics section and there is a second-hand book section.  Expansion in the range is planned, of course, in time.  For the moment though, small steps.  Also you can get many of main left papers there and so th shop provides those groups with a very valuable outlet for their publications.  Great stuff.

One other aspect of the venue is that it also doubles as a meeting place.  It’s a roomy space with great light and the aim is to provide an affordable meeting venue for organisations and groups.  So far Shell 2 Sea, Hands Off The People Of Iran and the WSM are meeting there, but they hope to expand on this – space permitting – in time.   Other events and meetings are intended for the new venue.  So far meetings on the Haiti crisis and a political film night have been ongoing.   Best place to find out about what’s upcoming is to check Facebook

Email contact for the shop is

Opening times are: 12-7 pm (Mon to Saturday).

Written by Kevin Doyle

February 15, 2010 at 10:45 am

Worse than Bernie Madoff – Shell’s Robbery in Ireland

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More cutbacks in the public services are planned.   Already hospitals have been hit by ward closures, and procedures have been axed; in schools up and down the country, cuts are being made that will have long lasting effects on many young children and their families.  Why?  Supposedly to pay for the financial mess that successive governments have made of this country.

But consider this.  The Irish State has given to Shell Oil a vast volume of gas off Ireland’s west coast.  For free!   Shell walk off with a vast resources and meanwhile the general public suffer cut after cut.   Is this worse than “Bernie” Madoff.  For sure it is.

Take a look at the above satirical video – which goes through the murky business that is at the heart of this gas robbery.

There is ongoing resistance to what the Government and Shell are doing in Mayo.  Keep up with the latest info at the Shell 2 Sea site or at the WSM news page.

the hand of god …

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Latest story on my web site ties in with the horrendous details revealed by the recently published Ryan Report.  I wrote the story back in the late 90s after meeting a friend of mine from school.  We both ended up taking about our school days and about the fear we felt.  I would go further now …  one of the important things about the release of the Ryan Report is that it allows us all to be more honest about that period and what we were subjected to.  It is not an easy place to go back to – that has to be said.  But what I would say now is that it was not fear that I felt but rather terror – I was scared out of my wits so much of the time.  So the story comes from that.

But now since publication of the report I think of how lucky I was.  I was in secondary school when I suffered at the hands at the Christian Brothers but at least I could get away at the end of the school day.  At least.  I shudder now to think of those who encountered the Christian Brothers and the nuns and were at their mercy 24/7.

Today so many have marched in Dublin in solidarity with those who have suffered.  It is great to see.  Something at least.

To the story…

The Obama Lie

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So, we must be over a month into the Barak Obama presidency.  A lot of hope and a lot of optimism, right?

Last night I watched Obama sign into law his new ‘stimulus’ package to revive the US economy.  Heady stuff – but I won’t go into that right now. Instead I am thinking about a different matter: a short news bulletin on Friday last which reported that a drone aircraft had dropped two missiles in a remote area of Afghanistan.  It seems that the missiles, according to reports carried by CNN and others, killed at leat twenty people.

By all accounts the targets of the attack were members of the Taliban AND it was claimed that two such ‘target’ Taliban members were actually killed in the attack. Well, I’m still okay at my mathematics, so that leaves how many? Let’s see now, two from twenty leaves eighteen – that’s right 18 – doesn’t it? That is, eighteen others, who were never targets, were also killed in the attack.  I have got that right, haven’t I?  Please get back to me if I did the calculation incorrect.

So, eighteen people murdered in cold blood, by two bombs dropped from pilot-less aircraft.   Is this the new era so?  The Obama era that was supposed to make such a difference.  And this is not to even get into the rights or wrongs of the state assassination of two suspected Taliban members.  You know old adage: who gives anyone the right to be judge, jury and executioner?

No, for the moment, I am just going to focus on the eighteen people that were killed.  Were they women, men, children?  Does anyone know?  Does Barak Obama know?  Or more to the point, did he know about this attack and about the possible collateral damage?  Well, what do you think?  Did Barak say it was okay to kill 18 people/ civilians as part of the operation to get the two Taliban activists.  And when you think about it, given that there is a strong chance that he did know, then what does it say about this new era?  I ask you?

Written by Kevin Doyle

February 18, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Waterford Glass Workers’ Interview…

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This excellent interview, published on Indymedia, was conducted by WSM members in Waterford today.  They went to the Waterford Glass plant at Kilbarry where an ongoing occupation by the workers has stopped the receiver, appointed by Waterford Wedgwood, in his tracks. This action by the Glassworkers is the first major act of resistance this year against the onslaught by the Government and media against workers wages and conditions.   The workers at the Glass have been treated disgracefully but they have a fine tradition of struggle and giving solidarity themselves.   Their occupation deserves widespread support and as the interview shows, they are indeed getting that…

Solidarity with the Glass workers!

Interview with Joe Kelly, Waterford Glass worker

Oh No … Not A Crime Novel

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a-poisioned-mind2I was interested in A Poisoned Mind by Natasha Cooper for one main reason.  It was about the chemical industry and since I have recently completed a novel about same I was intrigued to see how someone else might tackle the subject. Few enough books tackle anything related to the chemical industry anyway, so for that reason alone it seemed worth a look.

The blurb about Poisoned Mind seemed like something I was just after – even if was mining my seam.  There’s a chemical explosion and a man dies. At a center of the book is the contest between the widow and the chemical company for damages and liability.  Who will win and will justice be done?  All well and fine, I suppose …

However, I soon realised that Poisoned Mind is just one in a series of books involving ‘the hotshot barrister Trish Maguire’ who it turns out was once from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.  Although it does quickly emerge in this case that Trish is working not for the victim of the blast – that would be too easy in a way – but rather for the chemical corporation itself.  Ah, lawyers!  For this pleasure she suffers twangs of guilt aplenty. Anyway, I started.  Nothing like a page turner for Xmas … mmmh!

First off it was difficult to get away from the heavy hand of the narrator/ writer who insisted on a face-moving, on the surface view of all matters. Okay, it is crime fiction.  We were into the complications of the impending court case very quickly … a David and Goliath test with Trish working ably for Goliath. The widow/victim, Angie, who is a down-at-heel farmer, also has to contend with an estranged son and a now contaminated farm.  I won’t go into too much detail here suffice to say that some of her farmland was loaned to a waste disposal company; the company located storage tanks on this land and it was one of these that exploded and ruined her farm, after killing her husband.  For the most part Angie seem just about knocked out by the tragedies that have befallen her … except that is for the goodness and kindness of FADE … an environmental group who, it soon emerges, are not all that they seem.

Anyway, as I said, the writing style that is applied to this book/genre does it no favours.  Characters had pretty stylised reactions to events – and we never go anywhere beyond the immediate needs of each character and their role in the plot.  Apart from Trish herself that is.  She must do her job and manage her home life despite being driven, overworked and overburdened.  There is a subplot to do with Trish and all this but enought said.  The other main character, Angie, is sad and a victim.  The members of FADE, while nice, seem immediately naive and are led – easily, it seems – by a manipulative character Greg whom Angie doesn’t like.

So on the main plot – hopefully that will retrieve this book.  Not really unfortunately.  It turns out that the in this case, as mentioned, the chemical industry is the chemical waste industry and the company in question had some bizarre arrangement with a farmer to locate some of its storage tanks on his land – to supplement his income the farmer John checks the tanks regularly for the company.  And so something went wrong and John either didn’t do his job or their was sabotage and one evening Jhn was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the tank blew up …

There is much that could be knocked about this book – and genre – but as I am a writer myself and I understand what other writers are up against in the market, I am prepared to desist – to a point.  However I do strongly object to the portrait of the environmental group.  It seems to me that if a writer is to tackle serious subjects and attempt to portray people in a real light then there is some onus on them to convey the material honestly.  Instead we meet a group – FADE – who are no more than a bunch of well-meaning fools, whom, as I said, are very easily manipulated.   This might all be fun and games for the writer and the genre except for the fact that it panders to the worse of prejudices and, I dare say, plays to a neatly conservative social and political agenda too – which, well, enought said.  I myself have had a limited involvement with environmental groups over the years but I have yet to meet anything like the buffons who populate this book. On the contrary in fact.  As they say in Cork: really like Natasha!

And as to the chemistry and the chemical industry … well there was little of it in this book to sate my appetite.  In fact there was very little.  And just a few morsels would have done me!

So overall, very disappointing.  I wish the writer well but please Natasha could the business of politics be not so cut and dried and so cosy the next time.

Recommendation: give it a miss.

Written by Kevin Doyle

January 16, 2009 at 11:22 am

Muntazer al-Zaidi

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My hero.  It take courage to act and this man must have wondered about the consequneces … but in the end he had to do it.  Well done…

Written by Kevin Doyle

December 17, 2008 at 10:34 am

Posted in Anti-War, Politics

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