Portsmouth Green Party Event Highlights Plight of Refugees

The newly formed Portsmouth Green Party presents Journeys for peace, an evening with author and journalist Rory O’Keefe and peace activist and author Angie Zelter, at Friendship House on 26th October at 7pm.

In the aftermath of the Libyan Civil War, author and former Portsmouth News reporter Rory O’Keefe worked at Choucha Refugee Camp in Tunisia, where he met members of the African and Middle Eastern diaspora. He then based himself in Sirte, Libya, the birthplace of Gaddafi and the city in which the former Libyan leader was killed, bringing to an end the war fought to displace him.

Rory travelled across the vast state, visiting towns and cities and meeting the people who fought in its war, as well as those who fled its bullets and bombs. His first book, The Toss of a Coin is a collection of the stories those people told and the story of Libya’s slide into chaos.

In The Toss of a Coin members of the diaspora explain what they suffered at home; what they risked to reach Libya; their struggle to survive in the Green Book state, and their second escape when war and terror broke out around them again. Their voices are joined by those of Libyans, around whom war raged: those who fought as well as those forced from their homes, their wartime experiences, and their attempts to rebuild their lives, their homes and their nation. It also details what came next – the collapse of a state attempting to rise towards a brighter future, despite the efforts of its people to support it, and the contrast between its experience and that of Tunisia, the starting point of the Arab Spring and, to date, its sole success.

Joining Rory O’Keefe is peace activist and writer Angie Zelter, who founded the Snowball Campaign in the 1980s, in which several thousand people cut fences around US military bases in the UK. In 1996, Angie was part of the group that disarmed a BAE Hawk Jet, causing £1.5 million damage and preventing it from being exported to Indonesia in order to attack East Timor. In 1999, with Ellen Moxley from Scotland and Ulla Roder from Denmark, Angie entered the Trident Sonar testing station in Loch Goil, Scotland; where they damaged computers and electronic equipment and threw the log books, files and computer hardware overboard, after which she came to be known as a member of the ‘Trident Three’.

In 2002, she initiated the International Women’s Peace Service – Palestine and in March 2012, she supported the resistance against the construction of the Jeju Naval Base on Jeju Island, declared in 2005 World Peace Island by the South Korean Government and home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. More recently, Angie founded Trident Ploughshares which  aims to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system via non-violent, peaceful direct action.

Since the mid-1990s, Angie has been arrested more than 100 times; these arrests played a significant role in creating public awareness and media interest in nuclear disarmament. She is the author of several books, including Trident on Trial – the case for People’s DisarmamentWorld in Chains and The Chains of War.

Portsmouth Green Party are keen to promote the event following Portsmouth City Council’s decision last week to request that Portsmouth take no more refugees.

“After Portsmouth City Council were led to vote no to accepting refugees, the importance of understanding refuge and peace is of even more relevance to our citizens,” the Party’s Facebook page states.

Journeys for peace takes place on Monday 26th October at Friendship House, Elm Grove at 7pm – 9pm.

Photography by Sarah Cheverton.