Tag: activism

Hara Hotel: Teresa Thornhill’s Tale of Syrian Refugees in Greece

Hara Hotel chronicles everyday life in a makeshift refugee camp on the forecourt of a petrol station in northern Greece. In the first two months of 2016, more than 100,000 refugees arrived in Greece. Half of them were fleeing war-torn Syria, seeking a safe haven in Europe. As the numbers seeking refuge soared, many were stranded in temporary camps, staffed by volunteers. Hara Hotel tells some of their stories.

A British child protection barrister by profession, Teresa Thornhill, like countless other citizens of the world, had been moved by the plight of mostly Middle Eastern refugees who seek better lives in Europe but instead end up herded into camps like cattle. Thornhill arrived in Greece in April 2016 as a volunteer. She met one refugee, a young Syrian Kurd called Juwan, who left his home and family in November 2011 to avoid being summoned for military service by the Assad regime. Interweaving memoir with Juwan’s story, and with the recent history of the failed revolution in Syria, and the horror of the ensuing civil war, Hara Hotel paints a vivid picture of the lives of the people trapped between civil war and Europe’s borders.

Thornhill overlays the wrenching refugee sagas with her personal quest to understand why Syria began its alarming unraveling in 2011. What she learned…will certainly enlighten casual followers of that nation’s bloodshed. A brave, affecting book about a continuing humanitarian crisis.”

Teresa Thornhill is a linguist, writer and child protection barrister with a special interest in the Middle East. Her previous publications include Sweet Tea with Cardamom: A Journey through Iraqi Kurdistan and  The Curtain Maker of Beirut.

In solidarity with the UCU strikers: Their fight is your fight

by Jim Taylor

If one were to follow only certain outlets of the mainstream media, one would be led to believe that the university staff currently striking over proposed reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) are petulantly overreacting to a perfectly sensible restructuring of their pension scheme. The USS is unsustainable in its current form, they say, parroting the claims of Universities UK (UUK), the advocacy group for university employers who voted for the reforms several months ago. Current projections, these outlets cry, show that there’s not enough funding to sustain the scheme into the next generation of university staff, and depriving students of the classes for which they’ve paid exorbitant fees isn’t going to solve anything.

As is usually the nature of these things, there’s another side to the story.

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Fighting intolerance this LGBT history month

If the last two years in politics have taught us anything, it’s that intolerance not only endures in our society but does so as a powerful force which must be resisted at every turn. We can no longer assume that the moral development of states and nations will proceed in an untroubled fashion, and the evidence bears this out. One in five LGBT people in Britain experienced a hate crime or incident in 2017, and the same space of time also saw an unprecedented rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes in the USA, exacerbated (according to new research by GLAAD) by the policies of the Trump administration. In these troubling times, with the promise of tolerance still unfulfilled, we must be active in combating intolerance through both words and deeds. And the first step towards doing so, arguably, is raising awareness.

February is LGBT history month in the UK, and this year the theme is “Geography: Mapping the World”, which expresses solidarity with LGBT people and allies across the globe. While 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of Section 28, and the 40th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination, it’s also exactly 40 years since Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag was first unveiled, and the centenary of the Representation of People Act in the UK gives us cause to celebrate the contributions of LGBT suffragettes like Ethel Smythe and Emmeline Pankhurst. Throughout February and March there’s a whole host of events taking place up and down the country, with many happening in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland (full list available at http://www.lgbthistory.org.uk/events/). These events celebrate LGBT life and culture, but are also a powerful tool for raising awareness, and thus combating intolerance.

We’re proud to be an LGBT Bookshop and community space, so naturally February was an extra excuse to feature the work of LGBT writers and performers. Contributors to the upcoming Knight Errant Press anthology F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary already came to read from their work and kick off the book’s crowdfunding campaign, and they are still trying to raise the money to make this much needed book a reality so do give HERE!

We also hosted the inaugural meeting of Other Fruit, our LGBT book club, where we discussed Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy, and next month we take on  Olumide Popoola’s When We Speak of Nothing – a stunning debut that captures what it means to be young, black and queer in London (March 12th).

Last night saw us host the launch of Rachel Plummer’s new poetry collection and tonight (!!!) Michael Amherst will be in the shop speaking about his book Go The Way Your Blood Beats: On Truth, Bisexuality and Desire (some tickets are still available via our events page). We’re carrying on queer festivities into the rest of 2018, with the launches of the Bi-ble: Exploring Bi-erasure in March, and Lola Keeley’s tremendous lesbian novel The Music and the Mirror in April.

This LGBT history month, we urge you to go and check out some of the great events happening in Edinburgh and throughout the country. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and many will do both, but all are a great source of inspiration to those of us who want to raise awareness, organise, and take aim at the widespread intolerance which still persists in 2018. It’s a fight in which we all must play a part.