“I think on the whole that Grosvenor Square would be a more healthy place to reside in. There are lots of vulgar people live in Grosvenor Square, but at any rate there are no horrid kangaroos crawling about.” So said The Duchess of Berwick in Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windemere’s Fan.
I was in Grosvenor Square in July, standing outside the Indonesian Embassy on the 15th anniversary of the Biak Massacre as I reported in a previous blog entry. Well I was back there again on December 1st to take part in a global day of action for West Papua, this time with the Morning Star flag I had recently purchased from the Free West Papua website. That was nearly a week ago but I have some time now and it is not too late to blog about it. Benny Wenda would have been there but he was on an official month long tour of Papua New Guinea with his wife Maria, so it was up to the usual small but loyal band of supporters to hold the space and make their presence felt. This was partly with the aid of a megaphone and at one point the police officer stationed in front of the embassy came over and asked if people could shout less loudly as it was giving him a headache or something. Not that I was totally unsympathetic but when Indonesian forces are committing atrocities in West Papua it seems like making a noise about it should be the priority – he could have been issued with earplugs. I spoke to a woman called Pamela who is working on a presentation called The Angel and the Princess and is looking for contributors. Basically she wants thoughts and/or anecdotes from people who have met Benny and his family or helped them in their cause. I met Benny a few days after he first arrived in the UK and I promised to send Pamela some words about that meeting. I have got a while to do it because the presentation does not begin until May 2014 (at the Espacio Gallery) but obviously the sooner the better (makes note to self).
While standing there I noticed some tents in front of the US Embassy and went over to investigate. These were not ramshackle tents like at the occupy camps a couple of years ago but identical new looking dark blue affairs in a neat row. In some of the tents were beds, occupied by Iranian hunger strikers. Perhaps you don’t believe me? Surely you would have seen something about it in the news. I assure you it is true, and it has been reported in some local papers in London. So what is it all about? A very well spoken Iranian man explained things and gave me a leaflet produced by the Anglo-Iranian Women & Youth Association (AIWYA) from which I quote:
On September 1, 2013 especial Iraqi armed forces of prime minister Nori Al-Maleki, at the behest of the Iranian regime, carried out a deadly attack against Iranian refugees at Camp Ashraf aiming to totally massacre its residents. They slaughtered 52 defenceless residents. Most victims were shot directly in the head at close range; some were handcuffed before execution. 7 residents were taken hostage by Iraqi forces.
Amnesty International UK expressed its concern on the day of the massacre and a number of Iranians started a hunger strike. The BBC reported on the incident at the time but then seems to have gone quiet – the man I spoke to claimed that the Foreign Office had told the BBC not to talk about it. So if you are near Grosvenor Square why not go along to see for yourself, ask any questions you may have, offer support or whatever. People should know about this.
When I got back to Kings Cross I stopped to take a photo of a mural on Caledonian Road and spent a while in Housmans Bookshop before catching a train home.