Stefan Simanowitz

Stefan Simanowitz is a London-based freelance journalist writing & broadcasting on politics & culture from around the world.

Guardian, Independent, FT, Washington Times, New Statesman, Metro, CSM, Economist, New Internationalist, Contemporary Review, Al Jazeera, Africa Report, Afrik.com, Vice, Solicitors Journal, In These Times, Open Democracy, Red Pepper, Counter Punch, Arts Desk, AnOther, Publico, Estadao, Guardian & Mail, Cape Times, IoS, Pagina 12, ZMag, Mix Mag, Arise, Ceasefire, Big Issue.

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The Legacy of Mensch

A quiet resignation during London 2012 - will anybody miss her? By Stefan Simanowitz, 15 August 2012 In the grey world of Westminster politics it is not hard to standout but the profile achieved by Louise Mensch – a backbencher who only entered Parliament in 2010 –is nothing short of remarkable. In two short years she has gone from relative obscurity to being a household name and amongst the most controversial figures in British politics. News of her resignation last week was splashed across the...

Intervening in Northern Mali: "The People are like Straw on which Elephants are Fighting"

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal argues that the fact Islamist extremists in northern Mali do not enjoy the support of the local population, combined with the area’s flat desert landscape, “suggest that an aggressive Pakistan-style drone campaign can have results”. With the French reported to be moving surveillance drones into the region, an intensive drone campaign supporting a relatively small number of ground troops may seem an attractive option for the intervention forces. But the...

Seckou Keita Quintet

Clutching her walking stick, 80 year-old Audrey Federa from Worthing scuttles to the front of the small Italianate-style church in Brighton, and starts girating energetically. An electric set by virtuoso Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita is approaching its end and Keita has invited the capacity audience to dance. Most of them do. "I don't know what came over me" said Audrey catching her breath after the show. "The music just lifted me to my feet and I felt I had to dance." Nearing the end of o...

Untold story

The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti has written that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story. The Saharawi refugee population who have lived in camps in the Algerian desert for more than 35 years have had little opportunity to tell their story, but this is set to change. In May, a radio, film and television school was opened in one of the four refugee camps that house about 165,000 refugees originally from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. T...

The Gaddafi regime’s “last stand” mentality

On 26 February, the UN Security Council passed a hard-hitting resolution designed to send a clear message to Muammar al-Gaddafi and his regime. As well as an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, the UN took the unprecedented step of requesting that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by Colonel Gaddafi and his forces. Such a resolution might be expected to persuade most sane leaders to desist from extrajudicial killing...

Syrian war spills into Lebanon

Ali lives with his wife, brother-in-law and eight children in a graveyard. Their home is a single-roomed, 10’ x 10’ concrete hut beside a row of freshly dug graves in Jalil, an overcrowded Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Until they moved in, the hut was used to wash corpses before burial and two large stainless-steel washing tables still lean against the outside wall. Ali and his home in the graveyard, Baalbekj (Taken 21 May 2013) Stefan Simanowitz But living among the dead ...

Inside Occupy Wall Street

‘You know, deep down I never believed that this movement could change anything,’ Shaun Bickard admits as we marched along Broadway last week with 15,000 noisy demonstrators. ‘But after today I’m beginning to think it can.’ Bickard, a 41-year-old electrician from the Bronx has never regarded himself as an activist. He visited Zuccotti Park, the heart of the Occupy Wall Street protest, after seeing footage online of four women pepper sprayed by a policeman. ‘At first I just came to check it out. T...

Iran's nuclear ambitions -- New Internationalist

Ahmadinejad is under increasing pressure from the West after the latest IAEA report. Photo by Marcello Casal Jnr/Agencia Brazil under a CC licence. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme presented to its board of governors in Vienna on Tuesday is being heralded as a watershed moment in the standoff between Iran and the West. But it is unlikely to be the smoking gun that will trigger military strikes. ‘I do not think this report is likely to be...

Enduring power of the hunger strike

Whilst the hunger strike may have made its greatest political gains in the twentieth century helping to expose injustice, overturn prejudice and even overthrow empires, the release of Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak, this week after a 95 day hunger strike demonstrates this ancient form of protest has lost none of its power. Indeed, in the digital age, the hunger strike is finding new influence. Sarsak's release followed the release of another Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, in April and concessions made by Israel to over 1,500 Palestinian prison hunger strikers. In May, Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja ended his 110-day hunger strike having drawn the world's attention to Bahrain's anti-government movement and jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko's 20-day hunger strike caused an international stir ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships. In Iran several imprisoned journalists and activists are currently on hunger strike and last year veteran activist Hoda Saber died of a heart attack in a Tehran prison after just 10 days fasting. In Russia the announcement last week that the three members of the jailed activist punk band Pussy Riot had begun a hunger strike made headlines around the world.

The War in Mali Isn't Any Good for Its Elephants

As the growing military operation pushes deep into northern Mali in pursuit of Islamists linked to al-Qaeda, little attention has been paid to how the crisis is affecting the Gourma elephant herds who have wandered Mali’s deserts for millennia. The Gourma are the most northerly elephants in Africa, a remnant of the vast herds that once occupied an area of West Africa stretching from the Atlantic forests to the Sahara. Now an endangered species, the elephants of the Gourma – an area between Timb...

South Africa World Cup marks bittersweet anniversary

All eyes are on South Africa at the moment: last week the country marked 20 years since Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years, and more than 400,000 people will flock there for this summer’s World Cup. Nelson Mandela, accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison in February 1990. South Africa has come a long way since Mandela’s historic walk to freedom on February 11, 1990. His release ushered in a transition from apartheid to multi-racial democracy, with Mande...

Mandela’s Short walk to freedom remembered

Stefan Simanowitz attends the 20th anniversary celebrations of Mandela’s release from prison and assesses how it has transformed the country. Twenty years ago, Janey Halim was part of the ANC welcome committee gathered outside Victor Verster Prison, waiting to greet Nelson Mandela as he emerged after 27 years of confinement. “It was a beautiful morning and we all just stood there with our eyes focused on the metal gate,” she recalls. “Then the gates opened and Nelson and Winnie walked towards us...

Vieux Farka Touré, Dingwalls, London

There is a saying in West African, “Honte a celui qui ne fait pas mieux que son père” (“Shame on him that does not achieve more than his father”). This was always going to be a tall order for Vieux Farka Touré, son of legendary Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, but in June he will step out of his late father's shadow and on to the stage in front of a global audience of a billion. Playing at the World Cup opening concert along side artists including Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys and hi...

Obama's conscience must lead on Iran

President Obama's instincts will surely be to avoid conflict with Iran. He must continue negotiations, not push for more sanctions Last week Russia and the US signed the new strategic arms reduction treaty (Start) signalling a significant shift in the focus of America's nuclear strategy, from its former cold war foes to so-called rogue states. This week at the nuclear summit in Washington China agreed for the first time to work wit...

O Irã e o instinto de Obama - internacional

Há alguns dias, a Rússia e os Estados Unidos assinaram um novo tratado de redução de armas estratégicas (Start) dando sinais de uma mudança significativa no foco da estratégia nuclear dos EUA - de seus antigos inimigos da Guerra Fria para os chamados Estados renegados. Na última semana, na cúpula sobre segurança nuclear em Washington, a China concordou pela primeira vez em trabalhar com os EUA numa possível aplicação de sanções contra o Irã. Enquanto cresce o ímpeto para novas sanções contra Tee...

Ta Mere, Last Days of Decadence, Shoreditch, London,

Shakespeare writes of the bagpipes in the Merchant of Venice: “And others, when the bagpipe sings i' the nose, cannot contain their urine.” Like many of us the Bard did not hold the sound of the bagpipes in great affection, but then he had never heard Ta Mere. This old-style four-piece jazz-band-with-a-twist use an array of instruments including violin, guitar, bass, harmonica and drums. But it is their use of the bagpipes that set this band apart. In the arms of Ta Mere’s charismatic front man,...

International Sahara Film Festival pitches in with global talent

The International Sahara Film Festival takes place every year in the most unlikely of destinations – a remote refugee camp. Visiting the Sahara Film Festival may give you the hump Dakhla refugee camp emerges out of the dust, a sprawling single-storey town built from the desert sand. Our fleet of Land Cruisers approach at speed along a network of dirt tracks. After touching down at Tindouf, south-western Algeria, in the early hours of the morning, and a bumpy 225km drive from the airstrip, we’re ...

Iran sanctions take us closer to conflict

The UN sanctions will mean further deterioration of Iran-US relations and could bring us to the brink of military confrontation Share Email guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 June 2010 19.00 EDT The latest round of sanctions against Iran passed by the UN security council represent a significant achievement for President Obama. By getting Russia and China to agree to resolution 1929 Obama has managed to secure a level of multilateral support against Iran that George Bush could have only dreamed of,...

Kampala killings and al-Qaida in Africa

Just as World Cup organizers were breathing a sigh of relief that the finals had not been targeted by terrorists, news came in of the bombings in Kampala which left 64 dead. The attacks in Uganda, thought to be the work of the al-Qaida-linked group, al Shabab, indicate both the danger of Islamic terrorism in Africa as well as its limitations. Last April the arrest of Abdullah Azzam al-Qahtani, an alleged al-Qaida supporter who claimed to be planning an attack on the Dutch and Danish teams in S...
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