Neil Durkin
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Neil Durkin is a Press Officer at Amnesty International UK, specialising in media relations for Amnesty on the Middle East, the USA, counter-terrorism, the death penalty, Russia & "STAN" states, Afghanistan.

Other interests include music (regular London gig-goer, sometime even get out of London), cinema (regular watcher of DVDs at home, sometime even go to the cinema), literature (subscriber to the LRB, sometime even finish reading it).

Entries by Neil Durkin

CIA Torture Report: The Lid Lifted?

(3) Comments | Posted 11 December 2014 | (00:00)

Is the long-awaited report into CIA torture during the so-called "war on terror" an exercise on transparency or something rather less than that?

Seems to me it's clearly the latter. This is a 525-page "executive summary" of a 6,700-page report (sprinkled with 38,000 footnotes apparently), or about one...

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The Number One News Formula: Sport and More Sport

(0) Comments | Posted 24 November 2014 | (15:58)

So there I was, driving along, listening to the radio, when the news comes on. Wow. What's this! The top news is ... it's unbelievable. Forget Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Never mind Theresa May talking about immigration or tackling terrorism. There was something far more important happening. Lewis Hamilton had...

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Fireworks: Spare Me the Torture of These Horrible Things

(0) Comments | Posted 4 November 2014 | (16:29)

On 5 November 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that "This 5th November is observed exceeding well in the City; and at night great bonfires and fireworks."

Already a five decades-old tradition by then, the annual celebration of "deliverance" from the 1605 Gunpowder Plot was bedding in...

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Why Do the Libyan Militias Run Amok?

(0) Comments | Posted 30 October 2014 | (18:52)

In Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Michael Fengler's memorably-named 1970 film Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, a depressed white-collar worker is seen meandering his way through stiflingly boring days before killing his wife, his son and a family friend in an act of sudden, apparently senseless violence.

Meanwhile,...

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The Ghoncheh Ghavami Case: Another Iranian Own Goal

(0) Comments | Posted 21 October 2014 | (13:16)

There's quite a good Twitter account I follow which specialises in anti-jokes. The jokes go a bit like this. "Q: How do you explain the offside rule to a woman? A: With a video recording of a football match and Fifa's Laws Of The Game rulebook." Geddit? Well,...

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'Mostly They Kidnap Sunnis': Iraq's Sectarian Abyss

(2) Comments | Posted 14 October 2014 | (16:47)

Despite ISIS and despite the suicide bombings and incessant carnage, one of the things we've been hearing a lot from Western politicians in recent weeks is how things in Iraq are better than they were because an "inclusive" government now exists under prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

The desirability...

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Noise Noise Noise: Making Music, Not War

(1) Comments | Posted 4 October 2014 | (01:00)

As I write this blog I'm listening to Orlande De Lassus' Penitential Psalms, played by the Hilliard Ensemble. Beautiful devotional 16th-century music which is pouring out of the hi-fi in my flat and... well, er, hang on a minute. You're quite possibly already thinking - "What's this pompous...

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Gangster Theatre: The Islamic State Execution Videos

(1) Comments | Posted 23 September 2014 | (13:40)

Islamic State's blood-thirstiness has been much commented on, as has its use of modern technology. Posting videos of a man issuing threats before killing a hostage ... this is the "new normal" for Islamic State comms, but somehow it's exercised a strange power over many western commentators and politicians.

To...

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This Blog Is Not About Sport

(1) Comments | Posted 10 September 2014 | (01:00)

No, it's about protest, torture and death. Sport is just the backdrop. Starting with... the Brazil Olympics in 2016 (yes, you're probably already counting the days).

Given the widespread protests against the Brazil World Cup this summer, I can only suppose that there'll be further demonstrations against the...

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After the Islamic State Deluge, Who Will Save Iraqis?

(6) Comments | Posted 26 August 2014 | (17:44)

With news filtering out via the United Nations that Islamic State fighters may have killed some 650 prisoners they took from a Mosul jail in June, there currently seems to be no limits to the sheer horror of the group's actions.

It's almost overwhelming and it's hard...

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We Tortured Some Folks...

(0) Comments | Posted 7 August 2014 | (01:00)

Barack Obama's now rather famous phrase from the end of last week is quite something.

As others have observed, it's not the first time he's referred to the mistreatment of detainees during the USA's "war on terror" as torture (though it's still rare to hear it)....

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Do You Believe in the Death Penalty?

(21) Comments | Posted 2 August 2014 | (01:00)

When I was about 18 one of the records I bought was Do You Believe In The Westworld?, Theatre of Hate's soaring post-punk anthem. I think half of the appeal was that strange questioning title. Believe in it?

The song comes to mind (my mind anyway!) in the wake of...

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The Edgy Ambience of US Supermax Prisons

(0) Comments | Posted 16 July 2014 | (19:51)

One of the bars in London I've frequented over the years is a basement place done out with industrial-chic steel and concrete fittings. It's a small DJ venue with very few seats, but it's the seating that sticks in the mind. There are three tables made out of enormous blocks...

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Isis - Time Bandits

(13) Comments | Posted 12 July 2014 | (01:00)

There's something gloriously demented about reports (apocryphal?) that ISIS have been issuing "passports" for their self-pronounced caliphate in the Middle East.

Their message? Tear up your phony Syrian or Iraqi passport and get yourselves one of these new Islamic State passports, covered in high-quality black leather ("for...

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Russia's Ban on Swearing in the Arts - I Say Nyet!

(1) Comments | Posted 4 July 2014 | (15:55)

'There are official searchers, inquisitors ... sometimes they pick up the nearest volume and leaf through it, looking for infamous words ...' - Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel

I haven't seen much media coverage of the new ban on swear words in the arts in...

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Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before - There Was This Ticking Bomb...

(0) Comments | Posted 27 June 2014 | (13:21)

Can you hear that sound? Listen. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick ... You know what that is, don't you? It's an explosive device with a timer and it's counting down to its detonation. When it explodes - in less than an hour's time - it's likely to kill hundreds of...

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The Al Jazeera Trial: First They Came for the Muslim Brotherhood...

(4) Comments | Posted 25 June 2014 | (01:00)

... then they came for the journalists accused of being in league with the Muslim Brotherhood.

And next? Former members of the Muslim Brotherhood? Friends of Muslim Brotherhood supporters? After that? Start arresting people who retweet tweets about the Muslim Brotherhood? What about locking up everyone who voted for Mohamed...

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The Immiseration of Yarmouk

(1) Comments | Posted 18 June 2014 | (01:00)

soup kitchen


This photograph of people in the besieged area of Yarmouk [photo from recent update] waiting to get some food at an outdoor soup kitchen is yet another reminder of what it's come to in Syria. Gruelling blockades, endless indiscriminate bombardment, destitution, pain, hunger....

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Oooh, Aaaaah ... Manchest-ar!

(0) Comments | Posted 28 May 2014 | (16:37)

Way back in the mists of time (otherwise known as the late 1980s and early 1990s) I was a student living in Manchester absorbing a lot of that excellent city's life, culture and ... not inconsiderable precipitation.

At the risk of descending into Manc cliché, there was:...

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This Kiss Is Not a Kiss: Iran's Problem With Women and Film-Makers

(0) Comments | Posted 23 May 2014 | (01:00)

The fuss amongst religious conservatives in Iran over the actress Leila Hatami receiving a kiss on the cheek from the president of the Cannes Film Festival is ... well, interesting.

You'll recall that Iran's Deputy Culture Minister Hossein Noushabadi was quoted as saying, somewhat ominously, that...

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