Thursday, 25 December 2014


Dear Peter, Mohammed and Baher,

Today is Christmas Day 2014. I'm at home with my lovely husband Don and my two gorgeous, cuddly cats. There is a Christmas tree twinkling in the corner. There are gifts underneath. We are eating chocolate, drinking tea and watching AlJazeera. And we are thinking of you all. 

We know you will be in jail in Egypt this Christmas. And it makes us very, very sad.

The way you have been treated by the Egyptian justice system is so unfair. You were doing your job, nothing more and nothing less than that. You were obeying the basic principle of journalism, telling the truth. And for doing that you were sent to prison and denied the chance to be with your families. 

We never believed that any of you deserved to be jailed. We all know the crimes you were accused of were non-existent and as for the trial....don't even get me started.

When you were handed your sentences I couldn't understand what you were being jailed for and, to be honest,  I still can't.  

I want you to know that we have not been silent. Your families, friends, colleagues, journalists and non-journalists alike, have been shouting and fighting for your release. And we will keep doing it! We will tweet #FREEAJSTAFF and #JournalismIsNotACrime until our fingers bleed. We will continue our protests. My husband and I will continue to wear our #FREEAJSTAFF shirts in public to let the world know we stand by you, wish for your release and that we have not forgotten you. You are in our thoughts everyday, but especially now.

I hope you are released soon and as I try to pursue my own career in journalism  I will shout even louder on your behalf. 

Please keep your spirits up and stay brave. Whenever you feel scared or frustrated at the injustice we believe you have been served, remember that there are people all over the world speaking for you.

In the future you will be back to doing what you do best: speaking the truth via your journalism.

Until then, I will do what I do best: speak up for those - like yourselves - who have virtually no voice via my blogging and tweeting and shouting.

On 29th December 2014, on the anniversary of your arrest, we will be stood outside the Egyptian Embassy in London doing what we have been doing for the last year: Calling for justice and for your release.

We hope by this time next year you will be free again. Until then, chin up and keep smiling! 

Love and good wishes to you all! 

Terry and Don X

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


A while back I wrote a blog on the importance of  Education after Malala Yusafzai was shot and over 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. 

I assumed that I would have no more to say on the subject. How wrong a girl can be.

In the last fortnight another 100 girls have been taken by Boko Haram and the group has said they will not be releasing the ones they already have. 

And as if that weren't enough, we also have the Taliban. I saw a documentary the other day called Girls of the Taliban about the rise of the Madrassa - the so-called religious schools in Afghanistan that are allegedly funded by the Taliban. What I saw was incredibly disturbing. These teachers were not teaching the Koran (Quran) - I know I've read it - only their extremist take on it.

They say women are not allowed to go out in public without a male relative, or without wearing a hijab (full veil) and are not allowed to do all the things western teenagers take for granted like listening to music, going to parties, playing video games, watching TV etc. Some of the parents were so disturbed by the changes that took places in their children when they went to a Madrassa that they sent them back to mainstream school. For instance, one girl blames the West for her appalling behaviour and said the Madrassa  helped her realise how she should behave and how to be a good Muslim woman. 

Boko Haram and the Taliban - two sides of the same coin. Both saying that Education is wrong and all Muslim women should just serve their husbands. Despite the fact that the Koran says otherwise.

And then there was last week's brutal and unjust attack by the Taliban on a school in Peshawar in Pakistan. In this case they were not actually targeting education itself, targeting the school was their 'revenge' for the military strikes that had been aimed at them. But it doesn't change the fact that they did storm a school and kill its students. What they did was not 'revenge' but cold-blooded murder. Their grievance was against the military not against education. They had absolutely no reason to go near this school and slaughter over 140 innocent people, 132 of them children.  

This extremist hatred of Education is ridiculous and it needs more people like Malala to stand up and say, "This is wrong". In the documentary I watched, a lot of people wanted to talk about their experiences of sending their children to the Madrassa and then why they pulled them out again. Unfortunately, they were too afraid to speak up. Which is very sad. The more people speak up, the less control and power these extremists will have.

Hopefully one day, the messages of people like Malala will get through and children all over the Middle East will be able to have an education that is varied, fun, and important. Learning music, art, science, languages, alongside learning the Koran. I hope that one day they have the education they deserve, not the one being forced on them by extremist ideology.

Everyone in the world has the right to a proper education. Let's pray that one day they will get it. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


I have always loved Dawlish.

For those who have no idea where I'm talking about, it's in South West England about 12 miles from the lovely city of Exeter in Devon. 

For years people have been debating the future of the railway line between Exeter and Newton Abbot which runs literally along the edge of the beach. The only thing protecting it it is a sea wall that is no damn use whatsoever in a storm. As you can see here:

Now I can understand why people are complaining. The cost of repairing the hole in the railway line after the storm in February 2014 cost 15 million pounds, which is an awful lot of money to pay on something that will get damaged again next winter.

There has been a proposal to move the line inland for Intercity traffic and leave the beachside line just for local commuter services. However, I have a feeling that once the re-routed mainline is in place, Network Rail will shut the coastal line for good, citing that now they have the mainline it would no longer be commercially or economically viable to keep it going.

It is true that the Dawlish section of the South Devon route in particular is in desperate need of an upgrade. The station itself could use a new lick of paint, if nothing else.

However, this is not just about the viability of the line - not for me anyway. I have been staying in Devon for my holidays on and off for most of my life. As a child I lived in Exeter at my Grandma's house two weeks of the year, every year and spent my days on the beach in Dawlish. I have great memories. Even on a stormy day, Dawlish was a playground as I rode along on a train with the window open and made a game out of trying not to get soaked!

And then there is the scenery. Could you ever find a better view from a train in the UK? Not to my knowledge - it's just beautiful.

To close this line would keep this beautiful view hidden from everyone, which would be incredibly sad. 

Also this is one of  Isambard Kingdom Brunel's greatest achievements; having to blast through the sandstone rather than trying to go over the Holden Hills. It's a fantastic piece of engineering. To close it would dishonour not only Brunel's memory, but the memory of all those who sadly died in it's construction.  

I'm all for a re-route inland, it makes perfect sense, but at the expense of God's Wonderful Railway? NO.

If the Dawlish Warren  - Teignmouth section of this line is closed for good, my memories will be washed away with the line, and I couldn't stand that.

Look for ways to solve this problem, sure, but leave Brunel's engineering masterpiece alone, please. 

Sunny Day In Dawlish