Voter intimidation in Turkey’s Kurdish villages

Melanie Gingell, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, has written the latest in a series of damning reports about the recent snap election in Turkey, which took place amidst a backdrop of serious violence. Here, she details how voter intimidation became a feature of polling day on 1st November:

The re-run election of 1st November was carried out against a backdrop of extreme state violence particularly in the South East of the country. Thousands of HDP and civil society activists had been arrested and hundreds of HDP offices had been attacked in separate incidents across the country. The mood was extremely sombre and there was little evidence of campaigning by any of the political parties. The two suicide bomb attacks in Suruc and Ankara had inflicted a terrible price on HDP supporters and progressive groups. HDP officials in Diyarbakir said that they had been busy organising funerals in the run up to the election, not campaigning.

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2015 Turkey Progress Report finally published by the EU

After much controversy during the last several weeks in which the EU, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, were accused of delaying the publication of their annual Progress Report for Turkey’s EU accession process so that deals could be made over the refugee crisis, the report has finally been made public.

The report makes sharp criticisms of Turkey for ‘backsliding’ in respect to fundamental rights and the rule of law, in particular freedom of press, expression and assembly. It also calls for an immediate resumption of the peace process following a serious deterioration of its security situation.

You can download the report in full here (pdf): Turkey Progress Report 2015

Lord Hylton: Assaults on the Living and the Dead in Turkey

Member of the House of Lords, Lord Hylton, took part in an election observation delegation to Turkey’s southeast to witness the November snap general elections. His report recounts the brutal force used by the Turkish state against Kurdish civilians over the course of the summer:


In September and October 2015 the Government of Turkey, headed by President Erdogan, launched attacks against their presumed enemies and opponents. These took place in the run-up to the general election of 1st November. The PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, has been involved in political and armed struggles against the state. Many ceasefires have been offered, especially since 1999, the date of the capture and imprisonment of the party leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK, with the constitutional pro-Kurdish party, the HDP (Peoples Democratic Party), and other cooperating groups including trade unions, different ethnic and religious communities, human rights and women’s organizations, and opposition parties etc, had long since declared in speeches and in writing that they did not seek to become independent or to separate from Turkey. They only wanted cultural and social autonomy within Turkey. The PKK made a unilateral ceasefire declaration on 10th October to avoid prejudice to the elections.

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Scottish delegation to Kurdistan calls for peace process to be renewed

Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, led by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign’s trade union liaison officer Stephen Smellie and student activists Roza Salih organised a fact-finding delegation to north Kurdistan in September to speak with representatives of the HDP, IHD, KESK and DISK trade unions among others. Here are their findings and recommendations.

Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

Delegation visit to Diyarbakir, North Kurdistan/South East Turkey September 2015.

The delegation consisted of Sarah Collins, Viv Thompson and Stephen Smellie of UNISON and Roza Salih and Paul Toner of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan. We were in Diyarbakir from 21 to 25 September and met with a number of organisations and individuals. These included the Human Rights Association, Free Women’s Assembly, Rojava Association, KESK (public sector trade unions), DISK (private sector trade unions), Democratic Society Congress, HDP MPs, Ezidi refugees from Shengal and the refugee camp organisers. We spoke to people who had been at the HDP rally in Diyarbakir in June which had been bombed, including one woman who had lost both legs in the bomb blast. We also spoke to trade unionists who were organising and attending the ‘Labour, Peace and Democracy’ demonstration in Ankara on 10 June which was targeted by 2 suicide bombers and where over 100 people were killed. Continue reading

Latest election report reveals heavy military presence across Kurdish villages

A third report has been written by UK election observers who witnessed election day in several villages across Turkey’s Kurdish regions. They conclude that there was a ‘clear attempt’ by the Turkish government to discourage people from voting, as well as implicit threats – and explicit use – of violence. You can read more about all the observation work undertaken by independent volunteers from the UK here.


Written by Prof. David Graeber, Cllr Aysegul Erdogan, Elif Sarican & Rebecca Coles

We arrived in Diyarbakir in the late hours of Friday 30th October. There was an uncomfortable quiet in much of the city, several streets lined up by armored vehicles.
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Global Rally for the freedom and reconstruction of Kobane

many_rally_in_rome_in_solidarity_with_kurdish_city_of_kobane_crop1446327675978.jpg_1718483346Thank you to everyone who took part in the Global Rally for Kobane on 1st November – now World Kobane Day. It is the second year in a row that thousands of people in dozens of countries have raised their voices for Kobane, which still suffers the consequences of a brutal 6 month ISIS siege which caught the conscience of many across the world. This time, over 400 separate actions took place in over 25 countries as far apart as India and Brazil, Denmark and Australia, Venezuela and Afghanistan, all calling for people and governments to support the reconstruction of Kobane and the lifting of the blockade. Demonstrations also took place in Rojava. Once again, it was a remarkable demonstration of solidarity and the spirit of internationalism. We send our thanks and solidarity to all those who took part and hope that collective efforts will lead to freedom and a new future for Kobane – and Rojava.

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Crowe raises concerns over Turkish elections – Sinn Fein International

Sinn Fein’s international office released this press release today detailing their concerns over the election in Turkey. Sean Crowe TD, foreign affairs spokesperson for Sinn Fein, also used his priority question to challenge the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs on his view of Turkey’s elections. You can read Mr Flannagan’s surprising response here.

Sinn Féin Press Office
Leinster HouseKildare Street

For immediate release 5 November, 2015:

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, raised his concerns over the recent bombings and attacks against Kurdish and left wing activists in Turkey with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, in the Dáil, and directly with the Turkish Ambassador in the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Observations monitoring the election in Diyarbakir

Margaret Owen, who took part in a delegation to southeast Turkey to monitor the recent snap elections, has produced this report based on her observations. Alongside Margaret were several others, including barrister Melanie Gingell, John Hunt, journalist; and Kawa Besarani, human rights advocate and political analyst; and academic David Graeber, among others.

Margaret Owen with voters in Sur, Diyarbakir

Margaret Owen with voters in Sur, Diyarbakir

The results, that came in on Sunday night took many of us, the international observers of the election,  by surprise. Last night we wept, as the first fireworks, music and song,  of what everyone thought would introduce a night of celebration,  turned into dark hours of grief and anger, which ended when the armed police arrived with their tear gas and water cannon, stone throwing from the youth, arrests and more violence.

How will the peace process with the Kurds be resurrected after this result? When Erdogan himself has stated that it is in tatters.  But perhaps all is not lost for ever. The AKP got a majority but not a “super” majority in numbers. He will still need support from the other parties to rewrite the Constitution in the way he wants, that is, to give himself a life presidency and in reality,  a dictatorship, far removed from Ataturk’s creation of a secular republic.   At least the HDP kept its 10% threshold. Although they lost many votes they still have representation in parliament. It could have been worse.

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Video: Janet Biehl addresses seminar in London on pedagogy in Rojava

Pedagogy for Revolution: The Case of Rojava
With author Janet Biehl

Public meeting and discussion with author Janet Biehl who talked about the new women’s science of “Jineology” and the revolutionary transformation of education. She has visited Rojava twice and reported on her recent visit. Organised by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and Roj Women Group at Doughty Street Chambers on 23 October 2015. The meeting was chaired by Elif Sarican, Kurdish Student Union.


Pedagogy for Revolution: The Case of Rojava With author Janet Biehl from Saman Gareeb on Vimeo.

Global call for city of Kobane reaches activists across the world


World Kobane Day-facebook

29 October 2015

One year since a mass mobilisation of activists across the world created the largest-ever simultaneous action in solidarity with the Kurdish people, another appeal has inspired activists to once again rally for Kobane on 1st November.

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