Defend the People of Afrin Platform Letter Delivered to New Scotland Yard on 14 February 2018

 

Zerdest Zagrosi
ez@zerdest.org
33 Dalston Lane
London
E8 2PE

Dear Sir/Madam,

It is an appalling injustice that the Kurdish community in the UK is being subjected to severe harassment under Terrorism legislation through night raids, port stops, questioning by MI5, and disproportionate and violent policing of demonstrations, despite the tireless campaigns that we have organised over the years against ISIS terrorism.

We deeply regret the fact that this targeting is occurring in the UK, a country in which the Kurdish people have felt safe and integrated over the last four decades, a country in which we have sought asylum from persecution in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. It is a tragedy that the UK authorities are now mirroring the intolerance towards Kurdish people that is shown in Turkey and are using increasingly repressive methods to curb any political organisation.

We have seen increasing attacks on our rights and fundamental freedoms including the right to free speech, opinion, assembly, to organise, unite and the democratic right to raise opposition by the means of framing their responses to our legitimate expression in the culture of counter-terrorism. This is resulting in a deeply unfair criminalisation of our communities. Prime examples of this approach are as follows:

 

  1. Arbitrary questioning of Kurdish individuals at UK ports under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000;

 

  1. Arbitrary targeting, stopping and questioning of Kurdish individuals and activists within the UK by MI5 officers;

 

  1. Pressuring the Charity Commission to intervene in the activities of the Kurdish Community Centre on the basis of posters and banners that have been displayed on its premises by members of the Kurdish community;

 

  1. The arbitrary targeting and raiding of homes of Kurdish individuals and activists by Scotland Yards Counter Terrorism Command officers;

 

  1. The recent arrests and threats of prosecution of two female Kurdish activists; one of whom is effectively a newspaper distributor and the other a charity worker on baseless allegations of funding Terrorism;
  1. The ancillary accusation that Yeni Ozgur Politika newspaper reporting on Kurdish-related issues for over twenty years is the “mouth piece” of a proscribed terrorist organisation, namely the PKK and that the well-established Kurdish Red Moon charity is involved in the funding of terrorism; and

 

  1. The use of unreasonable and unnecessary force during demonstrations and protests by police offices.

 

  1. Equally troubling has been the attempt at criminalisation of British YPG (and not just Kurdish) volunteers under terrorism laws – as evidenced by an ex-British soldier who joined volunteer Kurdish forces to fight against ISIS in Raqqa being summoned to a court hearing today [14th February 2018] under section 8 of the Terrorism Act 2006 where he faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

 

The use of counter-terrorism discourse and practice against the Kurdish community is self-serving as the UK continues to sign arms deals with Turkey and Turkey continues to label and treat its Kurdish people as “terrorists” and thereby continue its brutal suppression against them. Whilst the Erdogan regime in Turkey continues its scaling up of dictatorial rule, suppression, torture, the imprisonment of elected members of parliament, human rights activists, journalists, academics and anyone who dares to criticise, the UK choses to side with it, make money out of it, and effectively lend it a free hand in its continued derailment of basic human rights and democratic norms.

The systematic treatment of Kurdish people in the UK as an enemy within, has meant that we have lost confidence in the authorities. This treatment mirrors what we have always faced in Turkey; criminalisation, condemnation and oppression solely based on our use of democratic means to raise awareness of our plight and struggle for democratic rights and freedoms.

The Kurdish people are not terrorists and the UK authorities must refrain from treating us as such. The Kurds have fought against international terrorism in Syria, they have been at the forefront of the battle to rid the world of the threat of ISIS by bravely sacrificing their own lives for the better of human kind. Whilst the on-going struggle for democracy and basic rights continues in Turkey, the Kurdish community in the UK will continue to support this struggle by raising awareness through democratic and legal means. This in itself is a basic right, which should not be surpressed simply in order to appease Turkey.

Our struggle for democratic normality for the Kurdish people will continue both in the UK and elsewhere until the day that our rights, freedom and identity are respected and ensured.

The documents attached to our letter highlight that the demonstrations and campaigns by the Kurdish community are legitimate and serious expressions of concerns taken up by the UK and the international community.

We demand a full investigation in relation to the matters raised above and await your response.

Yours sincerely

Zerdest Zagrosi

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