STUC supports Kurdish hunger strikers – report/press release

STUC supports Kurdish hunger strikers – report/press release

From the beginning, and the mention of Welsh Kurdish hunger striker Imam Sis in

Lynn Henderson’s presidential opening speech, the Kurds featured prominently at

this week’s Scottish Trade Union Congress.

An emergency motion, brought by Aberdeen Trades Council, whose secretary, Fiona

Napier, has visited the Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg, mandated the STUC

General Council to show concrete support for the hunger strikers, and their demand

that Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan be allowed his basic human right to visits by

his family and his lawyer, by writing to the Council of Europe (of which Turkey is a

member), the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the UK foreign

Minister, as well as informing trade unionists about the hunger strike and

encouraging supportive actions.

And a motion moved by Mike Arnott of Dundee Trades Council condemned the

criminalisation of the Kurdish Community by police Scotland, and their raids and

harassment of Kurdish families in Edinburgh. Congress called on the Scottish Cabinet

Secretary for Justice to ‘ensure that these actions cease forthwith and make a

public commitment to the human rights and general wellbeing of our Kurdish

community’. As the motion explained ‘Expressions of Kurdish identity have been cited

as evidence of support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus, by

simplistic UK security community logic, terrorism. By this reasoning, the whole

Kurdish community is at risk of being criminalised.’

Both motions were seconded by Stephen Smellie, co-chair of Scottish Solidarity with

Kurdistan, who reminded delegates that ‘This Congress in past years has offered

support to the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, we have supported the demand that the PKK

be removed from the list of terrorist organisations and we have called for Abdullah

Ocalan, leader of the PKK, a writer, and advocate for a democratic and peaceful

solution to the Kurdish Question, to be released from his 20 years of solitary

confinement in the prison on Imrali island in Turkey.’

Smellie described how the dawn raids on Kurdish families, which were prominently

splashed across newspaper headlines and from which the police returned with a haul

of scarves and flags, left the Kurdish community in Edinburgh to be faced with

questions from neighbours, work colleagues and school friends. Schoolchildren were

asked ‘is your Dad a terrorist? and, today, community members can be reluctant to

take part in protests or for their kids to attend the language and music lessons at

the community centre.

Scottish activists were also glad to make contact with the President of the Welsh

TUC, Shavanah Taj, who has been part of the inspiring mobilisation in support of

hunger striker Imam Sis in Newport.

With Leyla Guven on her 162nd day without food, Nasir Yagis in Erbil on day 149,

Imam Sis and the 14 hunger strikers in Strasbourg on day 123, Yusuf Iba in Toronto

slipping in and out of consciousness, and over 7000 Kurdish political prisoners on

hunger strikes in Turkish jails, I will end this report with a reminder from

Smellie’s speech in support of the hunger strike motion, ‘No-one should be on hunger

strike. It is not a campaigning tactic that anyone should consider, but it is a last

desperate act to try to get the Turkish authorities to act. But they don’t care if

hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and across the world die. Therefore we need

to build widespread international support for their demands.’

If you want to show your support, please write a letter to the CPT, as suggested

here, tell your MP and MSPs of your concern, or organise a meeting. (Scottish

Solidarity with Kurdistan would be glad to provide a speaker.)

 

BELOW ARE:

THE DUNDEE TUC MOTION

STEPHEN SMELLIE’S SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF THE DUNDEE MOTION

STEPHEN SMELIIE’S SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF THE ABERDEEN EMERGENCY MOTION

THE ABERDEEN EMERGENCY MOTION IS ATTACHED

 

 

Please contact me, Sarah Glynn, if you would like further information.

 

07803 052239

 

THE DUNDEE MOTION:

 

  1. STOP CRIMINALISING THE KURDISH COMMUNITY

 

“That this Congress notes that Kurdish families in Scotland have been subjected to

dawn raids by police officers using anti-terrorist legislation to enter homes,

search and confiscate property and question people’s lives and political

affiliations. Expressions of Kurdish identity have been cited as evidence of support

for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus, by simplistic UK security community

logic, terrorism. By this reasoning, the whole Kurdish community is at risk of being

criminalised.

 

“The European Union Court of Justice recently ruled that the continued listing of

the PKK as a terrorist organisation was wrong, as it was not based on any current

threat. Meanwhile, the UK Government supports the Turkish Government, while it

carries out human rights’ abuses against its own people and launches attacks on the

Kurdish forces in Syria, who played the leading role in the defeat of ISIS.

 

“In Scotland, we stand in solidarity with the Kurdish community as they seek to live

in peace and participate in Scottish society.

 

“Congress therefore:

reiterates its long standing support for, and solidarity with, the Kurdish community

in Scotland;

condemns the raids and harassment they are suffering at the hands of Police

Scotland; and

calls on the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice to ensure that these actions

cease forthwith and make a public commitment to the human rights and general

wellbeing of our Kurdish community.”

Mover: Dundee Trades Union Council

 

STEPHEN SMELLIE’S SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF THE DUNDEE MOTION

 

Seconding the motion, UNISON’s Stephen Smellie questioned whether the international

part of the agenda was the right place for this motion since it was happening in

this country by our police.

 

Stephen told delegates about raids on a a number of homes of Kurdish families in

Edinburgh by up to seven plain clothes and uniformed police officers.

 

“Parents getting ready for work and kids ready for school, kids still in their bed,

were told to sit in their living room while the police officers searched their

bedrooms. The raids were carried out under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

 

“What did they find? Guns? Terror manuals? Stashes of cash to fund terror acts? No.

 

“They found nothing of the sort. They did find Kurdish language magazines. Taken

away. One teenage boy had a YPG flag on his wall – the YPG – the people’s Defence

Units – the Syrian Kurds fighting alongside UK and US forces against ISIS – you can

buy the flag at the stall outside – confiscated. They found similar YPG badges –

taken away by the police in their pursuit of terrorism.

 

“In September 2017 another round of dawn raids were made in the same manner with the

same sort of material confiscated. This time the Edinburgh Kurdish Community Centre

was also broken into by police, despite being asked to wait for the key holder to

arrive who would let them in. Again some flags, Kurdish scarves and badges were

removed.

 

“None of this material has been returned.”

 

“No charges came about. The investigation into alleged Kurdish terrorism that was

reported in big headlines in the Edinburgh Evening News, on STV and BBC came to

nothing. There was no evidence because there was no terrorist threat or activity.”

 

However, said Stephen, what did happen is that the Kurdish community in Edinburgh

were faced with questions by neighbours, work colleagues and school friends. “The

question – Is your Dad a terrorist? Was asked of kids in school.”

 

“In other words the whole Kurdish Community was criminalised by police actions

including police press releases.”

 

Stephen asked if it was a coincidence that the Kurdish community had been actively

protesting against Turkish government violence against the Kurdish people in Turkey,

against the jailing of elected Kurdish MPS and Mayors and the support that Turkey

had given to ISIS operatives?

 

“When meetings were held with the local police force they of course denied any link

to these legal protests but the view of the community was that indeed this was no

coincidence”, said Stephen.

 

“Some of them are now reluctant to take part in protests or for their kids to attend

the language and music lessons at the community centre.”

 

Stephen added: “Congress, the Kurdish community in Turkey is under siege, the

Kurdish community in Syria have fought and defeated ISIS and are now being

threatened by a Turkish invasion and air attacks.

 

“They should not feel under siege and threatened here in Scotland. They are part of

our community, our work colleagues our kids school mates.”

 

STEPHEN SMELIIE’S SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF THE ABERDEEN EMERGENCY MOTION

 

“This Congress in past years has offered support to the Kurdish struggle in Turkey,

we have supported the demand that the PKK be removed from the list of terrorist

organisations and we have called for Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, a writer,

and advocate for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question, to be

released from his 20 years of solitary confinement in the prison on Imrali island in

Turkey.

The Turkish government have a number of times during the past 20 years sought

negotiations with Ocalan, in his prison cell, to achieve an end to the conflict. As

recent as 2015 they were negotiating with him and the Prime Minister was on the

verge of agreeing a peace accord. Ocalan had issued a call to the PKK and others to

put away the guns and turn to politics to achieve a solution.

That was scuppered when President Erdogan decided that his electoral success

required not peace but violence. Since then Ocalan has received only 2 very brief

visits from his brother.

He has had no access to the Kurdish political movement and since 2011 no access to

his legal team and lawyers.

International delegations seeking permission to visit Ocalan, including a recent one

partly organised by the Trade Union Freedom for Ocalan Campaign set up by GMB and

Unite and which a number of affiliates here are now supporting, a delegation that

included Tony Burke of Unite, Manual Cortes of TSSA and actor Maxine Peake, have all

been refused by the Turkish authorities.

The widespread demands to end his isolation, a form of torture, have been ignored.

The frustration and outrage across the Kurdish people is what has led to the current

desparate actions of thousands of people engaging in hunger strikes.

These include Imam Sis in Newport on hunger strike since December and Mehmet Yilmaz,

Ali Boyraz and Nahide Zengin on hunger strike since 14 March.

Leyla Guven is near to death.

No-one should be on hunger strike. It is not a campaigning tactic that anyone should

consider but it is a last desperate act to try to get the Turkish authorities to

act. But they don’t care if hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and across the

world die.

Therefore we need to build widespread international support for their demands. This

Congress in supporting this motion will be amongst the leaders in building this

campaign and I would urge all affiliates to also take the actions called for in the

motion and if you are in South Wales or London in the coming weeks please visit the

hunger strikers and show our solidarity.

 

 

 

 

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