7 December 2012
Saleh Muslim, co-president of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), addressed a packed room in Westminster on 3 December, at a meeting hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP and sponsored by Liberation and Peace in Kurdistan campaign.
The meeting brought together members of the British parliament, representatives of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB), the Support Kurds in Syria group and members of Kurdish community organisations and the public, all keen to hear from Mr Muslim and develop stronger support for the Kurds in Syria. The meeting also received apologies from Lord Ashdown, Lord Hylton and Hywel Williams MP among others.
Mr Muslim provided a grave assessment of the ongoing conflict in Syria and its impact on the Kurdish community, which has become critical in recent weeks with armed clashes between rebels in the opposition forces and Kurdish units in towns like Ras al-Ayn.
Furthermore, services have been stretched to their limits with the arrival of more than half a million refugees from other parts of Syria who have been fleeing the violence. This has led to a severe humanitarian crisis in Western Kurdistan, to which the international community has been turning a blind eye.
The PYD’s project of ‘self-protection’, however, which was initiated in 2007 and is now operating in conjunction with other Kurdish parties after recent unification of different factions to form the Kurdish Supreme Council (KSC), has kept Western Kurdistan in relative peace. These civil units have maintained security in Western Kurdistan and protected the gradual development of a functioning Kurdish administration in the area, which includes new language schools that teach Kurdish.
He stated that the PYD was in favour of peaceful democratic change inside Syria and had long been in struggle against the Baathist regime. Unlike Arab citizens of the country, the Kurds had been denied the rights to express their identity and culture. The most recent Kurdish uprising, in 2004, was violently supressed by the ruling regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Muslim made it clear, however, that Syrian Kurds were not only defending themselves against the Syrian government, but against the NATO-backed Turkish government also, which has armed and encouraged opposition militants to provoke clashes on its soil to draw the Kurdish areas into the conflict. Turkey has been lobbying fellow NATO members to have Patriot missile systems stationed along the Turkish-Syrian border, and has since succeeded in this objective.
It is an outrage that the PYD was not even invited to Doha to participate in the formation of the latest incarnation of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, calling into question the legitimacy of attempts to claim that the SNC is the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people’. The SNC has now been recognised by the governments of the UK, France, Turkey, the Gulf States, and the US.
Turkey’s ‘phobia’ of Kurdish liberation was discussed as one of the principal concerns for both Syrian Kurds and Syria as a nation; Turkey’s own conflict against its substantial Kurdish population has been more violent in the last twelve months than in the last decade, leading to nearly 900 people losing their lives and more than 8,000 Kurdish political prisoners being taken into detention. Turkey’s use of anti-terror legislation to criminalise any legitimate call for political and cultural equality in the country is to blame for this, and is also an obstacle for Syrian Kurds and the PYD, who are repeatedly and erroneously referred to as simply an ‘off shoot of the PKK’ in Turkish and western press. The PYD is the largest supported Kurdish organisation inside Syria and is not a proscribed organisation, unlike the PKK; as Peace in Kurdistan, we would strongly argue that it is the PKK that should be de-listed. Any attempt to ban the PYD should be seen as a cynical political act as well as a total injustice.
For more information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Conor Murphy MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Mark Thomas