Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) organised a wide ranging discussion of Rojava, Kurdish autonomy and the attempts to build peace in Syria on 30 June 2015. Held in the Houses of Parliament, the event was hosted by the independent cross-bench peer Lord Hylton. Lord Hylton has recently returned from Rojava and is the first member of the UK parliament to visit the self-declared autonomous Kurdish region of northern Syria. The meeting was well attended and included people from the region and surrounding countries, along with British people and others with varying levels of familiarity with the Kurds and some who had little background knowledge but had been inspired by the resistance of Kobane. Continue reading
Bad Housekeeping interviewed Margaret Owen last week to speak about her experiences in Rojava, northern Syria, which she visited at the end of December on the invitation of the PYD.
Margaret Owen is the octogenarian director of NGO Widows for Peace through Democracy. I went to her house in London where she fed me baklava while showing me photos of her grandchildren & of the impossibly tiny boat on which she had crossed the Iraqi border the week before. For a woman whose organisation has ‘Peace’ in the title she gets a surprising glint in her eye whilst describing attractive women wielding semi-automatic weapons, and speaks at such a pace that I can only include a harshly reduced version of her conversation here – which is a shame because what she has to say gives an intriguing glimpse into international relations and the status of widows across the world.
RB: So, you’ve just come back from Rojava [a Kurdish enclave in Northern Syria] – what did you learn?
MO: They’d really got a new way of promoting, guaranteeing and establishing gender equality in every aspect of life. The PYD– the main Kurdish political party in Syria – have co-chairs, a man and a woman, in every single institution, organisation, association – whether it’s a hospital, medical, educational, military, police, councils, every single body is headed by a man and a woman. And that doesn’t mean that the woman chair only does women-things, she’s just a co-chair with the man. And I never saw anyone writing about Rojava, they were all writing about Syria and the opposition and al-Qaeda, but you never saw anyone really writing about what was happening within Rojava [..]
You can read the interview in full here.
Margaret Owen, who recently returned from Rojava, wrote this letter in response to an article in the Guardian today:
JANUARY 14TH 2014
It is vital that the international community does not ignore the needs of Rojava, the Kurdistan region of Western Syria, now home to over 260,000 IDPs (Internally displaced persons), 90% of whom are women and children. (Drops in the ocean, January 14th). They include Arabs, Christians, Assyrians, Alawites, and other minorities; many of the women are widows, wives of the “disappeared”, and victims of violence, including rape and sexual torture.
These people are “refugees” in all but name, but no humanitarian aid has reached Rojava as yet. These families have urgent multiple and complex needs for shelter, food, clothing, trauma counselling, and their children, deprived of education, desperately need schooling and support.
Peace in Kurdistan patron Margaret Owen OBE has written an open letter to US President Barack Obama, urging him to make an urgent investigation into the brutal massacre and kidnapping of hundreds of Kurdish men, women and children at the hands of US- and Turkey-backed Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
In the letter she reminds President Obama that Western Kurdistan had, until recent provocations, remained peaceful under the leadership of the PYD and had become a safe haven for many Syrian’s fleeing violence in the worn-torn country. Turkish anxieties over the new project of democratic autonomy in Western Kurdistan should not justify the international community’s indifference to the massacre of innocent Kurdish civilians.
Margaret Owen, human rights barrister, women’s rights advocate and patron of Peace in Kurdistan campaign has completed her one-week hunger strike in solidarity with Shaker Aamer, who is among the inmates currently refusing food at Guantanamo Bay. She has been writing blogs throughout the week, has given interviews and had a letter published in the Guardian in an effort to raise awareness of Shaker’s plight – a British citizen who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for the past 11 years without charge.
Margaret undertook the action in association with Reprieve and the Stand Fast for Justice Campaign, which is supporting hunger strikers the prison camp and demands justice for the detainees.
Margaret Owen is among the protesters entering a solidarity hunger strike for British Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer. The campaign aims to put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure Mr Aamer’s release from the illegal US prison camp. Mr Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, has been held in Guantanamo Prison without charge since 2002 when Afghan soldiers in Jalalabad abducted and delivered him to the US Bagram airbase.
Mr Aamer’s lawyers maintain that he was working in Afghanistan for a Saudi charity and say his jailers extracted false confessions under torture. He has long been cleared for release by the US.
The hunger strike is part of Reprieve’s Stand Fast for Justice campaign, which began with a weeklong hunger strike by Reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith, who is also Mr Aamer’s lawyer. He was later joined by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, and actress Julie Christie.
On 16 – 19 July 2012, thirty-six Kurdish lawyers, representatives of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, were tried at Istanbul High Criminal Court. They were arrested in November 2011 and charged under the Anti-Terror Act of ‘being a member of an illegal organisation’ and ‘passing orders of Abdullah Ocalan’. Margaret Owen OBE, barrister, human rights lawyer and patron of Peace in Kurdistan campaign travelled to Istanbul with other international colleagues to observe the mass trial. She has written a report on her observations, which you will find below. The report is also available for you download (Word doc).
MASS TRIAL OF 36 KURDISH LAWYERS
Report on trial of the 36 lawyers at the Istanbul High Criminal Court, 16 – 19 July 2012
by Margaret Owen OBE, Barrister
In June, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) appealed for international delegates to monitor the trial of 36 Kurdish lawyers, all members of the BDP, who were arrested in November 2011 in ongoing police operations against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). Ali Has, a Kurdish lawyer from the UK, and I joined other international delegates from across Europe in response to the appeal. We spent three days observing the mass trial in the Special Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey.  Continue reading