Women’s Alliance Open Letter to the PM

PEACE IN KURDISTAN WOMEN’S ALLIANCE FOR KURDISTAN, IRAQ AND SYRIA The Rt Honourable Theresa May MP
10 Downing Street
6 September 2016

Dear Prime Minister

We are writing to ask you and the British Government to condemn the recent shelling of majority Kurdish areas near to Jarablus in northern Syria, since 24th August 2016, by Turkish State forces. This is a shocking and deeply disturbing attack on the forces which have consistently been acknowledged as the most effective force on the ground in the battle against ISIS. According to the official statements from the Turkish government, the offensive, “Euphrates Shield”, is aimed at both ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG). From the outset it was clear that the primary focus of this operation was to be Kurdish forces including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and not ISIS. There have been consistent reports of Turkish State complicity with ISIS, by, for example, allowing fighters to cross the border into Syria and of supplying military equipment, as reported for example, in the Washington Post on August 12th 2014. It appears that Jarablus fell to Turkish forces without there being any ISIS casualties.

 

Since 29th August 2016 the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and several other media outlets have confirmed that Turkish airstrikes and tank shelling has killed at least 40 civilians in the village of Bir/Jubba al-Kusa 13 km south of Jarablus, a village previously liberated by the SDF from ISIS.
Hours after the massacre in Jubba al-Kusa another 20 civilians were killed and 25 wounded in Turkish air strikes near the town of Al-Amarneh. According to SOHR, at least four Kurdish fighters had been killed and 15 injured in Turkish bombardments of the two areas. It is clear that this attack on democratic, primarily Kurdish forces will continue as long as the US-led International Coalition remains silent.

 

The ISIS military campaign has been characterised by a brutal catalogue of sexual violence primarily against women. The widely documented mass abduction of women and girls for sexual violence demonstrates ISIS’s view that women are the spoils of war, and was among the factors which led the British Parliament and the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry to conclude that a genocide had occurred of the Yezidi people in Iraq.

 

In stark contrast to this victimisation of women has been the Kurdish women’s defence units, which have been in the frontline of the fight against ISIS. The Kurdish women’s movement has been developed over two decades amidst the struggle for Kurdish liberation. Women have emerged at the forefront and are an outstanding example of women’s self-determination and self –defence in the Middle East, a region often lagging behind in progressive gender policies. Women make up 50% of the fighting force, over 40% of elected representatives in the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and within their political parties in Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan.

 

Rojava has given refuge to 1.8 million Internally Displaced People and refugees, from across the region, of all ethnicities and religions, of whom 80% are women and children, including many of the Yezidi women and girls who have escaped the genocide underway in Iraq.

 

Given the UK Government’s stated commitment to working to prevent sexual violence in conflict, in particular, at the high profile Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London in 2014, we wonder where is the government action on this? We suggest that it is imperative, in order to further this stated aim, that support be given to the women of Rojava in Syria who are at the forefront of the fight against ISIS now. The Rojavan social contract, its constitutional document, guarantees equality in all walks of public and private life, makes the co-chair system (one man and one women as joint chairs of any political or civic body) legally binding, and prohibits polygamy, child marriage, forced marriage and bridal dowries. Any true commitment to supporting the advancement of women and in preventing sexual violence in conflict will begin, in the present context, with supporting the women of Rojava in their struggle.

 

The US-led coalition against ISIS has, until now, supported the major contributions to the struggle by the women and men of the YPJ (the women’s units) and YPG and has provided air cover for their operations. However the US and Germany have now turned a blind eye to Turkish airstrikes against them. This invites the accusation of treachery.

 

Turkey has been accused of committing war crimes against the Kurds inside its borders and has refused to allow UN teams to investigate these allegations. It is now slaughtering civilians inside Syria in full view of western governments and of NATO.

 

We call on you and the British Government to take a principled stand against the Turkish offensive against the YPG/J, to support the women at the forefront of the struggle against ISIS rather than appease a State which has collaborated with Salafist groups, and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in the north of Syria from this new attack.

We, the undersigned, look forward to your urgent response.

Margaret Owen, Barrister, Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy

Baroness Helena Kennedy

Baroness Greengross

Dr Annette Lawson OBE

Dr Scilla Elworthy, Founder of Oxford Resaearch Group, Nobel Peace Price Nominee

Dr Nadje Al-Ali, Professor of Gender Studies, SOAS

Prof Mary Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London

Anni Pues, Human Rights Lawyer and Member of the International Committee, Scottish Green Party

Alison Johnstone MSP, Green Party, Scotland

Amber R. Huff, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University

Shula Marks, FBA, Emeritus Fellow of the British Academy and Emeritus Professor and Hon.Fellow, SOAS

Dr Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster

Rahila Gupta, Journalist and Activist, Southall Black Sisters

Dilar Dirik, PhD student, Cambridge University

Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK Women Representative

Turkan Budak, Vice-Chair Roj Women’s Assembly

Fran Robertson, Director, Two Step Films

Pennie Quinton, Feminist Activist

Amrit Wilson, Writer and Activist

Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition

Rojin Tasman, Solicitor

Isabel Marler, Feminist Activist

Houzan Mahmoud, Kurdish Women’s Rights Activist

Aysegul Erdogan, Islington Councillor

Sarah Parker, Haringey Left Unity

Dr Johanna Riha, Epidemiologist

Bronwen Jones, Barrister

Jillian Gordon, Barrister at Law, Retired JP

Amy Murtagh, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Marion Kozak

Miriam James, Historian

Cynthia Cockburn, Researcher and Writer

Inge Relph, Gender and Conflict Advisor

Cerry Hayes, Gender Matters

Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Yagmur Savran, PhD Student, University of Bradford

Tabitha Bast, Activist and Writer, Leeds Friends of Rojava

Roza Salih, Vice-Chair of UNITE Scotland Young Members Committee

Rachel Bird, human rights campaigner

Melanie Singhji, human rights campaigner

Chrissie Charvill, Co-ordinator of Oxford Kurdish and Syrian Association

Ruth Lady Morris of Kenwood CBE, Consultant

Elizabeth Taylor, Retired Academic, Anthropologist

Valerie Faccini

Charlotte Watson, Counsellor

Jessica Winby, Artist

Sheila Mosley, Support Kurds in Syria –SKS

Irene Austin, Chair, Herts Welcomes Syrian Refugees (HWSF)

Maggie Hamand, Author

Rachel Gundry, Stone Carver, Somerset

Veronica Cecil, Writer

Charlotte Keatley, Playwright

Katherine Wright, Youth Worker, Artist

Jennifer Ware

Claire Biggart

Juliet Colman

Jo Magpie, Journalist

Melanie Gingell, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

 

 

 

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk
www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.com

44 Ainger Road, London NW3 3AT
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Kate Osamor MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary,  Simon Dubbins. UNITE International Director Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall, Melanie Gingell

 

Call for an International Action Day against Feminicide of Yazidi Women

3 August 2016 marks the 2nd anniversary of the Feminicide and Genocide by Islamic State (IS) against Yazidi people in Sinjar/Shengal. On 3 August 2014 IS attacked and captured Sinjar, which is the historical homeland of Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority whose ancient religion is linked to Zoroastrianism. ISIL destroyed Yazidi shrines, executed resisters and demanded the residents to swear allegiance or be killed. During the IS-massacre in Sinjar up to 5.000 Continue reading

Executive Board of Kobane Canton calls for international solidarity on 1 November

The Kobane Canton Executive Board has released this statement calling for all people to take part in this Sunday’s Global Rally for Freedom and Reconstruction of Kobane: 

A Call for an International Solidarity Day with Kobani

1 November 2015

Kobani and Rojava have faced numerous military campaigns and attacks since the birth of freedom and justice on their soils on 19 July 2012. Ever since, militant extremists have laid siege to this geographic area that aspires to build a new life and new approach that is open to socio-cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.

However, the will of the people in Rojava and the power of their desire for a new era and new administration were invincible, defeating extremists’ campaigns, which culminated in the Kobani’s humane resistance. This resistance marked the beginning of the end of ISIL’s myth of its ability to control any town or city, and proved to the world that the union between the will of the people and local institutions in a geographic area is sufficient to defeat terrorism, and thus safeguarding humanity and peace. Continue reading

YPG responds to controversial Amnesty report

YPG_AmnestyThe YPG has released a response to a controversial Amnesty International report published last week which accused the Kurdish forces of forcibly displacing Arab civilians from villages. The report was apparently the result of a ‘fact-finding mission’ to Rojava, but its findings have been heavily disputed by solidarity activists, Kurdish political organisations and now the YPG itself, which says: “The report contains fallacies since the testimonies of the individuals interviewed by Amnesty International were incorrect and contradictory to the facts and evidence, widely available and easily accessible to everyone. In this official statement, we will mention some of these flagrant fallacies that put the credibility of the report and Amnesty International at stake.”

The introduction to the report is here. To read the full report, which unpicks the evidence, or lack thereof, of war crimes committed by Kurdish forces, here.

Continue reading

Massacre in Sinjar, one year on: REPAK statement

REPAK, the Kurdish Women’s Relations Office based in Erbil, has published this statement on the one year anniversary of the IS attack on Sinjar/Shengal, which led to a horrific massacre in which thousands of Yezidi people were killed, thousands taken into sexual slavery and many more thousands were displaced. 

To the press and public

Exactly one year ago, gangs of the so-called Islamic State (IS) tried to carry out genocide in the Southern Kurdish (Northern Iraqi), mostly by Yazidis inhabited city Shingal/Sinjar. On 3 August 2014, IS aimed to occupy Shingal by massacres and ethnic cleansing in the villages around. According to numbers of the UN, due to the massacres that started on 3 August, 5 thousand Kurdish Yazidis got killed, 7 thousand girls and women got kidnapped like trophies, enslaved by IS gangs and sold in slavery markets. Even though some of the women were able to escape, a lot of women committed suicide for escaping from this atrocity. But still thousands of women remain in the hands of IS. Continue reading

U.S. Makes a Deal with the Turkish Devil

By Thoreau Redcrow for the Kurdopia Project

There are recent revelations from The Guardian that the U.S. deal with Turkey involves a “no fly zone” (that would only apply to Assad’s Syrian Regime, as neither ISIS nor the Kurds have planes) in exchange for a tacit agreement that Turkey can prevent further land acquisitions by the Kurdish PYD in their quest to unify Rojava by connecting the Kobane and Afrin Cantons. Essentially, the U.S. gets use of a closer location at Incirlik Air base to bomb ISIS from, in exchange for selling out the Kurdish PYD (which includes their heroic YPG & YPJ guerrillas), who were the only ground forces effectively defeating ISIS. Continue reading

Rojava, Kurdish autonomy and peace-building efforts in Syria: Report from a roundtable discussion

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

Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and peace-building efforts in Syria: A panel discussion held at the House of Commons

by YASEMIN KAZAN/LONDON

On 30 June, a round table discussion was held at the House of Commons focused on prospects for Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and peace-building efforts in Syria.

The event was jointly organised by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and Kurdistan National Congress and hosted by Lord Hylton. The debate was held to highlight what was happening in Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and Syria and to present recent developments in the region and some of the key issues involved.

Dr Alan Semo, Lord Hylton and Margaret Owen

Dr Alan Semo, Lord Hylton and Margaret Owen

With ISIS capturing strategic towns in Iraq and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) winning 80 seats in the Turkish National Assembly for the first time, the discussion held at a particularly prescient time included; Lord Hylton, the first member of UK Parliament, Margaret Owen, patron of Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Human Rights Barrister and Director of the International NGO, Dr. Alan Semo PYD UK, John Hunt, journalist, writer and editor, Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress and some other attendees of journalists, independent diplomats, and human rights campaigners. Continue reading

Stop ISIS/Daesh – new petition

Vasiliki Scurfield, mother of Erik Konstandinos Scurfield who was martyred in battle while fighting alongside the YPG in Kobane, has launched a signature campaign and is pushing for 100,000 signatures so that a debate takes place in Parliament. You will find the petition at Change.org – please sign and share!

STOP ISIS/DAESH

They all have names. Every one of the people who ISIS has murdered has a name and every day more people die trying to protect their right to a life free from persecution and terror.

All decent human beings are disgusted and horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, yet ISIS continues is evil work unhindered, growing in strength and even affiliating with other extremist organisations. In the meantime there are some half- hearted coalition air strikes which, at best, succeed only in temporarily containing ISIS. Yet all across Northern Syria Rojavan Kurds continue to fight, essentially unassisted, to protect people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds and support refugees. Continue reading

Vasiliki Scurfield addresses Newroz reception in Parliament

The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) held an event in parliament on 17 March, to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year. The event was hosted by MP Mike Gapes. The speakers were Vasiliki Scurfield, the mother of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, Michelle Allison, KNK UK women’s representative, Dr Alan Semo, PYD UK representative, and Dr Mohamed Kanyany, former KRG MP.

by Sofia Beatty

newroz parliament_vsAddressing a packed meeting in the House of Commons, Aysegul Erdogan, chairing, welcomed the speakers, with a special thanks to Vasiliki Scurfield, the mother of Konstandinos Scurfield, the ex-Royal Marine who died fighting with the YPG for the liberation of the Kurdish people. This year, said Aysegul, Newroz “takes on added significance, as this is the first Newroz since the victory of the Kurdish forces, the YPG and YPJ in Kobani, Rojava. This year, the fire of Newroz burns brighter than before. Newroz, for us Kurdish people, has a different meaning. To us, it means light over darkness, freedom over oppression, peace over war.” She praised the Kurdish spirit of resistance in the face genocidal acts against the Kurdish people, such as at Halabja. Continue reading