“Unless there is freedom everywhere, none of us is free,” said Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt MP to a gathering of the Kurdish community in Sydney and their supporters on February 26.
Bandt, the Greens foreign affairs spokesperson Senator Janet Rice and MP for New South Wales (NSW) state David Shoebridge (who is running for a Senate position in federal election later this year) all pledged to support the Kurdish struggle for freedom, justice and peace.
“Freedom and human rights are non-negotiable,” Bandt said in his speech, noting that the big parties in Australia have often traded off such principles even while paying lip service to such values.
“In this country where we enjoy liberties and democracy that people in many other countries don’t have, we should enjoy them but also use them to ensure that other people have those same rights to self-determination, liberty and freedoms.
“You have our strong support and will always have it,” he said.
Senator Rice said the Greens would continue to call out the Turkish government for its human rights abuses and its attacks on Kurdish people.
“The Turkish government should cease its attacks on the HDP and immediately comply with the European Court ruling and release all those who it has unjustly detained.
“And of course, anybody who is concerned about human rights is concerned about the ongoing, appalling incarceration of Abdullah Öcalan in solitary confinement. It is absolutely outrageous.
“His human rights have been trashed and it is all the more galling when you consider that during his time in prison, he has denounced violence, advocated a peaceful resolution of conflict and has advocated for participatory democracy processes which respect the human rights of all,” she added.
“This is in stark difference to the Turkish government’s attacks on the Kurdish people.
“There is no doubt if there is going to be peace with the Kurdish people, Öcalan is going to be core to that,” she argued, “and the Australian government should be loudly calling for this torture of Öcalan to cease.”
“There is a lot to criticise about the Australian government’s approach to human rights and that goes to the listing of the PKK as a terrorist organisation.”
Greens Senate candidate and NSW state MP Shoebridge said in his address:
“As we are speaking today, we have seen the headlines in our newspapers covering the appalling violence of the war against Ukraine. That inexcusable violence against the people of Ukraine strikes a chord with us. We see a powerful nation aggressor against a smaller nation, with homes being destroyed, families being destroyed and I am glad it is being called out.
“But you know as Kurdish people, this has been happening to your homeland for years and years. You know that the Turkish government has been sending drones to kill your people. You know that the Kurdish people have been standing in a war of self-determination and to protect their own families from the violence of Islamic State… And where has been the news coverage of that? And have your political leaders been calling out that? Well they haven’t.”
There is a “collective blindness” and “collective silence” about the human rights of the Kurdish people that has to end,” Shoebridge said.
“I give you this commitment that I won’t be silent about this if I am elected to the Senate. I will always call it out together with colleagues like Adam and Janet.
“I will join my colleagues inside Parliament and outside Parliament, as I have done in the NSW Parliament, to call for the urgent release of Abdullah Öcalan as a core part of a peaceful and just settlement for the Kurdish people.”
The Greens delegation told the meeting that they were proud to continue the strong opposition voiced by the former, and first, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, to the listing of the PKK as a banned “terrorist” organisation.
Shoebridge said, explaining that when the issue has been tested in the courts, Australian judges have said that the PKK expresses democratic values, supports equality between men and women and poses no threat to Australia.
“So why is it still listed as terrorist organisation and people being persecuted for being associated with the PKK?”
The Greens would seek an urgent review of the listing of the PKK by the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
“There is a real distinction between a liberation movement and a terrorist organisation and it is time our government understood that,” said Shoebridge.
The Greens MPs expressed their admiration for the achievements of the Rojava revolution in North and East Syria and expressed a keen interest to visit the territory that had been heroically liberated from the tyranny of Islamic State.
The event was hosted by the Democratic Kurdish Community Centre (NSW) and the Australian Federation of Kurdish Society and was hosted by leaders of the Sydney Kurdish Youth Committee.