Desmond Fernandes & Mark Campbell
The Defend Kurdistan Initiative is an international delegation for peace, consisting of journalists, feminists, politicians, academics, ecologists and members from anti-war groups from various European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK. Some members of the delegation arrived in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan last week.
Whilst fourteen members of the delegation were deported from Iraqi Kurdistan, other peace activists were controversially prevented from leaving Germany to get to Erbil. Twenty-seven members of the delegation who went to Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport on the morning of 12 June, for example, were detained by the police and had their passports confiscated. The delegates were questioned by the police at the airport.
German police reportedly issued a statement that the visit “harms our relations with Turkey, which is a NATO partner.”
Despite these obstacles, some members of the delegation reached Iraqi Kurdistan to start the initiative against the military operations taking place by Turkey’s armed forces in the region. Those military operations began on 23 April this year.
Announcing the establishment of the Defend Kurdistan Initiative, consisting of 150 peace activists, the 22 delegates who were left after bannings, deportations, obstructions etc, have, during their time there, visited several key affected regions and spoken to local villagers and representatives of non-government organisations (NGO’s) and several key people to try and halt the conflict.
The Initiative has reported on the nature of Turkey’s military incursion, stating: “These genocidal acts from Turkey are continuing right now, using military technology from Europe, whilst the government from Kurdistan remains silent.” The Initiative has also investigated the nature and dangers of a possible fratricidal conflict amongst the Kurds, and appealed to people everywhere to condemn the Turkish military cross-border attacks and operations in Iraqi Kurdistan and to stop their governments from selling weapons to Turkey.
The two delegates we speak to explain the nature of the Defend Kurdistan’s peace initiative, the difficulties delegates have had in trying to get to Erbil (including highlighting the arrest of three Kurdish friends who were at the airport to meet the delegates) and the difficulties the Initiative has had in Iraqi Kurdistan itself. Delegates have had to work under repressive conditions.
The delegates, speaking from Iraqi Kurdistan, describe their often harrowing experiences, their findings about the conflict (which have largely been unreported by mainstream media platforms) and also present their recommendations on how to personally address the conflict that is taking place with the support of NATO members, and how to assist in opposing the conflict that is taking place.