150 activists from across Europe formed an international initiative named as the “Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan” and have been trying to arrive in Erbil (Hewlêr) since the weekend, but less than half of the members were able to do so as some members were deported from Erbil by Iraqi Kurdistan authorities whilst some others were not even allowed to take off from Germany.
Around 70 members of the delegation who managed to arrive in Erbil included academics, politicians, artists, journalists and members of anti-war groups from various European countries including Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland.
The delegation was prevented from holding their press conference in front of the United Nations (UN) regional office in Erbil by the security forces of the Kurdistan autonomous government. As they went to leave the hotel to hold their press conference at the UN they were surrounded by soldiers and police. The delegation then carried out a civil disobedience sit down protest before being forced back into the Blue Mercury Hotel where they were staying.
Pierre Laurent, Deputy President of the Senate of France, spoke on behalf of the delegation: “We are a peaceful and solidarity peace delegation in solidarity with all the Kurdish people and we want to build up diplomatic pressure to stop the Turkish invasion of Southern Kurdistan,” he said.
At the press conference, in addition to Pierre Laurent, speakers included Zagros Endazyarî from the Kurdish Centre in Stockholm, Sweden; Lida Weerts, human rights activist from Norway; Dr. Mechthild Exo from Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences in Germany; Rémy Pagani, former mayor of Geneva and Swiss deputy; Selin Gören for linksjugend from Germany; Erling Folkvord, journalist and former member of the North Swedish Parliament; and Zeyneb Murad from the Kurdish National Congress.
Lida Weerts, who read out the press statement, announced establishment of the international initiative “Defend Kurdistan – Against Turkish occupation“.
“We are approximately 150 politicians, human rights advocates, journalists, academics, political activists, ecologists, feminists and members of parliaments from all over Europe and have been following the dangerous developments resulting from Turkey’s attacks in South Kurdistan in north Iraq since April 23,” she said.
“Many other organisations and individuals who cannot be here today expressed their solidarity and support for the proclamation of our international initiative Defend Kurdistan. So it is with one united voice and more clarity that we wish to unequivocally condemn the Turkish military’s ongoing occupation in South Kurdistan and stand in solidarity with the people of South Kurdistan and Kurdish resistance for the protection of their homeland,” she added.