Interview by Chris Den Hond
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to ramp up hostilities against Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria with drone strikes and threats of a full-scale invasion, supporters of the Kurds around the world have called for action against Ankara.
In July 2022, French Senator Laurence Cohen launched an appeal to stop Erdoğan from invading Syria. The statement was signed by 102 French lawmakers and published in the Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) weekly newspaper in France.
“I launched the appeal to all the political groups in the French Senate, except the far right,” Cohen said, “to mark the fact that the French Members of Parliament do not forget the Kurds and their cause, and that a certain number of us are committed to stop the repressive politics of Erdoğan against them.”
Cohen a member of the French Communist Party and senator for the Val-de-Marne department, is known for her work on questions related to women’s rights and feminism. She gained a seat in the French senate in 2017 as a common candidate for communists, socialists and greens.
MedyaNews’s Chris Den Hond spoke to Cohen at length about her appeal, the inspiration she draws from women in Rojava, and the new initiatives coming up to defend the Kurds and their allies in North and East Syria.
CDH: Erdoğan seems to be supported by EU countries in order to keep Syrian refugees in Turkey. So isn’t there a complicity between EU countries and Turkey?
Cohen: I am very well aware of what is happening in Turkey and how Erdoğan is exercising his policy against the Kurds, but also in Europe: Kurdish bank accounts are being frozen, and Kurdish activists are facing problems in Europe. So European countries are buying themselves a kind of tranquility by letting Erdoğan deal with migrants. That’s why I defend the Kurdish cause. All the Members of Parliament are not necessary on the same page, but everybody recognises the very strong and determined fight the Kurds lead against Da’esh (the Islamic State). That’s a positive element, also for my right-wing or centre-right colleagues.
CDH: Are you inspired by the way Kurdish forces and their allies are trying to build a new society in the North and East of Syria?
Cohen: I believe what the Kurds are trying to build in Rojava is really interesting. Unfortunately, there is the war, and the conditions there are terrible. But they try to build up an egalitarian society between men and women, with social progress, human progress. That’s an example for the entire society. I am inspired by the courage of the Kurds, their determination, their attempts to create an emancipated society. And despite all the obstacles they might meet, they pursue their efforts. I don’t want to idealise it, but it’s a fight we should encourage. I am very sensitive about what the Kurdish women are doing. We are fighting common battles, a feminist battle. I call the Kurdish women “my fighting sisters”.
CDH: Is this a one-shot initiative, or do you plan a follow up?
Cohen: The appeal of these 102 Members of Parliament was made at the end of July 2022, in the middle of the summer, to show our determination to protect the Kurds. We will continue to take initiatives, politically as large as possible. We think about organising a delegation to Rojava. There will be other initiatives to allow different political sensibilities to build a kind of security belt around the Kurds, to prevent the bad shots of Erdoğan.