A recent invitation extended by Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Humza Yousaf, to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ignited tensions in the political scene of the United Kingdom, leading to widespread criticism. Amidst the escalating controversy, Yousaf has asserted that if Erdoğan accepts the invitation, he will not shy away from raising “human rights issues”.
A coalition of Scottish Kurdish community groups, human rights delegates, and Palestine solidarity organisations issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the invitation. The statement denounced the “hypocrisy of forging friendly ties with Erdoğan”, considering Turkey’s military attacks on the Kurdish regions and its collaboration with Israel.
The signatories, including Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, Kurdish Community Scotland, Zagros Community Scotland, and others, criticised what they deemed as the First Minister’s disregard for Turkey’s human rights record, particularly concerning its treatment of the Kurdish population.
The signatories further drew attention to the dichotomy between Erdoğan’s vocal support for Palestinians and the economic ties between Turkey and Israel, alleging a pattern where business interests outweigh considerations of justice and freedom.
The recent military strikes carried out by Turkish forces in northeastern Syria, resulting in widespread infrastructure damage and affecting millions, were highlighted as war crimes. The statement implicated British weapons manufacturing companies, which have operations in Scotland, in the supply chain facilitating such actions.
Domestic issues within Turkey, including the political repression of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the violation of Kurdish language rights, were also brought to the forefront. The signatories urged the Scottish government to condemn Erdoğan’s actions and to support initiatives addressing human rights abuses within Turkey.
The groups emphasised the need for the First Minister and the SNP to adopt a consistent stance on human rights, calling for an uncompromising acknowledgment of the “colonial legacies” influencing the treatment of both the Palestinian and Kurdish peoples.
After the invitation, the Scottish Green Party, the coalition partner of the SNP, also protested Yousaf and accused Turkey of “ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, bombing civilians in Syria and Iraq, imprisoning opposition politicians on ‘outrageous’ charges, and closing independent media/human rights groups.”
Responding to critics, Yousaf defended the invitation, stating, “I invited him [Erdoğan] to Scotland, saying when you visit the UK again, do drop by Scotland. Why shouldn’t Scotland engage in dialogue with a NATO ally and someone we might want to trade with?”
Yousaf also made assurances that, as is customary in meetings with international leaders, he would address human rights concerns. “But we do it in a way that tells our journey in human rights, just like other countries,” he added.