The Rojava Committees, a Swedish solidarity group, has released the video of its latest action in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, where it demanded the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They also called for participation in a mass protest against Kurdish criminalisation to be held in Sweden’s capital on 30 September.
During their recent demonstration, the group used a symbolic Viking ship in a procession past the City Hall and the Turkish Embassy to send a clear message that they will not tolerate the Swedish government’s alleged efforts to criminalise the Kurdish population in order to “facilitate Sweden’s NATO membership at the expense of the Kurds”.
The protest, which was documented in a video release, featured the group singing a Kurdish song, ‘Çerxa Şoreşe’ (The Wheel of Revolution), also known as the guerrilla anthem. In 2018, a university student in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) was charged with “making terrorist propaganda” for simply whistling this song.
An alliance of organisations opposed to NATO membership, including the Rojava Committees, has held two demonstrations in Stockholm this year in response to Sweden’s ongoing dialogue with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had strongly criticised these protests as “unacceptable”.
“We gathered to protest against Sweden’s participation in a war-mongering alliance and the measures imposed on us by the dictator and murderer Erdoğan. Our gathering aims to show solidarity with democratic forces worldwide, especially in Turkey,” the alliance said in a statement announcing their upcoming demonstration.
“We have successfully delayed Sweden’s NATO accession process, brought the NATO issue to the forefront and garnered public support. Despite these efforts, our elected representatives have repeatedly given in, so we will gather again on 30 September to express our dissatisfaction and solidarity,” the statement continued.
In a diplomatic agreement reached in July, Turkey pledged its support for Sweden’s NATO membership in exchange for Sweden’s commitment not to support the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), both of which Turkey considers “terrorist” organisations. Turkish authorities and media celebrated this agreement as a significant victory, claiming that Sweden had adopted Ankara’s definition of these Kurdish groups in Syria as ‘terrorists’, a stance largely unsupported by the international community, with the exception of Qatar.
The Rojava Committees countered this interpretation, claiming that Sweden’s commitment not to support the YPG does not equate to recognising them as terrorists. The upcoming demonstration is being organised to affirm that support for Syrian Kurdish groups remains legitimate within Sweden, despite the diplomatic agreement.
The Rojava Committees attracted international attention earlier this year when they hung an effigy of Erdoğan upside down by his ankles in front of Stockholm City Hall. This provocative protest, accompanied by a video comparing Erdoğan to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was similarly displayed upside down after his execution during World War II, sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and Sweden in January.