Daniel Riazat is a member of the Swedish Left, a party with 27 MPs in the Riksdag. On the day that Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum conceding to Turkey’s demands to clamp down on Kurds, in order that Turkey lift its veto on the two Nordic applications for NATO membership, Riazat posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing a PKK T-shirt. Here he discusses the impact of that memorandum, and the reactions to it.
In Riazat’s view, the Swedish government has generally not been supportive of the Kurdish struggle, and Swedish security has worked with Turkey to deport Kurdish asylum seekers prior to the recent agreement. He assertained that now the official view of Kurds and the Kurdish struggle will depriciate even further, and Kurds in Sweden are afraid for the future. The agreement will also stop the government from showing support, as they have done previously, for those who defeated ISIS. The embargo on arms exports to Turkey, which the Left Party agreed in Parliament in 2019, will also cease.
Although most political parties now support NATO membership, the Left Party argue that such a fundamental change and move away from independent foreign policy should be put to a referendum. They also have demanded that the Foreign Minister puts herself forward for questioning at the Foreign Affairs Committee. Riazat points out that Swedes can not elect a Foreign Minister in September’s election if the ‘real’ Foreign Minister is Turkey’s President, and argues that Sweden should not allow a dictator [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] to tell them how to treat their citizens or where they must sell weapons.
Riazat goes onto suggest that NATO is fundamentally a war alliance rather than a vehicle for peace, and yet Sweden looks to NATO for security. He points out that many Western governments seem to have no concern for clamping down on the Kurdish struggle because they do not want to support the growth of Leftist democratic forces in the Middle East whom may question the colonialist capitalist order.
Riazat’s observations on reactions to the memorandum outside parliament provide a source of encouragement. He talks of widespread anger at a government that has sold out people’s Kurdish friends and neighbours. Some people have accepted this as the price to be paid to join NATO, but members of the ruling Social Democrats are publicly talking about leaving the party. On the left, anger is being channelled into planning how best to give support to the Kurdish community and the Kurdish freedom movement. The campaign to delist the PKK is a key issue, to which the Left Party was already fully committed, and Riazat notes that in recent years, outside government, discussion about the PKK had become much more positive.
Activists – both Kurds and their friends – are determined that the agreement will not stop their campaigning, with non-Kurds aware of the importance of themselves publicly displaying Kurdish flags and symbols in defiance of Turkish demands. Riazat describes broad public support for the Kurds – and his PKK T-shirt was met with a heartening response.