On Saturday 23rd April, in Whitehall, London, I held up a very large PKK flag, to make a very big political statement against the continued criminalisation by the UK Government of the Kurdish community and the whole Kurdish issue in Turkey and the Middle East.
After all, the PKK is the Kurdish people and the Kurdish people are the PKK.
So as the Turkish army launch yet another senseless military operation into Iraqi Kurdistan against the PKK, and the Turkish state’s policy continues to be one of treating the Kurdish Question as solely a security issue, while ignoring the fact that the roots are in the Turkish state’s racist denial policies and forced assimilation policies that the Kurdish population of Turkey have been subjected to for nearly 100 years since the establishment of the modern Turkish state, it’s time for a change of approach.
10,000’s of Kurdish activists continue to languish in Turkish jails, some having been left incarcerated for decades, many without trial in a state strategy of mass internment reminiscent of Englands policies against the Irish in the 1970s, while dozens more are being imprisoned on a weekly basis always on the same purposefully fabricated, and spurious lie and label of ‘terrorism’.
The Turkish state are right now in the process of fabricating the conditions for the closure of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, through the so called ‘Kobane trials’ accusing Kurds themselves for the deaths that happened at the brutal hands of the Turkish state, as a result of Kurds protesting against Turkey’s support of ISIS in Kobane during the ISIS attack and besiegement of the Kurdish city in Northeastern Syria.
Elected politicians, mayors, activists, journalists, human rights workers, lawyers, are all jailed, after being tarred with the Turkish state’s tired and worn out old brush of ‘terrorism’. It is now used in such a tragic comic and disproportionate way that the very meaning has been completely lost and is now only used as a brutal state tool of repression against all its opponents including the Kurds.
Ever eager for weapons deals or economic partnerships, the British state has adopted the exact same tactic of criminalisation of the Kurds in exactly the same way as the Turkish state does.
In an extraordinary gathering of Kurdish people at the BBC on Saturday I was immediately struck and shocked at just how many police there were present (I counted 15 police vans just at the start and up to 200 officers from different stations and parts of London) and also how many senior officers and camera people filming the demo which was called simply against the recent new Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, illegal operations that have been condemned by the Iraqi government as an attack against the sovereignty of Iraq.
I overheard the senior officers openly talking about which flags were banned and were not to be allowed to be held during the march and I made a dry comment to the senior officer present. “Is this what you joined up for, to do the dirty work of a ruthless dictator?” Looking slightly sheepish, like he knew his dignity was in tatters mumbled through his beard, “Well, I do the work of the Queen.” Which I thought only made his dignity even worse to be honest with you. Are these the dirty tactics representative of the Queen in his eyes I thought to myself.
And so, when we began the march some of the Kurdish youth unfurled a banner at the front of the march, in fact two banners. One that said, “The PKK is not a terrorist organisation.” plus right behind a very large flag of the PKK.
Immediately the senior ‘Golds’ or ‘Silvers’, code names for the senior police officers in charge of the police operation went into a blind panic and began to brief their ‘community officers’ to warn the people carrying the flag that they were committing an offence under the terrorism act etc. Soon, they would replace the community officers with other officers and ultimately as they too were being ignored the senior officers themselves began sternly warning and intimidating the youth about the flag. It was so clear they had been instructed from high in the government that they were to be seen to crack down on the Kurds to please the racist Turkish regime of the dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Essentially doing the exact same policy to Kurds living in the UK as the Turkish state does in Turkey to the Kurds, trying to criminalise the whole Kurdish people’s legitimate freedom struggle by criminalising the march with such an extraordinary and wholly disproportionate amount of police officers and the threatening attitude taken against the people on the march with ‘section 13 of the ‘terrorism’ act of 2000.’ etc…
I’m not sure that the original idea of UK lawmakers was to use the Terrorism Act of 2000 in this way, ie, nearly 200 police officers swamping and essentially ambushing an anti war Kurdish demonstration who were peacefully protesting against war and the oppression of their people.
So, as we approached Whitehall it was clear that, that was exactly what they were going to do, ambush us, in a preplanned organised military operation with hundreds of police used to first kettle the small demonstration and then to pounce on us. The four youth who had been carrying the flag had made a sensible decision to put the flag away. But that did not stop the police pouncing on one or two individuals who they claimed were in breach of section 13 of the terrorist laws of 2000.
I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of very shameful things from our governments behaviour over the last 30 years of my close relationship with the Kurdish community in London, things most UK citizens are unaware happen in their name but last Saturday I can say was pretty bad and should worry every UK citizen who upholds the ideas of freedom of expression and human rights.
Shocked and outraged, I managed to find and get hold of the large PKK flag myself and held it up in a very public and principled way to make the point that without the Kurdish issue being treated in a political way, that without the decriminalisation of the PKK, who represent the Kurdish people’s struggle for basic rights in Turkey, there will never be a negotiated and peaceful end to this war that has caused so many deaths, so much misery, mostly for the Kurds but also on the Turkish side as well.
Don’t the UK government know that the highest court in Belgium ruled that the PKK were not a terrorist organisation and were found to be simply one partner in an armed conflict. This was the first time all the legal arguments were heard in a court of law and the Brussels court found the Turkish state’s evidence comical and absurd. A similar case has been heard by a top European Court and a ruling is expected at the end of this year.
So, rather than continue this racist war against the Kurds, by so cynically actively aiding Turkey to continue to criminalise the issue, the UK government who have a good relationship with Turkey should use their good offices and experience of The Good Friday Agreement and negotiations with formers parties to a conflict such as the IRA, to encourage Turkey to finally also seek a peaceful and political solution to the Kurdish Question.
This was my intended message by holding up the flag of the PKK on the London demonstration.
An appeal to delist the PKK, to stop the criminalisation of the Kurds and begin searching for a peaceful political solution to an issue that for 100 years has proved without a shadow of a doubt that there is no military solution.
The PKK is the Kurdish people and the Kurdish people are the PKK.
Please support any campaign to decriminalise the PKK and encourage a peaceful, political settlement to the Kurdish Question.
I was of course eventually arrested for holding the flag under Section 13 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and have been told that I am ‘under investigation’ and will be shortly informed by post, as to whether I will indeed be charged and brought to a court or not. Watch this space.