Our first public meeting of the year – at the end of January – looked at the crisis in South (Iraqi) Kurdistan. Dr Mariwan Kanie lead a discussion at Unite in Glasgow.
On the 1st April we held a Day School at Strathclyde Uni with talks on the different areas of Kurdistan, and guest speakers Chris Stephens MP and Gary Oak, a Londoner who fought with the YPG. Like in all good Kurdish events, it included lots of food and dancing. You can read Sarah’s talk on Rojava here: 17-06-27 Day School talk for website
In mid-April, Sarah Glynn went to the conference on Challenging Capitalist Modernity organised by the Kurdish Network for an Alternative Quest in Hamburg. (One of the main organisers was Havin Guneser who, in October, had had to speak to the public meetings we had arranged via Skype when she wasn’t allowed into the UK.)This conference has become a biannual event, and is now very large. Hamburg has a big Kurdish community and foreign attendees were billeted out on welcoming Kurdish households (thank goodness for Google translate!). Sarah wrote a critique of the conference for Bella Caledonia.
On 26th April, there was another Kurdish demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament drawing attention to Turkey’s aggression outside its borders.
Turkey’s attack on Afrin began at a low level in July and on the 22nd we held our first, very wet, Hands Off Afrin demonstration in Edinburgh’s Princes Street to try and alert people to what was happening. As Kurdish fighters were battling ISIS the Turkish state was bombing YPG positions. To highlight this we distributed leaflets and asked members of the public to sign petitions. We also wrote to MPs and MSPs asking them to raise the issue with the UK and Turkish Governments. We received support from Politicians, Trade Unions, Trades Councils and individual friends of the Kurds. (Thanks to all of you who sent messages!) Chris Stephens, MP, wrote to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to pursue the issue but the response from the Foreign Office was discouraging.
At the end of July SSK Co-Convenor Stephen Smellie and committee member Alex Currie attended the Kurdish Cultural Festival, in Quorn, Leicestershire organised by the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), the Freedom for Öcalan campaign and other groups fighting for oppressed Kurds. Stephen ran a workshop and spoke at the meeting and Alex also addressed the meeting. Another speaker was Dilek Öcalan (pictured with Stephen and Steve Sweeney, journalist from the Morning Star). Dilek is the niece of the esteemed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. Öcalan has been held in solitary captivity in a Turkish prison on the island of Imrali since 1999. (Just referring to Öcalan as “esteemed” will cost you a six month prison sentence in Turkey.) It is Öcalan’s ideas and writing that inspired the democratic, self-governing, secular and gender-equal model of governance operating in Rojava, with its cooperative-based economy.
In late August, three Kurdish families in Edinburgh had a nasty shock when Scottish police raided their homes because they’d been reported as having taken part in “terrorist activities”. (In reality, the Newroz party, back in March!) The Kurdish Community Centre in Wester Hailes was also forcibly entered. No one was arrested and nothing illegal was found, but innocent families were intimidated and their hopes that they would be safe from persecution in Scotland were shattered, along with the community centre doors. MPs and MSPs took up the case with Police Scotland. The malign influence of the Turkish Consulate in Edinburgh is clear and perhaps recent successes in getting positive attention for Kurdish issues at a national level in Trade Unions and in Scottish politics have helped to prompt this backlash in attempted smears and malicious allegations. You can read the statement from the Kurdish Community Centre about the impact of the raids here. http://www.sacc.org.uk/news/2017/edinburgh-kurdish-families-raided-anti-terror-police
On 20th September we held a fundraising dinner in aid of the Scottish School in Kobani at Honar Kobanis’ Rojava Restaurant in Edinburgh
On 25th September the Kurdistan Regional Government held a referendum on declaring full independence from Iraq. On 16th we discussed the issues at a public meeting in the Unite building in Glasgow, with Jonathan Shafi of the Scottish Radical Independence Campaign and the SSK’s Goran Abdullah. Passions were high, as although everyone wanted independence there was no agreement on the best tactics and strategy for achieving this.
On 26th September several of us attended our first meeting of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Kurdistan. This group was set up by Ross Greer from the Greens, with the SNP’s Ruth McGuire as co-convenor. At this first meeting we had a discussion via Skype with HDP MP Hisayar Ozsoy in Ankara.
In October SSK helped with three separate events as part of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival. One of these, at Honar Kobani’s Rojava Restaurant, combined Scottish and Kurdish writing and included the writer, James Kelman and poet Allan Cameron (see below). We also took part in joint event with Unison and the NUJ where we read out replies from the political prisoners to our postcards, and we held a discussion on the Revolution in Rojava to accompany an exhibition of photographs. Roza spoke to Common Space about the Rojava talk.
On 1 November we celebrated Kobane Day at the Unite Building with guests including Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Eva Bolander, and James Kelman. you can read the report in Common Space here.
In December SSK Dundee combined with Common Weal to hold a discussion on the ideas of Murray Bookchin, which have been so influential in the writings of Abdullah Öcalan. This meeting at the butterfly Café was led by Mike Small of Bella Caledonia, who worked with Bookchin in the 1990s. You can watch a video of Mike’s talk here, and listen to the full audio complete with discussion here. You can read Common Space‘s interview with Mike about the talk here.