It took a bit of time to get going, but Kurdish solidarity under lockdown is reaching parts that other organisation cannot reach – and making and strengthening new links. Of course, no one would ever wish this pandemic to happen, but it has taught us lessons in online organising that we will keep with us long after lockdown ends.
At first, and well before official lockdown, we had to cancel everything – our plans for an SSK day school, all the carefully rehearsed arrangements for Newroz celebrations in different Kurdish communities. And we all took a bit of time to adjust to the new situation in the world and in our lives.
Then, like the bus you’ve been waiting ages for, two online Kurdish discussions appeared at once – or at least on consecutive days – one organised by Kurdistan Solidarity Network and one by Plan C. If these got the ball rolling, it has now gathered a good pace. Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign organised a meeting with key speakers from different parts of Kurdistan that has been watched 23,000 times, and we began our Kurdish Tuesdays.
These are fortnightly events, co-ordinated by different solidarity groups. For the initial meeting, organised by SSK, Dilar Dirik spoke to us on ‘Organisation and Struggle: the Kurdish freedom movement’s responses to Covid-19’ . Last week, Kurdistan Solidarity Network took the baton with a discussion on ‘Democratic Confederalism; Learning from grassroots democracy in Rojava’ . Both have been watched thousands of times, and it is exciting to realise how these discussions are bringing together people from across the world. As we started last week’s Zoom we were sent greetings from Haiti, as well as from new friends in Edinburgh. Our next speaker, at 7pm on 2 June and again hosted by SSK, will be Jan Fermon, who led the legal team that defeated the decade-long attempt by the Belgian government to charge 42 people and two organisations with terrorism based on their links to the PKK. In January, Belgium’s highest court ratified an earlier appeal ruling that the PKK should not be considered a terrorist organisation because it is a party in a non-international armed conflict, which makes it subject to the laws of war and not criminal law. We will also have an English barrister, Stephen Knight, to comment on the criminalisation of Kurdish activism in the UK. We expect a lot of interest. If you would like to join in the Zoom discussion please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be sent a link. We will also livestream on www.youtube.com/user/Hevalloazad/videos.
Meanwhile, Kurdistan Solidarity Network is running a series of discussions on ‘Lessons from Rojava’ on Monday evenings , Aledîn Sinayic is giving online Kurdish classes at different levels most weekdays , Boycott Turkey has been gearing up its social media campaign, and there has been a crowdfunding launch for Water for Rojava.
And that’s just what’s organised from the UK. We can as easily ‘go’ to events the other side of the world, so long as time zones work out. People from many different places have contributed to the growing solidarity campaigns for imprisoned musicians: for Grup Yorum and for Nurem Durak.
It is always frustrating at the end of a Zoom meeting, not to be able to go on battering out ideas in the pub, but it is powerful to realise how we are part of a world-wide movement. When we can, at last, go back to organising in our communities, to the human interaction of street meetings and group discussions – and long chats over a drink or endless glasses of Kurdish tea – we will also keep building our online international links.