A Small Swedish town with a big Kurdish heart

For followers of Ocalan’s philosophy, the capabilities of small local organisation should come as no surprise. All the same, the contribution of Söderhamn – a town the size of Arbroath – to the Kurdish struggle is impressive. It helps, of course, that Söderhamn is home to some 200 Kurdish families, so that many people will know Kurds personally, and that Sweden is more generally aware of the Kurds and their situation than we are in the UK.

But this would not be enough without the catalyst of a strong local organisation. The Söderhamn organisation is a solidarity group, largely made up of native Swedes, and two of its activists were at the Kurdish conference I have just attended at the European Parliament. Benny Gustafsson and Per Olov Nordin spoke to me about what they have achieved.

Per and Benny

The Kurds in Söderhamn came from Nusaybin and Mardin in Turkey (North Kurdistan, or Bakur) in the Eighties, but it wasn’t until 2009 that links were solidified through a twinning arrangement between Nusaybin and Söderhamn, on the initiative of people from a range of political parties. Their first action was a cultural event, and delegates visited each other’s towns. Söderhamn also sent money for poor families.

In the Sixties, social-democratic Sweden established a scheme for schoolchildren to spend a day a year doing paid work in order to donate their wages to a humanitarian cause. In recent years, this practice has tended to fall by the wayside, but in Söderhamn they have kept it going. Benny, who became involved in Kurdish solidarity through a combination of left politics and personal friendship, is a retired headmaster – as well as, previously, a building worker.  At the time of the Daesh attack on Kobanî, he wrote to the pupil boards of Söderhamn’s schools asking if people from the town’s Kurdish support group could come to one of their meetings and show them what was happening. After seeing pictures of Kobanî in ruins, four pupil boards, representing some 1200 pupils, decided to send that year’s money to help rebuild a school for children in Kobanî. This decision was repeated the following two years, and on each occasion they were able to raise around 10,000 Euros to contribute to the building. At the same time, the teachers collected money to buy skipping ropes and footballs, which a delegation from Söderhamn hoped to deliver in person; however, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq (South Kurdistan or Bashur), which has little sympathy for the autonomous administration in Rojava, would not let them cross the border, so the equipment was handed out to Rojava refugees in Iraq instead. Later the Söderhamn municipality was able to get twenty recycled laptops to the Kobanî schoolchildren.

The level of official support possible in Sweden is enviable. In 2017, YPJ commander, Nesrun Abdullah, visited Söderhamn and was presented with a symbolic cheque in the town hall, in front of local politicians, representatives from local organisations, and, of course, the local school children. It is hard to imagine such a reception in the UK, where those who fought Daesh as part of the Kurdish YPG are facing increasing official harassment and even arrest (though there have been similar visits from Palestinian activists so we shouldn’t give up hope).

More recently, the schools involved in Söderhamn’s fundraising have got new heads, and, of course, pupil councils change each year. Further fundraising of this kind is uncertain, but the local activists have more plans for the future. They would like to form an additional twinning with Kobanî, because, as they pointed out, twinning is a way that even local people can play a part in international politics; and Benny told me that he is determined to get there himself. He faced near brushes with major bomb attacks on his visits to Nusaybin, but is not put off by the uncertainties created by the Turkish invasion.

Although, as in so many places, Söderhamn’s town politics have moved to the right, even the more right-wing parties are supportive of the Kurdish link. This is not just because right wing groups tend to misrepresent the Kurds as anti-Muslim, but because they can see that there is strong support for the Kurds among local voters.

As I heard what this small group of Swedish activists had achieved, I noticed that that morning’s birthday notices from Facebook included Fazya Abdi, whose request that Scotland raise money for a school in her city of Kobanî, had triggered our own fundraising campaign. I messaged her and told her that I was planning to write about the Swedish example in the hope that it would raise horizons for a final fundraising push. I checked with her, too, that, in the current uncertain political climate they were still going ahead with their building plans. She assured me that, for now at least, life in Kobanî proceeds as normal – and they are impatient to get building.

Click here to find out more about our Kobanî school fund and how to donate. We would also be glad to come and talk to your organisation about our fundraising and/or the Kurdish situation more generally. You can contact us on scottishsolidaritywithkurdistan@outlook.com or find us on Facebook.

Solidarity with the Kurds at George Square Indy rally

Our leaflets were disappearing like hot cakes at today’s rally. World Resistance Day coincided with the big Indy rally in Glasgow, called by the National Newspaper, so Indy-supporting Kurds and friends joined the rally with flags and leaflets. The square was jam-packed, but our specks of yellow red and green could be spotted amidst the saltires.

As soon as we mentioned the Kurds, folk responded with heartfelt support, and we heard unprompted promises to Boycott Turkish holidays. One man described how he learnt about the nature of Turkey’s persecution of the Kurds from a Turkish man he had got talking to on a boat trip, who cried as he recalled how he had been forced to murder Kurds as an army conscript. This man’s understanding was longstanding, but for many people, awareness of the Kurdish situation is new. It’s awful that it has taken Turkey’s genocidal attack and Trump’s betrayal to bring the Kurds into public consciousness, but we must make every use of this to build solidarity, and to ensure that people see beyond the images of genocide and betrayal, and also understand the hopes and possibilities embodied in Rojava’s radical democracy.

If you would like to provide practical help by contributing to Heyva Sor, the Kurdish Red Crescent, you can do so here

For those not included in the 1500 people who got one of our leaflets, we reproduce it here. (We should note that this was not an official SSK action, although organised by individual SSK members, as we do not, as an organisation, have a position on Scottish Independence.)



Decisions that affect the people of Scotland should be made by the people of Scotland. That is a fundamental democratic demand. But our campaigning cannot stop there. We need to ensure that when we get our independence we use it to create a fairer, kinder society at home, and a force for good in the wider world. In fact, if we hope to see a better world and not just a change of flags, our campaigns for the society we wish to see must run alongside our campaigns for Indy, and must inform all our actions.

That means showing solidarity with everyone everywhere who is campaigning against oppression and for a better future. This is not only the right and human thing to do, it benefits us all, because united we are stronger.

A central struggle in this turbulent world is taking place in Northern Syria. Here, surrounded by war and destruction, the Kurds and their neighbours have created an autonomous region that is run through a grassroots democracy, which enables communities and neighbourhoods to be actively involved in shaping their own futures. Here priority is given to women’s rights, to ecology, and to respect for cultural difference. The region provides a vital example for everyone looking for a better way of organising society.

At first it looked as though the autonomous region would fall prey to ISIS, but the Kurds’ determined resistance, with the loss of 11,000 comrades, succeeded in liberating all the Syrian land ISIS had taken. Now, though, everything that they have achieved is under attack from the fascist Turkish state, who have combined with gangs of former Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters to invade Northern Syria and remove its Kurdish inhabitants through terror and genocide. This area has become a central battleground in the struggle against fascism and for a better world. Eighty years ago, many Scots showed their solidarity with the Spanish Republicans fighting Franco. The Kurds need similar solidarity today.

We can show solidarity with the Kurdish struggle by:

  • Demanding our politicians call for an internationally protected no-fly zone, meaningful sanctions on Turkey, and a full ban on arms exports.
  • Boycotting Turkey, and especially the Turkish tourist industry, because a weak economy is Erdogan’s Achilles heel. (see boycott-turkey.net)
  • And helping keep alive and strengthening the vision for a better world that the Kurds and their neighbours were making a reality.

To find out what’s happening in Scotland, check facebook.com/ScottishSolidaritywithKurdistan





The resistance goes on

While world leaders look on and do nothing, it is left to ordinary people everywhere to show the people of Northern Syria our solidarity and support.

If Turkey had only carried out an unprovoked invasion, but had not declared their intention to carry out ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, that should have been enough for the Kurds to expect international support.

If Turkey had only announced ethnic cleansing, but had not bombed civilians and hospitals and loaded weapons with white phosphorus, that should have been enough for the Kurds to expect international support.

If Turkey had only carried out war crimes, but had not used former members of ISIS and Al Qaeda as frontline troops, that should have been enough for the Kurds to expect international support.

If Turkey was only working hand in glove with brutal Islamist gangs, but the people they were attacking had not led the fight against ISIS, that should have been enough for the Kurds to expect international support.

If the Kurds and their neighbours had only liberated Syria from ISIS, with the loss of 11000 of their comrades, but had not set up a peaceful grassroots democracy that we would be proud to learn from and emulate, that should have been enough for the Kurds to expect international support.

But the world’s leaders have offered the people of North East Syria nothing more than sympathetic words. So it is up to all of us to act. We will continue to demand an internationally protected no-fly zone, meaningful sanctions on Turkey, and a full ban on arms exports. We also call for a boycott of Turkey, and especially of the Turkish Tourist industry, because a weak economy is Erdogan’s Achilles heel. And we call on everyone to help keep alive and strengthen the vision for a better world that the Kurds and their neighbours were making a reality. This should be central to our ideas and our practice. Like the Kurds we can’t give up.

Since our last blog, there have been demonstrations in Edinburgh both Sundays

Edinburgh 20 October
Edinburgh 27 October

and a demonstration in Aberdeen on Saturday.

from Aberdeen Anarchist Group

We have spoken to the John Maclean Society at Edinburgh University, and at the Radical Independence Conference, where we also had a stall.

And our call to Boycott Turkey was backed by some well-kent members of Scottish civic society and published in the Sunday National. But the Turkish attacks go on, and so must our protests.



More solidarity from Dundee

Dundee shoppers were made well aware of the urgency of stopping the Turkish attack by our combination of flags, speeches and leaflets this afternoon. And many stopped to listen and talk with us, and voice their support. There is a much greater knowledge of the situation than before  – but then the crisis is so bad that the news media can’t ignore it this time. We called for a No-Fly Zone and for meaningful sanctions against Turkey – and we asked everyone not to go to Turkey, and not to let their holiday fund Turkish genocide.

(The pictures only give a partial impression of our activity as there were many other people dotted around the area handing out leaflets and talking to passersby.)


Edinburgh shows solidarity with the people of Northern Syria

Yesterday, Edinburgh’s Kurdish community and friends held a third emergency protest against the genocidal Turkish invasion, and there is a further protest planned for Sunday (12 noon at the Mound, outside the National Gallery). Many passers by stopped to listen and to share their support. The Kurds and their neighbours are resisting a brutal onslaught from the second biggest army in NATO, which is working hand in glove with murderous gangs of former ISIS and Al Qaeda extremists. All their patient work to create a more just and cohesive society is under threat, as is their very existence. Turkey announced its plans for ethnic cleansing in NATO, but, as yet, the ‘international community’ has done nothing to stop them. Northern Syria is the front line of the fight against fascism and for a better world. We know what happened when the world failed to take on the fascist forces in Spain eighty years ago. We don’t want to see a repeat of history.

We call for a no-fly zone, for real sanctions on the Turkish economy, and for everyone who cares about the future of humanity to boycott Turkey.

Join us on the demo on Sunday, call demos where you live, write to your MP, write letters to the papers to help spread solidarity and action.

Protest Saturday

As the SDF announce an understanding with Russia, Saturday seems a long time ago. We are still trying to digest what is happening, but here, for the record, is an image from our Glasgow demo, which was attended by over 300 people. It was one of at least ten demos round the UK, and many many more across the world. Speakers included Sarah, Roza and Honar from SSK, Ako, Adnan, Media and Sheelan from the Kurdish community, David Moxham for the STUC, Chris Stephens MP, Councillor Graham Campbell, Maggie Cook from Unison, and SPSC’s Mick Napier. Many of the people who came have family in Rojava, (including Honar and Media) and it was an emotional afternoon, complete with Kurdish musicians. (We’ve already shared many images on Facebook.)

Roza spoke about the situation on Radio Scotland in the morning, and she and Media were interviewed briefly by Scottish BBC news.

At the same time the Scottish Greens passed an emergency motion at their conference that included, along with the more usual demands, a call for the ‘Scottish Government to immediately cease the provision of public funds and other support to companies who manufacture and sell arms to Turkey’.

Scottish Young Greens

A poem for Rojava

The Kurdish Question – a poem for Rojava


Why do I ache for Kurdistan?

Say, why should this English Scot care?

Why stir my heart, my atheist soul?

It’s miles to here from out there

Why does my hard and rational mind

agree with my heart this is right?

Why can humanity seek and find

new hope through this brave Kurdish fight?


How is it Kurdishness is a ‘crime’?

And, must different cultures agree?

How have they struggled one hundred years

to salvage the right just to be?

How has this age that worships greed

now come to the edge of abyss?

How has the power of human mind

not tended us better than this?


Why must we go so far afield

seek Mesopotamia’s cue?

Why must we look midst clouds of war

to find where the sun’s shining through?

Why have a people who’ve lost so much

still yet got a mountain to give?

Why when their land and life’s at stake,

they show us a new way to live?


How will they face imperial powers:

the modern four horsemen of death?

How can we move this callous world,

whose ‘leaders’ fine words are bad breath?

How does each set-back just strengthen resolve?

Can ‘resistance as life’ set you free?

How dearest friends, can I hope to return,

One tenth of the strength you give me?


Sarah Glynn, Dundee


I took the photograph when I visited Kobane in May 2018. This little boy lived in the ruins from the ISIS attack of 2014. Where is he now?

NO to invasion of Northern Syria

Outrage at the Turkish invasion has prompted emergency protests across the world, and we, in Scotland, are playing our small part. As soon as we woke on Monday morning to the news that Trump was pulling out US troops, we got out an article in Commonspace and started planning demonstrations. On Wednesday morning, the Kurdish Community in Edinburgh were outside the Scottish Parliament, and then the US Consulate, where they were joined by Ross Greer MSP, co-chair of the Cross-Party Group on Kurdistan. You can hear his strong support here:

He has also co-ordinated a letter from MSPs to the US Ambassador: Letter to US Ambassador Scottish MSPs Turkey NE Syria 2019.10.09 (If your MSP isn’t on it this is probably due to the need to get the letter out quickly rather than lack of support.)

The Kurdish Community had planned to follow Wednesday’s demo with a silent protest outside the National Gallery the next day, but after Turkey had launched their attack on Wednesday afternoon, no one was going to remain silent! The demonstrators carried posters of people from the UK who had died fighting, as members of the YPG and YPJ, for freedom and a better world.

On Thursday evening it was Dundee’s turn, with local Kurds and other Dundee folk joining together in our hastily arranged show of solidarity. Despite the unsympathetic weather and the late hour, several passers-by not only stopped to listen, but joined us on the protest.

On Saturday we will be on the streets again, with our national demonstration in Glasgow.

As long-standing London-based campaigner, Mark Campbell, has observed, support for the Kurds is at unprecedented levels. So far, though, all that this has produced from those with the power to act is sympathetic words. These don’t make the no-fly zone that the SDF are so desperately calling for. If we are to force them to do more than talk, these protests can only be a small beginning.

Every day, now, we see further evidence of the crisis in human civilisation, and the triumph of forces that would propel us towards the abyss. The Kurds and their neighbours in Northern Syria are taking a stand against those forces and for a better society. They are the vanguard of the fight back. If we can’t support them, the future looks bleak indeed.

The Kurdish struggle is out struggle. It is hard, but it is what gives life its purpose. As the Kurds say: Resistance is life!

Saturday’s demonstration – called by SSK and supported by the STUC – is at 1.30 pm at the Buchanan Steps, Glasgow

International solidarity at Dundee’s Demo for Democracy

Speaking at yesterday’s demonstration to a crowd of between four and five hundred, in a damp Dundee City Square, Sarah called for solidarity with fighters for democracy in other countries, including the Kurds in Turkey. It was particularly pleasing to be thanked afterwards by a young Turkish woman.

Here is Sarah’s speech:

Last week I wrote an article on the dangers of allowing reversals of democracy to become accepted as the new normal. I wasn’t making predictions about Boris Johnson shutting down parliament. It wasn’t about the UK. Attacks on hard-won democratic freedoms are taking place across the world – and every gain won by reaction encourages other governments to follow suit.

We can’t look at our ‘Very British Coup’ in isolation. It is part of a global politics, and must be resisted with international solidarity. We are standing side by side, not only with other protestors in cities and towns across the UK, but also

with the people of Kashmir, where the anti-democratic crackdown relies on brutal and overwhelming military occupation by the Indian Army;

with the people of Brasil, where Bolsenaro was only able to win in the polls because a compliant judiciary jailed the popular opposition leader;

with the people of Catalonia, whose political leaders have been imprisoned for daring to hold a democratic referendum;

and with the Kurds in South East Turkey, where Erdogan has yet again dismissed democratically elected mayors to replace them with government appointees – and where criticism of the Turkish government has landed thousands behind bars.

I could – we all could – list many more examples, both of soft coups and of violent ones. We are entering a new age of dictators, with the potential to be even more destructive than that eighty years ago.

This closing down of parliament should be our wake-up call – a reminder of the importance of democracy, but also an indicator of the flawed nature of the democracy we had, and of the need to fight, not for its return, but – as all the speakers today have said – for something better.

A constitution, yes.  A republic, yes. But also a system that really does enable people to be actively involved in the running of their communities – as those Kurdish mayors were attempting to promote in South East Turkey. And we won’t win that if we think of democracy only as voting in elections – even though a general election must be our immediate demand in this current crisis.

Real democracy is a continuous process of political engagement. It doesn’t silo off politics as the responsibility of experts, but integrates it into community life. And it is only through continued political engagement that real democracy can be won.

Those international struggles demonstrate humanity’s potential for dedication and courage; and they can also help us discover a different, more democratic, way of doing things.

We stand with people fighting for democracy everywhere – your struggle is our struggle, and our struggle is yours.

(Picture by Karen Taylor Murdoch)

Solidarity for the Kurds from the Aberdeen Indy March and Rally

Yesterday’s rally ended with a call for international solidarity from Sarah from SSK. You can watch her speech here (from 1.53.10 to 1.59), or read it below.

As our Catalonian comrade has reminded us, although we’re campaigning for a Scottish solution that is constitutional and peaceful, in many places the fight for independence, autonomy, even for basic freedoms, is harder, and people are putting their lives on the line.

As supporters of independence and of the right to self determination, we want to show our solidarity with others who have campaigned for the right to run their own lives, to enjoy their own culture, and who have been met with brutal suppression by bigger nations that are intent on denying them their separate identity, and want to just exploit their resources.

We want to show solidarity with the Palestinians, who are denied equal status within Israel, and even the ability to run their own economy in blockaded Gaza and a West Bank that’s overrun by Israeli settlements.

We want to show solidarity with the Kashmiris, who have faced decades of violent repression by the Indian army, which has made this paradise one of the most militarized areas on earth, and who, just two weeks ago, were deprived of even their nominal autonomy and told they were now to be run from Delhi. To enforce this, India has put Kashmir into lockdown, imprisoning politicians and human-rights activists, shutting schools and offices and closing off all communications to the outside world.

And we want to show solidarity with the Kurds, who have combined their struggle to express their cultural identity, with the struggle for a better form of society. We talk about another world being possible. They are making a better world. The Kurds of Northern Syria used the political vacuum that was created by the civil war to establish an autonomous region that’s based on a bottom-up democracy, which emphasises women’s rights and a multicultural society, and an ecological society, too. Their grassroots politics and community values provide a model for everyone looking for an alternative to our greed-based system.

They had only begun to get this established in Northern Syria when they were attacked by ISIS. They fought back and turned the tide against the ISIS forces. They liberated large areas of Syria at the expense of thousands of young lives. But now they are being threatened by the full force of the Turkish army, the second largest army in NATO. Their fate depends on the political machinations of Turkey, the US, Russia and Iran – all of them in Syria for their own selfish interests.

By making more people aware of the Kurds’ position we can try and make it that little bit harder for these new imperialists to wipe the Kurds from the map. We owe them a huge debt, not just for their fight against ISIS, but for proving that a better world is possible.

All these struggles can inspire us through their determination. The benefits of solidarity go both ways.

I want to end with a word that is very familiar to the Kurds, and also to the Kashmiris: AZADI! FREEDOM!