A message for the annual International Brigade commemoration in Dundee

As today’s world draws ever closer to that of the 1930s, we look for the current forces of resistance – the Republican Spain of our times. One of the greatest sources of hope, and the most inspiring, must be the Kurdish movement in Northern Syria. Here the power vacuum created by the civil war has allowed the Kurds and their neighbours to establish an autonomous area based around grassroots democracy, women’s rights and a multicultural society. But this area of hope is under threat from Turkey, who have already invaded and taken over the canton of Afrin, and would like to clear the whole area of both Kurds and democracy.

We ask you to commemorate those who fought and died for Republican Spain by giving support to those fighting for a better world in today’s Syria.

The Kurds and their allies, who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, are brave and effective fighters. They have proved themselves in leading the fight against ISIS, but they have no air power. Their urgent demand is for a no-fly zone over northern Syria, and we can put pressure on our elected representatives to make this a reality.

Many of the political ideas that have inspired the society that is being established in northern Syria, and that the Kurds also attempted to put into practice in eastern Turkey, were developed by the hugely respected Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan. On Friday it will be 20 years since Ocalan was abducted, in a plot involving the CIA, and sent back to Turkey, where he has been imprisoned ever since. Increasingly he has been kept in total isolation, denied visits from even his family and his lawyers. This is against the Turkish constitution as well as against international human rights law, which regards it as torture. It is also a major block to any future peace settlement for the Kurds in Turkey, as Ocalan has been a dedicated peace negotiator, with the popular support to make peace a reality

Over 300 Kurds have gone on indefinite hunger strike to demand an end to this illegal isolation. Most are political prisoners in Turkish jails. Others are in different places around the world, including 14 in Strasbourg, where they are trying to put pressure on the European Institutions to censure Turkey (which is a member of the council of Europe) and to visit Ocalan. A hunger strike is an action of last resort, only taken when the world refuses to listen. We can help make their voices heard. We have put together a list of actions that people can do to give support to the hunger strikers and their cause.

 

No Fly Zone key to future of Northern Syria – Salih Muslim tells Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Kurdistan

Last week Salih Muslim, head of foreign affairs for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading political party in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, joined us by Skype for a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Kurdistan at the Scottish Parliament. We were able to get first hand news of the situation in Northern Syria from a key political actor. We heard practical analysis of the military situation, and, crucially, we learnt that their one vital demand is for a no-fly zone to protect them from Turkish attack. Salih stressed that, with this, their own Syrian Democratic forces (SDF) would be well able to protect them on the ground. While the best solution would be for a no-fly zone to be organised by the UN, Salih saw possibilities for it to be guaranteed by other forces – by an international coalition, the Russians or the US. They could even work with the Syrian Government, though without going back to the situation in 2011. Salih reminded us that they have always made it clear that they consider themselves part of Syria, and that they are open for dialogue with everyone. Representatives from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) have been to Russia to present a road map for a democratic decentralised solution for the whole country, but are still waiting for the Russians’ response. They have also sent a delegation to the US.

Trump’s sudden announcement that the US was going to withdraw their troops came as a surprise to the DFNS, as it did to everyone. They have always been aware that the US coalition is not in Syria to protect them, but only a week earlier, US officers in Rojava had told them that their troops wouldn’t leave until Daesh was defeated, the area was stable, and Iran was out of Syria – none of which has happened.

They have a lot of evidence of how Turkey is helping Daesh. Turkey is trying to build a new empire, and the situation in Idlib is especially complicated. Turkey had agreed to destroy Al Nusra in Idlib, but have not kept their promise. Daesh, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda will all take a long time to be defeated, and Turkey is ready to help all these groups.

Asked about Afrin, Salih made it clear that the fight is far from over, assuring us ‘we will get it back for sure’. At present, though, there are some 120,000 people displaced from Afrin living in nearby Shahada, where it is very difficult for them to receive the vital help they need. They are effectively under siege from Turkey on one side and the Syrian regime on the other, and Syria has even blocked medicines from getting through.

Asked about Manbij, Salih explained that the city is protected by Manbij Military Council, which is part of the SDF. There are also still US coalition forces in the city. When Turkey began massing their forces from the north, in preparation for an invasion, Manbij Military Council contacted the Syrian Regime forces for support, through the Russians. There is a base of Regime and Russian forces west of Manbij. So far, Turkey has not moved further. A recent bomb that killed four US soldiers they believe to be the work of Turkish mercenaries trying to speed the US withdrawal. Manbij Military Council continues to patrol one side of the de-facto border, while Turkish troops patrol the other.

Salih explained how, in places liberated from Daesh, such as Manbij and Raqqa, they have arranged lectures and discussions to help people understand how different ethnic and religious groups can live together, and to learn the importance of women’s rights. As a result, Arab women have been joining the Asayis (the local security force) and the YPJ.

It was good to see Salih in Scotland again, even if only virtually. As usual, he ended with a reminder that visitors are welcome to come and see Northern Syria for themselves.

Trades Councils support Kurdish hunger strikers

Aberdeen TUC

Last night Trade Unionists from Aberdeen and Dundee sent messages of support to the hundreds of Kurds currently on indefinite hunger strike, and demanded action to end the isolation of Kurdish political leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

The Dundee Trades Council meeting was an AGM and was open to friends for a discussion of anti-cuts actions. After the meeting we gathered for a group photo with the Freedom for Ocalan flag. The Freedom for Ocalan campaign was the international issue supported by last year’s Durham Miners’ Gala, the biggest gathering of Trade Unions in the UK – but we had to warn everyone in the photo that posting an image of Ocalan on Facebook can get you banned. His is the only image treated in this way.

Dundee TUC

The statement from Aberdeen Trades council included an important comparison with solidarity actions against apartheid, and we quote it in full below. Fiona Napier, Secretary of ATUC, recently visited the fourteen hunger strikers in Strasbourg with Sarah Glynn from SSK. Fiona notes: “This is not the first time that Kurds have felt that hunger strike is the only option open to them. Those we spoke with in Strasbourg pointed out that they have tried every other avenue, and it has achieved nothing for the Kurdish cause, or Öcalan. All they are asking from the international community is to recognise and support their action, and for all of us to push our politicians to hold Turkey to account.”

Here is the Aberdeen Statement:

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) stands with our Kurdish comrades currently on indefinite hunger strike, and echoes their call for an end to the isolation of Kurdish political leader Abdullah Öcalan, incarcerated on the Turkish prison island of İmralı for the past 20 years. Such isolation is deemed a form of torture, outlawed by international law. ATUC calls on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to carry out its fundamental duty and visit Öcalan in prison. We also call on our elected representatives to do all in their power to see that pressure is put on Turkey to comply with human rights legislation.

Furthermore, we recognise the respect with which Öcalan is held by millions of Kurds who regard him as their leader; the hugely progressive impact of his ideas on women’s rights, democracy, and multi-ethnic society; and the vital role that he can play in negotiating a peaceful settlement between the Kurds and the Turkish Government.

International solidarity and action were required to end South African apartheid and see Nelson Mandela lead his people to freedom and justice after decades of imprisonment on Robben Island. The Kurdish people in their struggle for justice demand no less from us – and they demand justice for their imprisoned leader, locked in isolation in his island prison.

Here is the report of the Dundee meeting in the Kurdish media

Here is their report on Aberdeen

And here is the report on the Aberdeen Trades Council blog

How can we support the hunger strikers?

They are starving themselves so that the world takes notice and compels Turkey to end the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan. We can help spread their message, we can put pressure on our elected representatives, and we can send them our personal support directly. Here are some suggested actions: (You can write to your MPs etc via this link: https://www.writetothem.com/)

1/ Check for news to read and share on https://anfenglishmobile.com/ and on our Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ScottishSolidaritywithKurdistan/

2/ Sign the change.org petition calling on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to visit Ocalan, https://www.change.org/p/european-committee-for-the-prevention-of-torture-cpt-we-want-cpt-to-visit-mr-ocalan-at-imrali-prison

3/ Ask your union to send this information to all members and to consider submitting an emergency motion to the STUC conference. And ask your local Trades Council to contact affiliated unions and to organise a public meeting, and to consider sending a branch delegation to visit the hunger strikers in Strasbourg, as a show of solidarity.

4/ Ask your MP to sign this EDM, https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52440/hunger-strike-by-leyla-g%C3%BCven-mp; to raise the issue of Ocalan’s illegal isolation publicly wherever possible; to demand that the Foreign Minister puts pressure on Turkey to comply with its obligations to end the isolation of Ocalan and to restart the peace talks; and to demand that the UK stops selling Turkey weapons. It is the Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt, who is the UK representative on the Council of Europe, so they should specifically ask him to get the European institutions to back their words with actions and make Turkey comply with their own constitution and European human rights conventions.

5/ You can also email the Foreign Secretary directly on fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk, with a copy to your MP.

6/ Ask your MEP to push for the EU to stop giving Turkey financial aid. You could also ask them to visit the hunger strikers when they go to Strasbourg

7/ Ask your MSP to sign this Motion, http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-15432; to show public support for the hunger strikers’ call; and to ensure that no more Scottish Government money is given to firms that sell weapons to Turkey.

8/ Organise a public demonstration to raise awareness of the hunger strike. Share details of any events with us so we can publicise, and also share pictures so we can pass on to the Kurdish media.

9/ Send a personal postcard directly to the hunger strikers at 273 Avenue de Colmar, Strasbourg 67100, France

10/ And if you are able to go to Strasbourg, or Newport, yourself, you can be sure that your visit will be hugely appreciated. Please contact us if you are planning a visit.

Here is some background information you can use in your letters:

The isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan is contrary to Turkey’s own constitution and to international human rights law. Ocalan’s ideas have inspired a major movement for grassroots, multi-ethnic secular democracy, and the respect in which he is held makes him key to a peaceful settlement for the Kurds in Turkey – an ideal for which he has strived repeatedly over the last two decades.

Ocalan is in his 20th year of imprisonment by Turkey and is being denied access to his family and to his lawyers. Ocalan’s importance, together with the lack of international action, has forced the Kurds to take the desperate step of mass indefinite hunger strikes. MP Leyla Guven has been on hunger strike since 8 November. She has been joined by over 250 other political prisoners in Turkish jails and also by Kurdish activists around the world, including 14 at the seat of the European parliament in Strasbourg, and Imam Sis in the Kurdish Community Centre in Newport, Wales, who began their own hunger strike on 17 December.

The Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, regards Isolation as a torture and a crime against humanity, but they need to act on their words. The European Court of Human Rights must take action against Turkey on many counts, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture must fulfil its role and visit Ocalan in prison. At the same time, the EU and UK must end their friendly engagement with Turkey, and European countries, including the UK, must stop selling Turkey weapons that will be used to suppress dissidents and minorities at home and attack Kurdish areas across the border.

In response to the pressure of the hunger strike, the Turkish Government has allowed Ocalan’s brother a brief, ten-minute, visit – the first in 2 ½ years – and they have allowed Leyla Guven home on the 78th day of her strike. But the strikers are united in their determination that these token gestures are not enough and that they won’t be distracted from their fundamental and simple demand.

As Leyla Guven says, ‘The isolation of Ocalan is a barrier on the way to peace.’

 

 

On leaving the Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg

2 of the hunger strikers, Gulustan and Kardo

 

Their bellies are empty, but their hearts are full.

As the kilogrammes fall away, so the morale keeps building,

And the smiles – can we ever forget those smiles?

 

Eleven men and three women putting their lives on the line

And for each one, nine others happy to be in their place

An ultimate act of will that throws down a challenge of vulnerability

What power is so strong that it can overthrow the most basic instinct for survival?

 

‘We starve because we love life’ – they tell us

We risk our own lives so our children can enjoy theirs

 

They are here for Ocalan, far away in a Turkish jail

Ocalan, who must be freed

But for now, a simple demand –

To make Turkey follow their own constitution and end his isolation

 

A simple demand, but no-one listens

They protest, and no one hears

They march and no one sees

They lobby and no one cares

So the world’s indifference has brought them to this

How many must die for the world to take notice?

 

And Ocalan?

What man can inspire such devotion?

 

His portrait looks down from a thousand walls

But this moustached uncle is no Stalin

His philosophy inspires deepest democracy and freedom

He gives us that Kurdish smile

For twenty years he has led the call for peace

Ready for the time when Turkey will respond with sincerity

He holds the key to the Kurdish question

But Turkey still guards the lock

 

I fly home to humdrum reality

And the enormity of what I have seen only gets harder to comprehend

But those fourteen men and women have revived my belief in humanity

 

Revolutionaries are not just figures in flickering black and white

They are struggling in Turkish prisons and Rojava villages

And in a non-descript community centre among the nineteenth century apartment blocks of Strasbourg

 

Sarah Glynn

Amsterdam Airport

26th January 2019

 

 

 

Kurdish freedom under attack

As we watch with horror the ease with which most of the world is prepared to abandon Syria’s Kurds to an uncertain and bloody fate, we can’t forget the part that is being played by the authorities here in Scotland. The UK Government has prioritised arms sales to Turkey, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the UK leads the resistance to ending the designation of the PKK as terrorists – as in the recent European Court action that found the grounds for the terrorist designation unsupportable. The PKK’s egalitarian philosophy and their history of resistance to the suppression of Kurdish culture has earned the organisation and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, the respect and support of Kurds across the world. Öcalan’s ideas have been fundamental to the grassroots revolution in Syria, and he has made many attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement for the Kurds in Turkey. Any Turkish government that wanted to see a peaceful future would have to talk to him. We can imagine a time when a future UK prime minister might feel compelled to pay their respects at the scene of Öcalan’s incarceration in the same way as Theresa May has visited Robbin Island, but so long as the UK Government is in thrall to Turkey, active support for the PKK will be deemed illegal. And the UK terrorism Act gives the police wide powers to arrest on suspicion, even where there is no evidence of actual ‘terrorist’ activity. Much has been written about how the ‘Prevent’ legislation criminalises groups based on racial or religious profiling. For the last three years this legislation has been used to arrest members of the Edinburgh Kurdish community – possibly at the instigation of the local Turkish Consulate. The community has suffered dawn raids and house searches. Flags in Kurdish colours, and other equally unthreatening items, have been taken away, and this year several men will have to appear in court.

This targeting of the community makes it difficult for Scottish Kurds to express their political views at a time when their relations in Syria and Turkey are under attack. It even makes it difficult for them to express their Kurdish identity. Most of these families have come to the UK because they were oppressed in their homelands if they identified as Kurdish. Now they are under similar constraints here.

When Scotland’s Kurdish voices most need to be heard they are being silenced by Scottish police. Even when they speak they must self-censor. Talk about fighting Daesh – fine; talk about implementing Öcalan’s ideas of grassroots multicultural feminist democracy and you might tread on more dangerous territory. Welcome to 21st Century Britain.

SSK’s last public meetings of 2018 were in solidarity with the community members who had been arrested. In Edinburgh we were joined by Ross Greer MSP who emphasised the need to support the community and to take up the issue of criminalisation of the community with the police and justice department. A representative from the community explained how the police actions have intimidated them, and especially affected the children and their ability to express their cultural identity, and Sarah Glynn described how Öcalan’s ideas, which these actions attempt to shut down, are being implemented in building a new progressive society in Northern Syria. The meeting supported the campaign for the PKK to be de-listed, and for this to be raised with MSPs. In Glasgow a packed room heard the writer James Kelman, a long-term supporter of the Kurds, as well as SSK’s Stephen Smellie and Roza Salih.

Glasgow solidarity meeting

A unanimous message of support was also sent to the community from the Islamophobia conference jointly held by Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and the Islamic Human Rights Council on 15 December.

An article in the Morning Star quoted both the SSK and James Kelman, and we organised a long letter calling for a stop to this persecution of Kurds seeking sanctuary in Scotland that was signed by politicians and trade unionists, and published in the National.

December also saw Sarah co-moderating the session on solidarity at the annual Kurdish conference held in the European Parliament, and meeting fellow activists from across Europe;

Sarah and Roza wrote to the National highlighting Erdoğan’s threat to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (even before Trump’s sudden announcement of US withdrawal); and we sent a message of solidarity to HDP MP Leyla Güven, who is in prison in Turkey and on hunger strike to call for an end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.

Over this last year, Kurdish achievements, in building an alternative society and beating back Daesh, have only been matched by the growing threat to their very existence by outside forces, and everyone must be concerned about what 2019 will bring. There are not many of us, but we will continue to try and ensure people in Scotland are aware of what is happening, and that we can show Scottish solidarity for Kurds under attack everywhere.

 

A bit of culture

On 18th November 2018, Glasgow Life and Kurdish Cultural Group organised a gathering in Kelvingrove Museum for the Kurdish Community to see the objects that Glasgow Museums holds on the Kurdish diaspora. A number of items were displayed and it surprised many of the Kurds that Glasgow had Kurdish traditional belongings, such Kurdish clothing and Kurdish cultural Jewellery. Many of the Kurdish people who attended the gathering asked if Glasgow Museum could display these items in the main area of the museum. For this to happen I believe the Kurds and other organisations need to write to Glasgow City Council to find a location for them. Overall this was a fantastic event that explained Kurdish stories through the objects. The attendees included members of the Kurdish community and Scottish citizens. The display was followed by Kurdish food, and beautiful music played by Media and Zana to entertain the guests. – Roza Salih

And on 28th November Roza spoke about solidarity with Kurdistan at the Writers for Miners event in Glasgow, whilst writers and singers recalled solidarity with the miners.

‘Your Freedom and Mine’ Jeff Miley talks about Öcalan

Jeff Miley in Dundee

Jeff is not your usual university lecturer. He is a Marxist, and he gladly admits that his interest in Öcalan, and the movement Öcalan has inspired, arose from a challenge by his student to go to Syria and see for himself. That student was Dilar Dirik whose articles and activism will be familiar to many Kurdish activists.

Four years on from that challenge, Jeff has edited a book, ‘Your Freedom and Mine: Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish Question in Erdogan’s Turkey’, and last week he was in Scotland to talk about it, addressing meetings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. A central theme of his talk was the importance of this struggle for the wider world. Öcalan’s radical democracy, which transcends state borders and divisions, has provided us with a new articulation of anti-capitalism at this time of crisis, where our current system is driving us towards climate catastrophe, state terrorism and a resurgent far right. Solidarity is thus not ‘helping’ the Kurds, but learning from them and joining the struggle: understanding and spreading their manifesto for a democratic civilisation, and being inspired by their will to resist.

He stressed that for these ideas to succeed they have to spread, and that revolution only in one country is destined to fail, and he pointed out how the involvement of people outwith the Kurdish community can help demonstrate the internationalism of the movement. This involvement can include action in Western countries against militarism and climate change; and, importantly, also action in less developed countries, where people are actively looking for an alternative to imperialism. Jeff has seen for himself the positive reception Öcalan’s transformatory vision in the ghettos of Nairobi, among people with nothing to lose but their chains.

At the Lighthouse Bookshop, Edinburgh
At Glasgow City Unison

Please contact us if you are interested in a copy of the book.

St Andrews Day in Aberdeen

What better way to celebrate a national day than with an anti-racist march? SSK was very happy to be asked to speak at the rally in Aberdeen, where a rather damp crowd listened to the speech below:

Comrades, brothers and sisters,

I am very happy to be here on behalf of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, not only because the Kurds are an often unnoticed minority in Scotland, and not only because Kurds are suffering a brutal repression at the hands of a Turkish government that Theresa May calls her friends and sells British-made arms to. What makes me especially glad to speak about the Kurds on an antiracist demonstration, is the opportunity to talk about the achievements of the radical Kurdish movement, inspired by Abdullah Öcalan – including all they have done to break down ethnic barriers and cut through religious prejudices.

In Turkey, in Northern Syria, and in the Qandil mountains of Iraq, the Kurds are striving to create an alternative system based on an inclusive bottom-up grassroots democracy. In a part of the world know for overwhelming patriarchy, their movement is actively feminist, pushing for women to take a full role in society and ensuring every organisation has male and female co-chairs. Theirs is a movement that values ecology and sees humanity as part of the natural world; and a movement that tries to ensure that all ethnic groups are able to practice their own culture and language and take full part in running society.

When, at the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Assad’s authority was in retreat, the Kurds in Northern Syria were able to take advantage of the power vacuum to take autonomous control of the areas where they lived and to put their radical democratic system into practice. But almost as soon as this was established, they were attacked by ISIS. The Kurds’ successful fight back in Kobanê was the first time that ISIS suffered a major defeat. And the Kurds and their allies have gone on to liberate other areas from ISIS and to bring those areas into a democratic federation. Syria is ethnically very mixed and the newly liberated areas are home to a wide range of different peoples, with different languages, cultures and religions. In setting up new structures huge care has been taken to ensure that all minorities are represented.

Although Öcalan started his political life fighting for a Kurdish state, this progressive Kurdish movement, which now turns its back on top-down state power, is only too alert to the dangers of any form of ethnic nationalism. They know that the majority group will always dominate the minorities – even a majority group that was once itself a minority.

I was able to see this radical politics in action when I visited Northern Syria in May. One of the places we visited was Manbij, which the Kurds liberated from ISIS and which is made up of several ethnic groups. We visited Manbij Women’s Council and met Arabs, Turkmen and Circassians, as well as Kurds. Discussion was slow as remarks often had to be translated into two languages, but they told us how they were knocking on the doors of all the families in their neighbourhoods, both to help the women come out and take an active role in wider society, and to remind people of old bonds and mixing between different ethnic groups and of the importance of working together.

Their approach provides an example of what is possible. But at the same time, every Middle Eastern and global power is intervening in Syria for their own selfish agenda, and these are often ready to play one ethnic group off against another for their own advantage. Turkey has systematically destroyed the Kurdish areas within their own borders, and invaded and overrun the Kurdish canton of Afrîn in Northern Syria, which had become a safe haven for refugees from across the region.

Now Turkey is eyeing up Manbij and even Kobanê. And although the US and Europe are happy to support the Kurds in the fight against ISIS, they have no interest in supporting the Kurds’ radical project, or even in protecting the Kurds themselves.

But the more that people across the world spread the word about what is happening, the harder it will be for our governments to continue to act with impunity. International solidarity is vital to protect both the Kurdish people and the revolutionary ideas that they have gifted to all of us.

Report from Turkey and you risk being held at gun point – but for local journalists the risks are even greater

Steve Sweeney is foreign correspondent for the Morning Star, and when he spoke last Monday to a joint SSK/Morning Star public meeting in Glasgow about his experiences in Turkey, there were several moments when we realised how extra lucky we were to have him alive and well in front of us. Like when he described how he had realised that the man who had been fixing things for him and his colleagues was a member of the ultra-right MHP and had been planning to hand them over to ISIS. By that time they had already had guns pointed at them and just missed being deliberately run down by a car. Or when he told us about the occasion when security forces held them at gunpoint for eight hours in the heat without food or water, threatening to take them into the mountains to use for target practice. To add to their discomfort they had had to watch a stray dog being hosed down and fed – and before they were released Steve was made to pose with a gun, creating photographic ‘evidence’ for his file.

But, as Steve stressed, he had at least been left free to report. Of all the world’s journalists who have been imprisoned, 1/3 are in Turkey, and the crackdown has only intensified. In one week, 84 journalists were put on trial.  Around 10,000 journalists have been deprived of their press cards, and those still working survive through self-censorship, so it is hard for people in Turkey to get access to alternative views. The last remaining liberal newspaper was stormed by armed police a month ago, and its board sacked and replaced by government supporters.

Of course the crackdown is not limited to journalists. After the failed coup, which President Erdoğan described as a ‘gift from God’, public sector workers, academics, activists and politicians have all lost jobs wholesale, with many under arrest for ‘terrorism’. Steve told us that he had made many attempts to attend the trial proceedings of the former HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag, but no observers have been allowed.

Steve covered Turkey’s constitutional referendum, where they counted unstamped ballots, and critical outside observers were dismissed as ‘terrorists’. And he described covering the subsequent election, where in every polling station he visited in the Kurdish area of Van voters had to cast their ballot under the watchful eye of a soldier with a rifle. He told us, too, how he managed to interview the families of people who had been deliberately burnt alive in Cizre basements as the Turkish security forces besieged and flattened their city.

Steve was scathing about the Tory government’s support for the Turkish government. He argued that the most effective way to help the people of Turkey is to bring down the Tory government here; but he also expressed disappointment at the lack of solidarity action from the Labour opposition. None of the international organisations have found it in their interest to restrain the Turkish government. The EU has handed Turkey billions of pounds in exchange for them keeping refugees out of Europe. Steve told how he had sent the UN video evidence of Turkey’s chemical attack on Afrin, but no-one came to investigate.

UK government callousness extends to the treatment of those who have had to flee from Turkey. With Steve was a young Kurdish journalist who had been in the UK when the Turkish government cracked down on her whole politically active family and took away her passport. Now, as an asylum seeker, she gets almost no help and is not allowed to work.

With journalists under such threats, the least we can do is make sure that every report is well publicised and read.