2016

The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 witnessed a major crackdown by the Turkish government in the Kurdish areas of SE Turkey, and in Edinburgh the Kurdish community organised protests on Princes Street. On 16 January they were joined by Tommy Shepherd MP.

At the beginning of March some of us went down to join the big demonstration organised by Kurds and supporters in London. They aimed to draw attention to what was happening in Turkey and to ‘Break the Silence’ of media and public debate. Protestors gathered by the BBC in Portland Place and marched to fill Trafalgar Square, and both our co-convenors spoke to the rally. This impressive protest was not reported in the UK except by Russia Today (this was before Putin and Erdogan made up).

There was a strong Kurdish presence at the Refugees Welcome Here march and rally in Glasgow on 19 March. Roza Salih spoke for Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan and after the speeches Kurds and Eritreans got the crowd dancing. (This was also the day the Halabja Day memorial was held in Maryhill.)

On 27 March many of us took part in the well-attended  Newroz celebrations in Edinburgh.

On 19 April SSK was back at the STUC Congress. Here we are with Unison Assistant General Secretary, Liz Snape, while discussing how the union can support the rebuilding of Kobane.

The following week, on 25 April, Stephen Smellie spoke at the Freedom for Öcalan campaign launch at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. It was sponsored by GMB and Unite, and one of the guests was Dilek Öcalan, Abdullah Öcalan’s niece (in the white jacket). Stephen noted: ‘I spoke about Öcalan’s ideas and how his release was crucial for the restoration of peace talks in Turkey between the government and the Kurds. I also managed to get an attack against those who pander to Erdoğan in our UK government into the speech.’

In May we were visited by Mehmet Ercan Baran from Diyarbakir/Amed, a member of the DISK trade union. He met with the Edinburgh Kurdish community at their newly opened community centre, with Unison members in South Lanarkshire and Glasgow, and with the Unite Scottish young Members Committee in Glasgow; and he spoke about how the Turkish state forces had been responsible for imposing curfews and violent actions in Diyarbakir.

In June we were visited by HDP MP Leyla Birlik. The Turkish government crackdown on the HDP already included the arrest of elected representatives, and the international solidarity movement was paring them with elected representatives in other countries for support. We arranged for Leyla to pair with Ross Greer MSP. Ross’s official facebook page for 27 June reads:

Today Ross met Kurdish MP Leyla Birlik from the Peoples’ Democratic Party – HDP. Leyla informed representatives of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan of the brutal oppression the Kurdish people face at the hands of the Turkish state and the war being waged against them. Like almost all HDP MPs, Leyla faces trial simply for defending her people and for daring to criticise the Turkish government. Ross has agreed to sponsor Leyla through her trial and to recruit other MSPs, MPs and parliamentarians from across Europe to stand with the HDP and the Kurdish people at this time of struggle.

Leyla Birlik with Stephen Smellie and Ross Greer

Turkey has used the attempted coup of July 2016 as an excuse for a massive attack on freedom of speech and human rights. In August NUJ and Kurdish activists protested over the mistreatment and murder of journalists in Turkey. The protest was reported in Third Force News.

In mid-September a Scottish group attended the conference of the Syrian Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Brussels. Our group consisted of Ross Greer MSP and his assistant Zeyn Mohammed; and Sarah Glynn, Jan Xal and Sean Ballie from SSK. Honar Kobani was there as a delegate. Foreign guests were not allowed to attend the business part of the conference, but we had a private meeting with leading members of the organisation, as well as long informative discussions with supporters from other parts of the world. Sarah recorded the experience in articles for Common Space and Bella Caledonia.

From left to right: Asiya Abdullah (co-president of PYD), Sarah Glynn, Aldar Kehlil (of the Democratic Society Movement, Tev Dem), Jan Xal, Saleh Muslim (co-president of PYD), Ross Greer MSP, Zeyn Mohammed and Sean Baillie

In October we had hoped for a visit from Havin Guneser of the International Initiative for the Freedom of Öcalan; however the Home Office thought otherwise and she had to speak to us by Skype. Over 70 people came to the meeting organised by Edinburgh University Kurdish Society, where Havin led a discussion on democratic confederalism, the right to organise, and how to support Rojava and the Kurdish freedom movement. She also spoke to meetings in Glasgow and Dundee.

On 1 November we commemorated the second Kobane Day with a public discussion in Glasgow.

In November we protested further attacks by the Turkish government on Turkish civil society and on Kurdish political representatives. On 10th, we protested against the arrest and detention of the leaders and ten MPs of the HDP, the 3rd largest party in the parliament (including HDP co-chair Figen Yüksegdağ who had visited us in Scotland the previous year). This protest was outside the Scottish Parliament, where we were joined by Ross Greer MSP. Two days later we protested again on rainy Princes Street. The HDP’s message of peace, equality and democracy threatens the Turkish AKP government, so they were being arrested on false charges. The Turkish government had also announced the closure of 370 NGOs. Doors were being sealed and offices locked. This followed the sacking of 100,000s of public sector workers, the removal of elected Mayors, and the closing down of newspapers, radio and TV. Included in the list of NGOs closed under State of Emergency legislation (meaning no appeal process), was the Rojava Association, which raises money and materials for people in need in Rojava and in Turkey, and the KJA – the Free Woman’s Congress – the voice and organisation of Kurdish women. Ayla Akat Ata, who some of us met in Dyarbakir, had been arrested and detained two weeks previously.

Outside the Scottish Parliament
Honar Kobani, Sarah Glynn and Ross Greer. Ross is holding the image of Leyla Birlik, the HDP MP with whom he is twinned.

In December PYD co-chair Saleh Muslim came to Scotland and we arranged a busy programme, including public meetings and meetings with press and TV. He spoke to large audiences in the Unite building in Glasgow and at Edinburgh University. We also managed to squeeze in an interview with Sarah which was published by Common Space.

Saleh Muslim with Honar Kobani and Roza Salih
Saleh Muslim speaking at Edinburgh University

2015

January 2015 saw the first meeting in Dundee – a talk and discussion on the Kurdish Revolution, with Roza Salih, hosted by Stobbie4Aye – and a public meeting in Unison House, Glasgow titled ‘Save Kobane, Defeat ISIS’.

 

In April Kurds commemorated the anniversary of the Halabja massacre at Queens Park, Glasgow,  and SSK had a stall at the STUC Congress in Ayr (pictured here with Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis),

and another stall at the Hope over Fear Rally in George Square.

Our co-chairs, Stephen Smellie and Roza Salih, spoke about the Kurdish struggle, the defence of Kobane and the fight against ISIS at the Glasgow May Day Rally.

And the following week we commemorated the 9 May Kurdish martyrs with a seminar at Glasgow’s Unison House led by the PJAK, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan.

On 19 June we organised a fringe meeting at the Unison National Delegate Conference, with an emotional standing ovation for Honar Kobani who lost four brothers in the war against ISIS but said all who died are his brothers.

And the next day the University of Strathclyde Student Association held a public meeting on the Kurdish Question where they awarded an honorary life membership to the imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan. Speakers included the award-winning writer, James Kelman. (See the report in Third Force News.)

In July, after a gathering of young activists preparing to help rebuild Kobane was bombed in the Turkish city of Suruc, some Glasgow activists organised a solidarity demo at the Buchanan Street steps.

In August we had a stall at the Unison Family fun Day at New Lanark

In September a Scottish delegation visited Dyarbakir (Amed, in Kurdish) in south eastern Turkey. A busy programme included meetings with HDP MPs, trade unionists, community organisers and a film maker. The delegation was made up of Stephen Smellie, Roza Salih, Sarah Collins, Paul Toner and Viv Thomson.

This is Lisa who is a film maker and Director of the Diyarbakir Film Festival and the Middle East Academy of Film based in the city. On June 5, before the Turkish general election, she attended a rally in support of the HDP. A bomb went off and 5 people were killed, 7 plus Lisa lost limbs and 400 were injured. Lisa in fact lost both legs. When we met her she was recovering and with help from friends was trying to raise money so she could travel to Germany to get prosthetic legs. She hoped to get back to making films in the future. She was an inspiration. No police were injured in the blast. Police investigations have failed to identify who was responsible.

Delegation members reported what they had seen at public meetings at the Augustine United Church in Edinburgh and Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

On 15 October Kurds organised a protest in Edinburgh against the bombing of a pre-election peace rally in Ankara. While the Turkish government blamed ‘terrorists’, Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the HDP, who had been involved in organising the rally, made it clear who they believed was culpable: ‘This attack… is perpetrated by the state against the people. We are witnessing a massacre here. A cruel and barbarian attack was carried out. The death toll is high.’

On the 1 November we commemorated the first anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Kobane with a small rally in George Square and a public meeting.

On 4 November we held a meeting in the Scottish Parliament,

and on 15 November we welcomed HDP co-chair, Figen Yuksekdag to Scotland.

In Unison office with John Stevenson, Stephen Smellie, Viv Thomson and Margaret Gallacher

Meeting Alyn Smith MEP

2014

We hope that this website can serve as an archive of what we have done as a group, so our first posts will provide a scrapbook of past years.

Back in 2014 SSK was not yet formally constituted, but activities were organised under the banner of the Kurdish Human Rights and Cultural Group in Scotland. On 30 October the group joined with Strathclyde Students Association to hold a demonstration to ‘Stand up for humanity and an end to the brutality of Islamic State’, in support of the Kurdish people in North Iraq. This was when ISIS was attacking the Yazidis, and the event post explained:

Tens of thousands of innocent Kurdish Yazidis have fled to mountains. Over 3000 innocent civilians have been massacred,  the majority of them women and Children. Thousands of innocent children have died from Hunger. Women and young girls have been sold as sex slaves. Most of the Yazidi and Christian civilians are forced to convert to Islam. Hundreds of thousands of children are in danger and in need of humanitarian protection now. 

Speakers at the demonstration, which was held in George Square, included Bob Doris MSP and David Moxham of the STUC. You can read a report of the demonstration here.

Roza Salih
David Moxham addressing the rally

The siege of Kobane brought activists onto the streets to show solidarity with the besieged Kurds and to try and wake up the world – and the BBC – to what was happening.

On 11 October, protestors rallied in Glasgow’s George Square and marched to BBC Scotland on Pacific Quay.

And the next day some were back in the square to join in with the big YES rally.

The following week, on 18 October, a Save Kobane march went from Glasgow Green to George Square.