Posts Tagged ‘NOrthern Syria’

BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds. Six years ago today, on Sunday 6th March 2016, thousand of Kurds marched from the BBC to Trafalgar Square calling for an end to the silence from Turkey’s NATO allies and the western press over Turkey’s increasing war against Kurds since the political successes of the Kurdih political party and the formation of the popular progressive democracy of Rojava in Northern Syria.

Marchers sat down briefly at Piccadilly Circus

On My London Diary I posted a list of over 30 UK groups supporting in the protest including the National Union of Teachers, the PCS and RMT as well as other trade unionists and branches, the Stop The War Coalition, the Green Party, Unite Against Fascism, many left wing parties and political groups and of course Kurdish organisations.

The repression and marginalisation of Kurds by Turkey is as old as the Turkish state, formed in 1923. For many years the state even denied their existence, describing them as “mountain Turks”, and it outlawed their language and clamped down on their cultural events such their Nowruz New Year Festival and on the wearing of their traditional dress and Kurdish names. Even the words Kurds and Kurdistan were banned.

The crowd stretched some way past Broadcasting House

The 1990s and early 2000s saw some relaxation of the repression of their language and community celebrations, but it remains illegal to teach in Kurdish and there is still limited freedom of expression. In 1978 Kurds formed the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK, which launched a military freedom fight against Turkey in 1984. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in Nairobi in 1999 by Turkish agents assisted by the CIA and flown back for trial in Turkey. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penality and since then has been held in a Turkish high-security island prison.

Öcalan had argued for a political solution to the conflict since 1993 and even in prison remains the leader of the PKK. Subjected to long spells on isolation there have been periods where he has been allowed visits and has been in negotiations with the Turkish government. He has also written about the democratic confederalism which is at the heart of the constitution of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, widely known as Rojava, founded in 2012.

Rojava’s decentralised democratic form of government recognises and includes the various communities in the area – Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians and others as well as promoting the equality of women.

The main ground forces which have been effective against Daesh (ISIS) in the region are from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, men in the YPG and women in the YPJ, who with the help of US air support defeated the Islamic State in Northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG and YPJ as being a part of the PKK, regarded by them and many countries as a terrorist group and widely banned. Since 2016 it has used its overwhelming military power (supported by NATO and Russia) to try to crush the Kurds and to capture Rojava, occupying large areas. Together with Syrian allies (including some former ISIS fighters) they are carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, and have been engaged in a wide range of war crimes.

Peter Tatchell

As well as calling for an end to attacks by Turkey and for full and un-biased reporting of Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds the marchers want the UK to end its support for the Turkish aggression and also to repeal the ban on the PKK under the Terrorism Act 2000. It is banned in most other western countries including the EU, where several court verdicts have found its proscription to be illegal but it has remained.

The march sat down for a few minutes stopping traffic at Piccadilly Circus, then went on the a rally in Trafalgar Square, where I left them. There were no reports of the march on the BBC or in other UK mass-media, though I think it was covered by some foreign news services and our minuscule left-wing press.

More at Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds.


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Defend Afrin, end Turkish Attacks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

The largest protest I attended on Saturday 27th January 2018, four years ago was against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Northern Syria, then a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO member with probably the largest and best-equipped army and air force in the Middle East was taking on the small and poorly equipped Kurdish forces, and despite a valiant fight the final result was predictable, particularly once Russia, the other major player in the Syrian conflict had given them their blessing.

Turkey has continued its attacks on Northern Syria, but mainly through air strikes, but these are seldom reported in UK media although covered by specialist sources such as ‘Foreign Policy‘, part of the Slate Group.

The US gave some support in other battles fought by the Kurds against Islamic State forces, but this was always limited and mostly ended with the withdrawal of US troops which was announced by Trump in December 2018, and again in October 2019, although around 900 were still there in October 2021. Turkey has been a major source of finance for ISIS, allowing them to profit from smuggling of oil, and backing some groups which were fighting with them.

In recent days there have been short mentions on the BBC about the continuing battles being fought by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia against Islamic State in Northern Syria. The prisons and refugee camps where former ISIS fighters and supporters are held are largely in Kurdish territory and ISIS are still active and fighting to release people from detention to increase their strength.

As I wrote in 2018, “the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups – which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds – equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.”

Unfortunately there seems little chance that such a model with be adopted more widely. Turkey continues to attack the Kurdish areas and does so using weapons sold to them as a NATO member by the UK, France and UAE. Turkey claims that the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, founded in 1978 which began its armed struggle for self-rule for Kurds in Turkey 1984.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999 and the organisation has been proscribed in many countries allied to Turkey, including the USA and UK. Several PKK flags were seized by police at the start of the march.

More at Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack.


This was not the only protest in London on that day, and I also photographed two other events. African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE were outside the UAE Embassy in London protesting against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves. On Regent St, the long-running protest outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St was continuing asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company’s clothing.

Canada Goose protests continue
End UAE support for slavery in Libya


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.