Posts Tagged ‘refugee camps’

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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Darfur – International Day of Action: 2007

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Sudan became independent in 1956 and ever since it has suffered civil wars and political instability. Since 1899 it had effectively been a British colony though Anglo-Egyptian in name, with British policy largely being directed at ensuring the Sudan did not become united with Egypt. Under British rule it was effectively administered as two separate regions, North and South Sudan.

After the 1952 Egyptian revolution Egypt and Britain decided to give both regions a free vote on independence but the country gained independence without an agreed constitution, and arguments continued among the political parties. These were resolved by a military coup in 1958, and the country was under military rule (with three attempts at further military coups) until civil disobedience in 1964 led to a return to civilian rule.

Stability of a sort only came to Sudan in 1989 when Colonel Omar al-Bashir carried out another coup and set up a one-party state with himself as President in 1993. Massive protests in 2019 eventually led to him being overthrown and to a new constitution with a transitional joint milatry-civilian government.

Although there had been previous conflicts in Darfur, a region roughly the size of Spain at the south-west of Sudan with borders with Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic and South Sudan it was only in 2003 that the War in Darfur began when rebel groups accused the government of oppressing Darfur’s non-Arab population.

According to Wikipedia, “The government responded to attacks by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs. This resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the indictment of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.”

Estimates of the number killed “range up to several hundred thousand dead, from either combat or starvation and disease” and millions were forced to flee into refugee camps or across the border. Many seeking asylum in Europe are refugees from the Darfur war.

UN attempts to intervene were largely ineffective and the Sudanese government made clear its opposition to foreign involvement. Various peace talks and ceasefires failed to stop continuing violence and war crimes, but by 2009 the war had quietened down. Peace talks and donor conferences in Doha continued but so did attacks, with villages burnt and mass rapes by Sudanese soldiers in 2014. Sudan was accused of having used mustard gas on civilians in 2016.

Finally in 2019 a draft declaration was signed to make a peace agreement, and some deals were signed in 2020 with the UN and African Union peacekeeping mission coming to an end after 13 years. But deadly tribal clashes have continued in 2021 in Darfur, often fuelled by disputes over land, partly a legacy of the changes to the principles of land ownership from communal to individual imposed under British rule, and exacerbated by climate change.

More from 2007 on My London Diary at Protect Darfur


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