Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Landlords, Turkey in Syria, Grenfell

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In 2018 I began the day on 14th April with a tour of some of the plushiest areas of London on a tour led by the Land Justice Network. Land ownership in Britain, both in urban and rural areas is among the most unequal across the world.

As I noted on My London Diary:

Unequal ownership of land is the basis of the class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

The Landlords’ Game

Much of the London Borough of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, and our tour stopped for informational speeches at various points in Mayfair and Park Lane, part of the Grosvenor Estate, now “an internationally diversified property group” founded in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor, whose family owned large areas in Cheshire, married the heiress of the manor of Ebury, which included much of what is now Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. Wikipedia has a long list of the other properties around the world the group now own, and the 7th Duke of Westminster and is family fortunes is estimated at £10.1 billion – now 30, he was until his recent birthday the world’s richest person under 30.

The tour ended in another of the huge London estates, the Cadogan estate owned by the Cadogan family, which Wikipedia states covers 93 acres of Kensington & Chelsea and came from the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane who had bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712 marrying the second Baron Cadogan. The family is said to be worth £6.7 billion.

I left the tour as it was coming to an end to walk back to Belgrave Square, named after one of the Cheshire villages owned by the Grosvenor family, where Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain were protesting outside the Turkish Embassy against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad. Their criticisms of Turkey go back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they see the Palestinian struggle for freedom as a part of the fight for an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East.

But it was the 14th of the month and I was on my way to the monthly protests calling for justice over the fire which killed over 70 people at Grenfell tower. These protests have been silent marches, but the first event on this day at Kensington Town Hall was far from silent as bikers from the Ace Café including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Café on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then to Kensington Town Hall roared past the waiting marchers.

Coming up to four years later, we have still to see any justice over Grenfell, where the failures of the Kensington & Chelsea Council to have any real regard for the safety of residents, and by those who recommended unsafe materials and carried out the improper installation, those who gave false safety certificates, the politicians who decided essential safety measures were ‘red tape’ that should be cut, the Mayor who cut the fire service and others have not yet led to any prosecutions.

So far the prolonged enquiry has simply tried to shift blame onto the fire service, with unfair criticism of their incredible efforts to save victims and seems more and more to be a way to ensure that most of those who should bear responsibility escape scot-free. I’m not convinced that these silent walks are the best way to bring pressure to get some action – but at least on this day the bikers made some noise.

I went with the marchers for a short distance as they silently made their way back towards Grenfell, and then left. It had been a long day and I had much work to do to at home, filing my pictures of the events.

Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Rojava, Bolivia & Ecuador

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

One of the things that makes it hard to leave London is the diversity of the communities that have made their homes here, making this an exciting place. Throughout its history Britain’s population has been enriched by immigration and although immigrants have not always been made welcome they have made a very positive contribution to our society. Among them have been many religious and political refugees and asylum seekers, and many continue to support the causes in their home countries while in London.

While our media generally give little attention to protests – except for those rare occasions involving individual violent acts or anti-establishment acts such involving insults against national heroes such as the writing of graffiti on the plinth of the Churchill statue or attacking statues of slave traders, the protests by ethnic communities against events in their home countries are almost entirely dismissed as what one newsroom at least refers to as “tribal matters”.

Of course they are wrong, as well as being xenophobic. We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected and globalised, and Brexit, taking us out from under the wing of Europe will give even more importance to events happening around the rest of the world, including Rojava, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Rojava is important not just to those who live in this Kurdish-controlled part of Syria and to Kurds in general but the rest of us around the world. It was the Syrian Kurds who with US air support who were able to defeat ISIS but as a model of a democratic system dedicated to equality, the liberation of women and ecological justice that could serve to provide the system change we need to overcome climate disaster and to resolve the problems of the middle east and elsewhere.

After ISIS were defeated, Trump brought US forces out of the area, leaving it open for Turkey to advance into Syria – with the aid of Islamist forces and the aim of destroying the Kurds. Through NATO we give Turkey support and doubtless supply arms while Russia, backing President Assad are happy to see Syrians who don’t support him exterminated. The Turks have huge superiority in weapons and seem very likely to acheive their aims, but are then likely to establish an Islamic state in the area rather than withdraw back to Turkish territory and we could well then see a war between Russia and NATO forces.

If you rely on the BBC for your news you will know probably know very little about what is going on in northern Syria and the protesters, mainly Kurds but with some support from the British left, gathered outside Broadcasting House a year ago today on Sunday October 13th 2019 to condemn the poor BBC coverage and hope to persuade them to do more. I met them there and marched with them as far as Trafalgar Square; they went on towards Parliament but I stopped to cover two other protests over events abroad.

Ecuadorians living in the UK had come to call for the resignation of President Lenin Moreno who they say is their worst president ever. Many there were from indigenous groups who have been hardest hit by public service cuts, particularly the ending of fuel subsidies. Protests had been causing chaos in the capital Quito since these were announced two weeks earlier. The austerity measures had been demanded by the International Monetary Fund in order for the country to get a £3.4bn loan. After Brexit we could well see Britain having to meet similar IMF demands whose aim is to protect and promote international capital and corporations at the expense of the poor.

As the Ecuadorians left they were replace by Bolivians who held a lively rally with music and dancers in support of President Evo Morales, who was seeking a fourth term in elections a week later on 20 October.

Morales, the first Indigenous president, and his Movement for Socialism (MAS) greatly reduced poverty, cut the influence of the USA and multinational companies and made Bolivia a model of economic growth. Although popular among the poorer citizens, his policies had not endeared him to the wealthy or to the United States.

Although the election results made Morales a clear winner, with just enough votes to win on the first round, it was followed by violent insurrection amid claims of electoral fraud. Morales fled the country and resigned as President claiming there had been a coup after armed intruders broke into his home. He was offered political asylum first in Mexico and later moved from there to asylum in Argentina.

Although an Organization of American States investigation found there had been voting fraud, later studies by US political scientists and experts on Latin American politics concluded there was no statistical evidence of fraud. Despite being voted in by the Bolivian people, a warrant was issued in December for the arrest of Morales on charges of sedition and terrorism.

More about the three protests on My London Diary:

Rally supports Bolivia’s Evo Morales
Against Ecuadorian President Moreno
Solidarity with Rojava – Kurdish Syria


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Solidarity with Rojava

Monday, April 6th, 2020

While we may feel cooped up in isolation in the UK, and are mourning the deaths of several thousand from COVID-19, the situation for many around the world is far worse. Particularly at risk are the people of Rojava in North-East Syria, mainly Kurds, at risk both from Turkish invasion forces and from the virus.

Kurds are the largest minority community in Turkey as well as being widespread across the northern parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. They were promised an independent state at the end of the First World War, but that promise was denied when the boundaries of modern Turkey were defined in 1923.

Since 1923 Turkey has attempted a programme to eliminate Kurdish culture and identity, at times with massive military campaigns as well as repressive legislation. The Kurds, around 20% of the population, have fought back the opposition led since the 1980s by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK led by Abdullah Öcalan who has been in jail in Turkey since 1999.

In recent years Turkey has been aggressively attacking Kurds outside Turkey and in early 2018 they invaded Afrin canton in northern Syria, part of the territory where Kurds with other minority ethnic groups had established a de-facto autonomous region of Rojava, with a constitution based on decentralisation, gender equality, direct democracy and guaranteeing ethnic minority rights and religious freedom.

Kurdish forces in the People’s Protection Units, the men of the YPG and the women of the YPJ, were the most effective force in fighting the ISIS in Syria, with the help of US air support. But Turkey is second only the the US in military strength in NATO, and has benefited greatly from NATO support and arms supply, and were able to take Afrin from these lightly armed Kurdish forces. Many Kurds were forced out of the area, which had been overwhelmingly Kurdish and they are now a relatively small minority.

President Trump’s announcement of a US withdrawal from Syria gave Turkey’s President Erdogan a green light to continue his country’s invasion of Rojava, and left the Kurds there no alternative but to call on the Syrian government for support, a move which in the longer term seems likely to end their autonomy.

Turkey is now using the coronavirus to threaten Kurds in Turkish prisons for political reasons – including many journalists, excluding them from its plans to release them with other prisoners because of the pandemic. They are also refusing to refer prisoners with COVID-19 symptoms for medical treatment.

For the 4 million inhabitants of North and East Syria, including 600,000 refugees the situation is also dire. The World Health Organisation refuses to support the area directly and little comes to them through the Assad regime. There are no WHO test kits or test machines and only 35 intensive care beds and 40 ventilators.

More pictures from October’s protest: Solidarity with Rojava – Kurdish Syria


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Defending the Indefensible

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

It just hadn’t occurred to me that there would be protesters defending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, hereafter MbS, the man responsible for sending a team of assassins to kill and then dismember with bone saws the body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd 2018.

Of course their state-sponsored posters and placards – including two large electronic screens strapped to two men didn’t mention the killing, nor MbS’s other purges, including the 2017 arrest of business leaders and other prominent Saudi figures in what he called an anti-corruption campaign, the kidnapping of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017 and more – including recent arrests of yet more leading Saudi figures who he sees as possible rivals.

So when I first walked up to their noisy protest I misunderstood their reason for being there. I couldn’t of course understand what they were shouting, and it was only after I read the posters that I realised they had come to support MbS and not to protest against a cruel dictator.

Of course some of them may have had good personal reasons for supporting MbS. Saudi businessmen operating in the UK may well be profiting from his economic reforms and support his Vision 2030 for a Saudi Arabia that in some respects will modernise, largely in the interests of business. Some of those taking part will be working for the Saudi government and companies such as Saudi Aramco, supposedly the most profitable company in the world, though this position is perhaps under threat by MbS’s current oil war with Russia. And some may have been paid for their evening’s work.

Certainly if you are a Saudi citizen and have any intention of returning to that country in the future, being seen as a supporter of MbS rather than an opponent will be vital for your health – as the brutal Khashoggi murder testifies. You need to be seen (and filmed) to be on the right side.


Justice for Jamal Khashoggi

On the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, a small group of protesters on the opposite side of the road stood in a quiet line in front of the Embassy garden holding posters, and later burning nightlights, in a silent vigil for the cruelly murdered journalist. It was a small but dignified and rather more impressive display than the PR event taking place opposite.


More on both events:
Saudis support killer Prince MBS
Justice For Jamal Khashoggi


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Kurds protest against Turkish invasion

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Kurds have lived in the area around what is now southern and western Turkey and northern Syria and Iraq and north-western Iran at least since the time of Alexander the Great, and in more modern times were a part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of the First World War. At the end of the war their region was split between several countries, including Armenia and a rather smaller area called Kurdistan, but soon after this was occupied by Turkish forces under Kemal Atatürk  and by 1923 the whole area was incorporated into modern Turkey.

There were various uprisings by the Kurds against Turkish rule, and Turkey tried to eliminate Kurdish culture, banning the language and even the use of the terms  “Kurds”, “Kurdistan”, or “Kurdish”, re-christening the Kurds as “Mountain Turks”. Many Kurds were jailed.

In the 1980s and 90s there was a guerilla war led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with the Turks destroying thousands of villages and killing over 20,000 Kurds. In 1999 Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan (“Apo”) was captured by the CIA in Nairobi and handed over to the Turks. He was tried in Turkey and sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life imprisonment. He was held in solitary confinement in an island prison until 2009, when a few more PKK prisoners were moved with him to a new jail on the island, and he remains in prison, but still acts as a highly regarded leader of his people.

The protest at the Turkish embassy followed further threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade more Kurdish areas of Northern Syria, where the Kurdish state of Rojava has been set up with a  “democratic confederalism” constitution based on the ideas of Murray Bookchin which enshrines the values of environmentalism, self-defense, gender equality, and a pluralistic tolerance for religion, politics, and culture.

The call out for the protest states:

Through invasion, destruction & annihilation the fascist Turkish State, with its media, secret intelligence services and the Kurds he has pulled to his side is now trying to destroy the hard works of the Kurdish people in Northern Syria.

Its aim is to annihilate the Kurds and their existence. To protest this, the kurdish community and their friends will stand honourably against the atrocities being committed by the Turkish state and strengthen the struggle for freedom.

On this basis, Kurds and all the people who believe in democracy and peace are invited to protest against this fascist regime.

Stop Turkey’s Invasion of Kurdistan


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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