In the wake of the severe onslaught by ISIS fighters on the town of Kobane in Rojava, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign has helped to facilitate two delegations to North Kurdistan. This first delegation included PiK’s trade union liaison officer Stephen Smellie, Unite member Paul Toner, trade union activist Ruth Walter, Zaher Aarif of the Haringey Solidarity Group, and environmental activist and Unison member, Helen Steel. During the visit, Stephen wrote several blog posts, covering the needs of Syrian refugees and the harassment of health workers. The delegation also released a statement calling on the people of the UK to donate what they can for the relief effort and on the UK government to pressure Turkey to allow a humanitarian corridor to Kobane.Stephen has also been reporting from the border regions of Turkey and Syria for the Morning Star. Here are excerpts from his articles: Women are leading our revolution.
Abdi was elected co-president and was to the fore in organising life in the autonomous canton […]
Before, “we had a hard time with Syria. So when we got autonomy we made our own life. We built schools for our children. There was nothing before. We built everything for the people.”
Before being elected co-president, Abdi was a teacher of Kurdish and English and spoke to our delegation in perfect English.
“Women are leading our revolution. We believe that we must be our own solution. Kurdish women have been in the struggle for 30 years in the PKK and in all aspects of organisation, unions, community.”
Our delegation of two from Scotland and three from England on behalf of Peace in Kurdistan is investigating how the municipalities are coping and how the people of Kobane are determined to defend themselves against Isis attacks and are appealing for aid from all countries.
Hasan, a biology teacher, and his family fled to the mountains and were led to safety by the Kurdish fighters from Rojava in Syria, the YPG, and helped to cross the Turkish border to safety. From there they were transported to the refugee camp set up just 10 weeks ago.
In Diyarbakir, co-mayor Firat Anli explained that the municipalities in northern Kurdistan had worked together to support the Yazidis and had established nine camps across the region but that the Turkish government had failed to fund them.
He said the burden had therefore fell on the local councils and the local people to raise funds and donate blankets for the refugees.
Zaher Aarif has also been writing about his experiences on the delegation for Anarkismo, where he discusses the social revolution in Rojava and Kurdistan and the immediate needs of the people in the region.
A second delegation is recently returned from visiting Diyarbakir and the surrounding areas. The group include Patrick Smith, a London-based freelance journalist; Aubrey Nunes, member of BECTU and Stop the War Coalition Lambeth, and Andrew Penny, activist, translator, and long-time supporter of the Kurdish movement.
Patrick has been blogging since they arrived in north Kurdistan. The first covered their visit to a local food bank which caters for thousands of families who were displaced during the wars of the 1990’s. In another, he writes movingly about a funeral for a YPG fighter from Kobane, who was brought to Suruc just north of the border to be treated after being wounded in battle, but who later lost his life.
In his last blog post,Watching Kobane, Patrick joins the many people gathered at the border as the clashes continue in Kobane, where candlelit vigils, folk songs and self-organised monitoring of Turkish and ISIS activity on the border are part of everyday life in the camps.