PEACE IN KURDISTAN WOMEN’S ALLIANCE FOR KURDISTAN, IRAQ AND SYRIA The Rt Honourable Theresa May MP
10 Downing Street
6 September 2016
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing to ask you and the British Government to condemn the recent shelling of majority Kurdish areas near to Jarablus in northern Syria, since 24th August 2016, by Turkish State forces. This is a shocking and deeply disturbing attack on the forces which have consistently been acknowledged as the most effective force on the ground in the battle against ISIS. According to the official statements from the Turkish government, the offensive, “Euphrates Shield”, is aimed at both ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG). From the outset it was clear that the primary focus of this operation was to be Kurdish forces including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and not ISIS. There have been consistent reports of Turkish State complicity with ISIS, by, for example, allowing fighters to cross the border into Syria and of supplying military equipment, as reported for example, in the Washington Post on August 12th 2014. It appears that Jarablus fell to Turkish forces without there being any ISIS casualties.
Since 29th August 2016 the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and several other media outlets have confirmed that Turkish airstrikes and tank shelling has killed at least 40 civilians in the village of Bir/Jubba al-Kusa 13 km south of Jarablus, a village previously liberated by the SDF from ISIS. Hours after the massacre in Jubba al-Kusa another 20 civilians were killed and 25 wounded in Turkish air strikes near the town of Al-Amarneh. According to SOHR, at least four Kurdish fighters had been killed and 15 injured in Turkish bombardments of the two areas. It is clear that this attack on democratic, primarily Kurdish forces will continue as long as the US-led International Coalition remains silent.
The ISIS military campaign has been characterised by a brutal catalogue of sexual violence primarily against women. The widely documented mass abduction of women and girls for sexual violence demonstrates ISIS’s view that women are the spoils of war, and was among the factors which led the British Parliament and the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry to conclude that a genocide had occurred of the Yezidi people in Iraq.
In stark contrast to this victimisation of women has been the Kurdish women’s defence units, which have been in the frontline of the fight against ISIS. The Kurdish women’s movement has been developed over two decades amidst the struggle for Kurdish liberation. Women have emerged at the forefront and are an outstanding example of women’s self-determination and self –defence in the Middle East, a region often lagging behind in progressive gender policies. Women make up 50% of the fighting force, over 40% of elected representatives in the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and within their political parties in Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan.
Rojava has given refuge to 1.8 million Internally Displaced People and refugees, from across the region, of all ethnicities and religions, of whom 80% are women and children, including many of the Yezidi women and girls who have escaped the genocide underway in Iraq.
Given the UK Government’s stated commitment to working to prevent sexual violence in conflict, in particular, at the high profile Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London in 2014, we wonder where is the government action on this? We suggest that it is imperative, in order to further this stated aim, that support be given to the women of Rojava in Syria who are at the forefront of the fight against ISIS now. The Rojavan social contract, its constitutional document, guarantees equality in all walks of public and private life, makes the co-chair system (one man and one women as joint chairs of any political or civic body) legally binding, and prohibits polygamy, child marriage, forced marriage and bridal dowries. Any true commitment to supporting the advancement of women and in preventing sexual violence in conflict will begin, in the present context, with supporting the women of Rojava in their struggle.
The US-led coalition against ISIS has, until now, supported the major contributions to the struggle by the women and men of the YPJ (the women’s units) and YPG and has provided air cover for their operations. However the US and Germany have now turned a blind eye to Turkish airstrikes against them. This invites the accusation of treachery.
Turkey has been accused of committing war crimes against the Kurds inside its borders and has refused to allow UN teams to investigate these allegations. It is now slaughtering civilians inside Syria in full view of western governments and of NATO.
We call on you and the British Government to take a principled stand against the Turkish offensive against the YPG/J, to support the women at the forefront of the struggle against ISIS rather than appease a State which has collaborated with Salafist groups, and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in the north of Syria from this new attack.
We, the undersigned, look forward to your urgent response.
Margaret Owen, Barrister, Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy
Baroness Helena Kennedy
Dr Annette Lawson OBE
Dr Scilla Elworthy, Founder of Oxford Resaearch Group, Nobel Peace Price Nominee
Dr Nadje Al-Ali, Professor of Gender Studies, SOAS
Prof Mary Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London
Anni Pues, Human Rights Lawyer and Member of the International Committee, Scottish Green Party
Alison Johnstone MSP, Green Party, Scotland
Amber R. Huff, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University
Shula Marks, FBA, Emeritus Fellow of the British Academy and Emeritus Professor and Hon.Fellow, SOAS
Dr Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster
Rahila Gupta, Journalist and Activist, Southall Black Sisters
Dilar Dirik, PhD student, Cambridge University
Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK Women Representative
Turkan Budak, Vice-Chair Roj Women’s Assembly
Fran Robertson, Director, Two Step Films
Pennie Quinton, Feminist Activist
Amrit Wilson, Writer and Activist
Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Rojin Tasman, Solicitor
Isabel Marler, Feminist Activist
Houzan Mahmoud, Kurdish Women’s Rights Activist
Aysegul Erdogan, Islington Councillor
Sarah Parker, Haringey Left Unity
Dr Johanna Riha, Epidemiologist
Bronwen Jones, Barrister
Jillian Gordon, Barrister at Law, Retired JP
Amy Murtagh, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Miriam James, Historian
Cynthia Cockburn, Researcher and Writer
Inge Relph, Gender and Conflict Advisor
Cerry Hayes, Gender Matters
Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Yagmur Savran, PhD Student, University of Bradford
Tabitha Bast, Activist and Writer, Leeds Friends of Rojava
Roza Salih, Vice-Chair of UNITE Scotland Young Members Committee
Rachel Bird, human rights campaigner
Melanie Singhji, human rights campaigner
Chrissie Charvill, Co-ordinator of Oxford Kurdish and Syrian Association
Ruth Lady Morris of Kenwood CBE, Consultant
Elizabeth Taylor, Retired Academic, Anthropologist
Charlotte Watson, Counsellor
Jessica Winby, Artist
Sheila Mosley, Support Kurds in Syria –SKS
Irene Austin, Chair, Herts Welcomes Syrian Refugees (HWSF)
Maggie Hamand, Author
Rachel Gundry, Stone Carver, Somerset
Veronica Cecil, Writer
Charlotte Keatley, Playwright
Katherine Wright, Youth Worker, Artist
Jo Magpie, Journalist
Melanie Gingell, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
44 Ainger Road, London NW3 3AT
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Patrons: Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Kate Osamor MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Simon Dubbins. UNITE International Director Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall, Melanie Gingell
3 August 2016 marks the 2nd anniversary of the Feminicide and Genocide by Islamic State (IS) against Yazidi people in Sinjar/Shengal. On 3 August 2014 IS attacked and captured Sinjar, which is the historical homeland of Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority whose ancient religion is linked to Zoroastrianism. ISIL destroyed Yazidi shrines, executed resisters and demanded the residents to swear allegiance or be killed. During the IS-massacre in Sinjar up to 5.000 Continue reading “Call for an International Action Day against Feminicide of Yazidi Women”
The Kobane Canton Executive Board has released this statement calling for all people to take part in this Sunday’s Global Rally for Freedom and Reconstruction of Kobane:
A Call for an International Solidarity Day with Kobani
1 November 2015
Kobani and Rojava have faced numerous military campaigns and attacks since the birth of freedom and justice on their soils on 19 July 2012. Ever since, militant extremists have laid siege to this geographic area that aspires to build a new life and new approach that is open to socio-cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.
However, the will of the people in Rojava and the power of their desire for a new era and new administration were invincible, defeating extremists’ campaigns, which culminated in the Kobani’s humane resistance. This resistance marked the beginning of the end of ISIL’s myth of its ability to control any town or city, and proved to the world that the union between the will of the people and local institutions in a geographic area is sufficient to defeat terrorism, and thus safeguarding humanity and peace. Continue reading “Executive Board of Kobane Canton calls for international solidarity on 1 November”
The YPG has released a response to a controversial Amnesty International report published last week which accused the Kurdish forces of forcibly displacing Arab civilians from villages. The report was apparently the result of a ‘fact-finding mission’ to Rojava, but its findings have been heavily disputed by solidarity activists, Kurdish political organisations and now the YPG itself, which says: “The report contains fallacies since the testimonies of the individuals interviewed by Amnesty International were incorrect and contradictory to the facts and evidence, widely available and easily accessible to everyone. In this official statement, we will mention some of these flagrant fallacies that put the credibility of the report and Amnesty International at stake.”
The introduction to the report is here. To read the full report, which unpicks the evidence, or lack thereof, of war crimes committed by Kurdish forces, here.
REPAK, the Kurdish Women’s Relations Office based in Erbil, has published this statement on the one year anniversary of the IS attack on Sinjar/Shengal, which led to a horrific massacre in which thousands of Yezidi people were killed, thousands taken into sexual slavery and many more thousands were displaced.
To the press and public
Exactly one year ago, gangs of the so-called Islamic State (IS) tried to carry out genocide in the Southern Kurdish (Northern Iraqi), mostly by Yazidis inhabited city Shingal/Sinjar. On 3 August 2014, IS aimed to occupy Shingal by massacres and ethnic cleansing in the villages around. According to numbers of the UN, due to the massacres that started on 3 August, 5 thousand Kurdish Yazidis got killed, 7 thousand girls and women got kidnapped like trophies, enslaved by IS gangs and sold in slavery markets. Even though some of the women were able to escape, a lot of women committed suicide for escaping from this atrocity. But still thousands of women remain in the hands of IS. Continue reading “Massacre in Sinjar, one year on: REPAK statement”
By Thoreau Redcrow for the Kurdopia Project
There are recent revelations from The Guardian that the U.S. deal with Turkey involves a “no fly zone” (that would only apply to Assad’s Syrian Regime, as neither ISIS nor the Kurds have planes) in exchange for a tacit agreement that Turkey can prevent further land acquisitions by the Kurdish PYD in their quest to unify Rojava by connecting the Kobane and Afrin Cantons. Essentially, the U.S. gets use of a closer location at Incirlik Air base to bomb ISIS from, in exchange for selling out the Kurdish PYD (which includes their heroic YPG & YPJ guerrillas), who were the only ground forces effectively defeating ISIS. Continue reading “U.S. Makes a Deal with the Turkish Devil”
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) organised a wide ranging discussion of Rojava, Kurdish autonomy and the attempts to build peace in Syria on 30 June 2015. Held in the Houses of Parliament, the event was hosted by the independent cross-bench peer Lord Hylton. Lord Hylton has recently returned from Rojava and is the first member of the UK parliament to visit the self-declared autonomous Kurdish region of northern Syria. The meeting was well attended and included people from the region and surrounding countries, along with British people and others with varying levels of familiarity with the Kurds and some who had little background knowledge but had been inspired by the resistance of Kobane. Continue reading “Rojava, Kurdish autonomy and peace-building efforts in Syria: Report from a roundtable discussion”
by YASEMIN KAZAN/LONDON
On 30 June, a round table discussion was held at the House of Commons focused on prospects for Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and peace-building efforts in Syria.
The event was jointly organised by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and Kurdistan National Congress and hosted by Lord Hylton. The debate was held to highlight what was happening in Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and Syria and to present recent developments in the region and some of the key issues involved.
With ISIS capturing strategic towns in Iraq and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) winning 80 seats in the Turkish National Assembly for the first time, the discussion held at a particularly prescient time included; Lord Hylton, the first member of UK Parliament, Margaret Owen, patron of Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Human Rights Barrister and Director of the International NGO, Dr. Alan Semo PYD UK, John Hunt, journalist, writer and editor, Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress and some other attendees of journalists, independent diplomats, and human rights campaigners. Continue reading “Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava and peace-building efforts in Syria: A panel discussion held at the House of Commons”