Peace in Kurdistan – Women Alliance for Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria
Dear Prime Minister
On International Women’s Day 2018 we call on your government to acknowledge and condemn the Turkish invasion of Afrin and the attacks currently taking place there against a women’s revolution in Afrin in Northern Syria.
The invasion constitutes a war of aggression and is therefore in breach of international law. Its continuation is in clear breach of Security Council Resolution 2401.
Furthermore, the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) administration in Afrin is democratic and based on the principles of gender equality and ethnic inclusivity. It is beyond comprehension that a British government can be offering either tacit or overt support to these current actions of the Turkish regime with its deliberate and persistent assault on democratic institutions, its attacks on women and the targeting of Kurdish communities.
It should be recalled that the women and men of the DFNS have been absolutely pivotal in defeating ISIS and have had the direct backing of the US-led coalition. The DFNS has been working collaboratively and transparently with the US and the UK on the ground inside Syria and has lost many brave fighters in the joint struggle against ISIS. Those losses have been felt keenly in the UK by relatives and friends who have established lives for themselves in the UK over the years, having fled persecution by Turkish and Syrian regimes of the past.
The UK is duty bound not to let down its Kurdish allies who have until recently been fighting alongside British forces and who continue to fight against the possible resurgence of ISIS. We call on you not to stand by while Turkey commits this grave crime against the people of Afrin.
On International Women’s Day we particularly seek to highlight the democratic institutions that are being built in Afrin and the wider area of Syria known as Rojava. There are autonomous structures based on communal organising, women’s councils, academies, and cooperatives, as well as women’s self-defence units. Legislation has been developed to address women’s aspirations for a better and more autonomous life, putting into action measures against child marriage, forced marriage, polygamy and harmful traditional practices. These imaginative and far sighted developments should be supported by everyone. There are even women’s courts for dealing with gender-based violence and women’s policing strategies. Through the active women’s solidarity and engagement real change has been achieved in such a short time and within such difficult circumstances the growth in collective strength and women’s confidence is unprecedented in the region.
Today, tens of thousands of women have organised to defend their land, their lives, and their futures in Afrin. The resistance of the Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) and the Women’s Civil Defence Forces are part of a female global resistance against oppression, exploitation, and fascism.
Current international news reports constantly stress that Afrin was “the last relatively stable region in Syria” and that it has absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from conflict zones across the country although it was attacked over a dozen times with artillery either directly by the Turkish army or by its Islamist allies in 2017. A report by the Human Rights Association of Afrin, in 2016, recorded a total of 37 civilians killed in Turkish army attacks. The constant provocation and current full scale invasion stems from the Turkish enmity against the Kurdish population and is nothing to do with securing its borders.
Among the refugees in Afrin alongside the Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians are Yezidi communities whose plight the British Parliament has long highlighted. Yezidis in Afrin, having fled the genocide perpetrated by ISIS in Sinjar are now live in fear of a further genocide at the hands of the Turkish forces. Their religious leader in Afrin has said that they fear the massacres against them will be repeated:
“In the 21st century, we thought there would be no more genocides and massacres against certain nations, but in Afrin, history is repeating itself.”
As the world hopes to move towards peace post-ISIS, the model of democracy developed by the Kurds and implemented in Afrin surely deserves our strong support.
We call on you and the British government to extend urgently needed support to the women, men and children of Afrin, and to condemn the Turkish invasion unequivocally.
We urge you to demand an immediate halt to Turkey’s war on the people of Afrin.
The establishment of peace and democracy in Rojava and across the whole Middle East region is the best guarantee of British interests.
To that end, we call on the UK government to ensure participation of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria in the Geneva peace talks on Syria, to stop all arms supplies to Turkey and to support the women’s revolution underway in a region where women’s freedom is most needed.
Supported by Roj Women Assembly; Roj Women Association; Kongra Star; Peace in Kurdistan Campaign; Iraqi Women’s League; Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO); Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women Organisation (KMEWO); Freedom Without Fear Platform; Margaret Owen OBE, Widows for Peace through Democracy; Dr Johanna Riha, Co-Founder and First President of the African Society of Cambridge University; Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, House of Lords; Rahila Gupta, writer and journalist; Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO WRC; Annette Lawson; Julie Ward MEP; Jean Lambert MEP; Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary; Maxine Peake, Actor; Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters; Shakila Maan, artist; Louise Regan, President National Education Union, NUT Section; Liz Kelly, Academic, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit; Kate Graham, OBJECT; Prof Mary Davis Visiting Professor of Labour History at Royal Holloway, University of London; Maria Rimmer MP; Laura Smith MP; Prof. Nira Yuval-Davis, Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging, the University of East London; Cynthia Cockburn, researcher and peace activist; Nadje Al-Ali, professor of Gender Studies, SOAS University of London; Dilar Dirik, PhD Student, University of Cambridge; Christine Benson and Roopa Tanna, Islington Law Centre; Isabel Kaeser, PhD student, SOAS; Sarah Parker, writer; Kariane Westrheim, Professor University of Bergen, Chair of EUTCC; Roza Salih, General Council STUC; Debra Stanislawski, student at University of Law, London; Dr. Greta Sykes, Chartered Psychologist, writer and poet Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kanga, researcher, writer; Dr Rumana Hashem, Lecturer in University of East London and Spokesperson of Community Women Against Abuse.
8 March 2018
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
Patrons: John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, International Coordinator, Green Party of England and Wales;; Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Gareth Peirce, Maxine Peake, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Stephen Smellie, Steve Sweeney, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP.