Visiting Kurdish MP asks for solidarity

by Stephen Smellie, Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan • Leyla Birlik is the MP for Sirnak in South Eastern Turkey. She is a member of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) for the town which voted 95 per cent for her party. Sirnak is in ruins. Houses have been bombed as the Turkish government prosecute a war against their Kurdish citizens in a cynical attempt to retain power and extend their influence within the region.

Leyla Birlik: the MP for Sirnak in South Eastern Turkey visited Scotland last month. She said “I expect to be arrested when I return"

Thousands of the people Ms Birlik represents have been displaced and hundreds killed. People have not been allowed to leave their homes, even for medical treatment. Her young brother-in-law was killed with 30 army bullets in him and then dragged by a rope behind an armoured truck through the streets.

Ms Birlik herself has not been able to visit her home for months and is now, along with her fellow HDP MPs, facing prosecution under terrorist legislation for speaking out against the government led and organised state terrorism that her town is suffering.

On a brief visit to Scotland at the end of June she said, “Even in war people should be treated with respect. Human rights are being denied. The deaths include pregnant women. One woman lay in the streets for seven days as the army would not allow people to collect her dead body.

“Kurdistan is being destroyed. Our homes, our forests, land, our culture is being destroyed by the (governing party) AKP’s dirty war against the Kurds.”

She explained that no aid from either Turkish or international aid agencies was being sent to the people but instead Kurdish families are agreeing to ‘adopt’ a displaced family and financially support them till they can be re-settled. The threat of prosecution facing the MPs comes after the parliament agreed to lift the immunity of MPs from prosecution.

Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, working with the HDP’s Europe office, is contacting MSPs and MPs asking them to ‘twin’ with the HDP parliamentarians and demonstrate their support and solidarity. This will involve contacting the Turkish authorities and protesting whenever any of the MPs are arrested and taken to court.

Ms Birlik condemned European governments. She said, “They have turned a blind eye to what the Turkish government is doing because they are concerned only about the refugees coming to Europe. This is not right! However if the war of the Turkish government against the Kurds continues then millions of Kurds will become refugees and they will go to Europe also.”

She explained that the HDP are not in favour of Europe cutting ties with Turkey as Europe should be pressing the Turkish government to stop its oppression. She said, “The HDP want to return to the negotiating table. We want peace negotiations to get going again.”

The state violence has been happening for over a year. This coincided with the successful defence of Kobane by its Kurdish population and their armed defence groups the YPG and the women’s YPJ.

The Turkish National Security Council realised that the Kurds in Syria were creating a statelet in Rojava across the Turkish border. At the same time the growing success of the Kurds in Turkey in building alliances with the Turkish left, women’s, LGBT and progressive movements was of concern.

The peace negotiations between the government and the Kurdish movement, led by the imprisoned leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan, which were about to produce an agreement for peace were vetoed by President Erdogan and the military and judicial campaign against the Kurds was restarted.

Ms Birlik was elected to parliament as part of the huge success of the HDP in the June election where 80 MPs were elected, denying the AKP its majority rule and ushering into Parliament a diverse group of new MPs including the biggest ever group of women MPs in the Turkish Parliament.

She said, “I have been an MP for over a year and I have only been to parliament a few times. I have stayed mostly in my region trying to help my people who have been under attack. This is where the charges against me come from. I am in Europe for a week and I expect to be arrested when I return.

“We are asking for support. It would be good if people from Scotland could come to Turkey and Kurdistan to see what is happening and to attend our trials.”

Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan is discussing with MSPs organising a delegation to do just that and visit Sirnak and other towns.

• Read Stephen’s article on the Kurdish situation in the previous issue of the Voice here
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