Persecution of Kurds seeking sanctuary in Scotland must stop

In the past thirty years a growing Kurdish community has taken root in Scotland and, like many other migrant communities, has enriched our nation. They came here to escape the violence and oppression, the humiliation and discrimination, they endured on a daily basis within the four states wherein the nation of Kurdistan is divided: Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

Yet even in Scotland they are forced to endure hardship. In the last three years there have been repeated early morning raids by detectives on the homes of ordinary Kurdish families. Warrants are issued under prevention of terrorism legislation. Last year police confiscated Kurdish flags, magazines and other materials, including badges of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG, the very people who have fought so bravely in leading the fight against ISIS. None of this material has been returned. Yet none of it linked to terrorism. Police officers confirmed that the activity relates to anti-terrorist investigations regarding support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Over the past several days more raids and arrests have taken place in relation to alleged support for the PKK. Evidence of this so-called support consists, apparently, of scarves and flags in the colours of Kurdistan. It is no coincidence these raids come just a week after the European Union Court of Justice ruled that the continuing listing of the PKK as a terrorist group was wrong: there is simply no evidence that a real and continuing threat exists.

No doubt the police will defend their actions on the grounds of ‘just following orders’. The Scottish people have a right to ask: whose orders are we talking about? When Turkey barks Britain jumps. Is that what it is about? The Scottish Government must answer these questions.

In Turkey the government has prosecuted a violent suppression of any opposition. Journalists jailed and newspapers closed. Trade unionists arrested. Elected MPs, Mayors and councillors of the main Kurdish party, the third largest in parliament, jailed for speaking out against government policy. 150,000 public servants sacked. Academics sacked for speaking out against the violence of the state. Kurdish towns put under military curfew and hundreds shot. Any opposition to these actions is denounced as terrorism by President Erdogan’s regime.

The Kurdish community in Scotland, and throughout Europe, have protested these actions against their families and fellow Kurds in Turkey. They have lobbied the UK government to stop supporting the Turkish government with cash, arms and trade deals. They have been denounced by Turkish officials as supporters of terrorism instead of the supporters of human rights, democracy and peace that they are.

We demand that these actions are stopped and that Scottish politicians take steps to re-assure the Kurdish community that they are welcome and can take part in any political activity. This includes criticising the Turkish - or any other - government, without fear; and that Scottish police officers will stop acting in such a manner that ordinary Kurdish people cannot distinguish between them and their Turkish counterparts.

Yours faithfully,

Roza Salih and Stephen Smellie (Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan), James Kelman,  Chris Stevens MP, Ruth Maguire MSP, Ross Greer MSP, Neil Findlay MSP, Dave Moxham (STUC), Mike Arnott (Dundee TUC), Pete Cannell, Professor Gregor Gall (Editor Scottish Left Review), Bob Thomson (past Chair Scottish Labour),Richard Haley (Scotland Against Criminalising Communities), Richie Venton (SSP trade union organiser), Jennifer McCarey (Glasgow TUC), Colin Turbet (social work author), Fiona Napier (Aberdeen TUC), Tom Morrison (Clydebank TUC).