Kurdish spokesman to address public meeting in Edinburgh

Joint Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition
11 March 2008
For immediate release

Akif Wan, a representative of the Kurdistan National Congress UK, will be addressing a public meeting organised by civil liberties and anti-war campaigners in Edinburgh on Thursday. The meeting comes in the wake of a 10-day incursion by Turkish ground forces into Iraqi Kurdistan, supposedly in pursuit of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) guerrillas.

The incursion is widely seen as evidence that America's grip on Iraq is weaker than ever. It could hardly have come at a more embarrassing time for the US and British governments, with the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq just around the corner and anti-war campaigners planning demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 15 March.

Other speakers at the Edinburgh meeting include human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, Alex Fitch of the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Bill Wilson MSP (SNP) and Pat Smith (Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement). The meeting will be drawing attention to the way that the "war on terror" has reinforced oppression and undermined human rights not just in the Middle East but at home in Britain.

The PKK has been outlawed in Britain as a "terrorist" organisation since 1 April 2001. The ban has criminalised activities that had previously been a mainstay of Britain's Kurdish communities. Coupled with similar bans in other countries it has allowed the Turkish government to avoid meaningful dialogue over the Kurdish issue. 20 MPs from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) took seats in the Turkish Parliament after last year's elections. But legal actions have been launched in the last few months to ban the party.

The Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan has left the authority of the regional government there in tatters. It has also left lives at risk - Iraqi sources say that the Turkish troops have left 3200 landmines behind.

In Iraq human rights are routinely violated both by the US-backed government and by the forces of the US-led coalition. John Pace, the former UN Human Rights Chief in Iraq, said last month that he believes the U.S. has violated the Geneva Conventions, is fueling violence through its raids on Iraqi homes and is holding thousands of detainees that are for the most part innocent of any crimes. The US says it is holding about 24,000 detainees in Iraq.

British forces are also deeply implicated in human rights abuses. Former SAS soldier Ben Griffin said last month:

"I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured…The joint US/UK Task Force has broken International Law, contravened the Geneva Conventions and disregarded the UN Convention Against Torture... We have accepted illegality as the norm."

For saying this, Ben Griffin has had a gagging order slapped on him by the British government. Freedom of speech no longer exists in Britain. The banning of so-called "terrorist" organisations and the ban on "encouraging terrorism" make it almost impossible to engage in meaningful dialogue about many of the world's conflicts without breaking the law.

People are serving long jail sentences in Britain for activities that amount to "thought crime." Glasgow lawyer Aamer Anwar is facing contempt of court proceedings for speaking out on behalf of his client Mohammed Atif Siddique, convicted last September of "terrorism." British airports have been used for key re-fuelling stops by CIA aircraft before and after transporting prisoners across the world for torture. Refugees who have committed no crime are being held in jail while the government arranges their deportation on "national security" grounds to countries where they are at risk of torture. The Counter Terrorism Bill now before Parliament will, if is passed, allow police to hold "terrorist suspects" for up to 42 days without having to charge them. This is internment, and it has been condemned by virtually every human rights group in the country.

It's time for the government to give us back our rights. And it's time the government brought our troops home from the Middle East. The unjust wars they are fighting in undermine justice everywhere and make the world a more dangerous place.

Notes for editors

  1. The Public meeting War on Freedom - censorship and resisitance in Kurdistan, the Middle east and Britain will be held at 7.30pm Thursday 13 March in the Augustine Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. It has been organised by Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
  2. The Kurdistan National Congress is an umbrella organisation establiished in 1985 to work in diplomatic ways to create Kurdish unity and to put the case for independent Kurdistan.
  3. The Peace in Kurdistan Campaign is a campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish question Patrons include Lord Avebury, John Austin MP, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, John Bowis MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Julie Christie, Harold Pinter, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Gareth Peirce and Mark Thomas.