Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As Protests to Back Kurds Grow National Union of Students Stands Aside.

with 16 comments

Solidarity with the Kurds – Not in our Name Says NUS.

Saturday sees another day of demonstrations in support of Kurdish resistance forces in the Syrian town of Kobane.

The protest at 2pm on Parliament Square follow a week of demonstrations across London.

The campaigners have already visited the square this week with action on Wednesday shutting down Westminster Bridge as well as causing issues around Parliament Square and Downing Street.

Campaigners have been seen throughout the city this week, bringing Oxford Circus and Angel tube stations and the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras to a standstill.

Alexia Akkaya, a mother and blogger from west London, said she wanted to “scream and shout” in frustration at the situation in Kobane. She explained her reasons for marching: “I cannot sit back and watch the slaughter of innocent people. I am angry at the apparent lack of empathy by the Turkish government and the hushed British MPs and other influential people who had so much to say about other conflicts. I am not Kurdish but as a compassionate and loving human being and it is my duty to stand up in solidarity with the brave resistance in Kobane.”


Cover Photo

One group which has decided to “sit back and watch the slaughter” is the National Union of Students (NUS).

A move to get the students’ organisation (600 student unions) to back  the brave Kurdish resistance against the Isis/Islamic State genociders was dismissed this week as “Islamophobic”.

This is the motion presented to the NUS National Executive Committee (NEC) which fell. (here.)

Iraqi/Kurdish solidarity

Proposed: Daniel Cooper
Seconded: Shreya Paudel, Clifford Fleming

NUS NEC notes

1. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and sectarian polarisation in Iraq
– which has resulted in thousands of Yazidi Kurds being massacred.

NUS NEC believes

1. That the people of Iraq have suffered for years under the sectarian
and brutally repressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the US/UK
invasion and occupation, the current sectarian regime linked to both
the US and Iran, and now the barbaric repression of the “Islamic
State” organisation.

2. That rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as
weapons against women in IS-occupied areas, while minorities are being
ethnically cleansed.


NUS NEC resolves

1. To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi,
Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this

2. To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular
support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organisations
against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.

3. To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight
for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the
Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.

4. To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against
it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military

5. Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or
supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.

6. To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and
in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees.

7. To issue a statement on the above basis.

A report on the meeting by Daniel Lemberger Cooper  comments,

“The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.”

Now observers may put part of this down to sectarian dislike of the movers of the motion, NUS internal politics, and simple snideness.

But this outweighs such a reaction:

The infamous Tweet:

It is hard to imagine, except with disgust, what “alternative narrative” to the “Western, racist” one that Aaron Kiely would spin about Isis.

We note, while passing on, that Kiely is “close” to the ex-Trotskyist sect, Socialist Action.

On the charge of ‘racism’ Cooper  remarks,

“The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).Pro-intervention?”

This is what Malia Bouattia (who seems to be involved with something called, perhaps misleadingly, the ‘broad left’)  said after helping get the NUS to back the Palestinian cause,

‘So the struggle continues, but this victory alongside the global sea change of public opinion gives us new hope. The Black Students Campaign remains committed. We will continue to protest, march, boycott and campaign. And we will not stop until the rights of Palestinians are restored and Palestine is free.’ (from here)

Obviously freedom is not something the Kurds also deserve – unless it’s freedom from solidarity.

As the Kurds (increasingly joined by other supporters, including many of the left) gather, the NUS has decided to stand aside as  Islamist genociders threaten the beloved people of Kobane.


 In years to come the majority of the NUS executive, and particularly  Malia Bouattia and Aaron Keily, will be able to say, “Solidarity with the Kurds? Not in  our name!”

16 Responses

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  1. Other sections of the European far left can still see reasonably clearly on many matters, but the British far left has become so warped by a deranged and very partial idea of multiculturalism that in practice it invariably ends up them taking sides with violent Sunni Arab extremists against anyone else, Describing the ‘narrative’ about ISIS as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’ is indeed disgusting, but it’s not remotely surprising anymore, and hasn’t been since around 2004. It has become respectable Guardian ‘thinking’, so it’s questionable whether it’s even just the far left anymore.

    But thank you for your steadfast reporting on this and other matters pertaining to the Kurds, Andrew. It is a tragedy.


    October 11, 2014 at 11:14 am

  2. The Stalinists are backing the Kurds, see the latest issue of The Morning Star. Maybe this generation of young people are so far from the organized labour movement that they are unable to appreciate the deals that need to be cut to move things along? They don’t really grasp world politics if you ask me, just see things in ‘black and white’ terms literally.

    Sue R

    October 11, 2014 at 10:29 pm

  3. “As many long suffering residents of the Ockendon ward are aware, their ‘councillor’ Aaron Kiely is deeply involved in student politics in his role as an NUS Black Students’ Officer. We have already written about Kiely’s neglect of the people in the ward he’s supposed to be representing – The strange affair of councillor Aaron Kiely http://southessexheckler.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/the-strange-affair-of-councillor-aaron-kiely/ We don’t normally get involved in student politics as it falls well outside of our normal remit. However, the latest aspect of Kiely’s conduct that has been drawn to our attention gives us no option but to respond. To paraphrase, this is what happened…

    A motion was submitted to the National Executive of the NUS calling for solidarity with the Kurdish people who are battling against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer who argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” After debate and a vote, the motion was rejected. Aaron Kiely posted a Tweet praising the speech by Bouattia. The full story, including the motion offering solidarity to the Kurds, can be seen here on the Howie’s Corner blog – WTF: NUS calls solidarity with the Kurds “racist” and “Islamophobic” – http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/wtf-nus-calls-solidarity-with-kurds.html

    Here’s some useful background information on the struggles of the Kurdish people for social justice… In a region of the world beset with religious fundamentalism, the Kurds offer a progress, secular alternative option when it comes to social organisation. This piece by David Graeber in The Guardian – Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria? – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/08/why-world-ignoring-revolutionary-kurds-syria-isis – offers some interesting insights into the kind of society many of the Kurds are struggling to build. A society that stands in stark contrast to the backward, medievalist barbarity on offer from ISIS. Yet much of the left remains strangely silent on the Kurds because they don’t fit into their simplistic narrative of what’s going on the the Middle East.

    Here’s a simple question for the Labour leader of Thurrock Council, John Kent – how much longer are you going to tolerate the presence of Kiely in your ranks? Not only has he shown utter contempt for the residents of Ockendon by his posturing in the world of student politics, he has casually dismissed the progressive social struggle being waged by many Kurds. The Kurdish fighters in the besieged town of Kobane in northern Syria are fighting a desperate battle against ISIS and all Kiely can do is Tweet about the need to change the ‘racist’ Western narrative about ISIS. If John Kent can’t bring himself to take action against Kiely after this, then the Labour Party in Thurrock should be hanging their heads in shame. As far as we’re concerned, it’s time for Kiely to go…


    Andrew Coates

    October 12, 2014 at 10:34 am

  4. John Rees of Stop the War Coalition and Counterfire, says Arm the Kurds! (Saturday Demo in London). This speech is an important step and can be wholeheartedly welcomed.

    Andrew Coates

    October 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

  5. John Rees had better beware of Lindsey German!

  6. “We had a Kurdish speaker on our demo and I personally won’t go on demos calling for western intervention. Nor in my opinion should anyone who claims to oppose imperialism.” – Lindsey German replying to me on a Facebook Page a few days ago.

    Things have obviously moved on since then.

    So where indeed are these arms going to come from?

    Andrew Coates

    October 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

  7. They could have come from Turkey had they been for anti Assad forces, as could fresh fighters.

  8. Malia Bouattia’s reply to the motion that it was Islamaphobic almost draws a parallel with cries of outrage from Zionists that any opposition to them was by definition antisemitism. For us to want to help the Kurds in their fight for equality and democracy against IS barbarity is Islamaphobic, despite the fact that millions of Muslims live in harmony with other faiths around the world. See Nick Cohen’s article in the Observer today:

    Paul Stygal

    October 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

  9. Soon ISIS will have control of complete Syria and Iraq. Once Kobane falls and Kurds ethnically cleansed, we are going to see many Turkish religious fanatics entering Iraq. We will see Turkish Soldiers deserting and joining ranks with ISII. Then the actual fun starts. Turkey will fall. Other small states like Kuwait, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia will fall. Then will be Iran and Israel. An we will see ISIS linked with Afganistan, Pakistan, Egypt and the whole North Africa.

    By this time we will see a lot of beheading of whites and other ethnicity by the people of Religion of Peace. Then they will march into Europe.

    Well the Britishers can continue to be politically correct and get wiped out!

    Else stop ISIS at Kobane!

    Remember, once they have Iran / Pakistan they have nuclear bombs!

    Yogesh Kootharasan

    October 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

  10. Thank you for the reports about the Kurds that you have put here. They have been most informative.

    I’m afraid, though, that I would not be so positive about John Rees’s “Arm the Kurds” comments. While he may be sincere about his concern for the inhabitants of Kobane, his call for Hamas, Venezuela and the ANC to provide the necessary weapons strikes me as extremely unrealistic. In fact, it reminds me more of the “Comrades, what the situation calls for is a tin opener!” joke.

    Let’s hear what besieged Kurds are saying –

    “The air strikes are benefiting us, but Islamic State is bringing tanks and artillery from the east. We didn’t see them with tanks, but yesterday we saw T-57 tanks,” [Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani defence council] added.


    At the moment, the sober truth is that the Americans are the only people providing any help to the people of Kobane. As to why the situation got to this bloody pass (the Iraq war, Saudi, Qatar funding for Isis) can be argued about again and again. It won’t help the Kurds though.

    But I think the Kurds are more happy to see the air strikes attack their enemy on the ground in the here and now rather than worry about John Rees’s hypothetical “more air strikes create a hundred more Isis” or hope that, maybe, just maybe, other “anti-imperialist” forces will provide the necessary arms.

    john r

    October 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

  11. Turkish platformist anarchists, ML groups like TKP/ML, MKP and MLKP and the non-dogmatic left communist from WCP Iraq and Komalah are fighting at the fronts in Kobane, Sinjar and the Niniveh plains against ISIS … with a steady supply of bazookas, light artillery and nightvision gear to the defenders of Kobane, the issue of US air strikes wouldn’t have been on the agenda but the Turkish state prefered to support its proxy ISIS (like in the 90ies with the “Kurdish Hizbollah”) by closely monitoring the borders


    October 13, 2014 at 9:33 am

    • Fucking good to hear that Enty!

      Andrew Coates

      October 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

  12. As a communist who sees himself in the tradition of Marx, Freud and the Frankfurt School around Adorno I only can say that it is time for the British left to completey disband their organization, read Marx (not just use him as a icon) and stop support any barbarity as long it as against “imperialism”. The British left is an enemy of anyone who supports a real communist society, where the individual happiness is most valueable and not any collective with barbaric culture and traditions which are should be smashed in reality.
    For anyone who is not completly lost in his ideology here is an good article about a better idea of communism and freedom:

    Frankfurt School

    October 15, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    • I assume this is the Platypus Society speaking:


      The Tendance has written on this,

      Platypus Versus the Weekly Worker: Negative Dialectics.

      Platypus and Mike Macnair: Negative Dialectics.

      “Un coup de dés, jamais n’abolira le hasard.”

      A Dice Throw Will Never At Any Time Abolish Chance.

      Stéphane Mallarmé.

      The Platypus Affiliated Society takes it name from their elaboration of a few lines in Engels’ correspondence. Challenged on the relation between the rate of profit and the theory of surplus value, he pondered the “essentially infinite process” by which we develop concepts for natural phenomena. As an illustration, Engels mentions that when he first saw eggs from the Australian mammal, he refused to believe in the existence of the monotreme (Engels to Schmidt. March the 12th 1895). It was only when he saw a live one in a Zoo, the Society continues, that Marx’s friend changed his m

      “Platypus’s project then is to reconstruct a “Marxist left” and help give it a key role in the “future of humanity.” Their immediate vehicle is the Affiliated Society, a small largely US-based group of academics and students. It produces an on-line journal and holds conferences and symposia. Its theoretical references, as talk of “redemption” suggests, lie in the Frankfurt of school of Critical Theory. That is, a Hegelian inflected Marxist critique of capitalist ‘administered’ society and the ‘culture industry.’ They follow Benjamin in lightening the pessimism of the Institute, which they so amply resonate, by shafts of Messianic hope.”

      This critical Tendance Text is amongst many referred to on the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Cullen328/sandbox/Platypus_draft

      Andrew Coates

      October 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

  13. There’s a growing number of responses to this story (first raised by the comrades cited above on the NUS campaigning left,the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which is where this was signaled on Facebook amongst other places) in the media:




    This is highly recommended (AWL),


    A response to a report of NUS NEC: ‘solidarity with the Kurds’
    October 13, 2014 By Admin Leave a Comment
    This is a response to NCAFC member Daniel Cooper’s report of NUS NEC.
    The NUS Black Students’ Campaign stands in support of Black communities across the globe and uncompromisingly against imperialism and Western interference which history shows all too often leads to the suffering of Black people.
    We stand in complete solidarity with the Kurdish people against the recent attacks by ISIS and join many others in condemnation of their brutal actions. In doing so we recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia. This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.
    The NUS Black Students’ Campaign will be working with Kurdish students and the International Students Campaign to raise this issue within the NUS. A motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive which truly reflects the situation. This motion will pose a condemnation of the politics and methods of ISIS as well as unequivocal support for the Kurdish people. It will in no way pander to Western imperialistic intervention or the demonisation of Muslim peoples.
    Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students’ Officer
    Zekarias Negussue, NUS Black Students’ Campaign NEC Representative
    Aaron Kiely, NUS NEC
    Zarah Sultana, NUS NEC
    Abdi Suleiman, NUS NEC


    This statement is welcome but it is not clear on the need to back the Kurds who have faced physical attacks to serious for words by the State in Turkey and by Islamists backing Isis/Islamic state not just in Iraq and Syria but in Turkey and Germany.

    Andrew Coates

    October 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm

  14. […] online, including by the Tab, a national student newspaper and by members of a Kurdish solidarity group which held an anti-Isis protest in London last […]

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