Student Union bans Speech by Heroic Volunteer who Fought with Kurds Against ISIS Genociders.
Macer Gifford: “wanted to shine a light and to show the Kurds aren’t alone.”
The Union banned a YPG fighter from talking at the University – in case he influences others to go and fight.
Ex-student Macer Gifford fought in Syria for five months earlier this year with the Kurdish Group YPG against Islamic State, and was due to give a speech at the University yesterday.
President of the Kurdish Society, Kavar Kurda, organised for him to come in, but was told Macer would not be given a platform to speak because “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”.
Activities and Events Officer, Asad Khan, said the decision was “because there were concerns an event with a person speaking about their experiences fighting in Syria could lead to others going and fighting in the conflict”.
He said in an email: “In every conflict there are two sides, and at UCLU we want to avoid taking sides in conflicts.”
“Kavar claims Asad went on to say how he “doesn’t agree with western definitions of groups.”
Kavar told The Tab: “Asad went down the same route as CAGE and other questionable organisations by appealing to white middle class stereotypes and told me the only reason Macer wasn’t arrested was because he is ‘white and middle class’.
“I find it astounding such an institution like UCL are unwilling to take a side in this conflict
“If you don’t support Kurds and the YPG, only ISIS are left. Where’s the freedom of speech? What about human rights?”
Asad had expressed concerns to Kavar about the human rights record of YPG, citing UN reports which detailed how YPG had “carried out recruitment of child soldiers”, but Kavar says the sources were “random” and Asad had “gone out to find anything remotely negative against the group, dismissing the huge applause for them around the world”.
Asad said the Syrian crisis is a “contentious topic” and defended his decision to block the speaker.
He told The Tab: “It is important to note the rooms these activities take place in belong to UCL rather than UCLU and we liaised with UCL, who in turn wanted to seek advice from the police.
“When they didn’t get a reply, to stay on the side of caution, UCL also leant towards not providing a platform.
“The Syrian crisis is a very contentious topic with many different groups, and although I understand YPG are fighting against ISIS the situation is far too complex to understand in black and white as expected by the student.
“I don’t think UCLU can disregard an Amnesty International report as well as one from the UN Independent International Commission. Despite signing a commitment in 2014 to demobilise all under-18 fighters, the Human Rights Watch have reported that YPG have recruited child soldiers, some of them below the age of 15.
“In this context, despite the fact YPG aren’t a terrorist organisation, I think there is enough evidence to show they have committed human rights abuses, for which reason it is not appropriate for UCLU to be associated with someone who chose to go and fight for them.
For the Kurdish reply to these allegations:
The General Command of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) has released a detailed statement responding to the Amnesty International Report, published on 12 October 2015 and titled, “We Had Nowhere Else to Go – Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria”.
Underlining that the report is contradictory and puts the credibility of the organisation at stake, the YPG higlighted the following points in response to the report which drew worldwide reaction due to its attempt and effort to defame the People’s Protection Units by means of unfounded claims;
Not many people think that backing the YPG’s fight against the Islamist genociders of ISISis “contentious” and, not a “black and white issue” and “far too complex” to take sides in.
It would be interesting to find out the stand of Kahn’s own organisations on this and related topics.
“…my main involvement in university has to be with Pakistan Society where I was the events organiser and in the Islamic Society where I led Charity Week in my final year. Profile.
And there is this:
• Allegations of mass electoral fraud sees last minute disciplinary meeting
• Asad Khan and Mohammad Ali named in complaints seen exclusively by The Tab
• Union panel docks Asad Khan one per cent of his votes
Fraud allegations have been levelled against victorious candidates of this week’s Union elections, Asad Khan and Mohammad Ali.
Asad, who will serve as the £25K-a-year Activities and Events Officer, had one per cent of his first preference votes docked after an official complaint was made to the Union.