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Silhan Özçelik: Convicted of Wanting to Fight Islamist Murders and Insulted By Judge.

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Brave Silhan Özçelik: Convicted and Denigrated by Judge

The Guardian reports.

A British teenager who made a graveside pledge to devote herself to the PKK cause has been convicted of intending to join the proscribed Kurdish terrorist organisation to fight Islamic State.

Silhan Özçelik, 18, from north London, ran away from home, took a train to Brussels, and left behind letters and a video for her distraught family telling them she wanted to be a guerrilla fighter and was joining the Kurdistan Workers’ party’s women’s militia.

She is the first British citizen to be convicted for trying to join the campaign against Isis jihadis in Syria.

Özçelik, who was 17 when she went to Belgium in October 2014, had been “smitten” by the PKK since she was 13 after watching a film, Comrade Beritan, about a PKK female guerrilla who threw herself off a cliff rather than face capture and died in 1992.

She had also visited the Turkish grave of Leyla Saylemez, whose nom de guerre was Comrade Ronahi and one of three female PKK activists shot dead at a community centre in Paris in January 2013.

In the 25-minute video Özçelik left behind explaining her decision to her family, she said she had taken soil from Ronahi’s grave and made a promise, which she was now going to fulfil.

The jury at the Old Bailey dismissed Özçelik’s claim that she had invented the PKK story because she was running away to meet a 28-year-old man in Belgium with whom she hoped to kindle a romantic relationship, and wanted to spare her family shame in the strict, traditional Kurdish community.

Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, said the video and letters, in which she passionately described her love for the PKK, her wish to become a militant and “bride to the mountains”, and her desire for her family to be proud of her, “couldn’t be clearer or more consistent” with her long-held ambition to be a fighter and guerrilla.


Özçelik was “passionately engaged” with the PKK cause. She spoke of her anger that Islamic State at that time was crushing her people in Kobani, the largely Kurdish city in Syria, and that no men were going out there to fight against Isis. She was attracted by the active role women were allowed to play in the PKK, the jury was told.

She wrote: “Maybe I will go to Kobani, or I will not go. That is a different matter. It is up to the PKK to decide. But I see myself as a fighter, I see myself as a militant, a guerrilla.”

Özçelik was the baby of her family. She was 10 years younger than the youngest of her three siblings and found life in the strictly traditional family home restrictive. Her father, a chef, and mother, a textile factory machinist, gained political asylum in 1993 and settled in Britain. Though born in London, Özçelik identified strongly with her Kurdish roots and told school friends she used the name Dersim, the Kurdish name for the city of Tunceli – where the family of Comrade Beritan, the nom de guerre of Gülnaz Karataş, was from.

Posters, collages and Photoshopped pictures of PKK slogans and armed female guerrilla fighters were found in her bedroom. She had “glorified” the fighting and use of guns, especially by women, the prosecution said.

At the time she ran away she was a student of media studies at Holloway College. She had gained nine GSCEs at secondary school but then dropped out of her previous sixth form, where staff described her as “insular”, with few friends and seemingly “a bit depressed”.

She had lied to friends about her reasons for going to Belgium, telling them variously that she was going to visit an uncle, to study in Germany, to go travelling, or to escape a jealous ex-boyfriend, the jury heard.

There was no evidence Özçelik had joined the PKK, made contact with PKK members or travelled to Turkey or Syria before she returned to Britain from Cologne in Germany in January 2015 and was arrested at Stansted airport.

The jurors were told they had to be sure of two things: that she had the intention to commit acts of terrorism by joining the PKK, and that she engaged in conduct in preparation for the act. That preparation, said the prosecution, involved buying a one-way ticket to Brussels, recording a 25-minute video to her family and writing two letters to them saying she was joining the PKK and giving her reasons why, and by getting on the train to Belgium.

Before leaving, Özçelik had wiped most of the data from her mobile phone, which she left behind. She told her family she would be in contact, but that when she did they could not mention her name on the phone. This, the prosecution said, was consistent with her intending to join a terrorist organisation and knowing the authorities might be monitoring her communications.

Özçelik told the court she thought making the video was “cool” and she made it so that if things did not work out with the man in Belgium – and they did not – she would still be accepted back by her family. If they thought she had been fighting for the PKK, that was more heroic than the shame of knowing she had gone to meet a man, she said.

The jury of nine women and three men took five hours to reach a unanimous verdict.

Sentencing her to 21 months in a young offender institution, the judge, John Bevan, described her as “a stupid, feckless and deeply dishonest young woman”. Although there was no evidence she did anything to “advance the aim expressed in the video”, he told her she was “immature” and the “author of your own misfortune”.

Dismissing her counsel’s appeal for a suspended sentence, the judge added “any conviction for an offence of terrorism is serious”. He was not satisfied that the PKK was her only motive for travelling, and her emotions for Mehmet, the man in Belgium she said she hoped to have a relationship with, may have been a part, but the jury had decided “for a time at least”, joining the PKK was her intention.

He said her sentence was much reduced “because of the highly unusual factors of this case”. She would have to live with the “long lasting consequences of a conviction for terrorism”, he added .

As he passed sentence, sobs could be heard from the public gallery where members of her family had sat throughout the trial.


Özçelik is very young, she was very brave, full of emotion, and she wanted to fight an enemy that is unimaginably evil.

She does not deserve this sentence, nor does she merit the despicable comments of Judge John Bevan.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

UN resolution: George Galloway to Back United Bombing Campaign Against Da’esh?

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Gun’em George?

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a France-sponsored resolution Friday sending a unified message from the world powers to the international community “to redouble and coordinate” programs to suppress terrorist acts by “all necessary measures.”

The resolution singles out the territory under the control of the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, but also points to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including the Al-Nusrah Front, while it condemns the “horrifying terrorist attacks” in Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, France and over Sinai. The text condemns hostage taking and killing as well as terror attacks, calling them “a threat to peace and security.”

CBS news.

Our old friend George Galloway has been having a bit of a change of heart recently,

George Galloway on shoot-to-kill

20 November 2015 Last updated at 00:47 GMT

Former Respect MP George Galloway says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should be clear in his backing for shoot-to-kill powers for police officers in the event of a terror attack.

Speaking on the BBC’s This Week, he says it is important officers are backed to “gun them down if necessary”.

He adds: “I would gun them down myself if necessary.”


These are some of his most recent retweets which reflect Galloway’s interest in getting this kind of UN resolution.


We understand that a full Galloway public statement supporting the UN resolution, and “programmes to suppress terrorist acts by ‘all necessary measures.’, including bombing and other uses of military forces, by countries, including Russia and France, may well be in the pipeline.

Meanwhile his former comrades in the Stop the War Coalition are sticking to the limits of this position:

Defeating ISIS means firstly cutting its support from some of the most reactionary regimes in the region, including Saudi Arabia. Secondly it means not creating further grievances which help to fuel its support. That means rejecting the idea that bombing and intervention can make things better. We are told that we need to be ‘doing something’ in the face of these attacks. It is precisely because what we have been doing in the region that we face this threat.

Stop the War works for a world without terrorism and imperialism, and will continue to campaign for a peaceful solution to the crises in the Middle East.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

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The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.

“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”

To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.

Pierre Bayle.  Pensées sur la comète, 1682

To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.

These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.

That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.

 The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of  “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)

State capitalism to neo-liberalism? 

The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this.  She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)

The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.

Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites.  It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism,  is also of interest.

A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.

If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)

One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.

The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)

Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this  “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above,  is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)

Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political,  within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left  made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)

This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.

Absolute Opposition to Islamism.

The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword.  But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.

  1. Page 376 The Origins of Totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt. André Deutsch. 1986 (1951) She developed the point, “Secret societies also form hierarchies according to degrees of ‘initiation’ regulate the life of their members according to a secret and fictitious assumption which makes everything look as though it were something else, adopt a strategy of consistent lying to deceive the no initiated external masses, demand unquestioning obedience from their members who are held together by allegiance to a frequently unknown and always mysterious leader, who himself is surrounded by the half-initiated who form a ‘buffer area’ against the hostile profane world.”(Page 376) They are “based on absolute hostility to the surrounding world, is very different from the ordinary parties; tendency to divide people into those who belong and those who don’t.”(Page 377).
  2. ISIS Inside the Army of Terror. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Regan Arts. 2015. Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents. 
  3. The Rise of Islamic State. ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockbrun. 2015. ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis Anne Alexander. International Socialism.. 2015. No 125.
  4. Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State. New Statesman 15.3.15.
  5. La Religion dans la démocratie. Marcel Gauchet. Folio. 1998.
  6. On totalitarianism: Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin edition. 2015. (Original 1974). This picture of the state is a very brief synthesis of the ideas of Mille plateaux.Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari. 1980. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. Michel Foucault. 1975 and L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme.Nicos Polunatzas. 1978.
  7. The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism.

Socialist Unity Comes Down Squarely Behind Syria’s Assad.

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John Wight, of Socialist Unity and Russia Today.

Stop the War, Peter Tatchell, and the malign legacy of Western liberalism

You have to feel for the Stop the War Coalition. Back in June I attended one of their conferences in London, where during one of the plenary meetings a few people voiced criticism from the floor over the organisation’s refusal to come down squarely on the side of Assad in the Syrian conflict.

He adds, “I have long expressed sympathy with this position.”

I have had my share of differences with the Stop the War Coalition over the years, but I have no hesitation in crediting them with maintaining a principled opposition to wars and conflicts unleashed in the name of a status quo of injustice and might is right. Its organisers and activists have given over a decade’s service to exposing the hypocrisy and subterfuge employed to defend the indefensible, and consequently I feel duty bound to defend them now.

But on the other hand (there’s always another hand).

Peter Tatchell on the other hand is a classic example of the Western liberal whose conception of the world is akin to that of a child let loose with crayons on a blank sheet of paper, allowing said crayons to go wherever they please with no thought of the mess being made or lack of coherence being wrought.

He adds,

Worse, he and his co-thinkers continue their slavish attachment to the wondrous virtues of ‘humanitarian intervention’, despite the history of the catastrophic consequences of this very concept in practice.

Now slaves we – all – may be, and wonderfully wondrous as “humanitarian intervention” may be to some, hard-to-find, people, but comrade Tatchell is on record as having opposed the US-Led invasion of Iraq (No Invasion of Iraq! Arm the Kurds to Topple Saddam.

On Afghanistan he stated in 2011,  “The Afghan war strategy is not working. After 10 bloody years, there are too many civilian casualties and no prospect of defeating the Taliban. We are propping up a Kabul government mired in corruption, which gained power through fraudulent elections. Our intervention has focused on war-fighting to the relative neglect of economic reconstruction and the empowerment of civil society. The cost to the British people of this half-baked venture is a staggering £5bn a year, when public services are being slashed. For all these reasons, I’m supporting the mass anti-war assembly in Trafalgar Square this Saturday. But I do so critically.” (Guardian).

On Libya Tatchell like the leader of the French left-party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, supported a limited ‘No-Fly Zone’.

Tatchell is not a “humanitarian interventionist” in the sense of giving blanket support for Western invasions of countries like Iraq.

He makes  simple, and humanitarian, points about the need to support Syrian  democrats.

If that is “cultural imperialism” then, so be it.

Wight makes no mention of the role of Russia – something which Stop the War Chair Andrew Murray regards with equanimity – an affair between sovereign countries.

That is, obviously, not imperialism.

Wight is concerned with this,

..that Assad should be overthrown are not motivated by the belief that he is a benevolent leader, but rather that his government is all that currently stands between Syria’s survival as a secular state in which the rights of its minorities are protected, and it being turned into a mass grave by the modern incarnation of the Khmer Rouge…..

This is a legitimate fear.

Indeed if Socialist Unity were not so concerned to talk about violent Islamism as some kind of ‘blow back’ to Western imperialism, or continually talk of Muslim reactionaries as ‘victims’,  they might not be so surprised that Daesh has found its own dynamic in the Syrian conflict.

Along with other, equally unsavoury Islamists, from the alNusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, onwards.

Apart from the Baathists’ role as a dictatorship it remains a very uncertain question whether Assad can crush these genociders without agreement with democratic forces.

We are concerned about Wight.

Is this a cry for help?

Just as a crayon in the hands of an unsupervised child spells havoc in the home, moralism in the breast of a liberal spells havoc in the world.



From Shiraz: In response to Stop the War statement regarding Parliamentary meeting event on the 4th November 2015.

Lie No.1: Regarding “Andrew Murray’s support for the Syrian regime”

During the meeting Andrew Murray called for the support of the Syrian Army and the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIS. This will be on record of the footage that Stop the War Coalition have yet to release of the meeting (unless they choose to edit it).

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Student Union bans Speech by Heroic Volunteer who Fought with Kurds Against ISIS Genociders.

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Macer Gifford: “wanted to shine a light and to show the Kurds aren’t alone.”

The Tab,

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:

YPG General Command: Amnesty International Report is Contradictory

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:

Asad Khan had votes deducted but still won

• 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.





Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Stop the War Coalition Confusion on ‘Bombing Syria’.

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Yes, but whose Hands?

The official position of the Stop the War Coalition on UK intervention in Syria could not be clearer,

Syria, Labour party policy, and Russian intervention: Stop the War Statement. Stop the War Coalition  (StWC) 30 September 2015.

Stop the War warmly welcomes the Labour conference vote in opposition to British military intervention in Syria.  It shares the view of conference delegates that this would only risk repeating the dreadful consequences of previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya.

We believe that every possible pressure must be put on Labour MPs to support the Party’s position if and when David Cameron decides to bring the issue to the Commons for a vote.  It is vital that the strong lead given by Jeremy Corbyn in favour of peace and in opposition to western interventionism, now endorsed by conference, be supported by all Labour MPs, whether or not there is a ‘free vote’ on the matter.

Just as Stop the War has criticised US bombing, and the possibility of British intervention, in Syria, so too we cannot support Russian military action.  It remains our view, supported by long history and experience, that external interference has no part to play in resolving the problems in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Only strong, sovereign and representative governments in Syria and Iraq can take the fight to Islamic State and provide a real alternative on the ground to its rule.  External powers should refrain from any direct or indirect military intervention and concentrate instead on assisting a negotiated end to the Syrian civil

They have more recently explained the reasons for this stand,

Syria: Safe Havens and No-Fly Zones

  1. The creation of safe havens or no-fly zones requires the ability to engage in military operations and to take out the enemy’s air defence systems.
  2. Military intervention would risk a military clash with Russia.
  3. Islamic State would not be threatened by a no-fly zone since it lacks an air force. The Assad government and those supporting it can be the only target of such military operations: the goal is regime change.
  4. Previous no-fly zones did not prevent attacks on minorities and endangered populations (e.g. the Iraq government’s attack on the southern March Arabs) but escalated the levels of violence.
  5. The 2011 no-fly zone in Libya helped to create a full-blown war, tens of thousands of casualties, regime change and a collapsed state.
  6. The war in Syria includes a complex combination of actors: the Assad government and Russia, IS, the US and its international and regional allies (including Saudi Arabia, the Free Syrian Army and the local al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front), as well as Kurdish groups (some of which are being attacked by Turkey).
  7. Instead of getting involved militarily in this dangerous quagmire, Britain can provide much greater help to the people of Syria by seriously focusing on humanitarian aid and on helping to facilitate peace talks.

We must expresses scepticism, bearing in mind all of the complexities in Syria involved – not to mention the re-election of the Islamist AKP party in Turkey that there is any such thing as “non-intervention” in present conditions. These forces are involved. The question is what to do with it.

One issue stands out.

If the US (and not, as Counterfire’s leader John Rees once imaginatively suggested, Venezuela) stopped  arming the Kurdish-led Democratic Forces of Syria (the YPG) – which has not had great success but remains the only barrier to the genocidal intentions of Daesh against the Kurds and their allies – where would that leave them?

But to return to the main point.

Andrew Murray is StWC chair, and a  Communist Party of Britain (CPB) member.

On the 19th of October he expressed this judgement,

The only solution to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria is a negotiated diplomatic end, says Andrew Murray.

The clear need is not for Britain to jump further into this toxic mix. It is for a negotiated diplomatic end to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria. Ultimately, only the Syrian people can determine their own future political arrangements.

But the foreign powers could assist by all ending their military interventions, open and clandestine, in Syria – ending the bombing and the arming of one side or another.

They should further promote peace by abandoning all the preconditions laid down for negotiations. Such preconditions only serve to prolong the conflict and to give either government or opposition hope that foreign military and diplomatic support could somehow lead to all-out victory.

On the CPB’s site he has added this, (no date),

Our bipartisan armchair strategists are obviously riled by Russia’s escalating military involvement in Syria.  But it is a fact.  What form of military intervention could now be undertaken which would not lead to a clash with Russia they do not say.  Even the head of MI6 has acknowledged that “no-fly zones” are no longer a possibility, unless the NATO powers are prepared to countenance conflict with Moscow.


This is the CPB’s view, expressed on the 14th of October.

In a statement today Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said:

The Communist Party maintains its opposition to US, NATO and British military intervention in Syria. Whatever the pretext – whether to defeat the barbaric ISIS or to rescue civilian populations – the real aim is clear: to strengthen the anti-Assad terrorist forces (Islamic fundamentalists who have largely displaced the Free Syrian Army ‘moderate opposition’), create areas in which these forces can operate freely (in the guise of ‘no-fly zones’ and ‘safe havens’) and ultimately to partition Syria and replace the Assad regime with a compliant puppet one.

Russian military forces are now attacking all the anti-Assad terrorists, including Isis, at the invitation of the Damascus government – which has every right to issue such an invitation as the internationally recognised political authority in Syria.

  • Is Andrew Murray saying that his comrades should change their opinion that Russia has “every right” to bomb in Syria?
  • Or is he indicating to the StWC that Vladimir Putin is effectively helping their call for the UK not to get involved?

There is also this, adding to the confused fog;

It is the fashion to show deference to Seamus Milne, such is the man’s elevation, beyond the dreams of say, a mere Malcolm Tucker.

But perhaps on the basis of his expertise on Russia, he can inform us of what’s really going on: A real counterweight to US power is a global necessity. 

Iron grip: Jeremy Corbyn's pro-Kremlin aide Seumas Milne pictured shaking hands with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a propaganda summit in Sochi last year



Written by Andrew Coates

November 4, 2015 at 1:14 pm

YPG on the Syrian Democratic Force, US Weapons & Amnesty Report

with 2 comments



Amnesty reportSyria: US ally’s razing of villages amounts to war crimes.

A fact-finding mission to northern Syria has uncovered a wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting to war crimes carried out by the Autonomous Administration led by the Syrian Kurdish political party Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD) controlling the area, said Amnesty International in a report published today. The Autonomous Administration is a key ally, on the ground, of the US-led coalition fighting against the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

WASHINGTON DC – The United States has expressed concern about allegations of human rights violations by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against non-Kurdish minorities in northern Syria.


Amnesty International published a report Monday claiming that YPG forces displaced non-Kurdish residents in some villages and demolished their houses. It said the acts were “amounting to war crimes.”

“We take these allegations quite seriously and we’ve made clear to all the actors that these – such behavior, frankly, is unacceptable,” Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said in a briefing on Tuesday.

“We’ll look closely at all these accusations to determine whether there’s any veracity to the claims,” he added.

“We call on those who actually are or will participate in administering these areas to do so inclusively and with respect for all groups regardless of ethnicity, and we’ve been very clear about that for the past five, six months in speaking about the YPG and its actions in northern Syria as well as the case of Syrian Arabs and other groups and Turkmen who are fighting to – against ISIL there,” Toner said.

This has been taken extremely seriously as the reply issued today from the YPG shows: 

YPG General Commander Hemo on Syrian Democratic Force, US Weapons & Amnesty Report.

From here.

In an exclusive interview, Sipan Hemo, General Commander of the YPG comments on variety of issues. Below are the large summary of his remarks. (Extracts) 

After the Russian intervention the balance of power has changed, actors have changed. This happened a bit quickly. The change is also reflected on the ground. Large assaults and fierce battles are now taking place around Hama and Idlib. Regime forces are being air covered by Russian warplanes. And around Aleppo, ISIS is taking the advantage and making territorial progress against so called moderate Islamist factions or FSA brigades. So these Islamist forces are now face to face with a breakdown in terms of morale, as they are losing territory. It is not clear whether they can recover or completely be defeated. It is clear though that opposition forces have now unfortunately received a huge blow by this Russian intervention and ISIS’s taking advantage of it around Aleppo. ISIS is capturing more villages as I speak to you in those areas.

Our units, as you know, have actually been, for the last two months, in conflict with some Islamist factions including Ahrar-ash Sham and Jabhat al Nusra. But the new situation has led to a declination of these forces that have been attacking us. However, we are not willing to take advantage of this situation because we do not wish to see the opposition forces get weaker or lose more ground.


In fact, there have been claims made in our name. Many times, journalists ask what side we are on. I want to make this clear that from the very start of the Syrian revolution we didn’t want to take sides with anyone. We have a stance of our own. We name this as the third road. We formulated this idea as being on our own side. We have our own solutions and projects to propose. Secondly, our war against ISIS bought about a new situation. It has enabled relations and cooperation with the US-led coalition. And for the last past we are effectively cooperating with the Coalition.

When it comes to interventions, I can tell that people of Syria is not to be blamed. Unfortunately the war going on in Syria is about the international and regional powers’ interests. They are responsible. Both global powers and regional states like Turkey, Saudi, Qatar and Iran are responsible. They shed Syrian blood. So in response to this question I say, to stop the bloodshed and for the advancement of democracy in Syria, all powers should share responsibility. When asked whom we work with, I say it clearly, we have been fighting ISIS officially in cooperation with the coalition for a year. And our work together has made even more progress.


The number of weapons airdropped to SDF was a limited. It was not an amount that can make a big strategic differences on the ground. But we see this as very important. It is important to us as YPG. Because with this new support, the cooperation we have had for a year has reached a new level. And we hope to increase our work together even more, we hope to work strategically. So what we received was not big. But it is big for a new start.

As far as the structure of the SFD concerned, we hope that YPG spearhead that assault. YPG has a significant role to play. It is a long time that we have been fighting ISIS. In Syria, as you know, many factions have been formed. And they have been defeated in the face of ISIS. FSA, some other Islamist groups, etc. have been defeated. So at the end, the train & equip program too didn’t work. But on the other hand YPG has proven to be successful. Yes there were other groups fighting ISIS but with little success. So at a time when Syria was passing through most turbulent times, we got closer to some groups to form a new force, a bigger one, one that can serve all Syrians that can play a role for democracy in Syria. So this new force, Syrian Democratic Forces include all communities of Syria. It includes Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomens and… in the coming days there will be a declaration in front of the press. We hope this becomes a new start, a new step. At the same time we call upon everyone who believes in democracy for Syria, who believes in Syrian nation, to join SDF for the sake of democracy and to stand against and fight extremist forces like ISIS and give a calm country back to Syrians.


We saw the report of the Amnesty International. I can tell you that the timing and wording of this report is a bit suspicious. At a time when we are forming a new alliance with Syrian pro-democracy forces, and getting ready to wage a big war against ISIS this report is released. Report comes right after the coalition forces are giving us a significant aid. Hard to think it is all a matter of coincidence.

We call on the international community and the United States as well not to take this report serious. Because this is not what is happening on the ground. But again we are officially calling on independent bodies to come and see what is going on the ground.

Now, let me be clear; we have liberated some 1500 Arab villages. Some of this villages became war zones between us and ISIS. Battles took days in some villages. I am not saying there has been no harm to those villages. But they are not more than 4 or 5 villages. We have 1500 Arab villages liberated and people in them live in peace now. If it was true, why are these 1500 villages still standing? Apart from that, there are Arabs who were brought to Rojava by the Baathist regime and settled throughout the Kurds’ lands. These Arabs too in Jazira are leading respected lives. If we had an intention of driving Arabs away, we would have driven those Arabs first. I think whoever is discontent with ISIS defeats has some share in this report because we have success against ISIS. And all the world sees our effectiveness and success over this terrorist group. We have proved in practice, in liberating Rojava regions too.

One more point, 30% of YPG made up of Arabs. If allegation in the report were true did these Arabs with us committed those atrocities too? If such things were true, would they fight alongside us in Jazira and Kobane? We believe such reports want to harm our image. In our opinion, Syrian National Coalition and forces behind it has a lot to do with this. Because, at the start, for example, they couldn’t digest our liberation of Tal Abyad. So they have been spreading such rumors on purpose. But we will continue our struggle for democracy in Syria in the face of all accusations, off all such things they want to square us with. And we are open to accountability. We are respectful to human rights. Any independent body can come and investigate. We are liberating 1500 Arab villages, this report should have thanked us. We have liberated so many people. We liberated Shengal [Sinjar] and many Yezidi women. There are other interests in this report. Our units are here, anyone can come and investigate and talk to Arabs and Turkomens as well.

Note the significant openness, “we are officially calling on independent bodies to come and see what is going on the ground.

This is also important, from here.

The @amnesty report does not prove that the #YPG committed forced displacements”
@amnesty have issued a VIDEO report about #YPG ‘forced displacements’ in the Kurd self governing territories recovered from #ISIS.

Here is the report:

It’s clear from the report that some local Arab and Turkman families were forced out of their homes and that many homes were demolished, and one whole village, was razed.

Apart from threats of property destruction – no actual personal violence was said by the villagers to have been engaged in by the Kurd fighters – or even threatened!

Clearly displacements occurred, but the report does not prove that they were done by the #YPG as part of official policy, which leaves several options open.

One – the displacements could have been by a local renegade Commander who had some personal agenda – perhaps a bribe from a local landowner, family, or clan, of whatever ethnicity, who wanted to steal the villager’s land.

In war these things, and much worse, can happen.

There is verbal, but no video or photographic evidence, of official YPG soldiers forcing the displacements.

In North #Syria, many serious criminal acts and rackets were perpetrated on local civilians by armed groups posing as #FSA, or groups, who were #FSA in name and uniform only, but rarely ever fought and often looted and stole.

Two – given that forced civilian displacement is not official #YPG policy or practice – any more than it is or was for the #FSA – another more likely possibility is that this displacement occurred from orders of an over zealous YPG Commander, who feared ongoing #ISIS Commando raids, and knowing this town had some #ISIS supporters as confirmed in the video report by the villagers, adopted an altogether over zealous ‘clearance’ policy of his own.

I think this is the most likely explanation.

Forced displacements can occur in this war if the village is used as base for #ISIS covert Ops which was not unusual as #ISIS mounted many murderous raids deep into #YPG held #Rojava territory and even reached#Kobane city itself and perpetrated monstrous war crimes on town civilians.

We need to keep some perspective here.

In the very dirty primitive jungle that is the #Syria civil war, no other ethnic group in #Syria has been as fair and as humane as the Kurd’s.

They are the boldest and bravest of warriors but are honorable soldiers and do not execute prisoners.

Always their first concern in battle has been for civilians and for preserving life.

In this situation, war crimes can only be imputed against the #YPG if the forced civilian displacements were carried out as a matter of official YPG policy or practice.There is zero evidence of this in the amnesty report.

The fault of the amnesty report [by the woman who appears to have reached the conclusions in the report] it that it does not make this clear – sure she uncovered some renegade or overzealous acts but she does not, nor could she, prove these acts to be part of official YPG policy and practice.

Kurd’s do not have a monopoly on virtue however, and some rare Kurd Commanders may have personally contravened official YPG policy and practice and individually acted immorally or inhumanely or over zealously, and the later I think, is the most likely explanation in this case.

One thing is crystal clear.

The @amnesty report does not prove that the #YPG committed or condoned forced displacement war crimes.

Nor does any evidential or legal issue arise of the Kurd’s engaging in ‘ethnic cleansing’, as was made emphatically clear, in the Report of the #Syria Observatory of Human Rights in June:http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/interview-with-rami-abdulrahman-of-sohr/1002-interview-with-rami-abdulrahman-of-sohr.html

If all the combatant groups, in the living hell on earth that is the #Syria civil war, had acted as honorably and as humanely as soldiers, as the Kurds have – the Syria civilian death toll would be less – by several hundred thousand men, women, and children.


And this:

An open letter to Salil Shetty – Secretary General of Amnesty International

Dear Salil,

I am writing in protest at the publication of a report from your organisation called ‘We had nowhere else to go – Forced displacement and demolitions in Northern Syria’.

As a British humanitarian who has spent 5 and half months with the YPG in Rojava, I’m utterly bemused by your 32 page report published Oct 2015.

I feel compelled to write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of foreign volunteers that have joined the YPG and the YPJ. Who are not only fighting on the frontline but are working hard alongside the Kurds in the hospitals and in the refugee camps.

In the time that I was in the country I had full access to the entire region, including the frontline. In fact, I would have been present at many of the events and locations mentioned in your report. I have never seen any evidence of deliberate property damage or forced evictions.

I just wanted to quickly deal with the two main points of your report:

• There were occasions when civilian were asked to leave an area where there was fighting. This was done with their safety in mind and once an area is secure civilians are allowed back. I saw many villages of all ethnicities deserted because of fighting and then populated again once the fighting had moved on. When I was in Til Tamir (an area mentioned in your report) my commander would often share our supplies with locals from the nearby Arab villages.
• When we entered a village sometimes we had to use people’s properties. This involved fortifying them with sandbags and earth (using diggers). This was as a necessity of war and because of the risk of an ISIS attack. There was never a deliberate policy to damage property.
The report relies on unreliable witness testimony. If I’m being generous then perhaps civilians – confused and scared- being asked to leave an area and seeing diggers fortifying their homes could be mistaken about what’s happening around them. At worse these reports are a deliberate attempt to discredit the YPG/YPJ.

It’s upsetting for me to read this report because I know that the YPG has an excellent relationship with the Arab communities in Rojava. In many of the places mentioned in the report Arab YPG members would have been in the units liberating the areas. Before every major operation we are briefed about the rules of engagement – we were under no illusion that wrongdoing (including the accusations in the report) could lead to imprisonment. When you consider what the YPG is up against, then the high standards that it expects from its fighters are even more remarkable. We must be the only group operating in Syria that abides by the Geneva Convention!

Apart from the complete untruths, this report has another reason to be unwelcome for those that are fighting for democracy and equality in Rojava. The report has been jumped on by Turkish nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists to provoke sectarian violence and destroy the trust that YPG has fought so hard to build.

Instead of relying on third party testimonies. Why don’t you come to Rojava to meet some of the people fighting on the frontline? The PYD has publically called for support from the international community to help it develop its growing democracy. The Kurds have been open and transparent with all international organisations and have been praised for their efforts in this regard.

I want you to look again at the report and retract it from circulation. As part of your investigation do go to Rojava and see for yourself the excellent work that people are doing for the region. Like me you will come away inspired.

Kind Regards

Macer Gifford.

A petition of protest: here.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm