Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Syria

SWP, Isis and the Kurdish Struggle: Two Weights, Two Measures.

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Demonstrators outside Holloway prison condemn charges against Ozcelik. Photo: ANF.

Demonstrators outside Holloway prison condemn charges against Shilan Ozcelik: No Backing from SWP.

Right whip up Islamophobia over Isis  reports the latest Socialist Worker (17th March).

by Annette Mackin

Detainee rights campaign group Cage and its director Moazzam Begg have been the target of more Islamophobic smears.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed it had evidence that Moazzam visited the camp where Londoner Mohammed Emwazi allegedly trained as an Isis fighter.

It quotes unnamed “official sources” speculating over the identities of men wearing balaclavas in a photo from around 2012.

The paper had already attacked Cage and Moazzam for saying that it was Western imperialism and state terror that helped make Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, into an Isis fighter.

Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor for the students from east London who have allegedly travelled to Syria to join Isis, has also come under attack.

Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph newspaper said that he is an “extremist” with links to “terror apologists” Cage. This was after the solicitor criticised police handling of the case.

The sisters of the students also now face “radicalisation” tests as the tide of Islamophobia grows higher around such cases.

This week three teenagers from Britain were arrested in Turkey on “suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks”. They were bailed pending further inquiries.

Is the SWP complaining that those who go to support Isis, a murderous reactionary group, are arrested?

That nobody should do anything to stop people – enthused at the idea of participating in their ethnic cleansing, and genocides – joining them?

This contrasts with the complete absence of any Socialist Worker coverage of the plight of Shilan Ozcelik (from the Kurdish news site Rudaw).

LONDON – Demonstrators converged outside London’s Holloway prison in support of Shilan Ozcelik, a British girl of Kurdish descent who is believed to be the first UK citizen to be arrested for trying to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Saturday’s demonstration followed a statement signed by various Kurdish organizations, among them the Roj Women’s Association, the Kurdish Youth Assembly and the Kurdish People’s Assembly.

”The Kurdish community and supporters of the Kurdish struggle are incensed at the arrest and imprisonment of 18 year old Shilan (Silhan) Ozcelik, who is accused of wanting to join the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS),” the statement said.

”The UK government has been criminalising the Kurds for at least 13 years, yet not one Kurdish individual has been charged and convicted of being a PKK member, despite many raids, arrests and intimidations,” it added.

”The case of Shilan Ozcelik is the most recent chapter of this story and the Kurdish community are now concerned that the UK government will once again criminalise the community who have been the biggest supporters of the international fight against ISIS terror and fascism,” Friday’s statement declared.

The PKK, which is in peace negotiations with the Turkish government after a three-decade guerrilla war for greater rights for the country’s large Kurdish population, remains banned in Turkey and is regarded as a terrorist group by the European Union and United States.

However, calls have been growing for months for a reappraisal of the group, since its YPG affiliate in Syria has had a frontline role in fighting ISIS and has been backed with limited arms supplies and airstrikes by the US-led coalition.

Firat News, which is close to the PKK, has called the charge against Ozcelik a “scandalous decision.”

Ozcelik has been charged with a terrorist offence under the UK’s 2006 Terrorism Act.

The teenager from London was arrested earlier this year at Stansted airport. Her supporters say she travelled to Brussels in an attempt to try to join the YPG or its women’s YPJ wing. She was arrested on January 16 as she returned from Brussels.

Neither the YPJ or YPG are themselves banned in the UK.

Campaigners have condemned the charge against Ozcelik and launched a petition, writing to British Prime Minster David Cameron and Home Office Minister Theresa May to call for the immediate release of Ozcelik.

Several foreign fighters have traveled to Syria and neighboring Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces battling ISIS.

Last week, Ivana Hoffman, a native of South Africa with German citizenship, was killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria in the war against ISIS, according to agency reports.

Before that, a British man, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, and an Australian Ase Johnson, were reported killed while battling ISIS.

Foreign fighters also have joined the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, which remains a staunch US and Western ally in the war against ISIS.

All the SWP has to say about ISIS (Ignoring completely the heroic struggle of those fighting them, above all the Kurds), is this: Isis – the real problem is Western imperialism.

There is no need to read any more.

Free Silhan Ozcelik! Stand with Kurdistan Fight for Freedom!

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Do Everything to Help this Comrade.

12th March 2015. Kurdish Question.

This afternoon I had a call from a PA journalist informing me of the imprisonment of a young Kurdish woman and asking me if this was the first case of a person being charged for wanting to go to Syria to fight ISIS.

I was confused, “Sorry, can you repeat that again, what has happened?” He then again, told me that a young Kurdish woman has been jailed in the UK for wanting to go to Syria to fight ISIS.

Sill I was confused and it took me minutes to come to the realisation of what seems to be unfolding.

I was literally speechless and fumbled for my words and am still in shock. It is seemingly becoming more clear that the UK Govt are attempting to criminalise anyone who wants to fight ISIS while doing nothing to support the Kurds fight against ISIS in Syria.

When you look more closely at the UK government’s track record on the fight against ISIS in Syria, it is shockingly shameful.

The UK Defence Committee recently produced a report on the ‘Fight Against ISIS in Syria and Iraq’, for example with not one mention of the YPG’s heroic battle against ISIS for the last three years culminating in the first defeat inflicted upon ISIS’s seemingly unstoppable advance over the Middle East. There was no mention despite top UK barrister Margaret Owen submitting a detailed report on the YPG/YPJ heroic resistance against ISIS.

Then there was the first UK international volunteer to die in battle against ISIS, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, the UK Govt’s postiion on the repatriation of his body has been equally shameful, in my view.

And now this: The first jailing of a young Kurdish woman who wanted to help her people being massacred and beheaded by ISIS during the appalling mauradings of ISIS into Ezidi villages and attacks on Kobane.

I’m frankly still in shock. A report of the details of her jailing yesterday are to be found below, she is due to appear in the Old Bailey, no less on the 1st April. No joke. Kurds and people with the slightest shred of humanity and disgust at the spread of ISIS and frustration at the UK Govt lack of support for the Kurds successful fight against them should call for the immediate release of this young girl whose only crime was to act on what we all feel is needed, and stated policy of the US Government led coalition against ISIS.

Please read the report below:

An 18-year-old Kurdish woman has appeared in court charged with a terror offence after she allegedly tried to fight for a group which is engaged in a battle against Islamic State (IS).

Silhan Ozcelik, of Highbury Quadrant, Holloway, north London, was arrested at Stansted Airport after she arrived on a flight from Germany on January 16.

She is accused of travelling by Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels on October 27 and then attempting to join the guerrilla army in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – known as the PKK – which is fighting against IS in Syria.

The PKK is proscribed by UK authorities as a terrorist group.

Ozcelik faces one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for giving effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism, contrary to section 5 (1) (a) of the Terrorism Act 2006.

Wearing a black and cream coat, blue shirt and black trousers, she spoke only to confirm her name, age and address during the short hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

District Judge John Zani remanded her in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on April 1.

As she was led away from the dock she smiled and appeared to mouth “It’s okay” to her brother, who followed proceedings from the public gallery. 

 SIGN EMERGENCY PETITION TO THE UK HOME SECRETARY THERESA MAY TO FREE SHILAN OZCELIK IMMEDIATELY!

Silhan Ozcelik: ‘Disgusting’ trial for young woman who tried to fight against Isis. (Independent).

A teenager has appeared in court after allegedly trying to join Kurdish fighters battling Isis in Syria, in the first prosecution of its kind in Britain.

Campaigners condemned the prosecution of Silhan Ozcelik, 18, from London, as “disgraceful and disgusting”, however. Ms Ozcelik’s appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court followed her arrested at Stansted Airport in January after returning to Britain on a flight from Germany.

The teenager is accused of travelling to Brussels in October last year in a bid to join the guerrilla army in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – known as the PKK. The organisation is on the Government’s list of banned terror groups.

Ms Ozcelik is charged with: “Engaging in conduct in preparation for giving effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism contrary to section 5 (1) (a) of the Terrorism Act 2006.”

EMERGENCY PICKET CALLED BY KURDISH COMMUNITY GROUPS IN LONDON. 6pm TONIGHT outside Holloway Women’s Prison.

BBC: North Londoner Silhan Ozcelik remanded over terror plan

 

An 18-year-old woman has appeared in court accused under terrorism law, after she allegedly tried to join Kurdish militants in the Middle East.

Silhan Ozcelik was arrested at Stansted Airport on 16 January, when she arrived on a flight from Germany and was released on police bail the next day.

Ms Ozcelik, from north London, was remanded in custody after appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

She is due to appear at the Old Bailey on 1 April.

Ms Ozcelik, of Highbury Quadrant, Holloway, has been charged with one count of engaging in conduct in preparation to commit acts of terrorism.

She is accused of travelling by Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels on 27 October and then attempting to join the guerrilla army in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK.

The party, which is proscribed as a terrorist group by UK authorities, is fighting against Islamic State in Syria.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm

“Jihadism” is it a form of fascism? Debate on French Left.

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“These remarks follow the text of Laurent Lévy on this site entitled “Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism”. This is not an answer but a few notes which aim to stimulate debate.

1 The term “jihadism” is probably the most suitable, it is in any case much better that “Islamo-fascist”, which does not in itself  exclude discussion on these two terms.

2 Has Jihadism nothing to do with Islam? Lawrence said we do not have to take the self-definitions of those principally involved. Some caution is indeed required. Not so long ago there were countries that defined themselves  as People’s Democracies – a term which was very questionable  in the least. Which leave us with the question – one that I do not find it so easy to solve – who is the judge in these matters?

The attacks in Paris were condemned by currents unlikely to be held to represent a “moderate Islam” – the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which called the murderers the worst enemies of the Prophet. It is not up to non-Muslims to contradict them, says Lawrence. The end of the sentence seems common sense: non-Muslims are not the best position to judge what is  Islam or what is not. The beginning of the same sentence is rather more questionable. We are not obliged, or to take as given, what Hamas or Hezbollah say,  on the grounds that they are not representatives of “moderate Islam.” After all, there are within Sunni Islam many currents that deny that the  Alevis or the Shias even  belong to Islam. Why should we believe them? On the grounds that we are not Muslims (which is true) and that they are not moderate (also true)? In a climate of hysteria and a climate of heightened national security we clearly have an interest in avoiding putting all Muslims in the same category. But, to return to the “people’s democracies”, could it be said so easily that they  had nothing to do with the communist movement?

3- On the question of fascism, I am to be relatively cautious, without being satisfied with the approach developed by Lawrence. For words to make sense we should not use them indiscriminately.  A military dictatorship, for example, does not need to be a fascist to be abominable and to be fought (and calling the French riot police, the  CRS the SS is probably not the acme of political analysis). We must therefore be wary of using ready-made categories that can easily become stale and fixed.

There is no doubt that the emergence of fascism in the interwar period in Europe was a way to break the working class. That class, influenced by the creation and the breath of the October Revolution had become a legitimate player in the conquest of political power. But if we limited fascism to this, the issue would not be restricted to  a debate for historians about the 1920s and the 1930s. Today the impact of  October (or the Chinese Revolution in Asia) is minimal, and instead of a rising working class, the labour movement, which we witness, is  in a poor state. Can we say that the issue of fascism no longer exists. The counter-revolutionary AND totalitarian dimensions of the  “jihadist” groups  is such that we cannot dismiss the term ‘fascism’ so easily. When Pierre Rousset speaks of “religious fascism” because these organisations occupy the same niches as fascism, there is no lack of argument. An article by Farooq Tariq, leader of the LPP (Pakistan) states: “The fanatical religious groups are being constituted as forms of fascism. ” ( ttp://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article33933 ).

These views can of course be criticised I do not think these can be dismissed out of hand.

In short this is an ongoing debate.”

A reply to  Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism” Laurent Lévy. 

Lévy  notes that the ‘syntagma’ (syntactic arrangement) Islamic-fascism has been used by the nominally ‘socialist’ Prime Minister, Manuel Valls (that is, be wary of the words!!!).

He asserts that is not up to the non-Muslims to decide on what is Islamic or not, and that most consider that the Islamic state is not Islamic.  Lévy  argues that in terms of class analysis one cannot talk of Islamic-Fascism. “..sectarian, violent and totalitarian movements claiming Islam does not fall within this analysis ” That they cannot be compared with movements helped by the “bourgeoisie to break the labour movement and to take over certain sectors of the capital to help solve its internal contradictions.” in the 1920s and 1930s.

But that, Jihadism, is the word that designates, “these currents that claim Islam in the attempt to impose by mass violence a totalitarian society.”

Comment.

It is interesting that the relation between Islamist ‘counter-revolution’ and classical European fascism is raised.

What would seem a better way to approach this is to look at one form of actually existing Islamism: the Islamic State, Daesh (1). Not just its international actions, but the structure of the state they have created in Syria and Iraq: a  racist, repressive, genocidal regime, based on slavery and the oppression of women, with a highly developed system of ‘law’ (the Sharia, as they see it).

Whether we call this Jihadism or fascism it is clear that it is a ‘totalitarian’ political entity.

A murderous one to boot.

(1) ‘Actually existing’ – an expression I take from the pro-Soviet left in the 1970s which talked of ‘actually existing socialism’.

As Unite Against Fascism Meets UN Makes War Crime Charges against Syrian Regime and *all* Islamist forces.

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CCTV of the three girls

London Girls Go to Join War Criminals.

“Three east London schoolgirls have flown to Turkey and there are fears they may cross the Syrian border and join the Islamic State terrorist group.”

BBC.

“In a report published on Friday, the Commission stressed that both the Syrian regime and the main Islamist militant groups active in Syria – Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front – had committed atrocities, as well as other smaller factions.

The report warned that despite the Commission’s “long-standing position” not to name suspects, maintaining that policy would “reinforce the impunity” of alleged war criminals.

Speaking on Friday, investigators said that they had increasingly been sharing information with countries to enable them to prosecute their own citizens for crimes committed in Syria.

They revealed that four of the lists of names of alleged war criminals had been passed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a fifth would be handed over in March.

The five lists, compiled since the Commission began investigating in 2011, are understood to contain approximately 30 to 40 names each.”

BBC

The Guardian reports today,

A study released last month by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that women on the receiving end of that social media onslaught were captivated by the violence they saw. Examining the social media accounts of six European women who ultimately travelled to Syria and Iraq, they discovered that one described the brutal murder of the American aid worker Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian hostages as “gut-wrenchingly awesome”.

Another woman, who watched a different beheading video, wrote: “I was happy to see the beheading of that kaffir [non-believer], I just rewinded to the cutting part,” and called for “more beheadings please!”, according to the study.

“Umm Hussain”, alternately named in reports as mother-of-two Sally Jones from Kent, tweeted: “Know that we have armies in Iraq and an army in Sham [Syria] of angry lions whose drink is blood and play is carnage.”

The study concluded: “There is no doubt … that the women who migrate to the territory controlled by Isis revel in the gore and brutality of the organisation. They appear desensitised to the horrific nature of the violent acts being committed.”

Charlie Winter, of the Quilliam Foundation, said that although Isis propaganda sometimes suggested that women would have an active, and even armed role, the reality was that they were heavily controlled once they arrived.

Winter recently helped translate a long Isis communique that set out in great detail the designated role of women under the group’s version of sharia law. Circulated late last month and titled Women in the Islamic State: Manifesto and Case Study, the document railed against westernised notions of female liberation, damning fashion shops and beauty salons as the work of the devil.

“It is always preferable for a woman to remain hidden and veiled, to maintain society from behind this veil,” it said. It added that girls could marry at the age of nine, and “pure girls” should ideally settle with a husband by 17 and should not be “corrupted” by careers. It was also clear that women would not take up arms unless the survival of Isis depended on it.

Meanwhile ‘Unite Against Fascism’  is holding its conference.

You can follow it at  Live Blog: Unite against racism and fascism – UAF national conference 2015

It will be interesting to see if anybody there cares to comment on the BBC and Guardian reports.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

After Kobane, Where Now for the Kurdish Liberation Movement?

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  Three YPG fighters in Kobane shortly after they liberated the city from ISIS militants in January. Photo: AFP

Three YPG fighters in Kobane shortly after they liberated the city from ISIS militants in January. Photo: AFP

Kurdish forces advance miles outside Kobane, retake 100 villages

 By Omar Kalo (Rudaw)

KOBANE—Kurdish forces continue to push Islamic State (ISIS) militants out of the Kobane area and have retaken more than 100 villages from the extremist group in the past two weeks.

Fighters of the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) have now reached the village of Karamox, 20 kilometers east of Kobane.

In their advance against ISIS, the YPG fighters are supported by Peshmerga artillery and coalition airstrikes.

Since they drove out ISIS militants from the city last month after 133 days of fighting, the Kurdish forces have advanced against the Islamist group in all directions and reclaimed many of the villages that fell to the group in September.

Last week, the YPG fighters took back the village of Kofi, 25 kilometers south of Kobane as well as the village of Rovi on the main road between Kobane and Aleppo.

On the western front, the Kurdish forces are now positioned 20 kilometers away at Karako village.

YPG commanders inside the city told Rudaw that 15 ISIS militants fled the Kurdish advance west of Kobane on Friday and crossed the border into Turkey.

Autonomy in Kurdistan  Matt Petersen & Joen Vedel

From the Kurdish Question.

After driving ISIS from Kobane, the Kurdish liberation movement considers their successes and looks forward toward the continuing struggle for autonomy.

Last week, we met with Hilmi Aydoğdu, Presidency Council member of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK)* at DTK offices in Amed, Kurdistan.

This was just days after the YPG (People’s Defense Units) won a months long battle with ISIS, liberating the city of Kobane. Since our interview, the YPG and other Kurdish fighters have continued to retake surrounding villages in the Kobane Canton, which is one of three autonomous communes in Rojava, the majority Kurdish area of northern Syria.

Earlier this fall, as images of the women warriors of the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) circulated widely in Western news and social media, radical movements worldwide began to take a renewed interest in the Kurdish freedom movement. This led many to closely study the DTK’s July 2011 declaration of “democratic autonomy” within Turkey. We visited Amed (Diyarbakir), in southeastern Anatolia, which is the political capital of the Kurdish movement, and the headquarters of many of its political organizations, to meet with participants in the movement and learn more about the current Kurdish struggle.

We asked Hilmi what the recent liberation of Kobane meant for the Kurdish movement; about the implementation of democratic autonomy and confederalism within both Rojava and Turkey; and the role of the Kurdish movement as a secular force in the Middle East.

• • •

The main purpose of the Kurdish struggle is the freedom of Kurdish people in all of Kurdistan. What we understand by freedom includes self-rule and independence in terms of using our own economic and natural resources. This is what we call democratic autonomy.

In the Middle East there are many different ethnic communities, many religions and belief systems. It is possible that these people can live together and share their riches with each other, by abolishing the oppression and exploitation in the Middle East. What we call confederalism is the system that includes all these communities and peoples. And to achieve this, we first have to struggle for the democratic autonomy of Kurdistan, and then to spread it to the rest of the region.

This democratic autonomy entails a restructuring of society. We have a struggle that took 40 years, and within this process all the social values and norms in Kurdistan have been drastically transformed. The clearest sign of this social transformation is the women’s struggle. In Kurdistan women were experiencing a double slavery; they were slaves of the system and the slaves of men as well. Our struggle has contributed to the participation of women in all of social life. What we see in Kobane represents this transformation. We believe that a free society is not possible without the freedom and participation of women, demonstrated by the presence of women in every field of life and work.

Our 40 years of struggle revitalized an almost annihilated people. In this 40 year struggle the labor and creative power of women has played a key role. In Kobane, women were fighting shoulder to shoulder with men. The success of Kobane comes from this. The true power behind this success is the actualization of the highest level of creativity, power, and spirit of women. This is the only way for the liberation of our people. The role of women was decisive in Kobane.

The model of democratic autonomy has been realized in Rojava. The building of this model is experienced now in three cantons. Our people, together with other communities living in Rojava, have gained an initiative over their lives within the form of equal representation. Now these people together try to share social prosperity in an equal manner.

For the question of how Syria is going to be liberated, the replacement of Assad with another dictator is not a solution. Rojava proposes a solution to exploitative capitalist modernity in the Middle East. This proposition has disturbed both the reactionaries and imperial powers. They were afraid that Rojava could be an exemplary model, and so they organized ISIS and unleashed them to attack Rojava.

The cantons of Rojava are totally democratic. Whole religious sections are able to represent themselves thanks to the model of democratic autonomy in Rojava, and its spirit of social solidarity. The factor that expelled ISIS is this model of governance, because this model actualizes the dynamics, energy, and potential in people. When we totally expel ISIS, Rojava will achieve further political, economic, social and cultural improvements.

What we express as democratic autonomy/confederalism is a model against capitalist modernity. The primary dynamic of this model is the Kurdish freedom movement. The fascist military coup in 1980 totally crushed the revolutionary opposition in Turkey and it created an intimidated society. The Kurdish movement from the very beginning ceaselessly resisted this fascism. They organized vast resistance in the prisons and began armed struggle on August 15th, 1984. The ceaseless resistance of this movement relied on its power of organizing a philosophy of life, and acted solely by relying on its own power. This movement exposed a vital social power.

The paradigm of the Kurdish movement includes the transformation of not only the Kurds, but also all the oppressed sectors in Turkish society. Therefore the gains of the Kurdish movement have direct impact on the other social sectors in Turkey. However, the role that the Kurds play on the transformation of other oppressed sectors of Turkey could have been larger. The 1980 military coup waged a psychological war, especially through the media, which created a perception in the society that those in the Kurdish freedom movement were monsters. This is an ongoing process. Our struggle has damaged this perception to some extent, but it is still present in Turkish society. The damage of the military coup on the Turkish Left also restrains the impact of the Kurdish freedom movement on Turkish society. If the Turkish Left was not fragmented and dispersed as they are now, the opportunities that the Kurdish movement creates could have been better realized in Turkish society. This is an important disadvantage for the Kurdish struggle.

The Kurdish movement is the only movement that aims at creating a democratic social life in the Middle East. Moreover, the Kurdish movement is the only movement that sees the togetherness of different values of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and other belief systems as a strength and opportunity for developing a social system. There is no other movement in the Middle East that pursues such a democratic social model. I wish there was. If so, they could fight together in solidarity.

The Kurdish movement, especially following the path of leadership, changed the color of the whole Middle East. The reforms that took place in Europe in 14th and 15th centuries have been rapidly experienced in Kurdish society in the last 40 years, such as liberation in culture, art, gender relations, a new democratic perspective, organization of all sections of society on the basis of politics, civil society, and gender. We saw the invincibility of an organized society in Rojava and in Kobane particular. The Kurdish freedom movement is an alternative for both Turkey and the Middle East because it has organized itself in all fields–military, cultural, and beliefs–as an alternative system that is adaptive to contemporary needs.

* Hilmi Aydoğdu was formerly chair of the DTP (Democratic Society Party), a Kurdish political party that was banned by the Turkish government in 2009. The DTP was succeeded by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), which last year merged with the HDP (People’s Democratic Party). The HDP plans to run in the June 2015 general elections as a broad alliance party, including both the Kurdish movement and the Turkish Left opposition, where it hopes to reach the 10% threshold to join Turkey’s Grand National Assembly

* The DTK (Democratic Society Congress) is an umbrella organization for the Kurdish movement founded in 2005, as a confederation of civil society organizations, political parties, and individual members of diverse ethnic, political, and religious groups.

Originally published in The New Inquiry (http://thenewinquiry.com/features/autonomy-in-kurdistan/)

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

Young Men Who Fought in Syria with Kurds Against ISIS Return.

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Our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers. 

Exclusive: Death Pact Of IS-Fighting Britons

From Sky News.

Two Britons who went to Syria to fight IS have told of their battles on the front line – and how they vowed to kill each other rather than get captured.

Jamie Read and James Hughes told how they dodged bullets during chaotic patrols with Kurdish forces after recording a “goodbye” video for their families in case they died.

They described spending hours lying in the “pitch black” in no-man’s land, in conditions they said were reminiscent of World War One.

On one occasion, it was so cold that a young Kurdish comrade collapsed with hypothermia – “body-popping” on the ground next to them.

In an exclusive Sky News interview after their return to the UK, the pair also revealed how panic alarms have been installed in their homes, amid fears they could be targets for IS supporters.

They strongly denied being mercenaries, telling how they had sold possessions to fund their flights and had returned to the UK to “mounting debts and bills”.

They had not been paid “a penny” for their exploits, though they had been “treated like royalty” by some of the Kurdish troops, the men said.

Provided by Sky News And the former soldiers gave a detailed account of their time in Iraq and Syria, explaining that they had travelled to fight IS militants because they had “zero tolerance for terrorism”.

Describing what had prompted them to travel, Mr Read said the beheading of British aid convoy volunteer Alan Henning had been the final straw.

“Alan Henning – aid worker, British – put him on his hands and knees and cut his head off, you know what I mean,” Mr Read said.

“Can you really find justification in sitting back here and doing nothing?”

Mr Read, 24, and Mr Hughes, 26, revealed that organising the trip had been quite simple with a “phone call here or there” and some communication over Skype.

They were screened by simply having their Facebook posts checked and ensuring that social media friends were not IS supporters, Mr Read said.

The pair said that after arriving in Irbil, northern Iraq, they were transported via the Kurdish HQ to the front line in Syria.

During the journey the Britons said they had no idea whether they had landed in a trap.

“I’m not going to lie, this was one of the most frightening processes you can go through, you know, the paranoia: through the roof,” Mr Read said.

“You get picked up by a guy who doesn’t speak English, so straight away there’s a language barrier.

“When we got to the safe house… it’s sort of dodgy-looking, so you think ‘I don’t really like this’. At one point, you think ‘is this the point I’m going to get handed over?'”

After getting a uniform and weapons, Mr Hughes said they eventually “rocked up” on the frontline to an old schoolhouse covered in mud.

They arrived to cheers from their Kurdish comrades, were plied with chai (tea) and cigarettes, and met three other Westerners who had joined the fight.

During their three weeks on the front line, their duties included terrifying night patrols where it was the “blackest black… like being in a cave with no lights”.

“You are left staring into the pitch black, hoping no one sees you first,” Mr Read said.

The Britons said they had hatched a plan to shoot each dead rather than being caught and paraded on television as hostages.

“We wouldn’t get captured, bottom line, we couldn’t get captured, we’re not getting our heads paraded on YouTube, we made that vow before we went out.

“Everybody out there is carrying a round for themselves. Nobody wants to be captured by IS. Nobody wants to end up on YouTube getting their head cut off.

“So for us, as harsh as it sounds, it’s probably the better way to go. It’s the old saying, ‘you keep a round for each other’.”

Describing their final day, Mr Read told how the pair had been out on patrol towards a nearby village where IS militants had been holed up.

“All of a sudden we just got opened up on. Quite a lot of small arms (…) quite a lot of AKs and they were quite close.

“There were rounds coming in and they were really close – they were pinging and they were bouncing, whizzing over your head – obviously it’s a very distinctive noise.

“There was a lot of shouting, a lot of screaming, a lot of F-words being dropped.”

The pair said they were forced to flee through a village which was “littered with IEDs (improvised explosive devices)” before returning to base.

“We eventually made it out but this was a real eye-opener – this is how these people were going to act – there’s something more that needs to be done there.”

They returned to Britain last week and were questioned by anti-terrorism officers for six hours at Heathrow airport before being released.

Asked whether they would return to Syria, Mr Read said: “I’d like to think we would have the opportunity to go back.”

But he added: “I’m unsure on the political stance – I’m not sure whether our Government would appreciate us going back.”

The Independent reports,

After their three-week stint on the front line, they were held for questioning at Heathrow Airport for six hours and they claim to have faced mountains of debt on their return. Neither was arrested or charged for terrorism, unlike every other British national who left the country to fight in the Syrian civil war.

Read and Hughes also said they had “zero tolerance for terrorism” and cited that and the murder of British aid volunteer Alan Henning as their justification for choosing to fight against the militant group.

Their homes have been fitted with panic alarms in fear of Isis supporters who could be planning to seek retribution and the pair have also been monitored in a counter-terrorism watch.

Hughes, 26, from Worcestershire and served three tours of Afghanistan with the British Army, added during the interview with Sky News that patrols would be put out just in case their homes are attacked.

The Lions of Rojava page on Facebook, for the YPG which is also known as the People’s Defence Unit, has claimed that soldiers from countries such as the US, Germany, Netherlands and Estonia have also joined the Kurdish force.

Around 200 soldiers will be deployed by the British Army in the New Year to train Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers for six months, in plans announced last week.

We await complaints from the usual sources that that these brave young men were not charged with terrorism, that this shows UK ‘double standards’,  – that is from the same people who not too long ago were comparing  those fighting for the Daesh genociders with the volunteers defending the Spanish Republic in the 1930s.

Meanwhile comrade Janet Biehl has visited the Kurdish stronghold of Rojava

My Impressions of Rojava.

From December 1 to 9, I had the privilege of visiting Rojava as part of a delegation of academics from Austria, Germany, Norway, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. We assembled in Erbil, Iraq, on November 29 and spent the next day learning about the petrostate known as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), with its oil politics, patronage politics, feuding parties (KDP and PUK), and apparent aspirations to emulate Dubai. We soon had enough and on Monday morning were relieved to drive to the Tigris, where crossed the border into Syria and entered Rojava, the majority-Kurdish autonomous region of northern Syria.

……………..

Anyone with a bit of faith in humanity should wish the Rojavans well with their revolution and do what they can to help it succeed. They should demand that their governments stop allowing Turkey to define a rejectionist international policy toward the Kurds and toward Democratic Autonomy. They should demand an end to the embargo against Rojava.

The members of the delegation in which I participated (even though I am not an academic) did their work well. Sympathetic to the revolution, they nonetheless asked challenging questions, about Rojava’s economic outlook, about the handling ethnicity and nationalism, and more.  The Rojavans we met, accustomed to grappling with hard questions, responded thoughtfully and even welcomed critique.

Full article via above link.

Returning Jihadists should be employed as “spokesman for their communities”.

with 7 comments

Our Beloved Comrades the Jihadists are out to Murder. 

“Rather than banning fighters from coming home, governments should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities.”

Hat-tip DM.

No this does not from the Guardian Comment is Free or from those see some elements of ‘progressive’ politics in the battle for the ‘Caliphate’.

It’s by “Josh Cohen …a former US State Department project officer. He currently works for a satellite technology company, contributes to a number of foreign policy-focused media outlets and tweets @jkc_in_dc. “

And it appears on Now.

It must rank, and it certainly ranks, as the most willfully vile suggestion that’s floating around.

Those most susceptible to recruitment into violent extremism frequently feel excluded by society.

We make a sharp distinction between attitudes and actions. All attitudes must be dissected and debated. This is the lifeblood of a democracy.”

One obvious question, then, is where the West’s Syrian jihadists — and would-be jihadists — land if prevented from returning home. Stateless and now rejected by their home countries, many will likely wind up in tertiary countries such as Yemen or Libya, where they are much more likely to come into contact with groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or Ansar al-Shariah, and in turn potentially become part of a core of angry, “professional” jihadists dedicated to bringing destruction to Europe and the West.

Another important fact to consider is that many Westerners who have joined ISIS in Syria have become disillusioned with the organization upon discovering its brutality towards its fellow Muslims — not to mention the fact that jihad is not quite so glamorous when you are pulling washing duty and your iPod doesn’t work. One example of this phenomenon is the 30 British citizens with ISIS who have expressed a desire to return home but are stuck in limbo due to fears of long prison sentences when they arrive back in the UK. Rather than banning them from coming home, the UK government should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities as the perfect antidote to the tremendously effective social media recruitment campaigns with which ISIS targets young Western Muslims.

Finally, stripping returning jihadists of their citizenship may actually violate the UN Convention on Reducing Statelessness, as well as international human rights law. Referring to the UK’s revocation of citizenship, Dr. Christophe Paulussen, of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at the Hague, noted that “it becomes dangerous when measures are slowly eroding [international] law principles that we have cherished for so long and that we stand for.”

In Denmark, by contrast,

the municipality of Aarhus has implemented a unique program that focuses on inclusion rather than punishment.

And while implementing a de-radicalisation programme in the country,

…not all radicalization can be prevented, so Aarhus has also established a comprehensive reintegration and de-radicalization program for those returning from Syria. “The program’s core is that we have one entry point to help, but that help can have very different characteristics depending on the individual situation. It can be debriefing or psychological help; it may be in the form of a mentor, assistance with housing or something else. The program is rooted in the police, but includes many different disciplines,” Agerschou noted.

While some believe the Aarhus program is too soft, so far it is working. In 2013, 30 people travelled from Aarhus to Syria to participate in the conflict. As of August, however, only one person had been recorded travelling from Aarhus to Syria in 2014. Aarhus is also working with numerous returnees, most of whom are now engaged in work or education rather than the conflict in Syria. Word of Aarhus’ focus on rehabilitation and dialogue has spread in Syria, impelling many Danish Muslims — most of whom have also become disillusioned with jihad — to seek a way to return to Denmark and leave the jihadi life behind.

While there is no single anecdote for homegrown jihadism, Aarhus offers a model that Western governments would be wise to at least consider.

 In our view those fighting with the genociders of Da’esh (Isis) and Al Nusra (also guilty of persecution, torture and mass murder) and should be investigated for war crimes.

They should indeed be excluded from society.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm