British Kurds took to the streets of London in a mass demonstration of over 20,000 people to march against the US withdrawal of troops from the Kurdish regions of Northern Syria and the subsequent Turkish attacks on the Kurdish controlled territories.
The US withdrawal from the region came on the 8 October following a phone conversation between US President Donald J. Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Following this withdrawal Turkish troops immediately seized upon the opportunity and launched offensive airstrikes and fired artillery at Kurdish controlled territory in Northern Syria. The US President has come under wide criticism for his decision but has defended his position stressing both the financial burden to US taxpayers and stating "Kurds didn't help us at Normandy".
The protesters' demands were:
- Britain needs to impose a no-fire zone over the conflict region.
- Britain must stop selling arms and financially supporting the Turkish state.
- Turkey must be removed from the North Atlantic Trading Organisation.
- This conflict must be brought to an end with a free and autonomous Kurdistan.
Saph Meran, a Kurdish activist, told the Tamil Guardian;
"We are here today because the American government made the decision to unilaterally withdraw from Northern Syria, leaving our only allies in the region, and the only people who have demonstrated that they are capable of Daesh and the Islamic State as well as Al Queda and all the other forces that are converging around Syria, and we have left them in the lurch. Meaning they are about to be killed. The Turkish government have no interest in combating terrorism as they say; that is a smokescreen for ethnic cleansing. Erdogan is in economic peril in his own country and is using this as a political excuse to distract away from poor local election results. As a result, a whole lot of Kurds are going to die".
Meran further explained that the UK can and must play a role in resolving this conflict:
"The UK has played a role in securing safety for Kurdish people before, they established a no-fly zone when Saddam Hussein was about to attack the North of Iraq, which is where the majority of Kurds live. It is now the Kurdish regional government and the safest autonomous region probably in that area of the Middle East. It is also a functioning democracy. We would like to see the British government play some kind of a role, failing that sanctions against the Turkish government, failing that Turkey should be expelled from NATO, effective immediately".
Meran further mourned the loss of a Kurdish political leader who was assassinated the day before, "she was dragged out of her car along with her driver and shot in the head by affiliated Turkish mercenaries ".
Soran Sharifi, another Kurdish protester, told the Tamil Guardian:
"We are fighting for freedom, for democracy, we are fighting for five years for everyone in the world.
This isn't a problem for just the Kurds it's a problem for the world
UK, British government wake up, where are you, where is your humanity"
A member of the Socialist Alliance said;
"Absolute atrocity what the Turkish state is doing in North-East Syria, the British government has particular responsibility for dividing up with the French the different Kurdish land in 1923 but the British government has issued hundreds of millions of pounds worth of export licenses for arms sales to Turkey. Those weapons are being used as I speak to bomb villages, towns and where civilians are living, to attack refugee camps and the siege of ambulances and medical staff by the Turkish armed forces. This would not be possible without arms supplied from amongst others Britain. "
During the protest, one activist told the crowd;
"We are here to say the Kurdish women are not alone, the thousands who defeated ISIS on our behalf are not alone. Kurdistan will be the graveyard of Turkish fascism. From the people of the world, we are united".
The protesters were heard chanting in unison;
"We are Rojava. Rojava is us.
We are YPG. YPG is us.
We are PKK. PKK is us.
Long Live Rojava".
As thousands of Kurds marched through London, several Eelam Tamils came to join their rally and express solidarity. One Tamil activist told Tamil Guardian;
"We saw the massacres at Mullivaikkal and can relate to the pain the Kurdish people are feeling right now. We have also marched on these very same streets calling for action."