It has been a very busy month for all of us. Since Sunday 9th when US President Trump gave the green-light for the subsequent invasion, the Kurdish freedom movement has been scrambling across the world to resist in a variety of ways.
In Cymru, England, and Scotland, the priority seems to have been to hold regular demonstrations to ensure the crisis isn't pushed under the rug. The primary goals in Europe are as follows:
(1) Enforce a No-Fly Zone in Northern Syria, so Turkey cannot bomb cities, towns, and villages, which they have done over the past two weeks, killing many civilians.
(2) End ALL sales of arms to Turkey, including all on-going maintenance and military expertise.
(3) Establish economic and political sanctions upon Turkey.
What have we been doing in Cymru? We have been trying to support our friends and comrades in the Kurdish Peoples Assembly Wales with their activities. We have helped with demonstrations in Cardiff city-centre and at the Senedd, as well as attending the large protests in London.
We have received many messages from across Cymru asking how to help. We are currently in the process of making a Resource Pack, providing materials for experienced and inexperienced activists to hold film-screenings in their area. We will advertise this on our social media when it is complete, but in the meantime feel free to contact us if you have suggestions or want a copy when it is finished. Email: email@example.com
The hunger-strikes may have ended yesterday but the struggle continues, as does the determination of the Welsh! Activists protested outside Tui in Barry, leafleting and talking to holiday-makers about why they should #BoycottTurkey. Afterwards, the group headed down to Barry Island to talk to locals and visitors there for their Bank Holiday, and made some very tidy banners!
Newport's İmam Şiş sends a message to Welsh comrades after ending his historic hunger-strike at the Kurdish Community Centre, on 26th May 2018, day 161. This follows HDP MP Leyla Güven, who ended her hunger-strike on the 200th day.
Leyla, İmam, and thousands of others have been on hunger-strike to protest the illegal isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, Kurdish political leader and founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Their heroic hunger-strikes came to an end on Sunday 26th May after Öcalan announced that the isolation had been ended.
We're all so proud of İmam and all the hunger-strikers, and everything we've achieved together. As İmam said;
"We, Kurdish people and Welsh people, showed the world, if we stand together, fight together, should to shoulder, we can achieve any success. This will be an example for all the world."
CYMRU AM BYTH, BIJI KURDISTAN!
Made to commemorate mark the historic day of Leyla Güven reaching 200 days on hunger-strike to end the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. İmam Şiş has reached 161 days. Sending all our love from Cymru to Kurdistan.
On 18 May, demonstrations were held in several cities around Wales and England calling on holidaymakers to boycott tourism in Turkey.
Kurdish Solidarity Cymru and the Kurdistan Solidarity Network say that tourism in Turkey supports the repressive military policies of the Turkish state.
Kurdish activists have repeatedly called for holiday-makers to boycott Turkey in protest at the state’s crimes against Kurdish communities. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian regime destroyed Kurdish-majority cities within Turkey’s borders in 2015, carried out massacres and displaced thousands. Turkey also has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.
In 2016, Erdoğan’s regime jailed and sacked mayors (and high-profile politicians) from the leftist, feminist and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and replaced them with state appointees. Following the most recent local elections in 2019, many HDP candidates won back their seats. But the Turkish state has already opened criminal investigations against some of them and in other areas has ruled the candidates cannot take office. In six areas, this has led to HDP mayors being replaced by mayors from Erdoğan’s party.
Support the hunger strikers
The demonstrations were called by Kurdish Solidarity Cymru in solidarity with Kurdish hunger striker Ilhan (Imam) Sis. Newport resident Sis has been on hunger strike for over 150 days.
Activists in Newport, Bristol, Reading, and Brighton picketed local Tui shops to convince holiday-makers to #BoycottTurkey. For a full write-up see this article in The Canary.
Activists assembled outside Tui travel agency in Aberystwyth today to persuade customers not to holiday in Turkey. The call to #BoycottTurkey arose in protest of the Turkish State's treatment of PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan, and to highlight the struggle of the thousands of hunger-strikers, including İmam Şiş, on day 151 of his hunger-strike in Newport.
Over the past few weeks actions have taken place in thirteen towns and cities. If your group would like to stage a #BoycottTurkey protest, you can use the resources in the Leaflet and Posters section.
NEWPORT, Wales — Imam Sis has been on hunger strike since December 17. He says he’s just one of 7,000 strikers across Europe and Turkey taking such measures on behalf of the Kurdish cause. Their first step: Force Turkey to allow friends and lawyers to visit Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned founder of the PKK.
For many Kurds, Ocalan’s 20-year imprisonment symbolizes their fight for liberation, and how they’ve been wronged by the Turkish government. But Turkey, the U.S., the EU and other Western nations see it differently and consider the PKK a terrorist organization, even after many of its members fought under a different name on the frontlines of the U.S.-led war against ISIS.
“I feel like a slave”, Sis said, “We have a very rich culture. But not recognition. I do not accept this. I will not accept this.”
Hunger strikes have been a protest tactic for over 100 years. Mahatma Gandhi famously fasted 17 times throughout his bid to liberate India from colonial rule. In Northern Ireland, Bobby Sands, of the Irish paramilitary group the IRA, died hunger striking — but his death inspired a wave of protests in solidarity with the IRA’s fight against British rule.
Sis believes his hunger strike has already been successful. Last week, Theresa May, when asked about the strike, called it “a big issue.” And on Thursday, Turkey announced that they would break Ocalan’s isolation and allow his lawyers to visit him.
But they’ve only had one meeting in seven years and 810 appeals. It’s unclear if this recent movement will be enough for Sis to end his hunger strike.
While his friends support the cause, some of them see the protest differently. “Every single day is a new challenge for him, and for us,” said Welat Raven, a friend. “Even today, in the morning when I see him, I was going to say, today you have the whole day to fight. How do you feel? But you can’t say this because you don’t want to make him lose even one calorie.”
VICE News spent the day with Sis, Britain’s longest hunger striker, to see how his strike affects him and those who care about him.
For many months Kurdish activists have criticised the BBC for its silence of the plight and cause of the hunger-strikers. Well today BBC News London released a video interview they recorded with two hunger-strikers at the Kurdish Community Centre in Haringey. Nahide Zengin and Mehmet Sait Yilmaz told the journalists about their health conditions and loss of weight. While BBC did not say too much about the demands of the hunger-strike, as one might (albeit it cynically) expect, it is a positive development for the movement to finally be noticed by large media organisations.
You can WATCH THE CLIP here.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt replied to enquires from Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts about concerns for Imam Sis and the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. It doesn't make for a great read; while he expresses concern for the well-being of the hunger-strikers, Hunt suggests that the cause of the hunger-strikers is now void. The UK government has "raised" the issue of the isolation of Öcalan with Turkey, asking them to abide by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture's suggestions, and Turkey has subsequently allowed Öcalan's lawyers to visit and Öcalan himself has, to quote Hunt, "advised against" the continuation of the hunger-strikes. It washes the Turkish state of any guilt.
Hunt's letter also symbolises the deftness of Turkey's decision to allow a visit; not only did it create a certain (if small and temporary) sense of confusion for the hunger-strikers and activists with regards to their strategy, it gives national governments outside Turkey the ability to throw up their hands, saying they did what they could, and that a certain victory has been won for the Kurds. Of course this is nonsense; neither those on hunger-strike in Turkish prisons, the hunger-strikers across Europe, nor the KCK consider one visit in eight years, a gesture, to be the conclusion of the isolation, which is why their struggle continues. But it does raise strategic challenges. Where do we go politically when the cause can now be easily discarded? Maybe it presents a block for any progress with the current UK government, but nobody expected the Conservative Party to damage the interests of the British State and capital with Turkey. Maybe parliament is closed off for now, but we still have a lot of work to do and angles to play. The fight goes on, comrades.
Thousands of people came to sunny Cardiff on Saturday 11th May to attend the first mass march for Welsh independence. Organised by All Under One Banner, the mood was festive and cheerful with lots of chanting, singing, and we met friends and comrades from all over Wales and further beyond.
Agit Chervil was invited to speak at the rally to the crowds, were he highlighted the struggle of Imam Sis and all the hunger-strikers, and stressed the importance of international solidarity in the cause of self-determination.