Sarah Glynn: More than ever we need to show our support for Kurds and others under threat around the world

Author and campaigner Sarah Glynn says building links with movements across the world is vital in defeating dangerous ideologies

THIS last week saw three protests in Edinburgh in support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs who have been arrested by the Turkish government. 

It was only last year that we celebrated the achievement of the HDP in the Turkish elections: a new party of the secular left, supporting the rights of Kurds, women LGBT and other minority groups, which had not only surmounted the 10 per cent threshold to get representation, but had got 80 MPs into parliament. 

This was enough to prevent President Erdoğan’s AKP getting the numbers needed to change the constitution to give him more powers, or even to be able to form a government. 

Ruth McGuire MSP addresses the demonstration

But it also provoked him into taking drastic action. He called another election in the autumn and the HDP found themselves the object of attacks and intimidation. This succeeded in reducing their vote and giving Erdoğan’s AKP party a majority, but 59 HDP MPs still took their place in the new parliament.
 
July’s bungled coup attempt (which was condemned by the HDP) has been used by Erdoğan as the excuse for a wholesale clampdown on all opposition. Thousands of civil servants, academics and journalists have lost their jobs; radio and television stations and newspapers have been closed down; and anyone criticising the government risks arrest. 

Elected mayors have been replaced by government appointees; and, on the night of 3-4 November, eleven HDP MPs were rounded up and arrested, including the party’s co-chairs, as Eroğan’s Turkey took another step towards fascism. 

In the week when we saw the triumph of another rightwing populist in the US there has been much internet posting about the importance of building a left alternative, but this will only be built through action.

Even as we prepared for this demonstration, we received news that 370 NGOs had been shut down by government decree, including organisations fighting poverty and child abuse and the Kurdish Free Women’s Congress, which members of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan visited last year. 
 
On top of this the Turkish government has been carrying out a scorched earth policy in the Kurdish areas, leaving families in mourning, cities in ruins and hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
 
In the week when we saw the triumph of another rightwing populist in the US there has been much internet posting about the importance of building a left alternative, but this will only be built through action. Part of that action has to be support for those, like the HDP, fighting for real democracy.

Demonstrators gather outside the Holyrood Parliament

On Saturday over 100 people stood up in protest on the Mound, next to the Princes Street shoppers. There were people from the Kurdish community and others from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. Those who took up the megaphone included Ruth McGuire, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South. Thursday’s protest outside the parliament was joined by the Green MSP Ross Greer.
 
It was a good start, but this is a movement that needs to grow. The HDP in Turkey, and the political movements in Rojava - the Kurdish autonomous region of Syria, which is also coming under Turkish attack - not only share the democratic socialist values that so many of us claim to support, but are also setting up democratic structures that are an example we can all learn from, and they provide hope for a peaceful and progressive alternative to the barbarism that is overrunning so much of the Middle East.
 
Between the green, yellow and red of the Kurdish flags and the Royal Scottish Academy, was a stall selling official Remembrance Day merchandise. It served as a timely reminder that many of the current struggles and inequalities in the Middle East trace their origins to the lines drawn on the map by the great powers following the "war to end all wars".
 
There is a well-known Kurdish saying that Kurds have no friends but the mountains. We need to demonstrate that, unlike after the First World War, they have other friends, too.

Pictures courtesy of Sarah Glynn

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