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STUC condemns harassment of Kurdish community

STUC condemns harassment of Kurdish community

The 122nd annual Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), which ran from 15-17 April 2019 and represents 37 trade unions and more than 540,000 people across Scotland discussed a motion on the alleged police harassment of the Kurdish community in Scotland.

“Stop criminalising the Kurdish community”

The motion condemns raids conducted on the homes of members of the Kurdish community in Scotland and the Kurdish community centre in Edinburgh by Police Scotland. Periodic early-morning raids on members of the Kurdish community have been conducted by Police Scotland since 2016, where badges, flags, and scarves featuring the Kurdish colours red, green, and yellow have been confiscated and used as alleged evidence for the community’s support for the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The motion called for the congress to condemn the raids, and demand that the Scottish government end the raids and declare their public support for the Kurdish community.

Moved by Mike Arnott of Dundee Trades Council, the motion condemned the criminalisation of the Kurdish Community by Police Scotland and their raids and harassment of Kurdish families in Edinburgh. Congress called on the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice to

‘ensure that these actions cease forthwith and make a public commitment to the human rights and general wellbeing of our Kurdish community’

motion 104

As the motion explains ‘Expressions of Kurdish identity have been cited as evidence of support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus, by simplistic UK security community logic, terrorism. By this reasoning, the whole Kurdish community is at risk of being criminalised.’

The prevention of terrorism act

This Congress in past years has offered support to the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, we have supported the demand that the PKK be removed from the list of terrorist organisations and we have called for Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, a writer, and advocate for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question, to be released from his 20 years of solitary confinement in the prison on Imrali island in Turkey.


Stephen Smellie, co-chair of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

Stephen questioned whether the international part of the agenda was the right place for this motion since it was happening in this country by our police (Police Scotland). He told delegates about raids on a number of homes of Kurdish families in Edinburgh by up to seven plainclothes and uniformed police officers.

Parents getting ready for work and kids ready for school, kids still in their bed, were told to sit in their living room while the police officers searched their bedrooms. The raids were carried out under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

What did they find? Guns? Terror manuals? Stashes of cash to fund terror acts? No.

They found nothing of the sort. They did find Kurdish language magazines. Taken away. One teenage boy had a YPG flag on his wall – the YPG – the people’s Defence Units – the Syrian Kurds fighting alongside UK and US forces against ISIS – you can buy the flag at the stall outside – confiscated. They found similar YPG badges – taken away by the police in their pursuit of terrorism.

None of this material has been returned.


Stephen Smellie, co-chair of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

Stephen went on to explain that no charges have come about. The investigation into alleged Kurdish terrorism that was reported in big headlines in the Edinburgh Evening News, on STV and BBC came to nothing. There was no evidence because there was no terrorist threat or activity.

What did happen is that the Kurdish community in Edinburgh were faced with questions by neighbours, work colleagues and school friends.

The question – Is your Dad a terrorist? Was asked of kids in school.

Kurdish community in Turkey under siege

Stephen asked if it was a coincidence that the Kurdish community had been actively protesting against Turkish government violence against the Kurdish people in Turkey, against the jailing of elected Kurdish MPS and Mayors and the support that Turkey had given to ISIS operatives?

Congress, the Kurdish community in Turkey is under siege, the Kurdish community in Syria have fought and defeated ISIS and are now being threatened by a Turkish invasion and air attacks.

They should not feel under siege and threatened here in Scotland. They are part of our community, our work colleagues our kid’s school mates.


Stephen Smellie, co-chair of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

Support the Kurdish community

The STUC unanimously adopted motion 104. The motion “Stop criminalising the Kurdish community”, condemns raids conducted on the homes of members of the Kurdish community in Scotland and the Kurdish community centre in Edinburgh by Police Scotland.

Further, the motion called for the congress to demand that the Scottish government end the raids and declare their public support for the Kurdish community.

End Ocalans isolation

The congress also passed an emergency resolution in support of the more than 7,000 people around the world on indefinite hunger strike to protest the unlawful isolation of imprisoned Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Ocalan. The emergency motion called for the congress to demand that the Council of Europe, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), and the UK government pressure the Turkish state to allow Ocalan regular visits with his lawyers and family, as is his legal right. The motion passed in a unanimous vote.

Scottish activists were also glad to make contact with the President of the Welsh TUC, Shavanah Taj, who has been part of the inspiring mobilisation in support of hunger striker Imam Sis in Newport.

How can you help the campaign?

With growing support in the trade union movement, devolved governments and the Parliamentary Labour Party the Freedom for Ocalan campaign is calling on trade unionists and activists to support the many local campaigns now running throughout the UK and Europe.

If you’re a member of a trade union we ask that you support us by requesting your branch, regional or national trade union affiliate now.

If you want to support the Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan letter-writing campaign to the CPT you can support that here.

Members of political parties able to pass motions at a branch or constituency level, particularly Labour members can use this model motion.

Alternatively, if you feel you are able you could make a one-off or regular donation to help the campaign.


By Freedom for Ocalan

The Freedom for Öcalan campaign is a UK trade union-backed initiative to secure the release of imprisoned Kurdish political prisoner Abdullah Öcalan.

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