Several thousand London Kurds and their supporters gathered in Trafalgar Square as part of a worldwide protest against what is happening to Kobane, an amazing autonomous Kurdish community in Northern Syria, which is under siege and attack by Islamist fighters.
Kobane has become a rallying issue for many progressive groups, including anarchists, because of their model and refreshing system of democracy and decision-making, which strives for equality and defends women’s rights.
While Islamic State fighters commit massacres and rapes, the West, and particularly Turkey are giving little or no support to the besieged Kurdish people, who rely on their own ‘People’s Protection Units’, the YPG, and the women fighters of the YPJ, to keep the attack at bay. These soldiers are widely recognised in the region as a democratic people’s army, and they hold internal elections to appoint their leaders.
The three-hour rally attracted a wide range of support from dozens of speakers, and kicked off with performer/activist Mark Thomas who was unequivocal in his support of the Kurds and the need for action against ISIS.
He also called for an immediate lift on the ban on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, (the PKK) who have been conveniently proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the West (including NATO), but whose Turkish-jailed leader has given up the original Marxist-Leninist armed struggle and has helped establish the almost utopian Democratic Confederalist system in place in Syrian Kurdistan while striving for a political solution.
Mark’s calls were echoed by human rights lawyer, Margaret Owen.
She also described Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) as a utopia of equality, providing support and sanctuary for internally displaced people including Christians, Armenians, Turkmen, Arabs, and others, and she spoke of the extraordinary tenacity and bravery of the women fighters of the YPJ.
Green MEP, Jean Lambert announced she would be visiting Istanbul next week and pushing hard for the PKK ban to be lifted. She also mentioned Qatar’s role in supporting ISIS and buying black market oil from them, something that Turkey is also accused of.
The huge crowd listened to speaker after speaker throughout the sunny afternoon. Radha d’Souza from the Indian Association of Lawyers condemned Turkey’s aspirations to a new Ottoman empire, and spoke of solidarity from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Roman Catholic Priest Father Joe Ryan, co-ordinator of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission described Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, as the Nelson Mandela of the Kurdish people, and called for his release (for a decade from 1999, he was the sole prisoner on an island prison in Marmaris, echoing Mandela’s plight).
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell drew ‘just war’ comparisons with the struggle against Spanish fascism, and the war against Nazism. He called for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against ISIS leaders, and against Assad, and for Turkey to be suspended from NATO for its support of ISIS despite the massacre of Kurdish people. He also highlighted the immediate need for air dropped supplies of food, medicine and arms to the people of Kobane.
Tamil activist, Karthick, alluded to the French Revolution and other workers’ revolutions, and said that Kobane would go down in history as one of the most important revolutions in the 21st Century.
He said that the YPG and YPJ gave hope that peace, justice, and women’s rights were all possible, and he condemned Turkey for killing protesters and supporting ISIS.
A speaker from the Spanish Basque Society offered solidarity, as did Islington Labour leader, Richard Watts. Labour activist Norah Mulready spoke about the YPJ and said that an attack on one woman was an attack on all.
Speaker after speaker condemned Turkey and ISIS and honoured the Kurdish struggle and the democratic society of Rojava. Among them were Steve Hedley from the RMT, who said the PKK were a national liberation army, Trevor Rain (Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism) who said the Kurds and the Palestinians were the two great losers in the Middle Eastern imperialist carve-up, with the UK having a special responsibility, and political writer Sukant Chandan, who described ISIS as NATO death squads, or hitmen for international capital.
The crowd then listened to a live telephone call from Kobane, by Asya Abdullah, a co-chair of the People’s Democratic Union Party.
She thanked the rally for being part of a historic global day of resistance, and categorised ISIS as the enemies of women, humanity and culture. She described the horrors of 48 days of resistance in Kobane with the deaths of hundreds and thousands of men and women, but called it a global resistance, saluting the international grass roots solidarity.
With police pressuring organisers to meet a 5pm deadline to finish the rally, there were short messages of support from a whole swathe more speakers, and there was a powerful air of global solidarity as we heard of similar huge rallies around the world, in Rome, Bremen, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Ankara, Istanbul, Bilbao, Orlando, Bombay, Vancouver, Stockholm, Dusseldorf, Honduras, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Rio, Washington, Liverpool, Houston, and dozens more cities.
Mark Thomas is organising a Kurdish Red Crescent benefit night at the Bloomsbury on 23rdNovember with a fantastic line-up of top comedians and special guests.