OPEN LETTER TO THE TIMES
We write in response to an article “Corbyn linked to Lobbyists behind Istanbul bombers” published in your newspaper on 17th December, 2016. See article here: https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/2016/12/23/article-in-the-times-corbyn-linked-to-lobbyists-behind-istanbul-bombers/
We appear to be the so-called lobbyists referred to in the title of the article.
Peace in Kurdistan is a voluntary organisation formed in 1994 by the late Lord Avebury, the playwright Harold Pinter and several other leading writers and journalists with the objective of campaigning for a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish Question, as is stated in its title.
This campaign has widespread support from independent analysts, lawyers and academics in the UK, Europe and internationally including Noam Chomsky. Our list of Patrons includes MPs and members of the House of Lords from a broad spectrum of trade unions and UK political parties including the Labour Party, The Liberal Democratic Party, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the Scottish National Party, including, as your article points out, Jeremy Corbyn and Kate Osamor. We note with interest that you highlight only those two names out of the full list of 30 patrons.
Peace in Kurdistan is pleased to work with the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), an organisation based in Brussels and working for a concerted strategy for democratic solutions to the Kurdish question, within existing states. We are also pleased to work with the HDP which is a democratic political party in Turkey, which had 80 MPs elected in the general elections in Turkey in 2015.
For some 17 years now, we have supported the international campaign for the de-listing of the PKK. We have also supported the release of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who we say is crucial to the success of peace negotiations with the Turkish government.
We continue to be convinced that there is a strong case for delisting the PKK. Since Ocalan was arrested in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison, he has become an advocate for peace and reconciliation among Turkish citizens, including those of Kurdish origin. Heralding the peace initiative of March 21, 2013, Ocalan wrote: “We reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas speak.” We also continue to hold out hope that the peace initiative can be re-started as we believe that only a peaceful, political solution will be effective.
Your correspondent, in the same article, reports that Mr. Salih Muslim, co-chair of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), not as reported the YPG (People’s Protection Units), spoke at a meeting in Edinburgh University. The PYD is not a military organisation but a political party at the forefront of the political and diplomatic struggle against ISIS in Syria and campaigns for a political and democratic solution to the conflict in Syria. The system of Democratic Confederalism, within the borders of the existing state, includes “recognition of cultural, national and political rights, and develops and enhances their peaceful struggle to be able to govern themselves in a multicultural, democratic society” (PYD).
Your correspondent also mentions that the Turkish authorities recently issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Muslim. However, she fails to mention that Turkey, following the failed coup attempt in July of this year, has witnessed a deeply disproportionate and authoritarian reaction by the authorities, resulting in the issuing of thousands of arbitrary arrest warrants against all manner of people, from health workers, school teachers, journalists, academics and judges, including the one against Mr. Muslim.
Peace in Kurdistan was established to draw the world’s attention to the oppression of the Kurds and to seek a peaceful way forward to the Kurdish conflict. At the time, such oppression was intense. It seemed hardly conceivable that it could get worse. But it has – and PIK’s role in publicising the extreme violence and repression that the Kurdish people are living under in Turkey is as important today as it was in 1994.
There have been credible reports of widespread systematic human rights violations against Kurds in Southeast Turkey perpetrated by Turkish security services over the last year. The government continues to block independent investigations into allegations of killings of civilians, mass forced displacement and the widespread destruction of property within a system of blanket, round the clock curfews on 22 towns and city neighbourhoods. Peace in Kurdistan reiterates its calls for the Turkish authorities to allow the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights to enter and conduct an investigation. We would expect articles published by The Times to include at least some political context when discussing issues such as the Kurdish Question. We feel that both the tenor and content of the article in question did not meet the required press standards of accuracy and balance.
Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, lecturer of political sociology, Cambridge University
Thomas Schmidt, General Secretary, ELDH European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Germany
Professor Bill Bowring, Barrister, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Michael Gunter, professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University, US
Kariane Westrheim, Professor, University of Bergen, Norway
Mark Thomas, author and journalist
Alastair Lyon, solicitor
Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary
Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director,
Bert Schouwenburg, International Officer, GMB
Margaret Owen OBE, barrister and director of WPD
Dr. Jessica Northey, Co-International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales
Dr Derek Wall, Co-International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales
Jill Evans MEP
Nadje Al-Ali, Professor of Gender Studies, SOAS University of London
Mary Davis, Professor of Labour History at Royal Holloway, University of London
James Kelman, author
Dafydd Iwan, former President, Plaid Cyrmu
Dr. Federico Venturini, independent researcher
Dr Johanna Riha, epidemiologist
Nick Hildyard, policy analyst
Patrick Huff, social anthropologist
Amber Huff, social anthropologist
Steve Sweeney, journalist
David Morgan, journalist
Jonathan Bloch, author
Melanie Gingell, barrister
Anne Gray, CAMPACC
Dr Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Open University
Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation
Stephen Smellie, Secretary, UNISON Lanarkshire
Lilian Macer, Convener Unison Scotland
Margaret Gallacher, Chair Unison South Lanarkshire
Margaret Cook UNISON NEC
Dr Sarah Glynn
Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Rahila Gupta, journalist and activist
Amrit Wilson, writer and activist
Sarah Parker, Haringey Left Unity
Dr Ibrahim Yahli , Psychiatry Doctor, Chair of Kurdish Community Centre
Robert Atkins, lawyer
Ruth Webster, senior manager in the charity sector
Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
3 January 2017
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell - Tel: 020 7272 7890
Patrons: Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Kate Osamor MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, General Federations of Trade Unions, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, James Kelman, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall, Melanie Gingell, Steve Sweeney