23 Dec 2017

It was if he had been killed by ISIS all over again

My friend Mehmet Aksoy was killed by Isis in Raqqa, Syria on 26th September this year.  He had been working as a journalist and communications officer for the Peoples Defence Force (YPG).  He was not a fighter but there instead to tell a story about how the Kurds and their allies were working to defeat the so called Islamic State and to promote the alternative of a democratic, diverse society. 

Tragically at least five British citizens who have fought as members of the YPG or like Mehmet worked to support them without being fighters have been killed in Syria.  Just weeks ago, Jac Holmes, an IT worker from Bournemouth died while clearing land mines.

Mehmet’s funeral (see above) saw 3,000 people attend and he was buried in Highgate Cemetery in North London, near to Karl Marx.  I had worked with Mehmet on a couple of projects including a fundraising event for refugees and he had commissioned me to write a piece about Elinor Ostrom (an economist) and Rojava.  I like many others shed some tears when he was buried.

The Kurds and their allies in Northern Syria are continuously threatened by the Turkish Army, as I write, they are poised to invade and attack.  The increasingly dictatorial Erdogan regime has money, power and influence and is on a propaganda offensive against Rojava (Kurdish for ‘the west’) the self-governing Kurdish portion of Syria.

British fighters with the YPG have been on the front line in the fight to defeat ISIS but they don’t get any praise over here in the UK.  Indeed, they are often put on trial and Theresa May’s government treat them as if they were members of ISIS not the people who defeated ISIS!

I was dismayed to read an account in a Turkish newspaper by John Woodcock, theLabour Party MP for Barrow-in-Furness condemning the YPG and calling them terrorists.  I would simply ask John to meet and talk with my friends the Scurfields whose son, a former British marine, was killed in Syria fighting with the YPG against ISIS.  To me and many others Konstandinos Scurfield was a hero not a terrorist.  I would ask John to talk to former British fighters like Macer Gifford or Kimmie Taylor, there is another perspective to that of the Turkish government.  He might do well to meet the families of others British people who have died in Syria or perhaps those who have been rescued from slavery under ISIS by the Kurds and their allies.

I can see that John might not want to talk to former fighters or their families but I would ask him to consider that Turkish hostility to the YPG might be based on a history of discrimination.  Turkey criminalises discussion of the Armenian genocide and Kurds are strongly persecuted in the country still.

For me when I read John Woodcock’s opinions it was as if Mehmet had been murdered all over again.  If like me you view the YPG as a force for good rather than terrorists you might want to send John a polite email via his office on john.woodcock.mp@parliament.uk or you can find him on twitter at @jwoodcockmp  

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