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‘Must not lose sight’

Fight for peace in Kurdistan
Jody Whitehill, Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Tommy Murphy, Unite delegate, today (September 12) addressed conference on Motion 75 – solidarity with all progressive forces and the Kurdish population of Turkey.


“Colleagues, last year we passed an emergency motion condemning in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Turkish government and expressing our solidarity with the Kurdish population and all progressive forces in Turkey,” he said.


Sadly since last year the situation in the country has dramatically deteriorated – further waves of mass arrests, detentions and dismals of workers have taken place, more media outlets have been closed down, and the brutal war on the Kurdish population has continued.


“I don’t think it is exaggerated to say that we are witnessing Turkey, a NATO member state, descending into fascism,” said Murphy.


“What is happening is utterly outrageous and must be stopped, and that is why this motion calls for us to redouble our efforts to build solidarity with the Kurds and all progressive forces in Turkey and the wider region,” he added.


Tommy went on to say that as a trade union movement we demand that the Turkish state immediately end the state of emergency, restore democratic and press freedoms and restart the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers Party the PKK.


“We demand that they immediately release all political prisoners’, including all those HDP members of parliament and local politicians who have jailed for being part of the opposition,” said Murphy.


“Most crucially we must demand that they release the jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan,” he added.


Ocalan and the PKK have shown themselves to be willing and serious partners in the peace process and Ocalan and they have made it clear that solutions can be found within the existing borders of Turkey.


“It is clear that those solutions will only be possible if basic human and democratic rights are guaranteed for everyone regardless of their ethnic background and religion,” said Murphy.


“But colleagues, standing here and making demands and passing motions is not enough. It’s absolutely vital that we do what we have done many times before, that we draw on the great traditions of our movement and build the real solidarity that is so vitally needed,” he added.


Murphy urged all TUC affiliates to redouble their efforts and make members and activists aware of what is going on. To build a mass solidarity movement, just as unions have done with Cuba, South Africa, Colombia, Palestine and many others in the past.


What happens in Turkey and the wider region will have huge implications for everyone in Europe.


“That’s why as a first step this motion calls on all the TUC to organise a solidarity delegation to Turkey as soon as possible and insists that such a delegation must also visit the Kurdish areas,” said Murphy.


“It’s critical that we not only see first-hand what is going on and make clear the opposition of the British labour movement to it, but also that we demonstrate to our Kurdish brothers and sisters that they are not alone and that we will not allow them to be isolated and cut off,” he added.


The motion also called on all affiliates to affiliate and fully support the work of the Peace in Kurdistan and Freedom for Ocalan campaigns.


In less than two years Abdullah Ocalan will have been in prison for 20 years and will be 70 years old.


He was taken illegally and has been held in inhumane conditions that contradict basic human rights standards but this goes unnoticed and unaddressed in the West.


“It’s crucial that we build awareness and build massive international pressure for his release – because only with Ocalan at the table as a recognised leader of the Kurdish people will there be a proper and lasting peace in the country,” said Murphy.


“It’s also vital to understand that Erdogan’s obsession with war on the Kurds doesn’t stop at the borders of Turkey – in Syria, where the Kurds have played and internationally recognised and heroic role in fighting and driving back ISIS they have built real inclusive democratic structures, and where they offer possibly the only real hope for peace, democracy and inclusivity for the region’s future, Turkey has send it’s army in – not to fight ISIS, but to fight the Kurds,” he added.


Murphy stated that it’s an utter disgrace that a NATO member state is doing this and that is why we must maximise pressure on our government and all international bodies to demand they stop these barbaric actions and withdraw their army from Turkey.


“Colleagues, we know there are many demands on us with Brexit and the wider challenges we face, but we mustn’t lose sight of the need to maintain and build our wider international solidarity efforts,” said Murphy.


“Support motion 75 and help build international solidarity with the Kurds and all progressive forces – down with Turkish fascism and freedom for Ocalan,” he added.


The motion was passed.

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