Report on “Kurdish Resistance in Turkey and Syria” meeting (November 2016)


About 50 people gathered in the Teacher’s Club on Monday evening for a public meeting organised by Rojava Calling.

Speaking at the meeting were Faysal Sariyildiz, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP in Turkey, and Calvin James, a Dublin born DJ and activist who spent 6 months as a volunteer medic in northern Syria in 2016. Faysal joined the meeting by Skype from Brussels as the Turkish state recently cancelled his passport.

Calvin spoke about his time living in Northern Syria, working as a volunteer medic and ambulance driver with Heyva Sor A Kurd's emergency response team (or the Kurdish Red Crescent). He was living 800m away from the devastating blast in Qamishli on July 27th in which Daesh killed 44 people and injured 170. Calvin was behind the front line when Manbij was liberated from Daesh fighters in August. He and his colleagues have been on the front line, most times being the first to respond. Upon his return to Ireland, Calvin created Syrias Vibes along with his brother Andy. They aim to use the power of music and good vibes to support medical emergency services in order to help the people of Syria.

Last week, the two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) were detained in Turkey along with at least 10 MPs because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”. Faysal Sariyildiz, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP and former journalist, told the meeting of how these arrests form part of the Turkish state’s ongoing attacks on civil liberties. Since the attempted coup earlier this year, Turkey has suspended, dismissed or detained over 100,000 people – including soldiers, judges, teachers, media workers and politicians - and banned hundreds of civil society associations and NGOs. Faysal compared Turkish President Erdoğan’s regime to the fascist dictatorship in 1930s Italy. 

Turkey is currently applying for EU membership. A meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels offered criticism of Turkey’s crackdown. However, calls to suspend Ankara’s EU membership bid were not supported, partly because Turkey is a member of the NATO military alliance and partly because of Turkey's role in maintaining Fortress Europe's racist and degrading border policies. More than 10,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean since 2014.

During the questions and answers that followed, the speakers and members of Rojava Calling outlined what can be done here in Ireland. Raising awareness among the wider population is important, particularly of the Turkish state’s human rights abuses and the very real threat of massacres directed against civilians in the near future. Rojava Calling is currently meeting with TDs at the Dáil to tell them that the Irish state needs to move beyond issuing formal condemnations of repression. That time is past. Ireland needs to impose and advocate diplomatic and economic sanctions on Turkey.

From an anarchist perspective, the path to Dáil Éireann is not the path to victory for our movements. However, a well-organised popular campaign, along the lines of the boycott to end apartheid in 1980s South Africa or the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to end Israel’s oppression of Palestinians today, has the potential to pressure the Irish state into taking more stringent measures against Turkey. A boycott of Turkey's tourism industry is already in place and could potentially be widened to other areas of the state's economy.  

After a lively discussion, the meeting ended with everyone expressing thanks to the two speakers and to the meeting organisers.