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First day of the International Delegation in Hewler dominated by resistance

14.06.2021
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The first day of the International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan in Hewlêr, southern Kurdistan, was dominated by resistance against arbitrariness and repression.

The first day of the International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan in Hewlêr (Erbil) was dominated by resistance against arbitrariness and repression. First, the peace initiative was forbidden to hold its press conference as planned in front of the United Nations (UN) headquarters in the capital of the autonomous region in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Security forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which governs Hewlêr, then surrounded the hotel where the delegation is staying and prevented members from leaving the building. As a result, the press conference had to take place in the hotel lobby after a delay and under difficult conditions.

During the press conference, the “International Initiative: DEFEND KURDISTAN – against the Turkish occupation” was proclaimed. The declaration was read out by Lida Weerts, a human rights activist from Norway. “International solidarity will help Kurdistan to liberate itself. That is why I support the declaration,” the activist declared.

Numerous delegates spoke in short speeches about their motivation to participate in the peace initiative. Zagros Endazyari from the Kurdish Center in Stockholm, who had traveled from Sweden, first addressed NATO’s role in the current attack on southern Kurdistan: “NATO member states are silent about the Turkish occupation and the attacks on humanity in southern Kurdistan. We want to break the silence and stand up for peace.”

Swiss politician and former mayor of Geneva, Rémy Pagani, also addressed the international ignorance towards the Turkish invasion of southern Kurdistan. He said that just the day before, he had briefed a Swiss MP on the current situation in the region so that a broad awareness about “Erdogan’s war” would be created. “We as a delegation stand in solidarity with the Kurdish people and will do what we can to break the silence of Europe,” Pagani underlined in his contribution.

Dr. Mechthild Exo, lecturer at the Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences in Germany, addressed the current situation of the delegation participants, some of whom are still detained at the airport or have already been expelled: “Three members of the delegation are still detained at the airport in Erbil. We demand their immediate release.” To the KDP, Exo voiced the demand to recognize the legitimacy of the delegation: “The fact that we are prevented here by military forces from documenting the effects of the war, we understand as injustice and lack of freedom, which is shown to us here.”

Selin Gören spoke on behalf of Left Youth [Linksjugend] from Germany: “I am here as a human being and believe in humanity despite everything. We appeal not only to the United Nations, but especially to the German government and the European Parliament to stop all support for the Turkish state. Erdogan is disregarding the basic civil rights of every Kurdish person everywhere in the world.”

German youth activist Luisa Fischer described the delegation’s visit in South Kurdistan as an opportunity to connect “youth and struggles”. She said she wanted to take back to Germany the perspective of organizing more internationally for peace. Referring to the massive environmental destruction caused by attacks in Kurdistan, Fischer said, “We condemn setting forest fires and ecocide against nature as a form of warfare.” She ended her address by saying, “There is no alternative to freedom.”

Journalist Erling Folkvord, a former member of the Norwegian parliament, emphasized his support for all parties in South Kurdistan that oppose Turkish expansionism. At the same time, he said, “The behavior of the KDP party leadership is a great help to Turkey.”

Prominent first signatories of the declaration

The declaration of the newly proclaimed peace initiative has been signed by numerous personalities from politics, civil society, art and culture. Also many members of various parliaments of European countries support the initiative against the Turkish occupation in South Kurdistan with their name. A list of the first signatories can be found on the homepage of the initiative.

Sit-in after press conference

Following the press conference, the delegation wanted to leave the hotel, but was again stopped by KDP security forces. Thereupon, the members protested with a sit-in in front of the hotel. Loud slogans were chanted expressing solidarity with the people affected by the war and emphasizing the unity of Kurdistan. After the blockade ended, further talks were held with political actors in the region, including a representative of the Gorran movement. The delegation announced that it would continue to hold meetings in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in the coming days. A trip planned for Monday by the delegation to several Kurdish villages had been prohibited in advance.

International repression against delegation

However, the peace delegation is not only facing repression in South Kurdistan. On Saturday, several members of the group, including the Hamburg Left Party leader Cansu Özdemir, were prevented from leaving for Iraq at Düsseldorf airport. The detention of a member of a German state parliament has made high waves and caused great outrage. Hamburg’s parliamentary president, Carola Veit (SPD), said that the measures taken by the federal police could have been illegal or unconstitutional. According to the Basic Law as well as the constitution of the city, members of parliament may not be arrested or otherwise hindered in their freedom and in the exercise of their mandate during the term of their mandate. Veit announced that “for sure” the parliamentary control committee in Hamburg would also deal with the matter.

A tour group was also stopped at the airport in the Qatari capital Doha. Around 50 members of the peace delegation who nevertheless made it to Hewlêr were prevented from entering the country there and some were sent back to their countries of origin. Hakan Taş, a Berlin deputy for the Left Party, was detained for around 15 hours after landing in Hewlêr before being allowed to leave the airport. The Interior Ministry of the autonomous government justified the measures by saying that “the security and stability of Erbil is a red line” and that no one would be allowed to endanger the city. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was “attempting through members and supporters to host events that would destabilize Erbil,” it claimed.

Solidarity reception for travel groups in Düsseldorf

Tomorrow, Tuesday, two travel groups returning from Hewlêr will arrive at Düsseldorf airport. The Kurdish confederation KON-MED called on Monday to welcome the delegates in solidarity. “Through our presence we can show solidarity and protest against those who advocate war and against peace,” a statement by the umbrella organization said. The first group is scheduled to land tomorrow at 1:20 p.m. and the second at 7:35 p.m. On Sunday, 21 delegation members had already returned from Hewlêr. They were sent back to Berlin and Frankfurt respectively.

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