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SWU among 16 UK Trade Unions condemning Turkey’s illegal invasion of Northern Iraq and North and Eastern Syria

Turkey is engaging in the same behaviour as the Russian state's brutal invasion of Ukraine, and we again urge President Erdogan and the Turkish government to return to the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution...

General Secretaries from 16 UK Trade Unions are signatories of an open letter to the Turkish Ambassador to the UK on 18th May 2022 in response to recent Turkish military actions in Northern Iraq / Southern Kurdistan and the ongoing attacks and bombardments in North and Eastern Syria.

The letter was sent by the UK Trade Union campaign Freedom for Öcalan and in summary it:

  • Condemns Turkey’s illegal invasion of Northern Iraq and North and Eastern Syria
  • Calls on the Turkish government to immediately stop the military operations, withdraw all troops, and end the terrorisation of the civil populations and ethnic cleansing that the Turkish state is carrying out in these areas
  • Rejects the simplistic labelling of all opposition to President Erdogan’s actions as acts of terrorism
  • Urges President Erdogan and the Turkish government to return to the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution to the conflict
  • Calls for the immediate release of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan so that he can play a full and constructive role in the search for peace

The letter from the 16 UK Trade Unions points out that Turkey is engaging in the same behaviour as the Russian state's brutal invasion of Ukraine, and using defence against terrorism as justification for illegal invasions of sovereign countries. The Trade Unions have repeatedly urged President Erdogan and the Turkish government to return to the negotiating table and to find a peaceful negotiated solution to the conflict, and are repeating that call now.

The letter concludes:

Opinion across the world is changing and many people now understand the heroic role that the Kurdish movement played in defeating ISIS, many more are also increasingly aware of the need to stand in solidarity with the Kurdish people’s resistance to brutal repression and ethnic cleansing.

With a presidential election looming in 2023 we take this opportunity to urge the current Turkish government to end the violence and repression, and seize the moment to launch a new peace initiative based on dialogue and negotiation.

Although we have never received a response to our repeated letters we hereby once again request a meeting to discuss the situation.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

This letter comes after a British delegation of trade unionists, journalists, and politicians travelled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in March 2022 to study the threats, problems, and challenges currently facing the region. SWU General Secretary John McGowan was a representative of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) on this fact-finding delegation.

The delegation visited many places including Halabja, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, and Duhok. During its time there the delegation attended a range of meetings with Government representatives, United Nations, Social Care Organisations, Political Parties, Unions, Kurdish human rights organisations, community leaders, survivors of the Anfal Kurdish genocide, families of detained political prisoners and those recently released, and Kurdish families affected by the Turkish invasion and occupation.

After returning with their findings, the delegation called for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be charged with war crimes and for immediate investigations into the alleged use of chemical weapons.

You can read the full statement here.

SWU General Secretary John McGowan – who is an Executive member of the GFTU and member of the Coalition Against Chemical Weapons in Kurdistan – called for the immediate stop of arms trade to Turkey in his April 2022 interview with Yeni Özgür Politika photojournalist Erem Kansoy:

SWU General Secretary John McGowan is interviewed about his experience as a member of the British delegation of trade unionists, journalists, and politicians who travelled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in March 2022