“And all of those who’ve been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, we remember their persecution and their suffering and we say never again”
Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, Holocaust Memorial, January 2014
An open letter to the Labour Movement
We, non-Kurdish members of the British Labour Party and Trade Unions, are calling for an urgent and significant increase in the support from Britain and other countries to the people defending the world against the onslaught of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yezidis, Christians and other minorities, are on the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny. We must now stand united in our efforts to secure changes to current UK government policy in this conflict.
The images of grandmothers and grandfathers fighting, and often dying, alongside their younger families is something almost impossible for us in Britain to comprehend. The tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks are too horrific for the British Left to give a half hearted response, or worse.
These atrocities are real, they are happening right now, and those suffering them are real too. They are real women, real men, and real children. They are workers and trade unionists, they are nurses, doctors, teachers and other public servants. They are farmers, electricians, chefs, politicians, and they are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They are the same as us, they are our international sisters and brothers and they desperately need, and profoundly deserve, our support.
We pay huge respect to those who have fought and continue to fight so courageously against ISIS. The role of Kurdish women fighters and leaders has been widely reported and had added a further poignancy to a battle which, if lost, would be a victory for an ideology which degrades, silences and enslaves women as a matter of principle. Many of the women on the front line are mothers. They are fighting for the lives and futures of their sons and their daughters. We must help them.
We in Britain are privileged to live in a peaceful, liberal, secular and democratic society, and we must never forgot that such a society had to be fought for, won and defended. It did not happen through some passive progressive evolution, but was won and preserved through progressive politics, through agitation, and most recently through war against Nazism. Now, a powerful horror is being unleashed into the world by ISIS, who believe they are carrying out divine work. They will not give up, they will not stop. They have to be taken on, and defeated, and this has to be done intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The Labour Party does not turn away from those in need. We help. And we must do so with great urgency now.
Each year politicians say “never again” as they lay their wreaths of Remembrance and at events marking the Holocaust. “Never Again” is a commitment to the men and women who fought and died in these wars that their sacrifices will be honoured and defended, through words and deeds. This surely means doing everything and anything necessary to help stop these atrocities now. To turn away from those in need at this moment would be an historically unforgivable act of abandonment to the past, the present and the future.
We on the Left have an historic responsibility to turn powerful statements about solidarity into concrete action and to give our full support to the Kurds at this moment of their greatest need. We therefore implore the entire Labour movement, the Leadership of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions and our fellow members to use our collective influence to seek and support the following:
- The Kurds of Rojava in Syria and of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq are asking for solidarity against ISIS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria and between which there is no longer any border. We are asking that you support the use of British jets in air strikes against ISIS in both countries and urge the British government to change their position on British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
- British government to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan Region.
- A recognition within the Labour Movement that the Kurds and the Iraqis will play the most decisive role in ground operations to defend their homelands. They are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.
- To recognise that there may be future incarnations of ISIS and that this needs to be tackled by a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.
- To urge Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against ISIS.
- To recognise that ISIS barbarism has resulted in the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region. The strain of this humanitarian crisis is enormous and the cold winter will mean many needless deaths unless the international community and Baghdad provide much needed support to the communities on the front line.
- To call upon the Iraqi Government in Baghdad to end the economic blockade against the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
People are dying every day at the hands of ISIS. They are being enslaved, raped, tortured, mutilated and brutalised and there is no end in sight. Our Labour Party and Labour movement has a duty to do justice to the anti-fascist, internationalist, courageous history of the Left and to do what is so needed now.
Yours in solidarity,
Nora Mulready, Labour member, Tottenham, UNITE
James Bloodworth, Labour member, West Ham, Editor of Left Foot Forward
Naomi Phillips, Labour member, Chipping Barnet, GMB
Mike Gapes MP, Ilford, member of Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Andrew Copson, Labour member, Tottenham, UNISON
Meg Munn MP, Sheffield
John Slinger, Labour member, chair of Pragmatic Radicalism, Rugby
Ros McMullen, Labour member, York Outer
Hopi Sen, Labour member, London, Contributing Editor of Progress
Paul Richards, Labour member, Vice Chair of Eastbourne CLP and Progress Columnist
John Blake, Labour member, NAHT EDGE
Mary Glindon MP, North Tyneside
Cllr Clive Furness, Labour member, Newham
Cllr Sioned Mair Richards, Labour Party member, Sheffield
Lynette Gwyn-Jones, Labour member, Brighton
Marcus Roberts, Labour member, Southampton Itchen
Gary Kent, Labour member, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary)
Jillian Baker, Labour member, Elmet and Rothwell, UNISON
Cllr Mike Cordingley, Gorse Hill Ward, Trafford, Manchester
Jane Ayres, Labour member
David H. Jones, Labour member, Cynon Valley
Jeremy Newmark, Labour member, Hertsmere
Jack Storry, International Officer, Young Labour
Lewis Baston, Labour member, Holborn and Pancras CLP, NUJ member
Alex Bjarnason, Labour member, Finchley and Golders Green
Luke Akehurst, Labour member Oxford CLP, and Unite
Matthew Rhodes, Labour member Streatham CLP
Joseph Mills, Labour member Dulwich and West Norwood CLP
Sarah Brown, Labour member (Cambridge) and UCU
Kevin Barry, Labour member Slough CLP, and Unite
Alan Johnson, Labour member, Walthomstowe and Editor of Fathom
Robert Phillips, Labour member, Tooting, Unite
Dr Twana Faris Bawa, Labour member, Milton Keynes
Chris Clark, Labour PPC for Sevenoaks, TSSA, Co-op Party
Dr Martin O’Neill, Labour member, York
Tom Ebbutt, Labour member, Labour PPC for Bromsgrove
Will Lord, Labour member, Leeds North West
David Butler, Labour member, Dulwich and West Norwood
Matthew Forrest, Labour member, Birmingham Selly Oak
Tom Williams, Labour member, West Ham CLP
Lucy Doig, Labour member, Westminster North
Cllr Philip Glanville, Labour member, Hackney South and Shoreditch, UNITE
David Brown, Labour member, Huntingdon
Atma SinghLabour member, Greenwich and Woolwich
Dermot Kehoe, Islington South and Finsbury, Unite
Cllr Adam Langleben, Labour member, Hendon, GMB
Jonathan McShane, Labour member, Hackney South & Shoreditch, UNITE
Steve Race, Labour member, Hackney South & Shoreditch, Vice Chair, The Fabian Society, Community
Logan Williams, Labour member, East Devon, Unite
Cllr Louisa Thomson, Councillor and Labour member Hackney North & Stoke Newington, Community
Freddie Seale, Labour member, Westminster North
Rick Muir, Labour member, Hackney South and Shoreditch, Unite
Simon Evans, Labour member, Mole Valley, Community
Labour Solidarity With Kurds
All have signed in a personal capacity