Our Kurdish friends and allies have no certainty either, but they also have no choice

Military Intervention in Syria – Our Kurdish friends and allies have no certainty either, but they also have no choice.

Just over a year ago over Labour Solidarity with Kurds asked the leaders of the Labour movement in Britain to support giving more military help to the Kurds fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Since then the world has watched the barbarity of ISIS with horror. Beheadings, enslavement, mass rape, mass graves and more. By now the whole world is aware of their crimes. We continue to see an exodus from Syria, overflowing, ill equipped refugee camps in the Kurdish region, in Lebanon, in Turkey, and even in Europe. This year we have seen images so harrowing that they have rocked the collective consciousness of the world and now our political leaders are trying to work out how best to respond.

The question of further military intervention by Britain is before the House of Commons and MPs are being asked to decide whether Britain should extend the existing military involvement from Iraq to Syria. We are urging MPs to listen to the views of the Kurds who are out there right now, battling every day and fighting ISIS on behalf of the world. They are unequivocal. In their view airstrikes have helped them to liberate their towns, drive ISIS back and save countless people from the barbarism of an ISIS capture.  

Last week Karwan Jamal Tahir, the Kurdish High Representative to the UK wrote,

“Last June, Daesh captured one third of Iraq overnight and a few months later attacked the Kurdistan Region. Swift airstrikes by Britain, America and France and the actions of our own Peshmerga saved us again. We could have been overrun by Daesh without these airstrikes. We thanks British service personnel who put their lives on the line and who are training our Peshmerga. We now have a border of 650 miles with Daesh. We have pushed them back and recently captured Sinjar – the scene a year ago of medieval rape, sexual enslavement and genocide against the Yezedis. Again Western airstrikes were vital. But the old border between Iraq and Syria does not exist. Daesh fighters come and go across this fictional boundary.

We have seen lots of Labour MPs seeking assurances and certainty from the Prime Minister but the reality is, certainty is not possible in this situation. We don’t know how this will end, how many mistakes will be made, how many unintended consequences will occur. We do know that our intervention so far has helped save lives and caused significant defeats against ISIS. We also know – and we ask Labour MPs to reflect on this – that our Kurdish friends have no certainty either, but they also have no choice. ISIS in in their towns, their villages, their homes, they have to fight, and in our view as Labour members, trade unionists and internationalists, we must help them. We therefore urge you to vote in support of the government motion.

Yours in solidarity,

Labour Solidarity with Kurds

Nora Mulready, Tottenham CLP, Unite

Gary Kent, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary)

Councillor Adam Langleben, West Hendon ward, Hendon CLP, GMB Union

Meg Munn, Skipton & Ripon CLP, USDAW

Andrew Copson, Tottenham CLP, Unite

Mark Wardrop Tottenham CLP

John David Blake, Tottenham CLP, NAHT Edge

Kate Godfrey, South Derbyshire CLP, Community Union

Steve Race, Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP,  Community the Union

Atma Singh BA Hons FRSA Writer Former Adviser to the Mayor of London.

Luke Akehurst, Oxford East CLP, Unite

Craig Mitchell-Powell, Leicester West CLP, Unite Community

Fabian Breckels, Bristol East CLP, Prospect

Henri Murison, Keighley CLP, GMB

Cllr Jonathan McShane, Hackney South CLP

Alasdair Ross, Ipswich CLP

Robert Lodge, Worcester CLP

Jeremy Newmark – Hertsmere CLP. Vice-Chair Borehamwood & Elstree Branch

Jillian Baker, Elmet & Rothwell CLP, Unison

Will Lord, Islington South and Finsbury CLP, Community

Kiratraj Singh, Perry Barr CLP

Barbara Spiegelhalter, Portsmouth South CLP, NUT, Greenwich and Woolwich, Community

David Savage, South West Surrey CLP

Naoimi Phillips, Hendon CLP, GMB

Richard Toomer, GMB

Ros McMullen, York Outer CLP, NAHT

George Morris, Tatton CLP, Unite

Miriam Rice, Ealing North CLP, GMB

Cllr Adam Harrison, Holborn and St Pancras, GMB

Mike Harris, Islington South CLP (former Vice-Chair of Lewisham Council), CWU, Unite

Cllr Phil Glanville, Hackney South CLP

Rob Shorrock, Grantham and Stamford CLP, NASUWT


We Say Never Again

“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

Robert Chapman, Labour member, Hackney S & Shoreditch, GMB, TSSA, UNITE
Mike Katz, Labour member, Hampstead & Kilburn, Unison
Conor Pope, Labour member, Streatham, Unite
Colm Quinn, Labour member, Tooting
Peter van Vliet, Labour member, Brighton Pavilion, Unite
Thomas Phillips, Labour member, Liverpool
Ciaran Gallagher, Labour member, Surrey Heath
Liam Hill, Labour member, Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Ryan McChrystal, Labour member Chelmsford, NUJ
Sem Moema, Labour member, Hackney South and Shoreditch, Unite
Gilbert MacNaughton, Labour member, Hornsey and Wood Green
Ryan McChrystal, Labour member, Chelmsford, NUJ
Jordan Hall, Labour member, Stockton South

Labour Solidarity With Kurds

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