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Scottish Kurds take to the streets to protest against state crack-down

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Crack-down could be the "end of democracy" in Turkey, Scottish Kurds warn

Hundreds of Kurdish people in Scotland will take to the streets this week to demonstrate against state oppression in Turkey.

Last week, MPs of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) were arrested and imprisoned following raids on their homes and party offices.

Many Kurds living in Scotland originate from Turkey and arrived in Scotland seeking asylum during the Turkish government’s “dirty war” against the Kurds during the 1980s and 1990s.

They still have family in Turkey and are in constant contact with them.

The Turkish government has decided that this democratic voice of the Kurds must be silenced

Roza Salih, co-convenor of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, said: “We are very concerned at the latest events where the leaders of the HDP and many of the MPs were arrested on Thursday evening.

“For nearly two years now the government have refused to discuss peace and have inflicted violence on Kurdish communities resulting in hundreds being killed.

“The HDP were the party talking about peaceful and democratic ways for a resolution. Now the government has decided that this democratic voice of the Kurds must be silenced. That is why we must now protest and speak up so that the voices of the Kurds in Turkey can be heard by the international community including here in Scotland.”

A number of Scottish MSPs and MPs had previously been in contact with Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan and agreed to sponsor an HDP MP following the threat of arrest when the Turkish parliament had decided to lift the immunity from prosecution that Turkish MPs had enjoyed.

One of these was Ross Greer MSP from the Scottish Green Party who wrote to the Turkish consulate on Friday regarding the arrest of Leyla Birlik HDP MP who had visited Scotland earlier this year.

He said: “Turkey is the UK’s Nato ally and yet our government is standing by while democratically elected MPs are dragged from their homes in the middle of the night. Coming soon after the closure of many media outlets, arrests of journalists, removal of elected local mayors and the sacking of over 15,000 largely Kurdish teachers and education workers, the HDP believe this could be the end of Turkish democracy.”

Stephen Smellie of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan and Depute Convenor of public services union Unison, who has visited the Kurdish region of Turkey on a number of occasions, said: “These latest developments in Turkey are very concerning. The HDP has been a thorn in the side of the Erdogan government in Turkey precisely because they have sought to build alliances across Turkey in a search for a democratic solution to the conflict in Turkey.

“It was their success electorally, gaining 13% of the national vote, returning 80 MPs in the June 2015 election, as well as the success of Kurdish forces defending Kobane and defeating ISIS over the border in Syria, that has caused the Turkish government to seek to crush the Kurdish democratic movement through violence and state repression.

“This has extended to Scotland with reports that Kurds living here have been contacted by the Turkish Consul’s office warning them not to participate in any protests or say anything against the government or they could have problems when they visit family in Turkey.

“We are calling on Scottish people to demonstrate their opposition to these crude undemocratic and bullying tactics against people living in Scotland as well as showing support for those HDP MPs and others who are being persecuted for seeking nothing other than human rights and democratic roads to peace.”

Demonstrations are being held this coming week in the following locations: Thursday, 10 November at 10.30am at the Scottish Parliament and Saturday, 12 November at 10.30 am at the Mound, next to the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.