In May 2018, Theresa May welcomed Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the UK. She was accused of “racism” by Kurdish groups after a joint press conference she held with Erdoğan. In the conference, she stated:
It is important that in defense of democracy, which has been facing extraordinary pressures from the failed coup, instability across the border from Syria and from Kurdish terrorism, Turkey does not lose sight of the values it is seeking to defend.
But on the eve of what is widely considered the most important election in modern Turkish history, one Kurdish MP, Hişyar Özsoy spoke 12 words that should make May hang her head in shame. In response to a question from The Canary, Özsoy said:
UK is the most terrible, horrible country for us on the planet.
Özsoy, deputy chair for foreign affairs of the left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was clear about what he believed the UK government’s motivations to be:
Theresa May and those stupid Conservatives… after Brexit they just want to improve their bilateral relations with Turkey at a time when Turkey is having so many problems with European Union so they think it’s an opportunity to sell Turkey weapons.
He also claimed that the Conservatives:
don’t care whether Turkey is a democratic country or not. It’s totally business as usual.
Since 2016, the UK has reportedly sold Turkey over $1bn worth of weapons. In May 2017, Theresa May and BAE Systems sealed a £100m contract to help Turkey develop fighter jets and improve trade relations. And Rolls Royce partnered with Turkish firm Kale in 2017 to build the engines for its fighter jets.
The UK government recently said of its arms sales to Turkey:
The UK government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.
This “business as usual” is continuing despite the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) finding Erdoğan and the Turkish state guilty of war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity, against the Kurdish people. The tribunal heard evidence of atrocities committed by the state between 1 June 2015 and 31 December 2017, including:
- Besieging Kurdish cities.
- Meting out collective punishment on Kurdish civilians.
- Ignoring white flags to kill innocent men and women.
- Targeting civilians with heavy artillery.
- Forcing the displacement of whole urban populations and intentionally destroying buildings and areas of cultural, historical and religious importance.
- Carefully and systematically planning such destructive operations against the Kurdish people.
- Engaging in state terrorism through assassinations in Turkey and abroad.
- Engaging in state terrorism by providing support to Daesh (Isis/Isil) and other terrorist groups.
Speaking about solidarity from the UK, Özsoy said that while Jeremy Corbyn has long supported the Kurds, there is more he could do:
So Theresa May invites Erdoğan, Corbyn could have come to Turkey and say hi to the HDP, I’m here. It’s not a crime or anything. These are gestures that people are not alone here. They feel suffocated. They feel isolated.
It is therefore down to all of us who live in the UK to stand up to what our government is doing: to act in solidarity with people feeling “isolated” and “suffocated”. If the UK is regarded as the “most terrible, horrible country on the planet” for Kurdish people then we all must shout from the streets and the rooftops: this is not in my name.
– Support Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Featured image via author’s own and Wikimedia/Annika Haas