Up to ten thousand people joined the 1st “Stop Turkey’s War On Kurds – Break The Silence” march and rally in Central London on March 7, to condemn Turkish state attacks and sieges of several Kurdish districts where hundreds of civilians have been killed.
Called by the Stop War on Kurds Committee and supported by the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) and London Solidarity, the demo was organised by many students organisations, trade unions, political parties and rights organisations from across the political spectrum, who came together to form the Stop War On Kurds Movement.
Speeches began in front of the BBC Headquarters at noon, where thousands of people from across the UK convened carrying placards, posters and banners reading “Stop war on Kurds,” “If oppression is a fact revolution is a duty,” “Hear the screams, see the torture, speak the truth,” “Zero tolerance of fascism,” and “ISIS made in Turkey.”
Following speeches, people began marching through Regent St and Piccadilly Circus towards Trafalgar Square shouting ‘Wake up UK-Break the silence” and “Stop the massacre.” Thousands of leaflets explaining the situation in Turkey and North Kurdistan were handed out to onlookers who recorded videos and took photos of the procession, with some showing support for the demonstrators.
Presented by Oktay Şahbaz and Ayşegül Erdoğan, both organisers of the event, the opening speech was made by Kurdish rights activist and event organiser Mark Campbell, who began by explaining the purpose of the demo. “Almost 200 people including children and women were burned alive in a basement in Cizre. Kurds are being killed in Sur, Silopi, Nusaybin, Dargeçit and Idil. Over a million people have been displaced and forced to migrate. The west is silent in the face of this savagery. We have come together today to break this silence. Our solidarity will help to prevent further massacres and civil war in Turkey and North Kurdistan,” said Campbell.
The demo was attended by many well known figures and activists including MP Natalie McGarry, MP Kate Osamor, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Fire Brigades Union Gen. Secretary Matt Wrack, Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism, Lindsey German from the SWP, Steve Hedley from RMT Union, Human rights activist Margaret Owen, Peter Tatchell, Anthropologist and academic David Graeber, academic Jeffrey Miles, Murray Bookchin’s daughter Debbie Bookchin, two former YPG fighters and Chris Scurfied, the father of YPG fighter Konstandinos Eric Scurfield, who lost his life in the fight against ISIS in 2015.
Speaking after Scottish MP Natalie McGarry said, “I was in Diyarbakır last week and was detained by Turkish security forces for recording events in Sur. Today I am here for solidarity with the Kurdish people and will do whatever I can to help. The Kurdish people want peace, they deserve peace. Stop the attacks, break the silence, stop the massacre.”
Delivering Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s message to the rally, Edmonton MP Kate Osamor took to the stage and said the Labour leader was upset for not being able to attend the demonstration, “The Kurds are under heavy attack in the Middle East. I have been following Turkey’s attacks with great concern. The Turkish state needs to cease these attacks immediately and return to the negotiation table and peace talks. The Turkish state must respect the rights of its citizens. Once again we are calling for justice for Kurds,” read Corbyn’s message.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who has been very vocal in her support for Kurds recently said, “Defending democracy and human rights everywhere is important for our future, for the security of our country and for security all around the world. We must listen to the Kurds living in Turkey, we must hear the voice of Kurds in Syria.”
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell highlighted the plight of Kurds in Iran’s prisons and stated, “We stand in solidarity with all persecuted Kurds in every country in the world, and we know that one day Kurdistan will be free.”
Despite the hail and rain hundreds of people listened to the two dozen speakers and ended the rally with cheers, slogans and Kurdish dances. The organisers thanked participants and declared that their actions of solidarity with the Kurdish people would continue.