Category: Blog (page 2 of 2)

Get writing- be heard!

Get writing if you want to be heard.

Are you sick of the apathy of western governments towards ISIS and its brutality? Write to your MP. 
This letter is aimed at UK politicians. I will post another one for the USA later. Feel free to copy and paste and/or adapt. If you get a response post below and let me know what it is. 

 
Dear
I am writing because I am extremely worried about events taking place in the Middle East, particularly the murder of innocent civilians at the hands of ISIS. ISIS is an invading force that is brutally murdering ethnic and religious minorities while the countries of the west sit by and watch.
However the west has a collective responsibility, as many of the members of ISIS are recruits from western countries and it is these people who, against every value that is important to us, are killing the Yezidis and beheading people, setting fire to them while they are alive and selling girls into slavery. What logic are we using to allow this to continue? Why is the west and the EU not providing comprehensive support to the Kurdish people, particularly in Rojava, Syria? These people (YPG, YPJ) are actively resisting the invasion of their towns and cities whilst also trying to support the refugees displaced by ISIS activity. I am aware that there are some coalition airstrikes in Ithe area however these are limited in northern Syria. In addition to this there is no conversation with the people on the ground in Rojava, Syria. There is little help available for the support of refugees or the rebuilding of liberated towns.
At the very least there should a clear and open discussion of these issues. In the meantime perhaps you could answer the following questions for me:
Why is there no UN presence along the Turkish Syrian border to prevent ISIS from accessing supporters and supplies and also to investigate allegations of Turkish forces not only obstructing aid from getting to the Kurds but also actively supporting ISIS?
Why is there no protected aid corridor into Rojava to facilitate the access of the refugees to aid and also to help with the rebuilding of towns such as Kobane?
Why is there no dialogue with the YPG and YPJ to find out what they need to continue their resistance against ISIS? Why are we not in discussion with them and providing them directly with help?
Why has Silhan Ozcelik, a young girl of 17 been arrested and remanded in Holloway for trying to join the YPG/J, an unlisted organisation to which many westerns belong, some of whom have returned but have not been arrested.
Why is there no concerted effort being made to commit resources to tracing and returning the girls who have been sold into slavery to their communities? Among the men selling them into sexual slavery and raping them are British citizens yet little is being done to investigate the crimes that the returning men may have committed against civilians.
Why is there no effort to acknowledge the efforts of the PKK in freeing the persecuted minorities (such as the Yezidis from Mt Sinjar) and for working alongside all other Kurdish factions to liberate Kurdish cities from ISIS, particularly since its imprisoned leader has lately been active in promoting dialogue rather than terrorist activities.
Why is there no formal investigation into the allegations that Turkey is taking an unofficial yet active part in supporting the terrorist organisation ISIS?
How many more British people are to be shamed by the apathy of their government into going out there to act against ISIS and possibly dying?
Will you please take steps to raise these issues in Parliament and get them put on the agenda urgently?
I look forward with interest to your answers to my questions and a speedy reply.
Yours sincerely

The petition- please sign

Here is the link to the petition that I promised you. Can we make it reach 100.000? If we do, the British Government will have to discuss it in parliament. Please sign and share.

Stop ISIS, act decisively

Stage 1-Twitter

Kosta’s funeral.
Olive tree planted on his grave.

Sick of doing nothing? Join our campaign to #stop_ISIS. Select tweets from the list below or tweet all of them in turn, and between now (25/4/2015) and the end of May tweet them regularly. Let’s try and get #stop_ISIS trending and lets get the powers that be sitting up and taking notice. Please note: No automatic software please. Tweet personally and sensibly.
Be wise, Be strong. Be hopeful.

Tweet selection
Women’s rights:
Protect women’s rights in #Syria #Iraq #stop_ISIS. Give women a choice. @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #womensrights
Pro gay rights:
Protect gay people in #Syria #Iraq #stop_ISIS  Stop the killing now. @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #LGBTrights
Antislavery:
 
Stop slavery now in #Syria #Iraq #stop_ISIS #bringbackourgirls  @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU  #Yezidi #womensrights
Archaeology/history:
 
Stop destruction of history/culture in #Iraq #Syria #stop_ISIS #archaeology @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Stop the looting.
Aid corridor:
 
Open an aid corridor into #Rojava. #stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Help the refugees and civilians #Yezidi #refugees
Dialogue with Kurdish people:
Ask #YPG #Peshmerga what they need to #stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Open #dialogue #Rojava
Silhan Ozcelik:
Free Silhan Ozcelik Don’t demonise people who want to #stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #Australia #YPG
  
Recognition:
Applaud our lions #Syria #Iraq @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #SahidNamirin #YPG #YPJ #AJohnston #IHoffmann #EKScurfield #Peshmerga #stop_ISIS
PKK:
Delist the #PKK @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Work together to #stop_ISIS #negotiate, #reconciliation #dialogue
Acknowledgement:
 
Formally acknowledge role of Kurds in fight to #stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #thankyou #Peshmerga #YPG #YPJ
Rape/women:
 
Stop the rape now. Protect our girls/women in #Iraq #Syria @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU #Yezidi #womensrights #stop_ISIS
UN:
Involve the #UN #stop_ISIS in #Iraq #Syria @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Monitor borders #YPG #Turkey
Sanctions/finance:
 
Stop the smuggling @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Don’t buy their oil #stop_ISIS #ExxonMobil #RoyalDutchShell #BP
Anti-extremism:
Stop #extremism stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEU Work together for a #freeworld #humanity
Pro ethnic minorities and religious freedom:
 
Protect the minorities in #Syria #Iraq #Yezidi. #stop_ISIS @Number10gov @BarackObama @JunckerEUStop the killing now #ReligiousFreedom 
 
 
..
 

Call to action

My son,
KIA 2/3/2015
Now that some time has passed since Kosta’s death, my family and I have given some thought to his principles and desire to help and have decided that we can’t stand by and do nothing while innocent people continue to die at the hands of ISIS/Daesh/IS/ISIL. 
You must know about their barbarity- I don’t need to elaborate here, just perhaps to say that Daesh continues to sell women and girls into slavery, and execute through beheading, crucifixion and worse. They have a long term, stated plan to spread their ideology and system of government throughout North Africa and Southern Europe and into the UK and elsewhere. They are well resourced and don’t lack money or recruits. Mostly, at the moment they are being held back by the Kurdish people in Iraq and Syria. Coalition forces are supporting the Kurdish people in Iraq, through air strikes and the provision of some weapons, however in Syria, in the region of Rojava where my son was killed, the Kurdish people have much less support. In this region, where some of the worst fighting is happening, the men and women (because there are organised women’s units too as the Kurdish people believe in equality for men and women) only have one blanket between two soldiers, they are not allowed to buy weapons legally even though they have the resources to do so and I am told aid is being repeatedly turned back in Turkey before it can reach them.
Ashley Johnston
KIA Feb 23/2/2015
 
Let’s imagine, for a minute, a world in which these Kurdish people hadn’t mounted a resistance to Daesh. Let’s imagine that Daesh had walked into Northern Syria and completely taken over the area of Rojava and the area of Iraqi Kurdistan. Let’s imagine they had retained the oil producing areas completely and were sitting on all that money.
 
This success would have resonated with many extremists and perhaps been used as propaganda to ‘prove’ that their twisted ideology was good and righteous. This would have lent validity to their claims and increased their resources in terms of money and man power (neither of which they’re currently short of by the way, and you’ve got to ask where they’re getting it from). An increase in fervour and fire, manpower and money means that they would be consolidating their positions and ready and able to move closer to their ultimate goal. Aside from their expansionistic aims their goal is a world in which gay men and women will have been eradicated, women will be limited to their roles as broodmares and carers for men, there would be no music or theatre, no freedom of religious expression, books would be limited to their brand of religious treatises, art and history would be wiped out and, as we saw a group of 13 year old boys executed for playing football, it is clear that there would be no sport
 
The Kurdish people are slowing them down and even pushing them back, however the Kurdish people have few resources and are being obstructed by Western Governments. I am not advocating a boots on the ground approach but I am about to start a peaceful campaign to ask our government to be instrumental in securing UN monitors all along the Turkish-Syrian border and the opening of a humanitarian corridor via Turkey into Rojava, among other things. To this end I have set up a facebook group called Kosta’s Olive Tree and I wish to invite you to join if you are interested in expressing your abhorrence at the atrocities being carried out by this caliphate cult.
 
The very least we can do is continue to support those
still fighting the caliphate cult..
My aim is a good old fashioned letter writing campaign, a petition and a twitter campaign- that’s all, however I am hoping to organise this for maximum impact and to get it all happening within a certain time framework; hopefully June once the new UK government is bedded in. More on this will be posted in the group and on this blog, along with letter formats that people can use to copy and paste into emails etc. so that people would need to do the minimum. My aim is to make it so that the British government can’t ignore the issue any longer and that something is done to protect the people in Kurdistan and especially Rojava, where, uniquely to the Middle East they actively support women’s equality and fight for LGBT rights and where they believe everyone should be allowed to worship who they wish, if they wish and in their own way. Even without the obvious humanitarian need to stop this sort of horrendous atrocity happening the bottom line is that if the Kurdish people stop Daesh they serve all our interests and protect our society, which might be flawed but at least provides hope. It doesn’t matter whether you are British or not, you can still write to your MP and it doesn’t matter which country you live in- please still sign the petition. Please feel free to adapt my letters to write to your own government or your Euro MP as well.

Kurdish Newroz celebrations – talk

I wrote and gave this talk at the Kurdish Newroz (New Year) celebration at Finsbury Park in London, shortly after Kosta was killed.

Thank you for inviting us here to share your new year’s celebrations. I know that Kosta was looking forward to participating in them with his new friends in Rojava. He spoke to me about Newroz with excitement and he would have loved to have been here.
 
Newroz at Finsbury Park, London, 2015
Newroz is a new celebration for me. I had heard of it but I didn’t really know much about it.  It seems to me that Newroz reminds us that the Kurdish people are one people no matter where they live. It reminds us that individually they are strong but together they could be unbeatable. It reminds us that they have a distinct, unique and ancient culture that should be valued and preserved.
Celebrations like this are bitter sweet. Among the joy of such a time we must all remember loved ones who are no longer with us and the struggle in which they were lost. Whether our loved ones were lost at Halabja or Heseke, Kobane, Til Hamis or Tikrit, whether they were lost years ago or yesterday their spirit lives on in our fight against injustice and unfairness.
At times like this it can be easy to become distracted by feelings of hatred and rage but remember that hatred is the dark, destructive emotion that fuels the so called IS. When the year is renewed and the coming months are, as yet, unwritten pages, we need to look forward and not back. We need to channel this rage at the injustice and the atrocities that are still being committed against Kurdish people, and we need to use it to fuel a strong and unshakeable resolve; a bone deep determination to succeed against this organisation no matter what.
Recently people have asked me, ‘What is the difference between Kosta, who went to join the YPG and fight in Syria, and the men who go out to join IS?’ You and I know what the difference is. Your friends and relatives live the reality every day. So called IS is aggressive, YPG like other Kurds, is defensive; IS is oppressive, YPG and the Kurdish people together, is about people and their right to free choice; IS seeks to suffocate and eradicate anything that doesn’t fit their belief system, YPG seeks to nurture and grow communities.
You and I know that self-styled IS must be defeated. There is no acceptable alternative. We will do what it takes and we will succeed because all the Kurdish people are on the side of humanity, the side that allows choice and fairness; that recognises the equality of women and the right to practise your own religion and culture.
 
The governments of all countries that share Western values need to understand that without the Kurdish people there would be no stopping this caliphate cult called IS. If Rojava wasn’t putting up such a brave and successful resistance, a resistance Kosta was part of, and if the resistance wasn’t also being realised in places like Tikrit in the Kurdish region in Iraq, then this caliphate cult would spread unhindered. This inhuman cult will not be happy with a little bit of Syria or a little bit of Iraq. It is a greedy monster that will continue eating peoples up until its belly is full to bursting with the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe, and then it will look even further afield.
 
The whole world is at risk from the dark ideology of caliphate cult IS and it is the Kurdish fighters at the front line every day who are keeping it at bay. Just as Newroz brings light to darkness and spring to winter so the Kurdish people create hope and courage against the darkness of Daesh and show how tyranny can be defeated.
I beg the governments of Europe, USA, Australia and all other countries that share similar beliefs about equality and freedom to make sure that all Kurdish people participating in the resistance are properly equipped and supplied to continue the fight; I beg them to make sure that all Kurdish people have access to medical supplies and proper aid. I beg these governments to understand exactly who the real terrorists are. I beg them not to get distracted. Please don’t turn your faces away.
Here in the UK what can we do? Well, there are at least seven thousand people here tonight. That’s seven thousand Kurdish voices. If everyone here writes one letter to their MP that will be almost every MP in the country who will be made aware of the issues. If every person here asks to meet with their MP and talk to them to discuss these issues, that would be seven thousand meetings across the country. The MPs may not be able to change anything yet but not one of them would be able to say that they don’t have a clear understanding of the and they would not be able to get away with ignoring it. It doesn’t matter whether you are a citizen of the UK or not. It doesn’t matter if you can speak and write English well or not. Your assembly can give you a letter to copy and you have the right for your voice to be heard.
 
There are approximately fifty thousand Kurdish people in the UK. If just thirty thousand of you write a letter to a Minister- let’s say, for example the Deputy Prime Minister, or the Secretary of State for Defence, that is a lot of letters for his staff to open and they have to answer every one of them. But imagine- if each of those thirty thousand Kurdish people gets three non- Kurdish friends to also write that is ninety thousand letters. If everyone sends all these letters in one week-wow! Even if the government doesn’t take any action this time it will start to wake up and it will have to take notice. We can use this power to pester the government and let them know that we will not be silent and we will not go away.
My son has lit a fire in the hearts of the Kurdish people. His death has directly touched hearts across three countries. Every one of you can keep that fire burning and continue to make the difference. Every one of you can light a new, small fire underneath your MP and the government and with those fires you can light the way together. Every one of you can reach out and tell your story. Every one of you can spread the message and make sure no-one forgets about the Kurdish people.
Thank you.
Newroz pirosbe. 

Talk given at Kurdish reception after Erik Konstandinos Scurfield’s death

I wrote and gave this talk at a reception in Parliament shortly after Kosta’s death.

I would like to start by taking this opportunity to thank the Kurdish people from the Rojava region for looking after my son and honouring him and for their support in his repatriation and the financial assistance they’re giving us for this. I’d also like to thank the people from the Kurdish region of Iraq and particularly the Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani for their support of my husband during this difficult time and for pulling out all the stops to expedite the paperwork so that we can bring Kosta home. It is heart-warming to see Kurdish people coming together over a common goal and it bodes well for the future. I’d also like to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth office and the police for their advice, support and encouragement and my MP Dan Jarvis and his office for their unstinting support, advice and empathy which helped keep us strong; my family, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers for their hugs and exceptional support which have helped ease our grief. We’d also like to thank the media in the UK and Greece for the respect and dignity they have shown in their discussion of Kosta.
Kosta was not a mercenary. He wasn’t an out of work soldier looking for an adventure or something to do to pass the time. After fulfilling his obligation to Greece by doing his national service there, he joined the Royal Marines and only left his well-paid job there in order to go to Syria to fight against so called IS. He wasn’t paid a wage as a reward for going out to oppose IS; he gave up a wage to do it.
As a Royal Marine I was told Kosta was exemplary. While serving in the Marines and on exercise in Nevada, I am told he saved the life of a colleague by administering timely first aid. He was also one of the first on the scene when Luke Island lost his life in the Cairngorms and he insisted on keeping a long vigil at Luke’s side until the necessary authorities arrived. While in Rojava he worked alongside thousands of Kurds to create a corridor so that the trapped Yezidi people whose plight touched the heart of the British nation could leave mount Sinjar and escape to relative safety in Rojava. While participating in this he administered first aid to an injured colleague and carried him down the mountain to safety, saving his life. When Ashley Johnston fell Kosta went to retrieve his body. We are told he was a positive motivating force and always first to volunteer. Kosta would never ask someone to do something that he himself wasn’t prepared to do first.
Ashley Johnston and Kosta. Both served in the same YPG unit and both died within a week of each other.
Kosta was determined to make a difference and although this is not a way that many of us would have had him choose, it was the way he considered the best for him and I am proud of him for finding the courage to do this. He went out to oppose so called IS of course but really he went out to support the fundamental rights of every human being to live in their own country, with a government they have chosen rather than one imposed on them by religious ideology, the right to worship the God of their choice, in the way they choose, to celebrate their own culture and language, to read and speak freely, to make music and enjoy art or play football without fear of brutal execution. In other words he was a humanitarian who, in his own words, wanted to help.
We have found the support of so many people stunning and inspiring. We welcome it but we must remember that he is not the only person to have died at the hands of so called IS. He is not the only hero. I am not the only mother who is grieving. We mustn’t forget Ashley Johnston, Ivanna Hoffmann, James Foley, Ali al Sayyed, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Abbas Medlej, Hervé Gourdel killed by an affiliated group in Algeria, Alan Henning, cameraman Raad al-Azzawi, Peter Edward Kassig, Haruna Yukawa, Kenji Goto Jogo, Hujam Surchi of the Peshmerga, Moaz al-Kassasbeh of Jordan, 21 Coptic Christians, 500 Kurdish men and women combatants, the victims of Charlie Hebdo, the Iraqi soldiers executed and dropped into mass graves, the group of 13 year olds executed for playing football, and the thousands of civilian women and children sold into slavery or brutally murdered for being the wrong religion or race. There are many more who we don’t know about and can’t name.
Does any human being really believe this self-titled IS is Islamic? Does any rational person really believe it is a state? It has repeatedly proved through its actions that it is a gang of genocidal, mass murdering, and sex trafficking terrorists and we should give them a name that reflects this. To call them anything else lends them credence.
Kosta may not have been supporting British political interests with his actions but he was certainly supporting British values. Values that are pretty standard across the Western world and that we take for granted. Values that make me grateful every day that I live in Europe. He was born on the day of the Deal bombings and in the year that the Berlin wall fell. He saw the Balkan wars, the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war. He was brought up in a multi-cultural, multi lingual family. He was taught to value Democracy, religious freedom and the rights of women. He watched while the Western world joined wars to promote these values and then he watched while genocide and brutal executions took place, while women were sold into slavery, and those same governments did nothing. Being brought up to think critically and having acquired a set of specific and valuable skills he decided that it was cowardly to stand by on the sidelines so he went to do what he could and what he believed was right. In our family we have always believed that if something needs to be done you step up and get it done, rather than wait for someone else to do it and he did exactly that, in the end giving his life for these values.
 
He was one small drop in a massive ocean but he has caused big ripples and now I ask that the governments and media across the world turn their attention to so called IS. Shine the spotlight on them so brightly that there is no shadow deep enough for them to hide. Name and shame every government and politician that supports this organisation either covertly or overtly and ensure they are sanctioned, name and shame every organisation that sells them weapons, buys their oil or does any business with them at all and ensure strong penalties. Self-titled IS needs two things in order to continue their foul work. They need people and they need money. Let’s think creatively about how we can cut off their supplies of both even if it means rethinking treaties.
 
Not everyone can be a Kosta but there are elections coming up. If you are feeling politically apathetic but have strong feelings about self-titled IS, then here is a cause and a clear reason to get involved. Ask your MP what their view is on so called IS. Ask what they are going to do about it. Ask what will be done to immediately secure a humanitarian corridor into Rojava so that the refugees who Kosta helped can now have the aid they need. Ask what our government is going to do to support the work of Mogens Lykketoft, the Danish MP who says that strong action is needed to ensure thousands of women who have been taken captive and are being sold to rich businessmen are returned to their former lives. Ask your MPs what they are going to do to ensure that pressure is put on countries where these women are being trafficked to ensure that it ceases and they are returned. Ask why we are not supporting the Kurds at the frontline in Syria by, at the very least, equipping them with defensive equipment such as bullet proof vests and night vision goggles. These Rojavan Kurds are the 300 Spartans fighting the massive Persian army; they are inadequately equipped but armed with spirit, conviction and the desire to protect home and hearth, they have shown that the so called IS is not invincible and they have halted its advance. We owe them as much help as we can. Let’s stop standing by and let’s instead think creatively about grinding down and putting out the biggest threat to the world since the Nazis. 
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