Category: Parliament

Lies, lies and more lies…

Recently the Henry Jackson Society has seen fit to publish a report claiming that foreign fighters joining the YPG/J have actually joined the PKK.  My blood has been boiling ever since. because of the amount of inaccuracies it contained. 

I wrote to the society pointing out the errors they had made with regards to my son Kosta. They never had the decency to respond. The sad thing is that they are supposedly a think tank that influences government policy If they have made so many errors with regards to my son what other ones are there and how far can they actually be trusted? I’d like to think that the government has more sense than to believe anything that comes out of this society however my confidence is zero. Wasn’t the pretext for the war with Iraq based on a dissertation? Just goes to show, huh? It appears that this society is currently under investigation by the charity commission and has no transparency as to funding. Makes you think…

This is exactly how fake news is propagated.

Here is what they said about Kosta. (The full report is available here: http://henryjacksonsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/3053-PYD-Foreign-Fighter-Project-1.pdf)

KONSTANDINOS ERIK SCURFIELD
Codename: Heval Kemal
Date of birth: 22 September 1989
Date joined YPG: December 2014
Date of death: 2 March 2015
Age: 25
Sex: Male
Place of origin: Barnsley, Britain
Occupation: Military
Kurdish descent: No
Military background: Yes
Prior militant ties: None known
Konstandinos Scurfield, often known as “Kosta”, had been artistically inclined in high school, and expressed a desire to be an actor.  At 20 years old, he changed direction and volunteered for national service in Greece – something made  possible by his Greek background.  Scurfield served six months, mostly consisting of sentry duty. After returning to the UK, he joined the Royal Marines and excelled as a battlefield medic. Scurfield’s mother says her son told her on Christmas Day 2013 that he was going to “go to Syria and help” because “the Kurds are dying and our government’s doing nothing”.  Scurfield resigned from the British military in September 2014, got in contact with a YPG  recruiter through the Facebook page for the Lions of Rojava unit, flew to northern Iraq, where the PKK retains its  headquarters in the Qandil Mountains, and was soon in battle in Sinjar. According to a man known as Macer Gifford, a British YPG operative (profiled in Section 3.3), Scurfield “had no time for people who didn’t believe in the cause”, and became agitated about foreign fighters who came to Syria and did not heed the instructions of the YPG. Scurfield was killed in an IS ambush near Tel Hamis, a key town from which the YPG had expelled IS on 27 February 2015. Pro-PYD/YPG activists in Britain relayed confirmation from Jordan Matson (profiled in THE FORGOTTEN FOREIGN FIGHTERS: THE PKK IN SYRIA

Here is my response. 

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with grave concerns about a recent report posted on your website titled: ‘The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria’, published on your website on the 18th of August.

In this report there is a profile of my deceased son Erik K Scurfield. I am sorry to have to inform you there appears to be an absence of academic rigor in the research done by the author, leading to errors that can only highlight a lack of professionalism in your Society.

  1. The author states that Kosta left the British military September. This is an error. He actually left the British military quite a bit after that. A bit of real research will soon establish exactly when.
  2. The author states that Kosta landed in Sulaymaniya airport and uses this to make a massive, unevidenced inference that he must therefore have joined the proscribed terrorist organisation PKK. The author seems to have based this on the fact that Sulaymaniya airport is in ‘close’ proximity to the Qandil mountains which is where the PKK is based. If one is to accept this argument (that proximity to a place means he must have therefore joined the faction that is based there), then it stands to reason that he joined the Kurdish PUK based in Sulaymaniya, or the KRG Peshmerga based in Erbil which is closer to Sulaymaniya than the Qandil mountains. Since this is very weak argument based on the sort of illogical leap that one wouldn’t even expect to find in GCSE essay, I am surprised to find that a so-called reputable think tank could countenance it. It is quite clear to even the meanest intelligence that the Qandil mountains are over 100kms away from Sulaymaniya and as this map  of ISIS positions shows, in 2014 when Kosta joined the YPG, travelling through Northern Kurdistan was likely the only safe, and prudent, way into Northern Syria. It is not evidence of an ideological and military link to the PKK.
  3. The author of this report then also infers that the use of the word ‘cause’ that Kosta allegedly used, indicates a link to the PKK. I’d like to point out that 1) there is no evidence that my son used this word at all, 2) that it is actually third hand information – (someone said that someone said that someone said) and that a sound academic researcher should, at the very least, have tried to contact the original speaker (Macer Gifford) in order to ascertain the truth behind the statement. Reading the report as written by Mr Matt Blake, (cited by the author in the bibliography), will soon show that the ‘cause’ referred to by Macer Gifford is the fight against ISIS terrorism. Even without that, how can any report purport to be serious when it relies on hearsay? Finally, there is clear evidence, spoken by my son, recorded in his own voice and available widely in the public domain that his sole motivation for going out to Syria was to fight ISIS. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAKP2EAMA-g where it is clear he was joining to fight ISIS. It would take some extreme mental gymnastics to allege otherwise.

The author states that the PKK and the YPG are the same organisation. He doesn’t pose this as a theory and provide arguments, which would be a sounder academic approach, instead he states it as if it is a fact.

I would like to point out that currently British law does not support this. Under the current status quo, the PKK is proscribed and the YPG is not. These two organisations have different names, exist in different countries and are fighting different battles. The YPG itself, and its political arm the PYD, clearly state that they are not part of the PKK and have distanced themselves from it in the past.

YPJ fighters. (Photo taken from http://kurdishquestion.com/article/3966-modern-feminism-why-we-should-learn-from-kurdish-women)

My son was very careful, researched the YPG thoroughly, and was actually thoroughly investigated, in turn, by the British military and the Scottish anti-terror police before he went to Syria. To claim that my son joined the PKK is to impugn not only his memory but also the investigative abilities of both these organisations. Stating that something is a fact does not make it so, as so many politicians have recently found to their dismay, however let’s imagine, for a moment, that this is correct and that the two organsiations are one and the same. Given the sacrifices, the lives lost, the ground support that the YPG have given to the coalition and the wonderful progress made by the YPG in the fight against the terrorist caliphate cult of ISIS, it would seem to indicate a pretty good case for the de-listing of the PKK. Instead the author suggests the criminalisation of the young people who have gone over there to support democratic values, gender equality and the right of human beings to live free of oppression.

It disturbs me that a reputable organisation should endorse a report that contains errors, misdirection, and badly evidenced and argued points, and as a result is contributing to the spread of fake news. I am further disappointed that the researcher seems to have forgotten a basic tenet of research and that is the importance of primary source material.  He has made no attempt to contact any of the relatives of the deceased men he mentions, or speak to the people he accuses to get a balanced, unbiased viewpoint, and seems to have indulged in a sort of spurious cut and paste academia that is shameful. What I also find nauseating and rather disgusting is the author has put these fighters and, more importantly, their families at risk from ISIS. It is true that ISIS could do its own internet research and find out the information, but the author has provided a handy directory of names and other information that makes it all just that bit easier for them.

I look forward to hearing from you soon about the action you’re proposing to take to amend the errors and misrepresentations in the section about my son. If you choose to leave this factually erroneous report on your website then please respect my right to reply and post this letter- in its entirety, with no amendments, where it can be seen in conjunction with the report.

An apology would also be nice.

Yours faithfully,

Vasiliki Scurfield.

Since they haven’t even had the decency to respond…

Criminalising Kurdish Communities

On the 30th August Scottish police raided the homes of innocent Kurdish civilians. This is part of a growing tendency of Britain to criminalise these people and their supporters.

The local Kurdish Community penned the following letter:

As of Wednesday 30th August 2017, the police has carried out raids to the homes of various Kurdish community members. Later, a forced entry was used to raid the Kurdish community centre in Edinburgh.

Kurdish community centre is a place where the Kurdish community gather to share their language, culture and traditions. We hold Kurdish language classes, folklore dance classes and English language classes. Our community refer to the centre as our “common home”. It is where we can peacefully and freely embrace our identity and pass our culture onto our children. Having come to Scotland as Kurdish refugees many years ago, we have now integrated into the Scottish society here. Our children are growing up half Kurdish, half Scottish and they are, just like all other youth in Scotland, the future of this country. We have formed many relationships with communities, organisations and charities. We have been welcomed here with positive attitudes and to this day both the Scottish government and the people of Scotland have made us feel at home. We left difficult days of persecution and discrimination back home and came to Scotland with a vision of peace, unity and hope.

However – since the Turkish Consulate has been established in Edinburgh, they have put in every effort and energy to intimidate our community by criminalising both us and our centre. This is the second time we are being labelled, targeted and questioned by the police. We therefore believe the police are under the pressure and influence of the Turkish consulate who are bringing the intimidation tactics of the Turkish Government to Scotland.This is an open form of racism. It is against our most basic human rights. We are a migrant community

With Scotland moving closer to independence why can they not support the same for the Kurdish people?

and have already suffered many years of injustice.

We no longer want to face policies of denial and discrimination. Our community are now very disheartened but also very determined to stand firm against this undeserved treatment.
Kurdish community centre

The thing that breaks my heart about all this is that the Scottish people have experienced years of oppression and they should know what it feels like. Why aren’t they standing up for the Kurdish minorities and why aren’t they standing up against the fascism of the Turkish State? If you want to show support for Kurdish people please tweet to your MPs, write to the Scottish Parliament, and you can also join the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign.

Why won’t the UK help the Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria against ISIS?

I was recently able to meet with some government officials and put my questions to them.

First of all I’d like to express my appreciation for living in a country where I can get involved in political protest, without being arrested and where the authorities are prepared to put time and effort into hearing me and my concerns. My sincere thanks go to the British government for giving me the meeting, for not being patronising and for treating me with respect. Also for answering my questions with due care and attention particularly those questions regarding the progress of ISIS, the role of the UK in Syria and, in particular, why the UK will not engage with the Rojavan Syrian Kurds and consistently denies them any support.The primary reasons for the UK’s reluctance to help the Rojavan Kurds in their struggle against ISIS, as expressed to me by government officials, seem to be these: 

  • There have been human rights abuses in Northern Syria- carried out by the Kurds
  • The YPG/J recruits 17 year olds
  • The YPG/J is linked to the listed terror organisation the PKK.
Let’s look at their first argument.
First of all let me make clear that my views are that any kind of abuse, torture or deaths in custody are inexcusable. So by all means let’s refuse to talk to any country that has such human rights abuses.
 
Going by what I was told therefore, the logical assumption is, (since we don’t talk to, or negotiate with, organisations and governments that commit human rights abuses) none of our allies will be guilty of this.
 
Check out Saudi Arabia:
 
Check out our NATO ally Turkey:

Check out China where many of our goods come from
Check out Israel

Check out the amount of people who have died at the hands of police in the USA- many unarmed 
 
For the sake of interest here is the official letter from the YPG refuting the claims (It’s slightly ungrammatical but you get the gist):
Sadly all these links are simply the tip of the iceberg. Go look for yourself. See what our UK ally Turkey is doing to its own citizens right now, at the time of writing, in Cizre, for example.

I feel quite confident at this point in time that any illegal actions carried out by Rojavan Kurds are not state sanctioned (unlike what appears to be happening in Turkey) and if people are accused of committing heinous acts then they will investigated by the Kurdish government, just as British citizens would, presumably, in similar situations.

I am not claiming that the links or my research are exhaustive and I’m not intending to point a finger at countries or to argue one way or another about whether or not the YPG/J are guilty of the allegations. 

All I’m saying is that there’s en element of hypocrisy in the excuses made by the UK government and it should not hide behind such a paltry excuse when we can see that it has long and, dare I say it, seemingly comfortable liaisons with many countries with deeply concerning human rights records.

This is not a reason not to talk to the YPG/J UK so please- pull the other one!

Regarding the second point: The YPG/J, as far as I am aware, does not have a conscious, active recruitment process focussed on youngsters. Where the authorities are made aware, youngsters are sent home. However, given the upheaval, does everyone have documentation that can clarify age? And what would you do if you were sixteen and nine months and your whole family had been beheaded while you were visiting a relative in a different village? Would you not be inclined to say, ‘I’m going to go after the people who did this so that I can stop it happening to someone else?’ Maybe you’d be inclined to say, ‘No-one is helping us defeat ISIS. No other countries are helping. I guess I just have to help myself!’ What else is left?

The bottom line is that if the UK had offered help earlier, maybe seventeen year old kids wouldn’t need to pick up weapons to defend themselves.

The final point I want to make is about the allegation that the YPG/J is linked to the PKK. Maybe it is but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t the PKK. It isn’t a listed organisation.

It is a legal organisation. 

Either list it or get off your butts and help. Hey, who knows, if they had help from elsewhere perhaps they wouldn’t need to be ‘linked’ to the PKK!

My final point is that Britain is talking to countries like Iran, maybe in the future even to Assad and has helped facilitate dialogue with ‘terrorist’ organisations in Northern Ireland. Surely talking to the YPG/J and their political arm the PYD should be easy in comparison since they are NOT LISTED.
 
UK- please! Stop with the lame excuses and help Rojava, the YPG and YPJ. 

Response to Times article

The Tiimes published quite a negative article focussing on a young man fighting with the YPG, and alleging that he had autism and was ‘lured’ to Syria!

The article :http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4464198.ece

My response:

The olive tree planted on Kosta’s grave is growing.
This is an interesting article and it is really encouraging to see that the local MP cares enough to take a personal interest in constituents’ issues and that you care enough to report on them. However there are some assumptions that I feel should be challenged and some errors on the part of the MP that I also feel should be corrected.
First of all the implication in your headline, that because this lad is autistic he is automatically vulnerable and incapable of making up his own mind is rather troubling. It also seems as if you are defining him by his disability, (and there is some doubt about whether he has autism. It appears he was diagnosed when he was nine years old and then was told that he didn’t have autism when he was seventeen- personal communication with his mother). Did you actually try and contact the lad himself to ask him for his opinions? If you have to use this lad’s disability in an emotive headline why not: Autistic man joins fight against ISIS to protect humanity? Or better still go for Newark lad stands up for British values and resists ISIS alongside Rojavan Kurds.
Please don’t diminish his courage because of his disability.
Second, put simply, the Peshmerga are the fighting arm of the Kurds in Iraq mostly. The Kurds in Iraq are a patriarchal, tribal based society. The YPG is the male fighting arm of the Kurdish people in Northern Syria (Rojava). In contrast to the whole of the rest of the Middle East these Kurds are working towards a democratic society and have active gender equality, freedom of religious expression and active pro-gay rights policies among others.
There definitely seems to be some confusion in the mind of the MP and in many media reports between the two different countries. Perhaps it would help if everyone could get that straight for a start. If the MP is indeed asking the British government to ask the government of the Peshmerga to stop people joining the YPG then that’s a bit like Italy asking France to stop people joining the British military in Catterick.
The YPG (or Lions of Rojava) have a vetting system when they recruit and if they think that a recruit is in any way a liability or vulnerable they would either not allow them to join or would send them back. They are, indeed, trying to do this with the actor Michael Enright. If this lad’s mum feels that her son is at risk then she has a way of contacting the YPG and asking for him to be sent back. It is my experience that they would do this at once since they value every human being and try very hard not to have losses. A liability or a loose cannon on the battlefield would put their own people at risk. In addition this lad must have passed the one month training the YPG gives all its members or he wouldn’t still be there. This indicates a certain level of capability on his part.
Finally I note that the reader is told that Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with the ‘brave Peshmerga’. Indeed, are these the same brave Peshmerga who abandoned the Yezidis to ISIS so many months ago? The Yezidis who were rescued from Mt Sinjar by the YPG including the foreign lions like my son (Erik also saved someone’s life and carried him off the mountain to safety)? The Yezidis still remember the foreign lions who helped save them. As we’ve already established, the YPG are not the same as the Peshmerga and so far there is little to no evidence that Britain supports the YPG at all. Little to no aid is reaching the refugees from all minorities societies, who have found sanctuary in Rojava with the Syrian Kurds. There is no aid for the rebuilding of Kobane and other cities destroyed by ISIS. There are no weapons reaching the Rojavans, not even night vision goggles or defensive items. Yet these brave men and women still fight, in trainers and home-made armoured vehicles. They fight against an invading militia that is made up of British citizens, Iraqis equipped and trained by us who have defected, as well as other people from all over the world who share their terrible ideology. Then you ask why our lads feel they need to go out there and imply that they have been lured. Seriously?
No-one wants British boots on the ground but for as long as the British government ignores the YPG/J and its role in the battle against ISIS the more likely we will be to have a British civil war going on in someone elses’ back yard, in which the two ideologies- that of ISIS and that of a tolerant and democratic Britain, will be tested. All we ask is for the government to open a dialogue with the Kurds in Syria (we’re already helping the ones in Iraq) in order to see how they can be supported (night vision goggles for instance would make a big difference to their success against ISIS)
If your readers and any MPs want to find out more about the situation in Syrian Kurdistan and the fight against ISIS then they can visit www.kostasolivetree.blogspot.co.ukfor the links along the side of the page. They can also join my campaign called Kosta’s Olive Tree (look for the group on facebook), or sign the petition if they wish to make a difference. My campaign does NOT call for boots on the ground.
Yours respectfully
Vasiliki Scurfield (Mother of Erik Konstandinos Scurfield KIA Syria)

Tunisia, France, Kuwait and Kobane.

I’m terribly saddened this last week at the news of terrorist attacks in three separate countries all of them engineered by ISIS.There was an attempt at a chemical plant in France with the brutal beheading of the manager, the shooting of holiday makers on a beach in Tunisia that has resulted in over 30 deaths, and a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait with a loss of over 27 lives. 

The media has been filled with terrible pictures of pain and suffering and the stunned incomprehension of normal people who were doing nothing but go about their normal business when their world imploded. But while these images, of Tunisia in particular, have flooded the news reports, there have been ISIS attacks elsewhere, in which gunmen have shot and killed children, not just adult tourists and where the death toll has been over 150 adults and children. Here you see the same stunned incomprehension, the same dreadful grief on so many faces, but this time it’s Kobane, where there are so many ISIS terrorists that they qualify as an invading army, where the media coverage has been so scarce that it verges on shameful. The people in this town didn’t deserve to die any more than the people in the Mosque worshipping, or the people on the beach holidaying, or the man going to work. None of them deserved to die and I’m saddened that despite David Cameron’s rhetoric about stopping extremism, he still won’t enter dialogue with the Kurds in Rojava to see what Britain can do to help. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people suffering at the hands of ISIS wherever they are. I will keep shouting for you in the hope that my voice will be heard at some point.

Be wise, be brave, be strong.

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

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.

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