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.