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
Place of origin: Barnsley, Britain
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.
- The author states that Kosta left the British military in 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Since they haven’t even had the decency to respond…