On the 4th May 10 towns and cities from across England and Wales are taking part in a day of action in solidarity with Kurdish hunger strikers across the world. The campaign will highlight Turkish human rights abuses and discourage people from the UK from holidaying in Turkey, arguing this indirectly supports human rights abuses in Turkey.
The day of action will focus on Tui (formerly Thomson Holidays). It will include protests and actions at travel agents and distributing informative materials to the public.
Over 7000 Kurdish activists are on hunger strike across the world. This action was initiated by Kurdish member of the Turkish Parliament, Leyla Güven, on 7th November 2018. Imam Sis, a 32 year old Kurdish resident of Newport, has been on an indefinite hunger strike since the 17th November 2018. Their conditions are rapidly deteriorating.
The hunger strikers are calling for an end to the isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan who has been held in a Turkish prison since 1999 and denied access to his lawyers since 2011 and only allowed very brief family visits to check he is alive in recent years. The hunger strikers are also demanding the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) re-open its investigation into the prison on Imrali Island (Turkey) where Öcalan is held.
Activists have chosen to target UK travel agents to highlight the links between the UK and the oppressive Turkish regime. Turkey continues to oppress the Kurdish people even after Kurdish-led forces have recently liberated the last of ISIS’ territory in Syria. Activists also highlight recent Turkish atrocities committed against the Kurds, for example in Afrin and Cizre.
There are a diverse range of actions anticipated as part of the day in various cities including; Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Bangor, Swansea, Barry, Manchester, Liverpool, Penzance, Hull, London and Brighton. In Bristol there are people starting a 5 day hunger strike in solidarity on this day of action.
Memed Aksoy from the Kurdish community in Newport (South Wales)
“Despite its appalling human rights record, Turkey is still one of the most visited holiday destinations in the world. In 2018, it made $26.3 billion from its tourism industry, which is intrinsically linked to its war machine.
“Turkish tourism directly funds the state’s war on the Kurdish people. In the name of humanity, we ask everyone to boycott holidaying in Turkey. Therefore we call up on every one who stands in solidarity with the Kurdish People to avoid visiting Turkish Holiday resorts. Every penny spent in Turkey, turns into bullets and victimises Kurdish Civilians.”
Rosa Gilbert, Co-Secretary of the national Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign
“For many years, solidarity campaigns have used boycotts as a way to not only communicate to oppressed people that they have friends and supporters on their side, but to leverage economic pressure over the oppressors. This was used historically against the apartheid South African regime and currently is used by BDS campaigners against Israeli human rights abuses and settlements. Given the situation in Turkey, with the Kurdish people’s political representatives locked up in extreme conditions, thousands of activists, party members and representatives from the HDP behind bars, with the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, northern Syria occupied and economically exploited by Turkey, we must put pressure on the Turkish state.
“The Turkish economy is in freefall and tourism is a hugely important sector to the economy. Unknowingly, holidaymakers from England and Wales pump huge amounts of money into sustaining Erdogan’s regime – he is able to present the “normality” of Turkey to tourists visiting the western Turkish resorts (in contrast to the devastation wreaked on the Kurdish southeast, hidden from view) and can use the economic injection to finance NATO’s second largest standing army, which colludes with jihadists in Syria and attacks Kurds across Turkey, Syria and Iraq. This alone should make people pause for thought whilst booking their summer getaways.”
Kurdish Solidarity Cymru
“We have the potential to raise awareness of the hunger strike, and the fact that Turkey as a state tortures Kurds and supports ISIS. A place totally unsuitable to go on holiday and support economically.
“Tourism accounts for 11.6% of Turkey’s economy, contributing $26 billion to their economy in 2017. This income helps fuel Turkey’s war on the Kurds. There are also direct links between Turkish holiday and arms companies. Over 2 million people from the UK visited Turkey in 2018, making the UK one of the top 5 countries supporting Turkey’s tourist income.
“We cannot rely on governments alone to pressure Turkey, attacking their economy through boycotts is an important part of the campaign. Tui profits from facilitating holidays to Turkey – in addition to encouraging individuals to boycott Turkey we will put pressure on the travel agent TUI to drop Turkish holidays from it’s selection.”
NOTES FOR THE EDITOR
- Leaflets for the action: https://kurdishsolidaritycymru.weebly.com/leaflets-and-posters.html
- Interviews with Imam Sis require prior arrangement as he is fatigued and often asleep due to his hunger strike. Direct message @KSCCymru on Twitter to arrange this.
- The Kurdish Community Centre is at 119-121 Chepstow Road, Newport, NP19 8BZ
- Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott met with campaigners in March 2019. After the meeting, Corbyn spoke at a Labour rally mentioning Imam Sis by name and arguing for the importance of Abdullah Öcalan involvement in any peaceful settlement in the Middle East amplifying the calls for lawyers to be allowed to visit Mr Öcalan. In the past, at the Durham Miners’ Gala, Jeremy Corbyn has spoken in support for the campaign to free Abdullah Öcalan.
A video of Corbyn speaking at a rally in support of the hunger strikers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tZfCJ79WKM
- On 20 March 2018 the Welsh Assembly passed a motion in support of the hunger strikers, particularly Imam Sis of Newport. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-47646773)
- There have been previous calls from the Kurdish community for Westerners to boycott Turkish holidays. (for example: https://afrinnotalone.com/2018/03/02/kck-calls-for-a-boycott-of-turkish-goods-and-tourism/)
- Imam Sis, April 2019: https://drive.google.com/file/d/199qj5yYGhSY8tg9fynQTohSozpdJJGXj/view
- Imam Sis with supporters in Newport: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IZS_xMdFU8-C2LWMPsYH901LgYm0c6-k/view
- Imam Sis, Christmas Day 2018 (one week into his hunger strike): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YmglGvNsAVLgeHGkp2tJs4HnJ-kECaRB/view
- Imam Sis, February 2019: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HyrE92XTUMvXj61laMwOy7QkRvYvEVDk/view
- Imam Sis, writing in The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/abdullah-calan-erdogan-imam-sis-welsh-parliament-a8846926.html
- BBC article on the passing of “Imam’s Motion” through the Welsh Assembly: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-47646773
- A letter in The Guardian, signed by many politicians and public figures, in support of the hunger strikers: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/12/support-for-ocalan-hunger-strikers
- A similar letter signed by 50 Nobel laureates: http://www.freeocalan.org/news/english/50-nobel-laureates-call-for-end-of-isolation
- A website with information on the worldwide hunger strikes campaign: https://hungerstrikes.eu/