In memory of Dan Burke: KSN Legal group statement and message from the Kurdish Assembly of Britain

This statement was written on the occasion of the memorial of Dan Burke (also known as Argeş) in March 2024. Dan was a British internationalist fighter with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and a volunteer with the Ukrainian Territorial Defence. He was killed in Ukraine in Summer 2023.

We will remember Dan as an internationalist hero and martyr. He gave his life fighting against the fascism of Daesh, and of the Turkish and Russian states.

Dan wasn’t afraid to take risks in struggling for a better world. His fight will not be forgotten, and the values he stood for will live on in all of our hearts.

Kurdistan Solidarity Network first got in touch with Dan when he was on remand for terrorism charges in the UK. Several of our members wrote to him, and attended his hearing at the Old Bailey. Dan asked us to campaign for his release, not only to help his own case but to, as he put it, raise awareness of Turkey’s illegal provocation of war on the Kurds. It was Dan’s imprisonment that inspired the formation of the KSN Legal group, which supports returned internationalists experiencing criminalisation, as well as some members of the Kurdish community who are facing similar repression. We tried our best to raise awareness of Dan’s case — carrying out several solidarity actions on Mayday 2020 in the UK and Europe.

Demo outside the Old Bailey
Demo outside the Old Bailey
May Day demo
May Day demo

Dan’s letters from prison showed his continued resilience and steadfastness — even while he was imprisoned by the British state. He spent the worst eight months of the Covid-19 pandemic locked up 23 hours a day in a Category B prison. It was absurd for the UK government to prosecute and remand him, bearing in mind its own tactical coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces (which the YPG was part of).

Dan told us that the one positive thing about his case was that it would be a platform to expose Turkey’s war crimes. However, the case collapsed with the Crown Prosecution Service offering no evidence against him. No explanation was ever given for bringing a prosecution that took away Dan’s freedom, and then withdrawing it before he had a chance to defend himself.

A statement written at the time by internationalist volunteers in Northeast Syria reads:

Both civilian and military volunteers in Rojava are targeted by the British state without ever being formally charged.Their passports are confiscated for years, their movements and political activities monitored, and they are routinely detained and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

Despite the enormous sacrifices made by the YPG, YPJ and SDF to defeat ISIS, the British state’s use of terror legislation against British volunteers smears the Kurdish-led force itself as a terror organisation. Targeting civil volunteers in Rojava is an attack against the region’s unique democratic, feminist and ecological political system.

Fighting for a better world should never be criminalized. We will continue to stand up to the regressive measures we and our friends are subjected to, and fight back against the criminalisation of a region and a people who not only rid the world of ISIS, but are building an alternative system the whole world can learn from.

During his eight months in prison, Dan asked us to send him books on the Suffragette movement and permaculture, and update him on the situation in Kurdistan. He also requested books that he hoped would help him to educate himself in order to carry out aid work in war zones. He told us he wanted to buy land in Spain, in order to provide a safe haven for other internationalist volunteers to recuperate after returning from war.

Dan signed off his letters from prison with peace and solidarity and an anarchist A. He addressed us as Heval, the Kurdish word for friend and comrade.

After Dan’s release, some of our members met with him. Over tea, he spoke about his experiences, and discussed his idea for a place for volunteers of the Kurdish struggle to recover. One of his comrades who knew him in Kurdistan told us that he always wanted to help people, and he was someone [they] could talk to and relax around.

Dan was our comrade in the struggle against fascism, for women’s liberation, grassroots democracy and a free society. He wanted peace, and to live in a society that was ecologically sustainable. We mourn his loss, and we will not forget him. His struggle is our struggle.

The Kurdish Assembly of Britain wrote:

We recognise your anguish, and the depth of loss that only someone with the might of his courage and fortitude can leave behind. Words fall away and seem almost inadequate, when one considers the reason for which he fought and made the ultimate sacrifice. Instead, we hope to reflect our respect, solidarity, and love by vowing this: We will not yield his flag of freedom, we will continue his fight unbowed, and continue the struggle until we see victory or our last breath. As the Kurdish people, we will always be grateful to him and the families of our martyrs. He will never die, for as long as the memory of him exists. Thus, we will always keep him alive, deep in our hearts. This is why we always say,

!Şehîd namirin!
The martyrs are immortal!

Flyposted bus stop advert

Roadside memorial

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