On 11 and 12 December, Kurds in Scotland organised events to highlight and protest the intimidation and discrimination they have faced from Police Scotland. These events come after the most recent series of raids by police on members of the Kurdish community’s homes for alleged support of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
These raids are not new, and have been occurring with intermittent frequency for the past three years. Police have conducted early morning raids on people’s homes, sometimes targeting the same family numerous times, and made regular interventions into the Kurdish Community Centre in Edinburgh. Police have confiscated items such as Kurdish flags, magazines, badges of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) (a whitelisted organisation by the UK, and the primary force in the US-led coalition against IS), and even scarves bearing the Kurdish colours of red, green, and yellow. Meanwhile, the Kurds have lived peacefully in Scotland for more than 30 years.
Warrants for these searches are granted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The justification for these warrants is given by the alleged support of some members of the community for the PKK, which the UK has classified as a ‘terrorist organisation’. However, police have indiscriminately confiscated any material bearing a relation to other Kurdish organisations, or even Kurdish culture in general, and considered this evidence for PKK support. What’s more, the most recent series of raids has begun only days after the European Union Court of Justice ruled that the PKK should not still be listed as a terrorist organisation, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.
The Kurdish community in Scotland called successive events earlier this week in Edinburgh and Glasgow to protest these most recent raids by the police, and the long-term pressure and intimidation they have faced from Police Scotland. The events were hosted in cooperation with Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, a trade union campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the Kurdish question and supporting the Kurdish community in Scotland, as well as the Edinburgh University Kurdish Society. The events were attended by numerous members of the community, both Kurds and non-Kurds alike.
In Turkey, Kurdish advocates, journalists, and politicians are systemically targeted and imprisoned as part of a national campaign to suppress dissent. Kurds in Scotland have protested these actions of the Turkish state, hosting solidarity events for persecuted Kurdish populations in Turkey and lobbying the Scottish parliament to end government support for Turkey, which the UK government has been providing for years in the form of money, trade, and arms. The Turkish government holds immense sway internationally, and some commentators have suspected that the Kurds’ protesting of these activities in Turkey is behind the increase in police pressure. As James Kelman (pictured speaking above), acclaimed Scottish novelist and long-time Kurdish rights activist, said, “It is shocking to hear this is happening in Scotland. No doubt the police will defend their actions on the grounds of just following orders. The Scottish people have a right to ask: whose orders are we talking about here? When Turkey barks Britain jumps. Is that what it is about? The Scottish government must answer these questions.”