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mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / press release Friday June 18, 2021 04:38 byInternational Delegation for Peace and Freedom

The UCL participated in the European delegation to observe the Turkish war crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This delegation is taking place at a time when Erdogan is received at the NATO summit. His formal meeting with Macron does not hide his objective, which is obviously to legitimize his illegal invasion of Iraq, and to obtain from NATO a blank check to continue his military campaign.
His pretext: to eradicate the PKK, a "terrorist organization" according to the Council of Europe's blacklist.
His strategy: to intimidate European nations, to maintain bombings, military pressure and destruction of crops in Iraqi Kurdistan, to force Mahmoud Barzani's KDP to collaborate openly with him, against its brothers and sisters in Kurdistan.
At the time of publishing this information, the conference of the delegation has been prevented by the KDP, the hotel where it is held is surrounded by the military, and our comrades have been sent back to France after interrogation by the police of the KDP, traitor to the Kurdish cause.

We, as a delegation from all over Europe, have come to Kurdistan aiming for peace and freedom. Politicians, academics, human rights activists, syndicalists, journalists, feminists and ecologists from over ten countries wanted to get direct impressions of the situation and stand up to end the war and destruction. With 150 persons we wanted to establish a dialogue with the members of parliament of all parties and visit non-governmental organizations in order to contribute to a dialogue between the different Kurdish political actors.

The invasion of the Turkish military violating international laws is without doubt unacceptable. However, we are sadly witnessing that the international community of states remains inactive against this, and does not insist on the compliance with the international codes and human rights.

The Kurdish Regional Government prevented the delegation from establishing dialogues with most political actors in South Kurdistan. Organizations we wanted to visit were intimidated so that they would draw back from their already planned meetings. A huge part of the delegation couldn’t arrive in Kurdistan. 25 people have been deported so far, or are about to be deported. At least 27 people were held at Düsseldorf airport in Germany and banned for their departure.

We are outraged by the illegal deportations of our international friends, which were carried out by the Kurdish Regional Government, and the travel bans on the grounds that these people “appeared to be political” without a clear legal basis. Free media coverage and engagement of civil society are components of every vital democracy and has no reason for repression.

In order to support peace, we have spared no pains and been welcomed in South Kurdistan. We have been provided trips to see cultural, religious and historical places and invited to open a conversation with Baba Șeix, the highest religious representative of the Êzîdî community. In the Êzîdî refugee camp Șarya, which had to suffer from a big fire about a week ago, we spoke to the people that are especially affected by the war, displacement and destruction. The friendship and hospitality we experienced from people living here warm our hearts, and motivate us even more to hold on to our goal. We are here to be in solidarity with the Kurdish people and with all ethnic and religious groups of Kurdistan.

We’re internationalists, and don’t represent any Kurdish parties or specific political movements. We’re standing against the colonization of Kurdistan by the external states. We are not here to stand against any Kurdish parties. Quite the contrary, we want to support a dialogue between all different views. It is not about a Kurdish problem, but aggression coming from the Turkish state and Turkish military directed at the local people and nature of the Kurdish regions. Creating a problem, even an armed conflict, between Kurds out of this is a big trap as well as a danger for the peace and future of the whole Middle East. It’s our urgent wish to warn all Kurds on this, and call for establishing and continuing dialogues. A political solution must be found and it’s necessary to stand together against external threats. Therefore our demands are:

Everyone willing to join the delegation who was rejected, arrested or deported at one of the airports is to be set free and to be granted permission to join the rest of the delegation.
All Kurdish political actors should return to dialogue with each other.
We call for all international humanitarian organizations and political institutions to support a peaceful solution. The Turkish state military must immediately withdraw from the whole region.

The Kurds have the mountains, but today they also have friends. All friends of Kurds are being called on to rise, spread the message and contribute to peace process doing our own share.

International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan

Erbil, 12.06.2021

mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / press release Friday June 18, 2021 04:28 byInternational delegation for Kurdistan

We – nearly 150 politicians, human rights advocates, journalists, academics, members of parliaments, political activists, ecologists, and feminists from all over Europe – have been closely following the dangerous developments resulting from Turkey’s attacks on South Kurdistan (North Iraq) since the 23rd of April 2021. As a result, we have gathered in Erbil today and decided that we must speak out.

So, it is with one united voice of moral clarity, that we wish to unequivocally condemn the Turkish Military’s ongoing occupation of South Kurdistan and stand in solidarity with the people of South Kurdistan and Kurdish resistance forces in the protection of their homeland.

In April, the Turkish state initiated a new, wide-ranging military campaign in South Kurdistan in the regions of Matina, Zap and Avashin. Heavy battles continue in these regions, with the Kurdish guerrilla forces fiercely resisting this illegal invasion. These large-scale attacks target not only the Kurdish guerrilla forces, but also the achievements of the Kurdish people, with the aim of occupying South Kurdistan. To date, the response to these attacks on the international level has unfortunately been muted. Seizing on this silence, the Turkish regime has put in place their plan to occupy all of Rojava (the region of North and East Syria) alongside South Kurdistan. In so doing, Turkey is determined to ethnically cleanse this vast area – 1400 km long – from North-West Syria to the Iraqi-Iranian border. At the same time, Turkey is waging a drone war against the Maxmur refugee camp, a gross violation of international law. Connected to this policy of ethnic cleansing, the Turkish military also hopes to depopulate the Sinjar region, home of the Yazidis—and thereby achieve what ISIS could not.

Since the summer of 2012, the Kurds of Rojava and North East Syria have been working hand in hand with local communities of Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmens, and Armenians, having led a revolution together that established an Autonomous Administration that is democratic and empowers women. In response, Turkey has used jihadist militants to directly attack these areas of Rojava including Afrin, Azaz, Jarablus, Sere Kaniye and Gire Spi (Tal Abyad), in the hopes of occupying and destroying the achievements of this women’s-led Administration. During these ongoing occupations, Turkey has engineered demographic change, systematic rape, and enslavement of women, causing mass displacement of the large Kurdish and other civilian populations, as part of their strategy to Turkify and eventually annex these lands.

And the issues are not only abroad. In fact, the latest example of Erdoğan’s unrelenting hostility towards Kurdish political and social gains derives from within Turkey itself, and his attempt to shut down the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). This is the latest step in a years-long campaign against the HDP – a progressive alliance of Kurdish, Turkish and many other democratic parties, organizations, and individuals – which has led to the imprisonment of over ten thousand HDP members.

Unfortunately, the Kurdistan Region (KRG) and the Iraqi government have done little to stop Turkey’s occupation attempt. In particular, it has been disappointing for us to see how Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officials have even tried to legitimize the Turkish occupation. Whatever Ankara’s economic pressure might be, the KDP must not allow itself to be turned into a Turkish proxy, as the consequences of this war can be grave for all of Kurdistan and the region.

The world must also recognize that Turkey is attempting to carry out a genocide against the Kurdish people. And it is only the Kurdish resistance movement which is preventing the full occupation of Kurdistan and annihilation of the Kurd’s political rights. The current armed resistance in Zap, Avashin and Metina has turned Kurdistan into a stronghold of defiance, not just for the Kurds, but for all the people in the wider region threatened by Turkish neo-Ottoman expansionism. To this end, Turkish President Erdoğan has made no secret of his ambition to restore the lost glory of the Ottoman Empire by reconquering its former territory.

As such, parallel to Turkish military campaigns against the Kurds in Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, Erdoğan has meddled in various conflict areas, including Libya, Artsakh/Azerbaijan, Yemen, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, and Lebanon. Connected to this, are his threats against many nations, such Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and France.

We must also recognize that Erdoğan’s regime has a long track record of funding, arming, and supporting the Islamic State (ISIS) and various other similar violent jihadist groups, using them officially and unofficially as proxy forces to augment the Turkish state’s reach abroad. During the recent conflict in Artsakh involving Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, Erdoğan sent hundreds of jihadist proxy fighters from Syria to support Azerbaijan and has also sent these fighters to Libya to participate in the country’s protracted conflict. Through these actions, Turkey is violating the sovereignty of other countries, and spreading its mercenary terrorism throughout the globe.

Erdoğan is well aware of Turkey’s unique geopolitical position and exploits it to his advantage. He knows that his military, the second largest in NATO, is a formidable force and bulwark for the ‘West’. So, the Turkish state, under his rule, continues to openly and systematically defy international law and violate human rights conventions. Turkey continuously violates sovereignty of many countries. Meanwhile, NATO, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Council of Europe all respond with deafening silence. But the international community must be driven by morality not geo-strategy. And their failure to challenge Erdoğan’s authoritarianism and war crimes, effectively gives him permission to continue his military aggression. In turn, it also makes them a partly responsible conspirator in his ongoing destruction.

We therefore proclaim an international initiative DEFEND KURDISTAN Against Turkish Occupation!

In order to achieve an immediate stop of the Turkish attacks on South Kurdistan and a withdrawal of all Turkish troops and Islamist mercenaries we demand the following:

★ Stop the Turkish occupation, demographic change, instability, and ethnic cleansing campaign in South Kurdistan.

★ Stop the destruction and exploitation of Kurdistan’s nature.

★ No complicity of international and regional powers in the Kurdish genocide.

★ Support of all Kurdish parties, institutions, and people for the guerrilla’s resistance and their united stance against the Turkish occupation.

★ No to Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman expansionist project throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.
eastern asia / environment / review Monday June 14, 2021 21:16 byLAMA

A review of a movie about a Japanese village that suffered from industrial pollution.

There are some places that stand in for an entire phenomenon. Invoke “Bhopal” or “Chernobyl” and (at least to those in the know) a host of connotations and meanings spring forth. Unfortunately a lot more environmental disasters caused by valuing profit over people continue to occur. The result is some of these names lose their potency in the publics’ collective mind. There’s just too much bad stuff happening even when the global economic system of capitalism is functioning ‘normally’. To help jog our memories and to maintain our knowledge of a terrible example of what has happened, we have Minamata.

For those unfamiliar with the meaning of Minamata…in short, there was a company called Chisso. They made various chemical products and spent years knowingly pumping mercury contaminated water into the waters around the small Japanese village of Minamata. The locals ate the fish in those waters and as a consequence their children were born with a variety of physical and cognitive deformities. Chisso tried all sorts of tactics to avoid responsibility for what they had done. They fought against members of the community who tried to gain compensation and an admission of guilt.

Liberal Hollywood tends to take a patronising view when considering making ‘foreign’ based issue movies. On the one hand the honourable impulse is to want to tell the public about a problem. On the other, there’s the idea that the folks in Boise, Idaho wont go to watch such a product unless they have a famous acting face to relate to. Its a shame there is a lack of faith in the intelligence of movie goers to empathise with a story, whether there is a big name actor attached or not. Finances and artistic integrity are locked in a nasty dialectic and often the money wins.

Minamata follows the conventional path by not opening with a focus on the people of the village but the American photographer Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp). The first section is a character study of Smith. He physically resembles a sort of Che Guevara/beatnik hybrid and Depp is impressively unrecognisable at first under the beret and grey beard. Smith was a once famous war photographer who by 1971 has become a has-been. He is virtually broke, estranged from his offspring and spends his time both in the dark and in dark rooms, spouting a mixture of alcohol-induced self-pity and semi-philosophical aphorisms about his art. He receives a knock on the door of his garret from two Japanese folks who need his name to draw attention to the plight of the people in Minamata. Will he reject their plea and descend into an early grave or acceed to their request and eventually regain his self-respect and professional stature by drawing the world’s attention to their cause? No points for guessing the answer.

One person who deserves mention here is Bill Nighy as Robert Hayes, the editor of LIFE magazine, who has a prickly relationship with Smith and agrees to send him to Japan to cover the story. Nighy has made a career out of playing upper middle class Englishmen who are slightly eccentric, absent-minded professor types. Here he is cast against type in the sort of role you would probably have seen in a 1990s’ cop movie as ‘Angry Captain chewing out rogue cop-hero’. Nighy is American here and has a competent accent but more significantly, the bursts of energy and anger he projects during excahnges with Depp are refreshing when coming from him. Hopefully we get to see more of that Nighy in future roles.

The second section takes place in Japan. It moves at a nicely glacial pace that allows us to acclimatise to the people and environment through Smith’s experiences. It is in this part that the photographer rediscovers his sense of purpose in his profession through encountering the victims. In some ways this is the most satisfying section. Depp’s acting is the best and understated he has done in a long time. There are no flashy gimmicks and he plays drunk very well. He is ably assisted by Minami Hinase as Aileen, who befriends and falls in love with Smith while acting as his local translator and assistant. She brings a modesty and sense of purpose that gently nudges Smith back on track when needed.

Section three fortunately makes an effort to bring voice to the locals. Without this, the film would probably have been better titled ‘Smith’. The main person we meet representing the locals is Mitsuo Yamazaki (Hiroyuki Sanada), who heads a community pressure group that organises protests against Chisso. Sanada has become the ‘go to guy’ when Hollywood needs a Japanese male with gravitas. His handsomeness and natural dignity are what initially draw you in, but his range as an actor is what sticks. He can quietly convince but is also capable of shouting indignantly to a crowd and bringing you along with him, despite any language barrier. As noted above, there is sufficient power in Sanada’s acting and the other Japanese actors that an engaging story could be told without reference to any outside person. However, Smith genuinely did play a major part in bringing the cause of Minamata to wider global attention. What the implications are for how the world works and who matters in it, should be clear from this.

To conclude, Minamata is a small, quiet movie that brings you into its orbit through its pacing and solid acting. It can be faulted for its choice of protagonist and consequent perspective but ultimately it is good such a movie exists at all. It reminds us of the consequences of private corporations and their enablers in government, continuing to run roughshod over the lives of ordinary people around the world.

aotearoa / pacific islands / workplace struggles / press release Wednesday June 09, 2021 08:48 byAWSM

A statement of support for striking nurses in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) expresses its support to the 30,000 plus nurses who are going on an eight-hour strike today across Aotearoa/New Zealand. The strike is an indication of the stress and frustration caused to personnel in the health sector. Despite sacrifices made during the worst period of the covid crisis, nurses are being undervalued by District Health Boards (DHB) now that pay negotiations are being entered into.

We hope today’s action will be the start of a healthier approach towards those who take care of the most vulnerable in society. AWSM has participated in pickets during previous nurses’ strikes, for example in 2018 and we encourage our members and supporters and the public at large to show support to the strikers this time as well.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

aotearoa / pacific islands / gender / interview Wednesday June 02, 2021 08:15 bySarah

An interview addressing issues of Trans access to health services.

(thanks to AWSM member Sarah for the article and art and Jordyn for agreeing to the interview)

As we celebrate Pride this year it is important to remember Pride’s activist roots and set our sights on the fight ahead. While affluent LGBTQIA+ people are doing fine and being paraded as tokens on television, the rest of us still have unmet needs. Every single kind of queerphobia* is worse for working class people.

Around 40% of unhoused people under the age of 25 are LGBTQIA+ and who knows how many others stay closeted in unsafe family homes because they can’t afford to be kicked out? This is just one of many examples.

I interviewed my friend Jordyn about her experience with one of the most glaring expressions of classist Lgbtqia+-phobia in New Zealand: barriers to trans healthcare access.

Here is the transcript of our interview.

Me: So first of all, what has your overall experience accessing transition-related healthcare been like?

Jordyn: Mostly fine, hormones took an appointment with my GP, then a psychologist four weeks later and then an appointment with an endocrinologist about a month later.
My experience with surgery though has been terrible with NZ currently having around a 20 year wait time for reassignment surgery.

Me:Dang, that’s a ridiculously long period of time.
Is all of this through the public system or did you have to go private?

Jordyn: Yeah and for a lot of us surgery is a life saving treatment.
I was lucky enough that my insurance agreed to cover my endocrinologist costs on a special basis, endocrinologists through the public system in Wellington have a stated 3 month wait time, but a lot of people wait for around 6 months.
Now though all my hormones levels and dosages are managed by me with supervision from my GP

Me: Yeah, that’s far too important to have a 20 year wait time.
Is surgery more accessible to people who can pay out of pocket?

Jordyn: Yeah, we still only have one surgeon in NZ that can do it, but there’s really no wait list if you can pay for it yourself, I think only around 5 people have paid for it themselves since the surgeon has been here.
It’s also overwhelmingly expensive in NZ with quotes for private being minimum $45000 whereas you can go to Thailand and get more modern techniques and extremely experienced surgeons for between $15000-20000
This is for a vaginoplasty, trans male surgery is a lot more expensive but I don’t know much about it.

Me: Yeah, that’s a terribly stark example of class disparity.
I don’t know if there’s anything else to ask.
Thanks for your help getting the facts straight.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jordyn: Uh I guess that 71% of trans people aged 15 or over have very high levels of psychological distress compared to 8% of the general population, and that in 2019 56% of trans people had seriously considered suicide over the previous 12 months compared to the worldwide average for trans people which I think is around 40%


The needs of trans people in NZ aren’t being met and aside from a small amount of funding the government isn’t really doing much to address transgender issues in regards to access to healthcare and especially surgery which is in an appalling state compared to the rest of the world

Me:Yeah, that’s awful. Seems like they’re basically doing the absolute bare minimum.

-This concluded the interview-

Jordyn’s experience clearly shows that transphobia is always reinforced by classism.

Both the data and our lived experiences leave no doubt – queerphobia is enforced by the state and capital, and any coherent approach to LGBTQIA+ activism must be opposed to both. This is why I am a queer anarchist.

*The word “queer” is a reclaimed slur, and my decision to use it does not reflect the entire community’s opinion on its use.

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