STUC condemns raids and harassment of Scottish Kurdish community

Stephen Smellie
Stephen Smellie

#stuc19 The STUC backed a call to condemn police raids and harassment of the Kurdish community in Scotland and will call on the Scottish Government to ensure these attacks stop and to make a public commitment to human rights.

It backed a Dundee TUC motion saying: “In Scotland, we stand in solidarity with the Kurdish community as they seek to live in peace and participate in Scottish society.”

Seconding the motion, UNISON’s Stephen Smellie questioned whether the international part of the agenda was the right place for this motion since it was happening in this country by our police.

Stephen told delegates about raids on a a number of homes of Kurdish families in Edinburgh by up to seven plain clothes and uniformed police officers.

“Parents getting ready for work and kids ready for school, kids still in their bed, were told to sit in their living room while the police officers searched their bedrooms. The raids were carried out under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“What did they find? Guns? Terror manuals? Stashes of cash to fund terror acts? No.

“They found nothing of the sort. They did find Kurdish language magazines. Taken away. One teenage boy had a YPG flag on his wall – the YPG – the people’s Defence Units – the Syrian Kurds fighting alongside UK and US forces against ISIS – you can buy the flag at the stall outside – confiscated. They found similar YPG badges – taken away by the police in their pursuit of terrorism.

“In September 2017 another round of dawn raids were made in the same manner with the same sort of material confiscated. This time the Edinburgh Kurdish Community Centre was also broken into by police, despite being asked to wait for the key holder to arrive who would let them in. Again some flags, Kurdish scarves and badges were removed.

“None of this material has been returned.”

“No charges came about. The investigation into alleged Kurdish terrorism that was reported in big headlines in the Edinburgh Evening News, on STV and BBC came to nothing. There was no evidence because there was no terrorist threat or activity.”

However, said Stephen, what did happen is that the Kurdish community in Edinburgh were faced with questions by neighbours, work colleagues and school friends. “The question – Is your Dad a terrorist? Was asked of kids in school.”

“In other words the whole Kurdish Community was criminalised by police actions including police press releases.”

Stephen asked if it was a coincidence that the Kurdish community had been actively protesting against Turkish government violence against the Kurdish people in Turkey, against the jailing of elected Kurdish MPS and Mayors and the support that Turkey had given to ISIS operatives?

“When meetings were held with the local police force they of course denied any link to these legal protests but the view of the community was that indeed this was no coincidence”, said Stephen.

“Some of them are now reluctant to take part in protests or for their kids to attend the language and music lessons at the community centre.”

Stephen added: “Congress, the Kurdish community in Turkey is under siege, the Kurdish community in Syria have fought and defeated ISIS and are now being threatened by a Turkish invasion and air attacks.

“They should not feel under siege and threatened here in Scotland. They are part of our community, our work colleagues our kids school mates.”

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