The Labour Party Annual Conference 2021
Centre for Kurdish Progress’ & Kurdish People’s Assembly’s Fringe: Kurdistan — Self-Determination, Freedom and Democracy
Our event: “Kurdistan — Self-Determination, Freedom and Democracy” brought together a panel of expert speakers to consider perspectives on how international law impacts those working toward democracy across Kurdistan, how European states support military attacks on Kurdish self-determination, and how the fight for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, the recognised leader of the Kurdish movement, is key to freedom and democracy in the Middle East and beyond. Our panel of expert speakers included Elif Sarican – Co-Chair of the Kurdish Assembly, Jan Fermon, renowned international lawyer, Kim Johnson MP, Lloyd Russel-Moyle MP, Kate Osborne MP, Bambos Charalambous MP and Simmon Dubbins of Unite the Union.
Opening our event was Co-Chair of the Kurdish Assembly Elif Sarican who offered a powerful insight into the movement for democracy across Kurdistan, the ongoing struggle for the freedom of the recognised leader of the Kurdish movement Abdullah Öcalan, the significance of Rojava as the sole example of a free, equal and secular state in the Middle East and the need to a continued struggle for self-determination for Kurdish people across the region. Sarican offered the context to the discussion, considering broadly the current issues facing Kurds across the region and what steps are being taken internationally to assist and offer solidarity to the Kurdish people.
Our discussion heard powerful testimony from Jan Fermon, a renowned international lawyer who led a recent landmark case in Belgium which ruled the ongoing struggle between the PKK and the Turkish state was an armed struggle and therefore the PKK could not be considered a terrorist group in the eyes of the law. The case represented a significant milestone in the ongoing international legal struggle to remove the PKK from the list of terror groups internationally, where it remains in the UK, USA, Turkey and many other nations. Fermon outlined the legal case for the PKK not being considered a terrorist group, outlining the recent legal finding which stated the PKK were in fact party to an armed conflict with the Turkish state, explaining the long legal process which culminated in the ruling. Fermon’s powerful testimony highlighted the importance of internationalism with regards to the Kurdish movement for freedom and justice, as well as the importance of international legal rulings for the movement as a whole.
Our discussion heard from a number of Labour MPs including Kim Johnson MP, Lloyd Russel-Moyle MP, Kate Osborne MP and Bambos Charalambous MP. Each of the Labour MPs spoke at length and in detail about the struggle faced by the Kurdish people and their ongoing solidarity with the movement. Lloyd Russell Moyle MP outlined his experiences of visiting Rojava and the KRI as well as the work of the APPG for Kurdistan in Turkey and Syria which continues to promote and work for the freedom of the Kurdish people. Kim Johnston MP and Bambos Charalambous MP and Kate Osborne MP offered their continued solidarity to the movement and highlighted the plight of Abdullah Öcalan who remains imprisoned in the worst conditions, as well as the continued plight of the Kurdish people across the region. Each of the Labour MPs in attendance spoke in great detail and highlighted the importance of a continued struggle for freedom for the Kurdish people.
Closing our discussion was Simon Dubbins of Unite the Union who restated the need for international solidarity with the Kurdish people and their leader Abdullah Öcalan. Dubbins briefly discussed his experiences of travelling to Rojava as well as the KRI, outlining both the significance of the secular Government based on equality established in Rojava as well as the intense difficulties experienced by the Kurdish people across the region. Dubbins reaffirmed the importance of continued solidarity from the Labour movement and restated his commitment to the Kurdish people.
Our discussion Kurdistan — Self-Determination, Freedom and Democracy” brought together a panel of experts on Kurdistan and involved a powerful discussion on the ongoing struggle for justice for the Kurdish people. We heard intense testimony on the ongoing struggle for freedom in Kurdistan as well testimony on the recent legal case affirming the PKK could not be considered a terrorist group, considering the importance of international legal rulings for the Kurdish people.
Our discussion reaffirmed the need for international solidarity with Kurdistan as well as the need for continued solidarity from the UK Labour Party.
Jan Fermon is a lawyer at the Bar of Brussels, Belgium, specialised in criminal law, international (humanitarian) law and human rights law. Since 2005 Fermon is a bureau member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), the biggest international organisation of progressive jurists.
Elif Sarican is the co-chair of the Kurdish People’s Assembly in the UK. She has studied anthropology at the London School of Economics and was formerly the coordinator of the Kurdistan Students Union UK.