Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Taking on ‘the vilest fascism of our age’

Three hundred thousand Kurds live in Britain and have traditionally voted Labour, not least in north London where there are many Kurds from Turkey. However, there is a growing gap between their solidarity with Kobane and Iraqi Kurdistan and Labour’s policy on armed action against Islamic State.

Kurdish friends and, indeed, many Labour friends think it is illogical for Labour to draw a distinction between supporting airstrikes by RAF jets in Iraq but not in Syria. The border between the two countries has been smashed by Islamic State which operates on both sides and is a clear and present danger to Kurds in both countries.

The political gap in Britain and the military gap in the Levant should be closed as part of a concerted campaign of military, ideological and economic action to undermine Isis. A Labour activist in north London, Nora Mulready, who has many Kurdish friends, decided to do something about this and we have co-authored an open letter to the Labour movement which seeks to speak the truth, as we see it, about the need for Labour to find its bearings and seek changes in British policy.

It was hurriedly launched to coincide with the Global Day of Solidarity with Kobani and Nora spoke at the large rally in Trafalgar Square, along with many Kurdish and leftwing figures, including the leader of Islington council.

The letter is deliberately aimed at non-Kurdish activists. We felt that the Kurds, who are generally grateful for the blood and treasure expended by the United Kingdom, in saving the Kurds in Iraq from Saddam Hussein, should not be alone in urging more intervention against Islamic State.  The open letter to the movement as a whole urges a significant increase in the support to people defending the world against ‘the vilest fascism of our age.’

It says this is in the best internationalist traditions of the Labour movement and reminds it of the ‘the tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks … too horrific for the British left to give a half-hearted response, or worse.’

It says that turning away from those in need would be ‘an historically unforgivable act of abandonment’ and proposes specific policies to underpin practical solidarity with the Kurds. RAF jets should help destroy Isis forces in Syria and Iraq. The UK should send heavy weapons to the Kurdish forces in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan region.

It recognises that the Kurds and the Iraqis are the boots on the ground, are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops ‘but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.’

It urges Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against Islamic State. It also recognises that the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan region has put a major strain on Kurdistan which could mean many deaths in the imminent cold winter unless aid is stepped up. It also says that the Iraqi government in Baghdad should end the economic blockade against Kurdistan.

In the longer term, it says, there ‘may be future incarnations of [Islamic State]’ which need to be tackled by ‘a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.’

Prominent supporters of the appeal include the veteran Labour foreign policy expert Mike Gapes MP, Hopi Sen, James Bloodworth of Left Foot Forward and Meg Munn MP. The appeal has also won endorsement from Kurdish figures. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan regional government representative to the UK, welcomed ‘this very important statement from rank and file members of the opposition party. The Kurds and the left have long been on the same side. It is crucial that the Kurds and British forces, left, right and centre are on the same side in the global fight against Isis fascism. Such initiatives also help the Kurds at this decisive moment in our history.’

Kurdish academic and author Mohammed Shareef said ‘It is only natural for a leading British and European party with such a glorious history to play a role in alleviating the sufferings of the Kurds and other minority groups in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and Syria. The Labour party will only be doing what it has always done and what it is expected to do. We are heartened to read this statement by Labour members and it gives us real hope that the help we need will come.’

The appeal has been steadily growing from party members across the country since it was launched last Saturday. Please support it here


Gary Kent is director of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq and writes in a personal capacity

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Gary Kent

is director of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq and writes in a personal capacity. He tweets @GaryKent


  • Iraq and Syria are sovereign states.

    Iraq has asked for help in overcoming the threat from Islamic State. Syria as far as I am aware has not asked for help from the UK.

    One of the deplorable outcomes of the invasion of Iraq by the UK has been the weakening of Iraq’s ability to defend itself flowing from the abolishing of its armed forces by the invaders. And the failure since then to create armed forces capable of that.

    What makes anyone believe that invasion of Syria, which is what the request is really about and not about about the defeat of all the enemies of the sovereign state of Syria, would have a better outcome than the invasion of Iraq?

  • Do you have a clue about the humane principle of avoiding genocide? Would you prefer a nuclear state such as Iran to feel morally obliged to defend it’s allies in Syria against Islamic State? Do you know anything about the aftermath of the Iran/Iraq conflict ? Just out of interest Mr compagnero, have you ever visited Syria or Iraq or is your knowledge of these matters based on the opinions of failed Troops Out committee members and their Daily Mail reading brethren?

  • I’m sorry but I have read your stuff on IS, Syria and Iraq and you are making the same mistakes as PM Blair and President GW Bush by believing we can sort out the mess that is the Middle East by applying Western style solutions. Also, despite the hype from the press and the Government IS is not a existential threat.
    There is real Fascist regime much closer to home that presents a real danger and has demonstrated imperial designs on the post-1989 structure of Eastern Europe. Putin is a real fascist. His country has an appalling record on BAME rights, the rights of women and on LGBT. Europe also has a fascist regime in Hungary which is creating a constitutional dictatorship.
    We either believe in democracy or not. Why do we say nothing about real threats to order in Europe while always believing we can sort out the Middle East?

    Or is it because one “potential threat” is Christian and the other is Moslem. Why do you expect Arab people to take us seriously when we practice such double standards?

    Barry K

  • What is an “existential threat” ? If you really want to have an argument about fascism, try working out which side campaigned against “The Jews” in Kiev before the coup. Who also supported the Nazis at the end of last year because of their work in killing Russians? Putin may well be pretty disgusting, but it might serve your argument better if you got some basic facts right.

  • The Hitler Prize for the vilest fascism always has nominations, depending on how the “something ust be done” school is feeling. But if you want to look for Fascists, why not look at the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor in Ukraine (at least the NATO supported and fascist dominated coup government.
    Unlike ISIS these self-proclaimed fascists are “on our side, sharing our values” and protected by our sanctions.

    The ‘war faction’ was clearly thought to have won in the recent Kiev elections. You can find on Itar Tass that in Donetsk and Lugansk they have foiled two military groups attempting to sabotage their elections, in which exit polls show that the existing incumbents in each self-proclaimed Republic will win. Russia will recognise the results of these elections, while the US, EU and UK will not. There are allegations of US military officers training terror groups to continue attacks in eastern Ukraine, so they have not given up despite the massive defeat inflicted on the Kiev armed forces (notably Right Sector) that led to the Minsk ‘peace agreement’. This conflict is not frozen, although it might die down a bit during the coming winter. That is presumably what the 6 months wait is about,;presumably it was Right Sector or Svoboda that raped and killed the 286 missing women whose bodies were recently discovered in a mass grave in Novoarmiisk about 28 miles north west of Donetsk.

    Meanwhile Russia is sending in more humanitarian convoys to east Ukraine. I note that 226,000 refugees have fled into Russia, of which 11,000 are children. The Russian government has allocated about USD 156 million to help deal with them, but it has mainly been families spontaneously taking them in that has provided the shelter. Only a few tens of thousands are in tents set up by the Russian government Ministry of Emergencies. You can presumably still find details on Itar Tass or Ria Novosti.

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