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Censorship and Resistance in Kurdistan, the Middle East and Britain

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Report on public meeting in Edinburgh, 13 March 2008

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Akif Wan (Kurdistan National Congress, UK) and Alex Fitch (Peace in Kurdistan Campaign & CAMPACC) spoke at a public meeting on "Censorship and Resistance in Kurdistan, the Middle East and Britain" held in Edinburgh on Thursday 13 March. Glasgow lawyer Aamer Anwar - currently facing contempt of court charges over comments he made on behalf of a client convicted of "terrorism" offences - also spoke at the meeting. Other speakers were Pat Smith (Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement) and Bill Wilson MSP (SNP, West of Scotland).

Akif Wan told the meeting that he had opposed the US and British invasion of Iraq when he spoke at the huge anti-war demo in London on February 15 2003 and that he was still opposed to it. He said that he didn't support the opportunistic policies of Iraqi Kurdish leaders like Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani - policies that Alex Fitch characterised as "archaic nationalism". He also spoke about the suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey and about the difficulties currently facing representatives of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) elected to the Turkish Parliament last summer.

Bill Wilson talked about the routine hypocrisy of the British government, which condemns its enemies for human rights abuses and for promoting "terrorism" while allowing its allies to do precisely the same things. He said that he thought that Tony Blair should be brought to trial in Scotland for crimes connected with the Iraq War.

Aamer Anwar reminded the meeting that Britain doesn't just collude in oppression in the Middle East, it actively engages in it. He drew particular attention to new evidence released in February that supports earlier allegations that British forces tortured, mutilated and executed Iraqi civilians after a battle near Amara, Iraq in May 2004. Iraqi survivors, represented by British lawyers Martyn Day and Phil Shiner, are seeking a judicial review of the MoD's failure to conduct a proper inquiry into the allegations.

Pat Smith said that when ordinary people stand together in sufficient numbers their voices can be heard above the censorship and hypocrisy, and urged everyone to join in the antiwar demonstrations planned for Glasgow and London on 15 March.

The audience at the meeting included people from Iraq and Iran as well as people from Edinburgh's Kurdish community.

Earlier the same evening the Scottish Parliament had passed a motion expressing support for the demonstrations planned by the Stop the War Coalition for Saturday 15 March. The motion calls for the legality of the Iraq War to be tested in the courts.

The meeting was chaired by Janet Powney of Women in Black and was organised by SACC (Scotland Against Criminalising Communities) and Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition.