A delegation of British trade unionists met with Kurdish leaders.

Kurdish boys in Diyakabir. Photo by Charles Fred

Kurdish boys in Diyakabir. Photo by Charles Fred

Today our delegation met with one of the co-Mayors of Diyarbakir and the General Secretary of GABB (an association of municipalities in the Kurdish region of Turkey – known to Kurds as Northern Kurdistan). They both explained that the refugee problem in the region was serious. They were looking after thousands of Yazidis from Iraq who had fled from ISIS attacks into Kurdish Rojova in Syria and the across the border to Turkey and Northern Kurdistan.

The Kurdish municipalities and local Kurdish people had responded with generosity to house the Yazisi refugees in camps with little support from the Turkish government.

This was then followed by the huge numbers of refugees from Kobane as ISIS laid siege to the Kurdish town on the Syria /Turkey border. Again the local Kurdish authorities and the people have responded with generosity whilst the Turkish state has been slow at providing the resources needed.

To make matters worse, international aid agencies have been discouraged from offering assistance by the State’s attitude. So meanwhile hundreds of thousands of refugees, the Yazidis and the Kurds from Kobane are facing winter living in tents.

In one of the refugee camps set up outside Diyarbakir I met the volunteer Kurds helping the authorities to feed and provide medical assistance to the Yazidis. They described the difficulties they face as they prepare for winter.

Speaking to some of the Yazidis it became clear that the problems the local Kurds are facing is a problem that Europe, including the UK, has to get involved in.

I spoke to Hassan from a village called Hutien, a biology teacher. He had fled what he called the “monsters” of ISIS and now believed that he could never go back to his village. He said ISIS wanted to kill them because of religion and so they could never go back. He believed that most Yazidis wanted to go to Europe.

Of course Europe is now trying to prevent any form of immigration with parties like UKIP wanting stop any kind of immigration and the mainstream parties, Tory and Labour, pandering to that agenda. But the Yazidis need asylum and Kurdish humanitarian values are going to struggle to keep thousands of refugees from freezing to death in temperatures that fall to minus 10 in winter. Therefore the UK government and Europe must offer asylum to a portion of the Yazidis and pressurise the Turkish government to provide assistance directly and to allow international organisations and governments to provide immediate winter supplies.

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Stephen Smellie

Stephen Smellie is Secretary of UNISON South Lanarkshire

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