'Don't throw Kurds under the bus for NATO membership': An open letter to the ambassadors of Sweden and Finland

July 5, 2022
YPG fighters
People's Protection Unit (YPG) fighters. Photo: Kurdishstruggle/Flickr CC By 2.0

Dear Ambassadors,

I share your horror at the Russian invasion of Ukraine by the brutal and corrupt Putin dictatorship, but I am also horrified that you have accepted the demands of Turkish despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “throw the Kurds under a bus”, as the price of NATO membership.

According to press reports, the Turkish government has lifted its veto on your two countries’ application for NATO membership because Turkey “got what it wanted” concerning the presence of alleged “terrorists” in Finland and Sweden. Most egregiously, the deal includes an agreement to extradite Kurdish activists to Turkey and to drop any support for the YPG/YPJ [People’s Protection Units/Women’s Protection Units] in Rojava.

Your governments’ betrayal confirms [Viscount] Palmerston’s cynical adage about nations having permanent interests, not permanent friends. This is par for the course with Joe Biden, who has rushed to endorse this dirty deal. The US is an imperialist great power, but I did rather hope for a more principled stance by your countries, which have a history of neutrality and progressive social programmes.

You have kowtowed to a despot every bit as corrupt and brutal as Putin. Erdogan has destroyed most vestiges of democracy in Turkey. He has arrested and gaoled thousands of opposition activists, particularly from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, whose leaders, such as Selahattin Demirtas, are individually facing hundreds of years of prison on trumped up charges of… “support for terrorism”.

Erdogan has purged the country’s schools, civil service and judiciary and installed pliant Islamist stooges. Almost no semblance of an independent press remains and state media dutifully jumps to his tune. You may rest assured that this media will be bragging about the NATO deal and diverting attention from the chaos of the Turkish economy.

The quasi-Sultan Erdogan has waged war on the Kurdish people both inside and outside of the boundaries of the Turkish state. He is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ‘ethnic cleansing’ committed during his illegal invasions of northern Syria and parts of Iraq. There are credible reports, too, that the Turkish military and their jihadi proxies have used chemical weapons during their cross-border incursions. The similarity with what Putin is doing in Ukraine is obvious to anyone who cares to look.

I would remind you, too, that Turkey continues to deny the 1915 Armenian genocide and massacres of Greeks and Assyrians, and indeed criminalises mention of it. This is not surprising, given that the successors of the Young Turks have continued the policies of forcible assimilation of national minorities up to and including genocide.

Moreover, Erdogan’s Turkey has a proven record of collusion with the so-called Islamic State and other jihadists and this continues. We must contrast this with the role of the YPG/YPJ in destroying ISIS as a quasi-state: at the cost of tens of thousands of Rojava’s young people. I should add that on occasions Kurdish fighters had to suspend operations against ISIS because Turkish forces were attacking their rear.

The West has a long and ignoble record of such behaviour going back a century. The Kurds have been treated as expendable because they — unlike the Ukrainians — aren’t Europeans. I really can’t see that your leaders are any better than Donald Trump, who betrayed the Kurds immediately after they stormed the jihadist “capital” of Raqqa in October 2017, and then “justified” it with the idiotic claim that the Kurds didn’t help the US at D-Day.


John Tully (Professor and Australian Kurdish solidarity activist)

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.