Left and green parliamentarians from across Europe condemned Turkey's invasion of Rojava, the democratic autonomous liberated zone in North and East Syria, at an international conference on February 5–6. The conference was titled “The European Union, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds” and was held in the European Parliament in Brussels.
It was hosted by the European Union Turkey Civic Commission and supported by the European United Left — Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), the Greens/European Free Alliance and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
Some of the MPs present had visited Rojava and testified to the great example of peace, democracy, inclusion and gender equality it was setting.
EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) chairperson Mariano Westrheim accused Turkey of ethnic cleansing in its invasion of Rojava during her opening speech. The Kurdish people continue to need broad international support, she said, and this conference could help in that process.
The European Parliament’s Vice-President Dimitrios Papadimoulis told the conference that the left and progressive side of politics needs to do more to stop aggression and repression by the Turkish state. He said the EU has not imposed any real sanctions against Turkey and so Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government continues its aggression and human rights abuses.
Greens/European Free Alliance MEP Benoit Biteau said a struggle for water resources is an important part of the conflict in the area. He criticised Turkey for trying to control water resources of rivers that flow from territory it occupies.
Danish Red Green Alliance MP Soren Sondergaard said: "Bigger powers do not want to support a solution to the Kurdish question, because it would threaten imperialist power." Yet, the Kurds are critical to a peaceful and democratic future for the region. Sondergaard, who visited Rojava in December, told the conference it is one of the most progressive parts of the Middle East and is an inspiration for people around the world: "We have to prove wrong the saying that the only friends of the Kurds are the mountains — with our solidarity," he said.
Dutch Greens/EFA MP Tineke Strik said the refugee deal struck between Turkey and the EU has resulted in silence from the EU over Turkey’s aggression against Rojava and North-East Syria. Strik said the EU is shamefully ignoring the Erdogan government's crimes, while paying it a lot of money to keep refugees from coming to Europe.
Newroz Uysal, a member of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's legal team, described her client’s 21-year incarceration by Turkey on Imrali Island as a form of torture.
“His imprisonment was illegal from the very start, along with his abduction. The impact of solitary confinement has worsened over the last eight years,” she said.
Ocalan's critical role in a peaceful and democratic solution to the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurds has been blocked by his imprisonment. Last August was the last time his lawyers saw Ocalan.
Suad Mustafa, the mother of assassinated Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, was the highlight of the session on women. The strength of her spirit of resistance was powerful and she shared details of her daughter growing up, her commitment to the cause and the last day of her life.
Conference participants rose to their feet in a standing ovation, but Suad said: "Please don't stand for me, but stand up for our revolution.
"Women and children suffer the most in war, but never forget that a mother will fight to defend her children."
Khalifa Barakat from Kongra Star, a Kurdish women's organisation, said women are in the forefront of the Rojava Revolution. In fact, "you could say they started the revolution".
Women established the first communes and many other institutions for the revolution. This is why Rojava's women revolutionaries are a "pain in the neck for Erdogan," , she added.
Syrian Democratic Council, NE Syria/Rojava Deputy Co-President Mandolin Hassan summed up the overwhelming sentiment of the conference, saying that winning international recognition of Rojava would be a major step forward for peace and democracy in the region.
She added that the EU should not be intimidated or blackmailed by Turkey.