Turkish state pressure could be behind police probe into banned group, say campaigners
Police Scotland is running the risk of victimising and criminalising an entire community, Kurdish campaigners have warned.
They spoke out following reports that officers are investigating alleged fundraising on behalf of a banned organisation.
It has been reported that police are looking at links between members of Scotland’s Kurdish community and the left wing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
However, Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan (SSK) says it is worried pressure is being brought to bear by the Turkish state, which is engaged in a deadly struggle with Kurdish rebels who want to establish a homeland in an area which takes in the south-east of the country.
Stephen Smellie, co-convenor of SSK, said: “The Kurdish community in Scotland is made up mostly of people who fled Kurdistan due to the oppression they suffered under the regimes in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
“They have settled in Scotland, got jobs, started businesses and raised families. Many are from Turkey where they suffered violence and victimisation as Kurds. In the past couple of years they have watched as the Turkish government has ended any dialogue about peace with imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and other Kurdish leaders, including the PKK, and stepped up violent attacks against the Kurds and their representatives.
“Last year many participated in protests in Scotland against the violence, the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of Kurdish activists and elected politicians including MPs and the co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party. They also protested at Turkish policies in Syria where Turkey in the past has supported ISIS and has recently attacked the Kurdish forces that have been fighting and defeating ISIS.
“In a sinister move last year some Kurdish people in Scotland were contacted by Turkish officials and advised not to support any protests as this could cause them trouble if they wished to visit Turkey in the future.
“Therefore there is a view that the police investigation has been instigated at the suggestion of Turkish officials seeking to further intimidate the community here in Scotland. It is easy enough to suggest that someone is supporting the PKK and then have their lives disrupted by police investigations.”
SSK has called for the PKK to be removed from the UK’s terrorist list and for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to be released from prison to allow him to lead negotiations for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.
Smellie explained: “Millions of Kurds do not regard the PKK as terrorists but as part of their movement for justice. The PKK has repeatedly stated that they support a peaceful solution within the boundaries of the Turkish state and not a breakaway state.
“We are concerned that Scottish police are, albeit inadvertently, being used to intimidate and criminalise the Scottish Kurdish community and call on the police and politicians to give re-assurances to the Kurdish people that they will not allow the Turkish government to intimidate people in Scotland.”
Police Scotland said its elite Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit was leading what it described as a “multi-agency investigation into individuals assessed to be fundraising for a proscribed terrorist organisation”.