‘WE saved all the world,” Kurdistan activist Honar Kobani told me on Thursday. “But today children in Serekaniye are being killed by Erdogan with chemicals.’’ What do you do when world leaders stand aside in the face of fascism? Friends of the Kurds, and of their social revolution, will continue to call on the politicians to take action.

We will continue, too, to keep alive belief in a society for the common good, which the Kurds were turning into reality: a society built on bottom-up democracy, that prioritises women’s rights, ecology and multicultural harmony.

We will attempt to bring these ideas into our own actions and organisations. And we also call for a boycott of Turkey, because the Turkish economy is President Erdogan’s Achilles heel.

The last two weeks have produced expressions of shock and horror across the world, but these are nothing to the shock felt by the Kurds.

Honar Kobani lost two brothers and two nephews in the 2014 battle to save his namesake home city: the battle that turned the tide against Daesh. And he observed that as we were speaking, Russian and regime forces were driving through Kobani.

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The Kurds have no reason to trust the Syrian regime, which wouldn’t even recognise many of them as citizens; but better to be under Assad than face Turkey and the militant jihadi gangs that they are using as frontline troops.

The horror of living under the gangs sponsored by Turkey can be seen in Afrin, the westernmost part of Kurdish Syria, which Turkey invaded and occupied last year.

Those who have not fled this once-peaceful region face a combination of oppression and random violence; kidnap for ransom has become a major industry. People with relations abroad – and so potential access to more money – are particularly at risk, as the brother of another Edinburgh Kurd recently discovered to his cost.

Turkey’s land-grab in Syria also strengthens Erdogan’s brutal hold on Turkey itself, giving double reason for a boycott. Our call for boycott is supported across Scottish civic society, as well as by the Kurdish community.

Turkey has declared war against the Kurdish people and has supported Daesh. Brutal suppression within Turkish borders has been matched by invasion and “ethnic cleansing’ in Syria.

Within Turkey, an increasingly fascist government is demonstrating contempt for basic human rights, such as freedom of speech.

For their own reasons, the US and Russia have conceded to Turkish aggression, while the rest of the world does nothing. It is up to us to act. Buying Turkish products, and especially Turkish holidays, provides support to this brutal Turkish government. We are calling on everyone not to help fund oppression.

Erdogan announces in the UN his intention to carry out an unprovoked attack and implement ethnic cleansing. He gathers together gangs of militants, who have fought with Daesh, Al Qaeda and other violent jihadi groups, to spearhead his attack on the ground.

He backs them up with the firepower of the second-largest military force in NATO, equipped by the arms companies of Europe and the United States.

He empowers the gangs to indulge in wanton violence and looting, and to free Daesh prisoners.

He targets Turkish bombs at hospitals and water supplies and civilian convoys, and loads them with white phosphorus. Kurds and their neighbours, who two weeks ago were living in peace and building a society that focused on the common good, face death, destruction and displacement from their homes and land. And the world’s leaders, the so-called international community, watch it all, like rabbits caught in the headlights.

Much has been written about the role of the US and Russia – and occasionally, that other imperialist contender, Iran.

We have always known that there is no honour among imperialists. But all those who make a show of professing their horror, yet do nothing, must also take the blame.

That Turkey has carried out an unprovoked invasion, should, in itself, be enough for politicians to take action. The deliberately genocidal nature of that invasion makes the need for action all the more urgent.

And while the media focus on the man-made disaster in Northern Syria, state repression within Turkey gets even more extreme – against the Kurds, and against anyone who expresses a whisper of criticism of the government.

International leaders are not powerless to act. They could work together to implement and protect a no-fly zone over northern Syria. They could impose meaningful sanctions that seriously hurt the Turkish economy, and they could strengthen the half-hearted stay on new arms deals to a complete ban.

They won’t do these things unless they are pushed, and that is why we will keep up pressure on our politicians and governments, and urge everyone who cares about a better world and the preservation of human lives to join us. But we can also take action ourselves through a boycott of Turkish goods, and especially of tourism, which has become an increasingly important mainstay of the Turkish economy.

Not long ago, it looked as though Turkey’s growing economic difficulties would bring an end to the increasingly tyrannical rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But a booming tourist industry has helped ward off greater economic decline that could have triggered political change. In 2018, tourism brought Turkey £23 billion, with 2.25 million UK holiday-makers making a significant contribution. Income from tourism – including from the government-owned Turkish Airlines – has enabled Erdogan’s political survival by preventing more serious economic collapse.

It has also provided the funds that have enabled Erdogan to distribute money directly to his supporters, and to increase military spending. While life for many people in Turkey is a struggle for survival, military spending last year was increased by 24% to £14.8bn.

The call for a boycott of Turkey is growing. It comes from the Kurds themselves, and it is supported by a growing number of academics. writers, artists, and people from all walks of life who want to do what they can to make a difference and to take a stand.

Northern Syrian today is the front line of the fight against fascism and for a better world – as Spain was 80 years ago. We need to learn from history and take a stand now.


  • Honar Kobani – Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan
  • Callum Ross – YPG volunteer
  • James Kelman – writer
  • Paul Laverty – screenwriter
  • Sheena Wellington – singer
  • Isobel Lindsay – Vice-chair, Scottish CND (personal capacity)
  • Maggie Chapman – former co-convenor Scottish Green Party (personal capacity)
  • Stuart Fairweather (chairperson) and Mike Arnott (secretary) – on behalf of the Dundee Trades Union Council
  • Robin McAlpine – Director, Commonweal (personal capacity)
  • Professor Colin Clark – University of the West of Scotland
  • Dr Tom Slater – University of Edinburgh Professor
  • Joe Doherty – Professor Emeritus, University of St Andrews
  • The Reverend Erik Cramb