In under 24 hours, the UK heads to the polls to select a new government and the choices before us are difficult. As a life-long Labour supporter I have never felt so alienated from the party as now – and I am not alone.
Understandably domestic issues, from Brexit to the state of the NHS, dominate our thinking, and rightly so. However, as someone of Turkish origin, I also want to have confidence that the party I vote for will recognise and respect my heritage and ethnic homeland of Turkey. Yet my party of choice, Labour, displays open hostility to Turkey at every given opportunity.
It was good to see this highlighted in T-VINE’s excellent analysis of the three parties and their leaders (‘Which political party should British Turks be backing? General Election 2019 T-VINE Special Report’, 10 Dec. 2019).
As the author notes: “Jeremy Corbyn’s positions on the PKK, Turkish forces in Cyprus and overt Greek Cypriot sympathies leave him as the least Turkish and Turkish Cypriot friendly leader.”
The Labour leader’s association with the IRA and Hamas is well known. But less so is his support of the PKK, a Marxist Kurdish terrorist organisation. Mr Corbyn wants the group removed from the UK’s proscribed list, even though its murderous campaign, which has claimed 40,000 lives, continues in Turkey, as does its recruitment of child soldiers.
Mr Corbyn has also failed to show any regard for Turkey’s legitimate security concerns along its long border with Syria that prompted the recent military operation there. He has instead called for sanctions because Syrian Kurds are no longer in control. This conveniently ignores the fact that before the Syrian Conflict started in 2011, northern Syria was home to diverse communities, the majority Sunni Arabs, and that Kurdish terror forces used their displacement to unlawfully take over this territory and attack Turkish positions from within Syria.
Instead of dealing with the issue in a balanced fashion, Labour MPs such as Chris Williamson regularly tabled anti-Turkish Early Day Motions (EDM) in the last Parliament that deliberately misrepresented the facts about the PKK, Turkey and Kurds. For example, one EDM refers to Abdullah Öcalan as “the Kurdish leader,” even though he does not speak for all Kurds; rather he is the head of the PKK. Mr Williamson has also accused Turkey of carrying out a “genocidal invasion” against Kurds, when no such evidence exists: the action specifically targeted the PKK’s offshoot the YPG, to remove them from Turkey’s border with the minimum of bloodshed.
Mr Corbyn’s choice of election candidate for West Bromwich is another indication of his stance and poor judgement. As was recently highlighted in another T-VINE article (‘Kebab King’ Ibrahim Dogus is Labour’s candidate for West Bromwich East‘ 12 Nov. 2019), the Labour candidate Ibrahim Dogus, like Jeremy Corbyn and Edmonton Labour MP Kate Osamor, has campaigned for the release of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.
A controversial figure himself, Dogus has been found guilty of tax evasion and has been linked with many other allegations. He has pursued a divisive agenda throughout his life, causing much upset within the Turkish community living in Britain. Despite claiming to be a staunch Labour party supporter, he is also known to have shamelessly donated to the Conservative Party and UKIP to further his separatist ideology. Yet he has been parachuted into a safe Labour seat by Mr Corbyn.
Labour’s anti-Turkish bias does not stop there. We regularly see Mr Corbyn and his colleagues reduce Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus in 1974 to one of “invasion and occupation”, even though this vital action stopped the mass slaughter of Turkish Cypriots.
Mr Corbyn refuses to acknowledge the existence of Turkish Cypriots, let alone their lack of political rights and ongoing unjust international isolation – a far cry from Tony Blair and Jack Straw’s balanced approach, with both men calling for the end of the isolation of North Cyprus.
No one can deny there are many things to criticise Ankara about, but the Labour leader and his party colleagues’ comments and actions go way beyond that, demonstrating only utter contempt for Turkey. This is having an adverse effect on us ordinary British Turks too.
Since Mr Corbyn’s 2016 leadership victory, we have seen multiple Turkish-owned premises in Britain, from mosques to cultural centres, vandalised, and individuals attacked. Just a few weeks ago, a Turkish student was punched repeatedly in the head in Leeds for challenging PKK supporters over their narrative of events in Syria.
My family, friends and I fear much worse will follow if Mr Corbyn enters 10 Downing Street.
Sadly Turks are not alone in experiencing a bashing from the UK’s political Left. For the past few years, we have all borne witness to British Jews raising their concerns about the language used when criticising Israel. It has evolved into the demonization of the entire country, with some Labour members openly calling for its destruction, while also trotting out antisemitic tropes. The party failed to address these legitimate complaints, allowing the situation to morph into something far more sinister, and still Mr Corbyn has yet to act with any degree of earnestness against this vicious racism that has taken root in his party.
We know exactly how British Jews feel: Corbyn’s Labour’s is anti-Turkish too!
It’s vital British Turks push back on this state of affairs, so that we can collectively check the bias before it becomes an entrenched part of the Labour Party.
Mrs Servet Hassan
A former Vice President of the Federation of Turkish Associations in the UK