Shilan Ozcelik: British persecute Kurdish woman who wanted to fight Islamic State
It’s a widely held belief that IS – or “so-called Islamic State”, if you’re a BBC viewer – are murderous Islam supremacists who spend their days raping, pillaging and dreaming up news ways to brutalise humanity. Against them, we have Barack Obama’s rhetoric, President Assad of Syria’s murderous regime and the Kurds. Now thanks to the British justice system we can see one of these kurds at the Old Bailey, where Shilan Ozcelik is on trial for allegedly attempting to join the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
IS would surely have raped and murdered her my now, but we can assume they are broadly in favour of the British courts’ criminalising someone trying to fight for the West.
Shilan Ozcelik, 18, has been charged with “engaging in conduct in preparation to for giving an effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism” under section 5 (10) (a) of the Terrorism Act 2006. Arrested in January, Shilan has been held on remand in Holloway prison since early March.
The Kurdistan Tribune reports:
Her arrest and charge was met with outrage by the Kurdish community in the UK and supporters of the Kurdish struggle, who condemned it as a blatant example of selective and political criminalisation of the Kurdish community, which has continued since the PKK was listed as a ‘terrorist organisation’ in 2000.
We reject this labelling of the PKK, which we believe confuses the Kurdish people’s legitimate struggle for self-determination with terrorism and has the effect of criminalising anyone in the Kurdish community who is part of peaceful political activity. We know that Shilan has never committed any act of violence and poses no threat to the people of this country. As such, we reiterate our call for the charges against her to be dropped.
A woman keen to fight our enemy has been arrested for, er, trying to fight our enemy.
But this is also about the Turks. In July the Turkish government saw its chance to bomb the Kurds as it bombed IS:
[President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] said the peace process, launched in 2012 in order to put an end to the bloody conflict between the Turkish government and the PKK that has killed over 40,000 since it began in 1984, had become impossible to maintain. The PKK has said the air strikes, launched virtually in parallel with Turkish strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria, rendered the peace process meaningless. But it has stopped short of formally pulling out.
The Turkish air strikes on Kurdish rebels were launched in tandem with Turkey’s first ever military operations against Islamic State in Syria after a suicide bomb killed 32 in the small border town of Suruç last Monday, an attack that Ankara blames on Isis. Critics have accused Turkey of using the Isis threat as a pretext to weaken the Kurdish opposition. Turkey’s Nato allies have expressed unease about the operations aimed at the PKK, since the Kurds have been a crucial ally in the fight against Isis both in Syria and in Iraq.
So instead of trying to fight for her people, Shilan Ozcelik is in jail.
The Peace in Kurdistan Campaign sums up well:
Given this context, the arrest of a young Kurdish woman for allegedly attempting to join the YPJ seems more than a little contradictory.