April 13, 2017
Categories: Anarchist, Kurdish liberation struggle, London, Red and Black T.V., Syria, U.S.A. . Tags: All fucking wankers, Anti fascist, International, No Borders . Author: wessexsolidarity . Comments: Leave a comment
Via Kurdish Solidarity Network, by e-mail.
Amir Taaki contacted us a week or so before the Bookfair asking that he be given space to speak about Rojava. Below is the statement we sent out in respect of this on the Friday before the Bookfair.
Leila Al Shami would define herself as an anarchist. Robin Yassin-Kassab would not. They co-wrote a book “Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War” and it was because of the issues in this book that we asked them to speak at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair. We stand by this decision. Leila and Robin also asked Shiar Neyo, a Syrian Kurdish anarchist, to speak as well.
Amir Taaki and around 15 others decided to occupy the stage at the start of this meeting. We are still unsure if this was on the false accusation that we wouldn’t let him speak or his accusations that Robin Yassin-Kassab supports fascist groups.
There were a large number of people present who wanted to hear the speakers, so to progress the meeting those present let Amir could speak for 10 minutes at the start of the meeting. This he did. But this wasn’t enough for Amir and his followers. They still refused to let the meeting continue and silenced anyone who tried to speak except for Amir. Robin left the room although Leila stayed.
The Bookfair has a policy of “no filming” at the Bookfair and when we saw one of Amir’s group filming we asked her to stop. This she constantly refused to do even though people in the room were asking her to stop as it could compromise some people’s security. Eventually someone took the filming equipment from the woman which led to a very short scuffle lasting no more than a few seconds.
We asked Amir and his associates if they would now leave the stage and let Leila speak and the meeting continue. Amir refused stating that Leila is also tainted as she is connected to Robin. As it was obvious Amir considered himself to be the only legitimate voice of what’s happening in Rojava we, as the Bookfair organisers, cancelled the meeting and asked people to leave. We left the room to Amir, his group of (we assume) supporters and 2 or 3 other
We are disgusted by the way that Amir and his associates behaved. Firstly, a number of people wanted to hear what Leila and Robin had to say. Many were Kurds, Arabs and Syrians and some had travelled to the Bookfair specifically to be part of this discussion. We apologise to all these people and to Leila, Robin and Shiar.
Secondly, we know some people wanted to ask Robin about the accusations being made against him by Amir.
Thirdly we find it ironic that in the end the only people who heard from Amir were a load of people who he already knew. Amir and his friends left the Bookfair immediately after the meeting and did not participate in further meetings.
The meeting about Rojava did happen later on at the Bookfair, as scheduled, and over 100 people participated in a good debate. The Bookfair collective welcomes this debate (as we have in previous years) and will do so again in future years if it’s appropriate.
We have seen emails stating that Amir and co’s actions could damage support for the Kurds and/or Rojava. From the London Anarchist Bookfair’s perspective we in no way blame any sections of the Kurdish community. These were the actions of a very small group of people (some Kurdish – some not) who decided (1) they wanted to close down any free discussion on the issues, and (2) only the word of Amir could be heard. Likewise, we hope our Kurdish comrades do not see the actions of Amir and co as having the support of most anarchists. He does not represent anarchism as we perceive it.
There were over 70 meetings at this year’s Bookfair and over 100 stall holders. Amir and co disrupted one meeting which most of those at the Bookfair didn’t even realise had happened. We need to keep this in perspective.
Many discussions were had with Amir before the event explaining he wasn’t being stopped from contributing – which was his initial request. At no time initially did he say Robin shouldn’t be allowed to speak. He only made this demand when we explained to Amir he couldn’t speak from the stage and the meeting wouldn’t be “his meeting”. We wonder just how much of this story those who supported Amir on the day knew.
Statement from the London Anarchist Bookfair Collective, 28th October 2016 (the day before the Bookfair)
The London Anarchist Bookfair has Leila Al Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab speaking at this year’s Bookfair. As the description on our website states “Leila and Robin will discuss the current situation in Syria with a focus on grass-roots resistance to all forms of authoritarianism.” Leila would describe herself as an anarchist and we know Robin wouldn’t. However we have often had non anarchists speaking when we think they have interesting things to say. Amir Taaki has made allegations against Robin both to us and to Robin & Leila. Robin categorically denies these allegations.
Amir contacted us about a week ago telling us we needed to let him speak signing off by saying “I’d love to speak at the anarchist book fair, only if you give me a good speaking slot and advertise it properly”.
We explained to him that the programme was fully booked, all the publicity had now gone out and the programme printed but he, like anyone else, is welcome to attend the Bookfair and any meeting to participate in the debates. His reply to us was “I want 1 hour to talk from the Syrian and technology talks”. Again we explained that at this late stage it just wasn’t possible but again said come and take part in the discussion. We have also had a friend of Amir’s call us telling us we must let Amir speak. We have never said he can’t speak. We have said we are not going to change the main speakers but that doesn’t stop him participating from the floor as the meeting will be a general discussion. We have discussed this with Amir as well by phone. It is now that Amir is making allegations against one of the speakers.
Amir is also claiming “This event is not having anything about Rojava, even though their main talk is about Syria. They’re trying to sideline Rojava”. He also calls Robin “the main speaker” at the Anarchist Bookfair. Both of these points are untrue.
Firstly, we do have a meeting about Rojava and this is a separate meeting to the one we are having about Rojava. We also have a meeting about the situation in Turkey. Amir has been told this but decides to say something completely different.
Robin is not the “main speaker” at the bookfair. We have 70 meetings and as the organisers we see all the meetings and discussions have equal billing. We have a number of speakers coming in from outside the UK and we feel it is an insult to these and speakers from within the UK to describe one person, as Amir does, as the “main speaker”. We would question why anyone who would define themselves as an anarchist would “rank” speakers in order of importance.
We cannot, and would not, stop Amir expressing his views. However we don’t agree with them for the reasons stated above.
Child refugees in Tobali, Turkey, in a makeshift school they were later forced to abandon. Photo: Nina Aandahl.
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European governments leading the charge in the ‘war on terror’ have bought the right to turn their backs on its casualties for a cool £4.6 billion by striking their deal with Turkey. In exchange for the funds and loosened visa restrictions on Turkish citizens, the European Union has been able to violate its international obligations and outsource its refugee crisis.
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Press release: Independent radio station in Rojava, Syria, set on fire, executive director threatened with death if broadcasting did not stop
Amudah, 27 April 2016 – ARTA FM’s headquarters in Amudah, north-east Syria, was set on fire last night, and its executive director was threatened with death at gun point if the independent community radio station did not stop broadcasting.(1)
Around 11pm last night (26 April), five masked men and armed with guns turned up at ARTA’s headquarters in Amudah as the last staff members were leaving. Another group of armed men were waiting outside the home of ARTA FM’s Executive Director, a popular musician known as Sefqan. They pointed their guns to his head and that of his driver and threatened to kill them if they did not comply. They then led him to the Amudah Cemetery and said they would “take away his soul” if ARTA FM did not stop. “We’re fighting a war and you’re talking about bullshit,” they said.
Last week heavy fighting broke out in the nearby city of Qamishli between the local Kurdish security forces, known as Asayish, and the local People’s Protection Units (YPG), on the one hand, and Syrian regime forces and militias, on the other. Dozens from both sides were killed and injured before a truce was agreed. ARTA FM covered the fighting extensively and became one of the main reliable sources of information for the local population.(2)
Sefqan was then led back from the cemetery to ARTA’s HQ, where he and two guards were handcuffed downstairs, while the armed men went upstairs, ransacked the offices and set the building on fire. They reportedly took some of the radio’s laptops with them. As they left, the armed men threatened Safqan that they “will kill you if you ever switch on that radio again.” Fire fighters and the Asayish (the local security forces) arrived about half an hour later and took Sefqan and the guard away for investigation.
ARTA has demanded that the Self Administration authorities open a serious, independent investigation into the incident, pointing out the following facts:
– Amudah is surrounded by a trench and is full of Asayish checkpoints, making it near-impossible for outsiders to enter the city. Only armed units under the Self Administration authority can move around freely.
– The ARTA building is next door to the Self Administration’s Guest House in Amudah, and other important which is constantly guarded by the Asayish.
– The electricity was cut off in the neighbourhood during the ‘operation’, even though it had almost not been cut off in the last few days.
A statement by the Executive Council of the Self Administration in the Jazeera Canton condemned the attack and promised to open an investigation.
Siruan H. Hossein, ARTA FM’s founder and General Director, said: “We will not be intimidated by these cowardly acts and stop our work to strengthen free, independent media in the region. However, we also do not want to put our staff at risk. We demand that the Self Administration authorities immediately open a serious, independent investigation and punish those responsible for this crime. We also demand that serious measures are taken to protect media workers, civil society activists and civilians in general. That is what the People’s Protection Units are supposed to be there for.”
Notes for editors:
1. ARTA for Media and Development is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation registered in Germany. It was founded in February 2013 by a group of Syrian-Kurdish activists and media professionals based in and outside Syria.
ARTA FM, a project of ARTA for Media and Development, is an independent, multilingual community radio station broadcasting in the north-eastern parts of Syria. It is also available online (arta.fm) and on the NileSat satellite network. It started broadcasting in July 2013 from Amuda, where ARTA is now headquartered.
ARTA FM broadcasts daily 15 hours of live programmes and news in four languages: Kurdish, Arabic, Syriac and Armenian – the languages of the local communities inhabiting the northern parts of Syria, along the Turkish borders. It is listened to by wide sections of the population in the regions of Amuda, Qamishli, Malikiyya (Derik), Ras al-‘Ayn and ‘Ayn al-‘Arab (Kobani).
2, See these testimonies by listeners about ARTA FM’s coverage of the Qamishli fighting last week: https://www.facebook.com/artaradio/videos/609857142501295/