Friends of Silan outside the Old Bailey
23rd November 2015
by Mark Campbell
Ex UK Royal Marine, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield went to join the Kurdish forces, YPG, in Rojava because he was frustrated and angry at the inexplicable and disgraceful inaction of the UK government towards the struggle against ISIS in Syria.
The UK position in Syria, then and still, up to now, has been one of purposefully ignoring the Kurdish forces heroic resistance against ISIS in Syria. (To the bizarre point where a 'Foreign Affairs Report on the Fight Against ISIS in Iraq and Syria' failed to mention the YPG's determined and successful military defeats of ISIS despite having received reports commissioned for the report.)
To any honest observer, it seems as though the UK preferred to support their NATO ally Turkey by not recognising the YPG's and PKK's sacrifice and critical contribution to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, seen yet again just today, by the UK Ambassador to KRG's tweet, 'recognizing the 'Peshmerga's' liberation of Sinjar', and completely failing to mention the forces of the PKK who were central to the retaking of the Ezidi (Yazidi) town, reported widely in the international media.
Time and time again the PKK and YPG seem to be at best 'invisible' and worse 'criminalised' as in the Silan Ozcelik case.
The Kurdish resistance criminalised for Turkey.
This, despite a lot of documented evidence showing how Turkey has been clandestinely supporting ISIS's fight against the YPG in Rojava never mind the recently renewed total war of annhilation launched by Turkey against the Kurds freedom struggle inside Turkey's borders in the Kurdish cities of what the Kurds call North Kurdistan. (SE Turkey)
So, it was no surprise that when on the 13th March, on the exact very same day as the father of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, Chris, left the UK to bring back the body of his son, that poor young Silan Ozcelik was charged with obscure 'terrorist' related charges.
For the first time in the UK, with the widespread coverage of Konstandinos's story, the Kurdish forces of YPG/PKK were receiving widespread sympathetic coverage in the mainstream media in the UK.
The British public could see clearly that it was the Kurdish forces who heroically battled ISIS in the, now legendary battle of Kobane. And it was the Kurdish forces that for the first time had turned the tide against ISIS and had shown that with close air support from the coalition these brave fighters could very effectively defeat the 'Islamic State' fighters who had, up till this point enjoyed 'undefeatable' status.
The YPG/YPJ had turned the psychological struggle against ISIS for the first time.
At this time I was involved in liaising between the family of Konstandinos and the PYD in Rojava over the repatriation of Kostas's body and will never forget a phone call I got the night Chris Scurfield arrived in Kurdistan to collect his son's body.
All UK TV channels were to report it and the BBC's Jim Muir was set to do a special report. All the reporting was sympathetic to YPG's fight.
It was a journalist from Reuters and I thought it was going to be yet another journalist wanting to ask about Konstandinos. But it was not.
The journalist on the other end of the phone asked me if I had heard of a young Kurdish woman that had on that very night been charged in relation to going to fight against ISIS.
I knew at that very moment what the Silan Ozcelik case was about.
Never mind that many other UK fighters, famously including ex Tory activist, Macer Gifford, had been in the news going to volunteer in Rojava for the anti ISIS fight.
And never mind the number of young Islamist women who had gone to Syria to join ISIS but returned and who were not charged.
Silan Ozcelik is a sacrificial lamb offered up to Turkey as part of Turkey's criminalisation of the Kurdish resistance against annihaltion policies against the Kurds.
The Turkish state could not tolerate the Kurdish struggle against ISIS becoming popular in the eyes of the UK public so Silan Ozcelik had to be convicted, no matter what.
The UK state shamefully obliged.
Never mind she was just a young Kurdish girl of 17 who, like us all, has been worried about the rise of ISIS and saw that something needed to be done.
Never mind, that in her own account she had not even gone to Syria but had travelled with a man for romantic reasons to Brussels. The facts of the case did not seem to figure in her trial.
I attended Silan Ozcelik's case at the Old Bailey for the full week and my impression was that the prosecution and judge were working as a team to jointly criminalise Silan and guide the jury to the required guilty verdict.
Despite the defence stating time and again that there was 'not a shred of evidence' to convict her the judge and prosecution both seemed to do their level best to heap lashings of labels of 'terrorist' and accusations of dishonesty and reminding the jury time and again, this was a case about 'terrorism' and not the fight against ISIS and they must put out of their minds the Paris incident as it had nothing, apparently, to do with this case, this case was about 'terrorism'. Over and over again the jury were showered with these accusations against poor Silan.
The plan was always to criminalise and label the Kurds as 'terrorists' and discourage anyone to think about joining the PKK or the fight against ISIS in Rojava.
Needless to say none of Turkey's systematic state terrorist actions against the Kurdish civilian population was allowed to brought up in court.
My own son is 17 and it struck me painfully that this young girl, now woman, has had to endure the last 13 months incarcerated in a Category A prison ward and labeled a hardened 'terrorist' when in fact she is a gentle, intelligent, hard working woman with a unblemished character and loving family who are worried sick for her.
Silan Ozcelik conducted herself with absolute dignity and pride throughout the whole trial and deserves the support from us all.
Because the truth is, Silan Ozcelik should never have been put in jail or on trial in the first place. It is only because of the UK's economic and political relationship with Turkey that she is.
The criminalisation of the Kurdish people's struggle led by the PKK is a crime against humanity in my view and has caused untold psychological damage and continues to hinder a political solution to what has become one of the most important political issues in the Middle East. The PKK are not 'terrorists' but represent the aspirations of millions of Kurds in the Middle East and have fought for a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Kurdish Question despite the warmongering and dishonesty of the present Turkish govt.
Instead of acquiescing in Turkey's 'Dirty War' against the Kurds and criminalising Kurds in the UK for Turkey, the UK government, should abandon Turkey, who are part of the problem in the Middle East, and concentrate harder on the fight against ISIS, unban the PKK and support the YPG who are both affectively defeating ISIS.
Silan Ozcelik's defence team have today lodged an appeal against her conviction. Please support her and demand her immidiate release.
Contact [email protected] for interviews or more information. Please sign the petition for the freedom of Silan Ozcelik here.
- Mark Campbell