Photo taken at a demonstration in London 2011 (c)

08/05/2015 - 00:00
The Threat Posed by UNSC Resolution 2178 to the PKK, Kurdish Diaspora, Peace Process and Civil Liberties

08 May 2015

by Desmond Fernandes

Part VII of Surveillance, Targeting and the Criminalisation of Kurds


In recent months, even as human rights and civil liberties organisations, lawyers, concerned members of the public and Kurdish community representatives and politicians from centre-left-right parties in the EU states and the US have called on their respective governments and the EU to decriminalise the PKK, President Obama, Turkish ministers and publicly unaccountable intelligence, NATO and US-UK military circles have exerted their leverage at the the Fifth Ministerial Plenary of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) - “an action-oriented platform committed to strengthening international cooperation and mobilizing expertise and resources to address civilian-focused counterterrorism priorities”[i] - and at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to pass UNSC resolution 2178.

This resolution, passed at a meeting chaired by President Obama,[ii] scandalously, in the name of being rushed through urgently to address the genocidal terrorist ISIS threat and to prevent 'radicalised' people as well as mercenaries from travelling from their respective countries to Syria or Iraq to support ISIS, has actually been deliberately formulated in a manner that will institutionally facilitate further criminalisation, targeting and surveillance of the PKK and its supporters, the Kurdish diaspora as well as all other groups placed on state/EU/UN 'terrorism lists' (this will include Baloch and Tamil groups placed on the UK terrorism list as well as the DHKP-C).

One day before UNSC resolution 2178 was passed, it is instructive to note that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu chaired the Fifth Ministerial Plenary of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), where they jointly emphasised the need for governments 'to act together' along the lines they were endorsing. At this forum, “members also agreed to establish a GCTF Working Group ... dedicated to addressing the 'Foreign Terrorist Fighter' (FTF) challenge … and helping to coordinate the growing number of efforts at the national, regional and international levels to stem the flow of FTF's. A number of members stepped forward to announce the practical steps being taken to address the phenomenon, including by providing more than $50 million to support capacity-building efforts in partner countries”.[iii]

According to the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, “members welcomed the progress on the GCTF-inspired institutions, which now exist as independent legal entities … [They include] the Geneva-based Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), the first-ever public-private multilateral financing mechanism to provide community-based organisations 'local countering violent extremism' (CVE) grants ... Members announced more than $20 million in pledges and contributions to support these new institutions … In addition to the GCTF's FTF good practices, members endorsed three” - in many ways, highly problematic (in ways to be outlined in forthcoming articles) - “additional framework documents: the Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, which highlights the importance of education as a tool to counter violent extremism and two good practice documents focused on building international criminal justice and rule of law capacity, The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offencesand the Recommendations for Using and Protecting Intelligence Information in Rule of Law-Based, Criminal Justice Sector-led Investigations and Prosecutions. Members emphasized the need to intensify focus on the implementation of these and other GCTF framework documents in the coming year”.[iv]

Just quickly glancing at the Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, for example, one sees the following chilling recommendations: “Good Practice 2 -Promote dialogue and collaboration between the education and security sectors” - note: these are the very security sectors (MI5, MI6, the FBI, CIA, NSA, MIT, etc) that have shown themselves to act in a publicly unaccountable manner in innumerable targeting actions against ethnic 'minorities', diasporic and Muslim communities, environmental and political/civil liberties/anti-war groups and movements - “to increase political attention and resources devoted to countering violent extremism (CVE) and education”.[v]

“Where appropriate, the security and education sectors can work together through educational programming”, the Abu Dhabi memorandum states, whilst offering the following advice: “Good Practice 3 - Consider semantics when labelling educational programmes as 'countering violent extremism' to avoid” seemingly, for public relations and propaganda purposes, the appearance of “securitizing the education sector”[vi] (which, in effect, is taking place). “Labels are important”, in stealth terms, “for how a programme is perceived. Integrating CVE activities into existing educational programming may help to overcome this stigma. Good Practice 4 - Initiate CVE interventions through education as early as possible. Primary and secondary school years are an appropriate time to consider such interventions”.[vii]

UNSC resolution 2178 and the criminalisation and targeting of the PKK

Ironically, the PKK – at the forefront of anti-genocidal initiatives alongside the forces of  the YPG/YPJ and the peshmerga to protect Kurds and targeted 'Others' in Kobane and northern Iraq from ISIS – is set to be further criminalised by this UNSC resolution that was passed in public relations terms to essentially target ISIS linked 'militants'. What is clear is that publicly unaccountable decision makers and intelligence agencies deliberately drafted the resolution to enable governments and policing/intelligence agencies to target a wider range of groups (including the PKK) and, in so doing, 'legitimise' their ongoing targeting measures at a time when public opinion in the US and EU member states, alongside legal opinion, has shifted heavily in favour of decriminalising the PKK, supporting the anti-genocidal struggles of Kurds and 'Others' against ISIS and halting blanket and publicly unaccountable surveillance and targeting operations against Kurdish diasporic and 'Othered' communities and groups.

Just last month, for example, “Green Party General Election candidates from six North London constituencies ... called for the British Government to lift the ban on the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK) and for the PKK to be removed from the list of banned 'terrorist' organisations”.[viii] Recently, an “op-ed by the Bloomberg editorial board argued that its terrorist status 'is falling out of date'. The Washington Post offered a similar argument, albeit more indirectly, as did David Phillips, Director of the Peace-building and Human Rights Programme at Columbia University, in an op-ed for CNBC”.[ix]

Vasiliki Scurfield, mother of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, the first UK volunteer to die fighting ISIS in Syria with the anti-genocidal Kurdish forces of the YPG, has highlighted the frustration Konstandinos felt “at the lack of support from the UK government for the Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria”.[x] Vasiliki has announced the launch of a campaign to raise awareness and support for the struggle, noting with concern her frustration “at the way that the Kurds seem to be hidden from the west under an invisibility cloak”:[xi]

Daesh (ISIS) swept in to villages in Syria and Iraq and seemed unstoppable. We watched the events unfold and just couldn't believe the horror of it. There was a terrible fear in everyone's heart. Then, we heard that Kobane had resisted and was winning. Very little else was said. The media coverage seemed limited but it broke the belief that Daesh was unbeatable. Indirectly, Kosta's death has shone a spotlight on the Rojava area and now people are becoming more aware of, and interested in, the issues that Kurdish people face in their fight against Daesh. Every day, parents lose their children in this fight and I want to try and reduce these losses.

To do this, I want to take Kosta's fight for the people oppressed by Daesh to the politicians of the west. I want to ask them: 'Why are you ignoring this? Why are you turning your faces away?' … We can't all go out and do what Kosta did as our talents may lie in other areas. However, we can raise up our voices so that the government can be forced to acknowledge the role of the Kurdish people and actually talk to them to see how we can best support them in their fight

I sincerely hope that the people of the world will join me in not only acknowledging the Kurdish resistance but also lauding and supporting it. I hope that we will be successful in forcing our governments to initiate a dialogue with the Kurdish people fighting against Daesh to see what they need and then make it possible for them to get it.

I hope they do this quickly before it is too late for the Kurdish people. When it becomes too late for them, it will be too late for us and we will have failed a vast amount of people … Act. Act now. By that, I don't mean rush in with boots on the ground. I mean talk to the people on the ground there already and listen to them. Give them the help they need to combat this growing threat fairly. Don't let outdated alliances hold you back. Be wise, be strong, be courageous and stand up for people”.[xii]

The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), alongside key members from the legal profession – such as Gareth Peirce (of Birnberg Peirce Solicitors), Melanie Gingell (of Doughty Street Chambers), Professor Bill Bowring, (Professor of Law and president of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights – ELDH), Mike Mansfield QC (and President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers), Ali Has (solicitor advocate), Bronwen Jones (Tooks Chambers), Margaret Owen, Phil Shiner (of Public Interest Lawyers), Francis Webber, Louise Christian and several other lawyers – as well as concerned members of the public and organisations such as the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign have argued that:

The case for the de-listing of the PKK is now quite overwhelmingRecent initiatives to secure peace through talks can still be jeopardised by the continued listing of the PKK as a terrorist group in Turkey which is reinforced by the UK and European Union’s ban on the organisation

The ban on the PKK distorts the whole political process by ensuring that anyone who expresses an opinion on controversial issues in Turkey can be held to be an associate of terrorism and prosecuted with the full force of a law that is as indiscriminate as it is unjust. This … is an intolerable situation … There is an urgent need to look again at the proscription of the PKK as this may become an obstacle to any future negotiations that will be required to achieve the peace settlement to which everyone is publicly pledged.[xiii]

In May 2014, European lawyers appealed again to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the EU terrorism listing of the PKK. They argued that it represented a threat to a permanent peace and to conflict resolution processes. Zubeyir Aydar, a member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Committee, a Kurdish lawyer and a former member of the Turkish parliament stated that: “Listing of the Kurdish movement in the EU and in the US terror list, which is directed from Ankara in accordance with the Turkish dirty policy against the Kurdish people, only strengthens the hands of the war lovers in Turkey and weapons sellers who are living in the bloody market. This inhumane policy goes against the peace process”.[xiv]

One of the lawyers submitting the appeal to the ECJ reiterated her view that: “For a permanent peace to be achieved in the four parts of Kurdistan and in all of the Middle East, the PKK … must be de-listed from the EU list of terrorist organisations. The ban on the PKK which has obeyed the international law of war is not based on international laws”.[xv]

In December 2014, the European Union-Turkey Civic Commission's (EUTCC's) 11th conference - held in the European Parliament - concluded with the following appeal:

As long as the PKK remains on the terrorist list, these [peace] talks are unlikely to succeed as genuine negotiations. The blacklisting of the organization in the EU, US and Turkey has led to the widespread criminalisation of political dissent and suppression of pro-Kurdish voices, creating many political prisoners whose amnesty must also be seen as a necessary part of a genuine negotiation process …

The struggle that the PKK has been engaged in against ISIS in the wake of the attacks on Sinjar on 3rd August and on Kobanê on 15th September demonstrates the necessity of ending the criminalisation of the Kurds across Europe and the need to de-list the PKK from the terrorist list now …

The struggle of the PKK against ISIS has not only saved the lives of tens of thousands in both Sinjar and Kobanê, but it has also prevented ISIS from succeeding in their plan to capture these strategic regions inhabited by Kurds and other peoples and communities by means of savage massacres.[xvi]

Lawyers from the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), in October 2014, confirmed the manner in which “democratic and progressive lawyers all over the world have repeatedly protested against the criminalisation of so many Kurds and have demanded the removal of the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations of the European Union and the lifting of the ban on political activities. The PKK itself has made several attempts – of which only some were successful – to appeal against prosecutions, which they considered to be unlawful, in Germany and other European countries. One of the most recent, dated 2nd May 2014, was the legal action at the Court of the European Union, on behalf of the Executive Committee of PKK, taken against the Council of the European Union. Its objective was to remove the PKK from the EU list of terrorist organisations.

Furthermore, the list of terrorist organisations has met with general legal concerns, amongst others from the former President of the German Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, and from the former Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, Dick Marty … The listing”,  ELDH confirms, “takes place in a non-transparent procedure which does not allow the persons or organizations concerned appropriate legal means of defence … Certain promising results in the battle against the advance of the so called 'Islamic State' (IS) in Iraq and in the self-governed Region in Western Kurdistan/Northern Syria (Rojava) are the result of the unprecedented and courageous battle of the PKK and its allied forces. Fewer politicians than ever are maintaining their old stereotypes when assessing the PKK … The [current] circumstances demand a legal reassessment of the PKK by the German government, by the governments of other European countries, as well as by the European Union”.

Yet, what has to be appreciated is that once the EU acts to integrate UNSC Resolution 2178 into its 'anti-terrorism' framework, the whole Kurdish diaspora in EU member states will 'legitimately' be subjected to blanket surveillance and targeting at a crucial moment when the PKK is trying to promote the formal peace process with the Turkish government. This, at a time when the AKP ruling government, in the run-up to the June elections in Turkey,is not only facing  key splits in its ranks after the stance taken by the President, but has dangerously sought to court Turkish hyper-nationalist votes by conducting military operations in Kurdish areas in Turkey[xvii]andthreatening the very basis of the peace process.

As the İmralı delegation recently clarified in its statement regarding the fragile stage reached in the "Process of Resolution":

The ruling bloc is split: on one side is the President, on the other, the government. There are also lots of internal splits. We hoped that when the President [recently again] said: 'There is no table, there is no Kurdish problem', the Prime Minister would disagree with him. When he says: 'There is no table and no parties', this is not true. There are chairs around a table, but the chairs are empty. The Dolmabahçe accord was made in order to reach a solution …

We reached agreement with the government over third party participation, but the President has equated this with treason … The path to follow is to grasp peace more firmly, not to abandon it [in the run up to the elections]. We are inviting the government to make a re-evaluation and we advise them that it is necessary to retain an awareness of the seriousness of the situation".[xviii]

Martin Scheinin, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism (2005-2011) and currently Professor of Public International Law at the European University Institute, confirms that the threat posed by United Nations Security Council resolution 2178 – passed at a meeting on 24th September 2014 chaired by President Barack Obama – is all too real: “This will not be a mere political declaration adopted at highest political level but a 'legislative' resolution with 'teeth', adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, therefore, legally binding for all UN Member States and obtaining, by virtue of Article 103 of the Charter, primacy in relation to any other international agreement of states”, he reported.[xix] 

Scheinin, just before the resolution was passed, voiced his concern and disquiet that “the envisaged resolution constitutes a huge backlash in the UN counter-terrorism regime, comparable to Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1373, adopted in the immediate aftermath of the … terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. It wipes out the piecemeal progress made over 13 long years in introducing protections of human rights and the rule of law into the highly problematic manner in which the Security Council exercises its supranational powers”.[xx]

Indeed, “the new Security Council Resolution will identify, in its preambular paragraph 1 (PP1), as one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, 'terrorism in all forms and manifestations' … [This] imposes upon all Member States far-reaching new legal obligations without any effort to define or limit the categories of persons who may be identified as 'terrorists' by an individual state. This approach carries a huge risk of abuse, as various states” - inclusive of the the US, Turkish and British ones and EU member states - “apply notoriously wide, vague or abusive definitions of terrorism, often with a clear political or oppressive motivation”.[xxi]

As the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), in its 'Response to Prevent Duty Guidance: a consultation', asserted on 30th January 2015: “UK legislation rests on the Terrorism Act 2000 … With [its] broad, vague definition, anti-terror powers have been used to persecute those who oppose UK foreign policy and/or support liberation movements … [The] definition was the UK’s basis for banning several national liberation organisations [inclusive of the PKK] as terrorist, for persecuting migrant and Muslim communities and for criminalising speech acts (which were not prosecutable as hate speech). In such ways, the ‘anti-terror’ agenda supports oppressive regimes allied with the UK – for example, Turkey”.  Les Levidow and Saleh Mamon from CAMPACC clarify that:

The 2000 Act criminalised association as well as membership. It became an offence to organise or speak at a meeting of more than three people with the knowledge that a member of a banned organisation will be a speaker. It became illegal to support these organisations anywhere – politically, financially or any other way. ‘Support’ was [and is] conveniently left ambiguous; it could mean attending a meeting sympathetic to a banned organisation, or giving funds to its humanitarian programme, or simply wearing a t-shirt with its name. Under the statutory duty of disclosure, moreover, it became a criminal offence not to inform the police if you know someone who has engaged in such activities.[xxii]

“The most alarming provision” in Resolution 2178, Scheinin points out, is to be found in operative paragraph 6 (OP6) which undoubtedly “will provide a handy tool for oppressive regimes that choose to stigmatize as 'terrorism' whatever they do not like – for instance political opposition” - such as the PKK - “trade unions, religious movements, minority or indigenous groups, etc. Let us assume that a country applies a definition of terrorism that includes organised campaigns of indigenous groups toward self-determination by non-violent means. Criminalising the provision of training to empower these groups, including in the field of human rights, would then be legitimized by OP6. The repressive regime would refer to its obligations under the UN Charter to justify a crackdown upon travel, training and funding of organizations and movements said to constitute a threat to the oppressive regime itself – even when totally non-violent”.[xxiii]

The British government, once UNSC resolution 2178 is integrated into its anti-terrorism legislative framework via EU linked mechanisms, will be able to 'justify a crackdown upon travel, training and funding' of the PKK and perceived affiliated organisations. So there will be more questionable cases of criminalisation of Kurds and intensified surveillance and targeting of Kurdish community centres, Kurdish civil liberties and solidarity organisations and management committee members of Kurdish community centres by the publicly unaccountable MI5, Special Branch and other security organisations – all 'justified' under the guise of upholding resolution 2178.

There will undoubtedly be more targeting operations of the kind that resulted in Shilan Ozcelik'sarrest in March 2015. Shilan was charged with ‘engaging in conduct in preparation to for giving an effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism under section 5 (10a) of the Terrorism Act 2006'. As Mark Campbell commented at the time of her arrest: “ 'It’s a political thing from the British Government because they are concerned that more British people are expressing support for the Kurds’ fight against Isis, because they don’t want to upset their [fellow] NATO member Turkey … That is absolutely disgraceful and disgusting'. Even if the allegation is true, 'her only motivation was to fight Isis … What jury is going to convict somebody who has expressed a desire to defeat this modern day fascism?'”[xxiv]

For Mark Campbell and others: “It is seemingly becoming more clear that the UK Government is attempting to criminalise anyone who wants to fight ISIS while doing nothing to support the Kurds fight against ISIS in Syria. When you look more closely at the UK government's track record on the fight against ISIS in Syria, it is shockingly shameful”. As I noted in my last article in Kurdish Question ('Is the UK government's recent “guidance” to the PYD a Cause for Concern? - Part VI of Surveillance, Targeting and the Criminalisation of Kurds'), even support for the anti-ISIS PYD in Rojava has been withheld by the British government significantly on the grounds that the PYD has not abandoned all its relations with the 'terrorist' PKK, the same PKK that has been (and still is) defending the very lives of Kurds and 'Others' from the ongoing genocidal initiatives of ISIS.

The conclusions of Florian Wilde, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Analysis at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and member of the National Executive Committee of Die Linke/the Left Party from 2012-4 in Germany (that the PKK is “the single most effective and successful force currently fighting the IS”)[xxv] and Fikret Igrek, a representative of the Federation of Yazidi Associations and President of the Sinjar Council in Exile, who “said that the PKK and YPG/YPJ had done their utmost to resist the savage ISIS attacks on Sinjar”,[xxvi] appear to have been disregarded in the cynical decision making processes of 'deep political' circles determined to maintain the criminalisation of the PKK.

As the conflict resolution and legal analyst and academic Vicki Sentas has observed: “The denial of political status for the PKK” - and this is something that will be reinforced by the 'activation' of  UNSC Resolution 2178 - “illustrates how proscription by Western states legitimates and extends Turkish state terror against the Kurdish people. Proscription of the PKK by the G8 states directly supports Turkey’s strategy of stop-start negotiation with the PKK. Instead, the labelling of the PKK as terrorist by the international community” - inclusive of the British government - “allows Turkey to escalate repression against the Kurds” whilst enabling the British government to cynically refuse to practically support and meaningfully assist initiatives in Rojava (due to the presence of PKK forces there to assist the YPG and YPJ) “as part of its ‘war on terror’.

“More broadly, the proscription regime as it is constituted globally means that G8 states claiming democratic credentials give impetus to state violence by less powerful nations. Proscription creates an international atmosphere in which some states are empowered to use more repressive tactics against movements for self-determination … By transforming non-state actors into a priori terrorists, proscription by the UK functions to valorise the state terror of others as ‘counter-terrorism’ and deny the right to resist state violence and exercise self-determination.

“This effect”, Sentas clarifies, “has been described by international law theorist, Antonio Cassese (1991), as institutionalised violence … Proscription has also de-legitimated the licence to use military force as a last resort as defence against oppressive” and even genocidal “regimes by peoples seeking self-determination. Lastly, proscription has fundamentally reversed the principle that prohibits third states from supporting oppressive states in denying the right to self-determination (Muller 2008). Britain undermines the principle of self-determination by criminalising diverse forms of solidarity for armed resistance against oppressive regimes”.[xxvii]

As Gavin Sullivan and Ben Hayes also conclude,one of the key impacts of th[is] blacklisting regime has been to criminalise groups (and their supporters) who are lawfully engaged in armed conflict against oppressive states” - indeed, even genocidal states such as  ISIS - “and/or legitimately struggling for their right to self-determination”[xxviii] - for example, as in Turkey where the PKK has been calling for self-determination within the still-accepted territorial borders of the Turkish state. Lawful engagement in “armed conflict against oppressive states and/or legitimately struggling for their right to self-determination” is, Sullivan and Hayes clarify, “expressly provided under common Article 1(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)”.[xxix]

However, under the current proscription regime, these 'rights' appear to have been automatically dismissed and as Sentas explains: “Part of the answer to why the Kurdish question is marginalised by the international community lies with the ‘war on terror’. How did [the PKK], a political movement for recognition, democracy and self-determination become so resolutely transformed on the global stage, as a terrorist threat to be defeated militarily? … Only the good faith recognition of the PKK’s political status will ensure lasting transformation of the conflict. Permanent political status, however, clashes with another ‘legal’ and political formation which structures the Kurdish conflict – global counter-terrorism. The continuous sabotage of negotiations to date represents complex, multifaceted obstacles not considered here. But underlying these obstacles remains the characterisation of the PKK as a terrorist organisation, without recognisable claims or recourse to any form of legitimate political violence against military targets (as understood in international law)”.[xxx]

For Sentas, “the international community” undoubtedly “has had an integral role in preserving Turkey’s counter-terrorism strategies to militarily annihilate the PKK whilst simultaneously calling for peace. The proscription of the PKK as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia remains an obstacle to the peace process”.[xxxi] In fact, “proscription has undermined the PKK’s political status by designating it as a terrorist entity … As well as the PKK, there are 49 militant non-state actors currently banned in the UK (as of November 2012). Many of these organisations”, Sentas clarifies, “are engaged in armed struggle in self-defence against repressive regimes, and in political claims for statehood, regional autonomy or basic ethno-cultural rights; for example, the Baluch, Palestinians, Tamils, Basque, amongst other peoples”.[xxxii]

Proscription in this politicised context “is not simply a domestic harm which inflicts criminalisation on Kurdish residents and citizens of the UK. Banning organisations is a tool of British foreign policy” - and, one might add, US policy - “which functions as a systemic state violence in three additional key ways: firstly, by denying the application of international law and principles of self-determination; secondly, by foreclosing opportunities for peaceful settlement of conflict; and thirdly, by legitimating and facilitating Turkish state terror against the Kurds. In so far as proscription makes no distinction between armed conflicts and terrorism, it denies those targeted fundamental legal rights and protections relating to self-determination”[xxxiii] and the struggle against genocide – even when it is against ISIS.

Resolution 2178 and its implications in the UK and EU

What is shocking is that UNSC Resolution 2178 bolsters, rather than challenges, the basis of the proscription regime. In so doing, when EU member states integrate this UNSC resolution - publicly passed in the name of targeting supporters of ISIS – into their 'proscription-cum-counter terrorism' framework, they will actually be institutionally legitimising the ongoing targeting and criminalisation of the anti-ISIS PKK, thereby also justifying blanket surveillance of the Kurdish diaspora and many of those even 'outside' of the Kurdish diaspora who are considering supporting the Kurdish anti-genocidal, anti-ISIS resistance.

Absurdly and insultingly, the consequence of this - in all practicality - will be to support the then Turkish prime minister Erdoğan's (now Turkish president) call in October 2014 for the PKK to be criminalised alongside ISIS as a joint 'terrorist' threat:

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are the same for Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said ... 'It is wrong to consider them in different ways ... We need to handle them all together on a common ground", Erdoğan said.[xxxiv]

As Martin Scheinin has noted with alarm: “The draft resolution has ... problems, … including [the] failure to mention human rights in PP5” and the “failure to maintain and further develop the idea first adopted in 2008 in SCR 1822 that the UN itself must comply with human rights when combating terrorism”.[xxxv] Crucially, and this is relevant to the issue of the ongoing criminalisation of the PKK which will be 'legitimised' in EU member states once  UNSC resolution 2178 is adopted, Scheinin demands that “the resolution must be fixed by carefully considering in each paragraph whether the measures could be restricted in scope, so that they apply only in respect of individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida … Better to fix now than later. Resolution 1373 required a lot of subsequent fixes and never became very good. Why do we have to see the same happening again?”[xxxvi]

Of course, the answer to Scheinin's question is that the resolution, as drafted and passed, enables publicly unaccountable 'deep political' circles to push through securitisation/militarisation agendas that will benefit security, intelligence, arms, oil and far-right agendas. But at what cost to 'Othered' diasporic communities, peoples facing genocide and state terror and 'Othered' self-determination and anti-state terror movements and constituencies?

It is instructive to note that after UNSC Resolution 2178 was passed, Scheinin cautioned that, in his opinion, “resolution 2178 is worse - indeed, far worse - than Resolution 1373 from the perspective of the international rule of law. This [is] the major point. And the minor one? Goldman ... stat[es] that Resolution 2178 was adopted ‘after a debate involving dozens of world leaders’. Not quite so. Obviously, there was broad support [from heads of state] for the resolution. But there was no debate. The resolution was first adopted without any discussion (at 2 minutes and 30 seconds on the video), and then followed by statements by Heads of State or Government. Only one person — President Obama — spoke before the vote. Here’s the video:”.[xxxvii]

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya describes David Cameron's speech, made after UNSC 2179 resolution was passed. If accurately reported, it highlights the chilling context in which he envisages the resolution will be used to buttress a publicly unaccountable 'anti-terrorism' infrastructure in the UK that not only threatens to criminalise many within the Kurdish diasporic community but many 'Others' that refuse to unquestioningly accept disinformation-laden NATO and US-UK government and intelligence agencies' narratives and interpretations:

There was what appeared to be a general call for policing social media in the chamber for combating terrorism. Rehashing the main points and entire sections of his speech to the UN General Assembly from two days earlier, on September 22nd, Cameron said that those he described as preachers of hate needed to be dealt with firmly. He clarified that this included “non-violent” people who believed that Muslims were being persecuted and said that the roots of the problems included the world-views that the tragic events of 9/11 and the London 7/7 attacks were staged. Schools and universities would need to be cleared of groups and individuals that had these views.

David Cameron declared that a new security regime was being put into place in Britain to seize passports, force restraints of movement on people evaluated as risk, and even keep citizens from returning to their own homelands. Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper also said that Canada was doing the same thing and revoking citizenships.[xxxviii]

For Nazemroaya:

Not only are the steps that Prime Minister Cameron and Prime Minister Harper presented unconstitutional in their own countries, they will be used by self-declared democracies to hold their own citizens in undisclosed conditions or indefinite detention and imprisonment once they have their citizenships removed. Citizenships will be removed to evade and get around the legally guaranteed rights of citizens for due justice - non-citizens are not treated equally under the law. The revoking of citizenships can also be used to push dissidents opposing and challenging government policies.

The so-called defenders of “freedom of speech” are also opening the door for more intrusive censorship, especially when Cameron advocates for going after individuals that believe that the US and British governments are involved in the murder of their own citizens … What is happening is a new phase of the inquisition or inquisitorial mentality that emerged after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 (9/11). No one is allowed to question the legitimacy of the witch hunts and increasing control over movement and lives that is being done in the name of fighting terrorism and security. “Fear and insecurity prevail over common sense”, is the way that Michel Chossudovsky fittingly describes the inquisitorial process.

[And] while the whole structure of this post-9/11 inquisition is based on warped narratives and lies, everyone has to pay lip service to the same lies; everyone is forced to work within the boundaries of the consensus and boundaries drawn by the inquisition. This is exactly what happened on September 24th 2014 at the UN Security Council. The gathered world leaders paid lip service to fight against terrorism without addressing those really behind it and supporting the death squads, which is why the meeting was truly a pageantry of lies and disregard.[xxxix]


Emilio de Capitani confirmed less than a month ago that the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) had already “debated for the first time how to legally frame the problem of 'foreign fighters' operating in Syria and Iraq under the flag of the so called Islamic State and of Al Nusra or other insurgent movements” - and this would include the PKK - “at the EU level. The issue has been put on the LIBE agenda because the European Commission and the Council informed the European Parliament of their intention to negotiate a protocol to the European Convention against terrorism within the framework of the Council of Europe, to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution 2178 on foreign 'terrorist' fighters”.[xl]

As Capitani concludes: “The resolution significantly blurs the lines between terrorism and armed conflicts, not just rhetorically, but by creating legal consequences for ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ who intend to travel abroad. Without defining terrorism, but specifically including acts associated with an armed conflict, the resolution’s intended effect is to criminalize travel, or attempted travel, by foreign fighters to join groups condemned as terrorist groups. At the same time, the obligations it creates are not limited to fighters belonging to such groupsLegal scholars have already emphasized that Resolution 2178 carries a significant risk of abuse”.[xli]

Unless the European Commission and Council's attempt to push through United Nations Security Council resolution 2178 on foreign 'terrorist' fighters is successfully challenged, the threats to the civil liberties of Kurdish and Baloch (amongst 'Othered') diasporas and every person residing in EU member states will be taken to an altogether more disturbing level as it will be used by repressive governments and intelligence agencies to advance a whole raft of repressive surveillance and criminalising actions against targeted 'Others'. Support for the PKK in a number of contexts will be criminalised further – even at a crucial time when it is engaged in a formal peace process with the Turkish government in Turkey and even when it is a major party involved in protecting Kurds and 'Othered' people in northern Iraq and Rojava from the genocidal actions of ISIS.

The need to address the requirements raised broadly by UNSC resolution 2178 has already bolstered Cameron's argument that a 'Snooper's charter' will be needed and passed by his government if re-elected this week. The outcomes of this will be chilling for all people in the UK and all organisations such as the PKK working towards self-determination:

Under DRIPA (current UK legislation), interception warrants issued by UK authorities can be applied to overseas firms. As Liberty pointed out, the UK’s Home Secretary could serve Gmail with a warrant in California, requiring it to intercept all communications between subscribers in two specified countries or all communications leaving or entering the UK …

The legislation could require companies to breach their own nation’s laws in complying with a UK warrant – a warrant whose existence they could not reveal without breaking UK law[Cameron can] getheavy with the tech companies. Media reportshave suggested Whatsapp, Snapcat and Apple’s iMessage, which offer an encrypted instant messaging service, could be banned from the UK. Companies that offer encrypted email services could also be banned or required to hand over their encryption “keys” either to the security services or to network operators. Operators could then be required by law to decrypt the data.

As Privacy International points out, proposals to outlaw encrypted communications … “threaten the very rights they’re said to be designed to protect” … It added: “The UK simply cannot command [or at least should not be able  to command] foreign manufacturers and providers of services such as Whatsapp to modify their services to accommodate the [publicly unaccountable] desires of British spies” ...

[But] the Conservatives [if they win the next election this week] are pushing for a revival of the Communications Data draft Bill, known as the “Snoopers’ Charter”, which was abandoned in 2013 after opposition from the Liberal Democrats. This would have required all internet service providers to retain, for 12 months, in a common format data on their customers’ communications via the internet as well as via the mobile networks. Data stored would include visits to websites and social media activities. These databases could then be searched by a Government data-mining device called a “request filter”. [There are] major concerns about the threat to privacy this would entail.[xlii]

Now is a time to protest against UNSC resolution 2178 being passed 'in our name' and in the name of  collectively aiding 'all anti-ISIS' initiatives. Kurdish and 'Othered' diasporic community groups, concerned members of the public,  MEP's, politicians and civil liberties groups need to be aware of the threat posed by UNSC resolution 2178 and need to mobilise urgently against it and ensure that critical debates highlighting the concerns raised in this article are addressed by the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) before it is too late.

Desmond Fernandes is a member of the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and is also an Advisory Council member of the European Union-Turkey Civic Commission. He was a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Genocide Studies at De Montfort University (UK) and is the author of The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides: From Censorship and Denial to Recognition? (Apec: Stockholm, 2007; Peri, Istanbul, 2013), The Struggle for Kurdish Language Rights in Turkey (Peace in Kurdistan, London, 2011), Gladio in Turkey and Syria? NATO Doctrine and the criminalisation and targeting of the PKK and Kurdish diasporic communities (Apec: Stockholm, 2015, forthcoming), Zana's Wait for Me, Diyarbakir, the Kurdish Genocide, Turkish State Terror and US-NATO inspired Torture (Apec: Stockholm, 2015, forthcoming) and co-author of The Targeting of “Minority Others” in Pakistan (BPCA: London, 2013) and The Education System in Pakistan: Discrimination and the Targeting of the Other (BPCA, London, 2014). His single authored and co-authored articles have appeared in a number of journals and magazines, including Genocide Studies and Prevention (the official journal of the International Association of Genocide Scholars); Kurdistan Aktuell, L’Appel du Kurdistan, Armenian Forum, the Thailand Environment Institute Journal, the International Journal of the Sociology of Language; Peace News; Law, Social Justice and Global Developmentand Variant: Cross Currents in Culture.

[i]           The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (2014) 'Fifth Ministerial Plenary', Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, 23 September 2014 (accessed at:  

[iii]         The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (2014) 'Fifth Ministerial Plenary', Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, 23 September 2014 (accessed at:   

[iv]              The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (2014) 'Fifth Ministerial Plenary', Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, 23 September 2014 (accessed at:

[v]          'Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism', The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (accessed at: 

[vi]         Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism', The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (accessed at: 

[vii]        Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism', The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (accessed at: 

[viii]       North London Green Parties (2015) 'North London Greens pledge support for Kurdish autonomy', North London Green Parties Press Release, 6th April 2015 (accessed at:

[ix]         Hall, R. (2014) 'Kurdish group fighting Islamic State tells America: Stop calling us terrorists', Global Post, 22 December 2014 (accessed at:

[x]          Campbell, M. (2015) 'KOSTA SCURFIELD'S FAMILY PREPARE TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF YPG', Kurdish Question, 30 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xi]         Campbell, M. (2015) 'KOSTA SCURFIELD'S FAMILY PREPARE TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF YPG', Kurdish Question, 30 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xii]        Campbell, M. (2015) 'KOSTA SCURFIELD'S FAMILY PREPARE TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF YPG', Kurdish Question, 30 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xiii]       CAMPACC (2013) Petition: ‘To the UK government, the European Union and the Turkish Government’.

[xvi]        EUTCC (2014) 'EUTCC Final Resolution of 11th EUTCC Conference in European Parliament', EUTCC, 15 December 2014 (accessed at:

[xvii]      According to a 1st May 2015 ANF report: “The People’s Defence Forces (HPG) Press Office has said in a written statement that operations, bombardments and aerial activity by the Turkish army is continuing to increase. The HPG also reported drone activity over the Adil Beg and Mamreşo areas at the Avasin border line on 30 April at 19:30 and on 1 May at 05:00, adding that the aerial activity of the Turkish air force is increasing. HPG listed the [numerous] ... military activities carried out by the Turkish forces” - ANF (2015) 'Turkish Military Continues Operations in Kurdistan', 1 May 2015, ANF (accessed at:

[xviii]     ANF (2015) 'Imrali Delegation: This is our final Warning', 30 April, ANF (accessed at:

[xxii]       Levidow, L. and Mamon, S. (2014) 'UK securitisation targeting suspect communities’, in Critical Cities: Ideas, Knowledge and Agitation from Emerging Urbanists, Volume 4, 2014, June 2014.

[xxiv]      Owen, J. (2015) 'Silhan Ozcelik: "Disgusting" trial for young woman who tried to fight against Isis', The Independent, 12 March 2015 (accessed at:

[xxv]       Wilde, F. (2014) 'The Kurdish Question, the PKK and the tasks of the Radical Left', International Viewpoint, 3 November 2014.

[xxvi]      Elmali, H. (2015) 'Debate on Kobane, Sinjar and HDP at European Parliament', ANF/Kurdish Question, 29 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xxvii]     Sentas, V. (2012) 'Peace in Kurdistan? The role of terrorism law and the international community', Spokesman (accessed at:

[xxviii]    Sullivan, G. and Hayes, B. (2012) Blacklisted: Targeted sanctions, preemptive security and fundamental rights. ECCHR, p. 116.

[xxix]      Sullivan, G. and Hayes, B. (2012) Blacklisted: Targeted sanctions, preemptive security and fundamental rights. ECCHR, p. 116.

[xxx]       Sentas, V. (2012) 'Peace in Kurdistan? The role of terrorism law and the international community', Spokesman (accessed at:

[xxxi]      Sentas, V. (2012) 'Peace in Kurdistan? The role of terrorism law and the international community', Spokesman (accessed at:

[xxxii]     Sentas, V. (2012) 'Peace in Kurdistan? The role of terrorism law and the international community', Spokesman (accessed at:

[xxxiii]    Sentas, V. (2012) 'Peace in Kurdistan? The role of terrorism law and the international community', Spokesman (accessed at:

[xxxiv]    Daily Sabah (2014) 'Erdoğan: PKK, ISIS same for Turkey', Daily Sabah, 4 October 2014 (accessed at:

[xxxviii]  Nazemroaya, M. D. (2014) 'UNSC Resolution 2178 Unanimously Passed but Obama was Diplomatically Rebuked', Strategic Culture Foundation, 30 September 2014 (accessed at:

[xxxix]    Nazemroaya, M. D. (2014) 'UNSC Resolution 2178 Unanimously Passed but Obama was Diplomatically Rebuked', Strategic Culture Foundation, 30 September 2014 (accessed at:

[xl]         Capitani, E. (2015) '“Foreign Fighters” and EU implementation of the UNSC resolution 2178. Another case of “Legislate in haste, repent at leisure…?”', European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice,       6 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xli]        Capitani, E. (2015) '“Foreign Fighters” and EU implementation of the UNSC resolution 2178. Another case of “Legislate in haste, repent at leisure…?”', European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice,       6 April 2015 (accessed at:

[xlii]       Newman, M. (2015) 'A guide to state surveillance, the ‘snoopers’ charter’ and government hacking', The Bureau Investigates, 13 January 2015 (accessed at:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of