Call to de-list PKK gathers support

[Green Left Weekly, #1053, May 19, 2015]

An open letter to the Australian government calling for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to be removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations is gathering support. Initiated by the Melbourne-based Australians for Kurdistan campaign committee, the open letter has attracted some notable endorsements. The letter and endorsements can be viewed at the website Lift the ban on the PKK.

The PKK was first added to the list of terrorist organisations in late 2005. It comes up for renewal in August. The ban follows similar listings by the United States and the European Union and its member countries. And the PKK remains an outlawed organisation in Turkey, despite peace talks supposed to be taking place.

In the light of the heroic frontline role played by the PKK in the fight against 'Islamic State' barbarism in northern Syria and Iraq, the bans are completely anomalous and should be scrapped.

NSW Greens, Bob Brown oppose ban

In April a State Delegates Council of the NSW Greens adopted by consensus a resolution opposing the ban. The resolution committed the Greens to "supporting the Kurdish struggle against oppression and genocide in the fragmented territories of Kurdistan". The motion also committed the organisation to "lobby the Australian Greens to adopt a policy of removing the PKK from the list of proscribed terrorist organisations in Australia".

The Greens NSW have endorsed the open letter as has Greens state MP Jamie Parker, state convenor Hall Greenland and state secretary Jane Oakley.

The former leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, has added his endorsement.

Other endorsements

The Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia has signed up to the open letter as has its secretary Paul McAleer, MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith and Victorian MUA Secretary Kevin Bracken. Victorian NTEU Secretary Colin Long has signed.

Many academics have gone on record against the ban on the PKK. Wendy Bacon, Verity Burgmann and Damien Kingsbury are among a number of professors who have signed.

Other endorsers include the prominent criminal and civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary; QC Brian Walters, a former head of the Council for Civil Liberties; and well-known writer, refugee advocate and PEN activist Arnold Zable.

Representatives of many socialist and anarchist groups have added their endorsement.

The Kurdish Association of Victoria and the Australian Kurdish Association are endorsers, having long campaigned against the proscription.

Campaign needs support

The campaign to de-list the PKK in Australia has made a promising start but it needs a lot more support. We need people who oppose the ban to sign up and to raise it in their organisations — trade union, environmental, feminist, indigenous and so on — and discuss it with friends and colleagues.

This is a fundamental issue of human rights. Our government has signed Australia up to Washington's "war on terror" but makes it illegal to support an organisation whose members are fighting and dying for a better world against the barbaric IS gangs. Canberra's policy is truly perverse and needs to be overturned.