Don’t Criminalise International Solidarity
In spring 2019 the Home Office signalled its intention to make the Kurdish-run North East Syria a “designated area” under the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. Under such a designation, anyone visiting the region could face up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine or both. This law was enacted amidst the alarm that UK citizens who had travelled to join Daesh in Iraq or Syria possibly might return home. However, as with all so-called anti-terror or security legislation, such a law can be easily applied in broader ways. It could be used to criminalise the many UK nationals and residents who have travelled to the area, sometimes known by its Kurdish name Rojava, in order to study the democratic developments, report on the attempt to build a democratic, secular and equal society, visit family members, assist with the re-building of communities and infrastructure and to support the struggle against Daesh. All are at risk of being criminalised.
Kurdish-led forces played a key role in defeating Daesh in northeast Syria and have created a multi-ethnic democratic experiment there. Despite the government’s pretext to target Daesh ex-volunteers, there are strong grounds to expect that the powers would be used against those who assist the liberation forces in any way. Police already have been harassing and even arresting UK citizens who participated in civil activities in northeast Syria. The new powers would make such persecution much easier.
If the UK Government goes ahead, then it would further appease the increasingly dictatorial President of Turkey, who has invaded northeastern Syria and continues to threaten a full-scale invasion against the Kurdish population there. It would illustrate that relations with Turkey are more important than the rights of UK citizens.
Any prosecutions should be brought for specific violent acts, not for one’s presence in a “designated area”. The motion below opposes the government’s use of those powers.
MOTION sponsored by the Labour Representation Committee
Don’t Criminalise International Solidarity: Hands off northeastern Syria
This branch opposes any government decision to make the Kurdish-run northeast Syria a “designated area” under the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. The Act creates a new offence of entering or remaining in a ‘designated area’ overseas. The offence applies to UK nationals and residents, with a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment. The Act imposes a presumption of guilt upon defendants, who have the onus to prove their innocence of terrorism. With this threat of prosecution, some people will simply opt not to travel; this outcome would have a chilling effect on family relationships, academic inquiry, investigative journalism and solidarity. Since 2012 northeast Syria has been liberated for a multi-ethnic democratic experiment which needs international support. Women of all faiths and ethnicities currently enjoy freedoms unprecedented in the region.The new powers would criminalise and deter international solidarity there.
We urge all Labour Party branches and the national leadership:
to oppose any government use of the “designated area” powers as regards northeast Syria;
to oppose any prosecutions under those powers;
to support the repeal of those powers by any Labour government.