No trade-off between Human Rights and NATO’s Military Umbrella

No trade-off between Human Rights and NATO’s Military Umbrella

After Turkey threatened to veto Sweden’s and Finland’s bid to join NATO, the mediation of the USA and Secretary General Stoltenberg offered Turkey a Trilateral Memorandum: in this agreement the two Scandinavian countries undertake to collaborate with the Turkish Government in addressing the Kurdish threat, which Ankara defines as a terrorist threat, including through the provision of logistics support and weapons.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Turkey, Sweden and Finland is a betrayal of the Kurdish people:  it is a shameful chapter in the history of international solidarityand stands as a real threat to the Kurds and the Yazidis.

Thanks to NATO’s new strategy, the long arm of Ankara’s authoritarianism will now be able to reach out to threaten the life of the Kurds who over the past thirty years have found shelter in Sweden and Finland and further deepen its expansion into northern Iraq and Syria.

In this context, Turkey is also supported in a variety of ways by other NATO allies, including Italy, which has decided to consider the Ankara regime as a privileged partner in military production. Defence Minister Guerini last April officially declared that Italy “has always considered Turkey a strategic partner in industrial cooperation, collaborating to meet our mutual defence needs; a country with whom we can benefit from shared opportunities among each other’s industries,” and has more recently (during the meeting between Draghi and Erdogan) signed an “Agreement on mutual protection of classified information in the defence industry.”

In practice, this new NATO strategy and the Trilateral Memorandum, not only envisages the repatriation of Kurdish dissidents and militants, but also cancels the arms embargo and considers Ankara’s attacks against the Rojava and in Iraqi Kurdistan as “defensive” actions.

This will mean giving Turkey a green light for its military repression in northern Syria aimed at eliminating the resistance movements, including feminists, and their practical projects of democratic federalism, which had been the first forces to fight against and defeat ISIS.

We consider the Memorandum a misguided, dangerous and very worrying political decision. Long-standing democracies, such as those in Scandinavian countries, who have distinguished themselves as promoters of human and civil rights, who have taken in political refugees from persecution, defended the peace and supported the struggle for self-determination of peoples, through this Memorandum have declassified the Kurdish question, and the right to self-determination and democracy in the Middle East, to a mere matter of regulations agreed between three States.

An agreement which does not hesitate to label the PKK and the YPG as terrorist organizations, despite the fact that even the EU Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that the PKK’s inclusion in the EU’s list of terrorist organizations between 2014 and 2017 had been unjustified; and despite the fact that the people’s protection units of the YPG jointly with the YPJ, its female component, fought and still fight in Syria against ISIS, standing up to its assault against Kobane and establishing an example of democratic confederalism and feminism in the region.

In expressing our support and closeness to the Kurdish people in their struggle to have their rights recognised, to defend their democracy, striving for peace and for an ideal of peaceful coexistence, we send a heartfelt call to the Parliaments of Sweden and Finland: please act in accordance with your country’s much admired tradition as human rights defenders, as supporters of peace and democracy, by refusing the extradition of Kurdish political refugees that Erdogan is asking for.