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Open letter accuses FM of ‘hypocrisy’ for inviting Turkish president to Scotland

A number of Scottish campaign groups have written an open letter to Humza Yousaf, condemning the “hypocrisy of any friendly relationship with Erdogan in relation to Palestine”.

The letter, signed by eight different organisations, made the accusation while “the Kurds are subject to genocidal attacks from the Turkish state”.

It was signed by Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, Kurdish Community Scotland, Zagros Community Scotland, Women’s Rights Delegation from Scotland to North and East Syria, International Human Rights Delegation on political prisoners in Turkey, and Edinburgh University Justice for Palestine Society.

It was also signed by Mike Arnott, president of Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) Scotland.

The letter comes in response to Mr Yousaf’s invitation for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Scotland the next time he is in the UK.

Humza Yousaf
First Minister Humza Yousaf (Andy Buchanan/PA)

The letter reads: “The Turkish state’s record on human rights abuses is well documented, both internally and externally.

“Women, ethnic minorities and migrants bear the brunt of its oppressive policies.

“In particular, the Turkish state continues a policy against the Kurdish people that seeks to suppress basic human rights and political autonomy through military force, legal repression, and assimilationist policies.”

The letter says Mr Erdogan’s party “destroys civilian infrastructure beyond Turkey’s own borders for political leverage and to disempower an already economically disadvantaged population in Syria and Iraq”.

They said Mr Yousaf was “dismissive” to journalists when questioned on this, stating his response on inviting Mr Erdogan to Scotland despite ill treatment of Kurdish people was a good idea.

They accused the First Minister of hypocrisy, stating the SNP “positions itself as distinct from Westminster and with a more discerning eye towards human rights abuses and regional autonomy”.

They said “Erdogan does to the Kurds everything that he accuses Netanyahu of doing to the Palestinian people”.

The letter went on to condemn a recent attack, where Turkish military forces carried out 224 ground and air strikes in north-eastern Syria from January 13-16.

The attack targeted agricultural and energy infrastructure, creating power outages and water supply issues for millions of people.

The letter continues: “BAE Systems, Thales, Leonardo and other weapons manufacturing companies that have factories in Scotland supply both Israel and Turkey.

“In 2019, white phosphorous – banned for use as an incendiary chemical weapon – was reported to have been used by the Turkish military in north-eastern Syria.

“An investigation at the time showed 70 British export licences for phosphorous.”

In Turkey, the letter says the left-wing party HDP has had more than 5,000 members arrested due to being politically repressed.

The signatories say HDP MPs have been imprisoned and criticised Mr Erdogan’s “trustee” system – which has seen HDP mayors removed from office and replaced with government-appointed officials.

The letter says: “The UK government and the European Union countries have shrewdly wedded themselves to facilitating Erdogan’s AKP government in exchange for the policing of Europe’s land and sea borders and its imprisonment of displaced peoples subject to these ‘push-backs’.

“As residents of Scotland and members of human rights organisations, we request that the First Minister and the SNP condemn Erdogan and the AK Party for their actions.

“The targeting of civilian infrastructure and use of chemical weapons are war crimes, regardless of whether the state that does so is a Nato member.

“We request Mr Yousaf’s support in condemning these attacks on north-east Syria.

“We also ask him to assess the human rights abuses that the Kurdish peoples are subject to within the state borders of Turkey and that he supports the struggle for the freedom of political prisoners in Turkey.”

The letter ends: “We ask Mr Yousaf to meet with the Kurdish communities in Scotland and campaigners to discuss this issue.

“We believe that Scotland can do better and we would like to talk about how.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As a courtesy, the First Minister invited the president of Turkey to Scotland the next time he visits the UK.

“In meetings with leaders, the First Minister raises human rights issues and concerns as necessary.”