Five years ago, the Kurdish enclave of Kobane in Northern Syria was besieged by Islamic State fighters, who then seemed to be on an unstoppable march through Iraq and Syria, with cities and towns falling swiftly under their control.
But in Kobane, their advance was stopped by Kurdish fighters. Those fighters, men and women alike, were exceptionally brave and determined to resist the Islamist onslaught. And they were not alone. They received help from the Obama administration, which had airdropped bundles of arms, ammunition and medical aid.
Today they are once again under threat, but this time it’s not IS they’re worried about. It’s President Obama’s successor in the White House, who has apparently given the green light to the Turkish government to invade Syria.
In 2014, support for the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria was strong among some sections of the labour movement and the Left.
I recall addressing a rally in Trafalgar Square, mostly attended by members of London’s Kurdish community. But among the speakers were human rights activist Peter Tatchell and a leading trade unionist from the RMT. I spoke about the international labour movement’s responsibility to defend the people of Kobane, which was under siege.
Today, the labour movement has once again taken the lead to speak out against the imminent threat of a Turkish invasion. The European Trade Union Confederation has issued a very strong statement. Its General Secretary, Luca Visentini, called on “European leaders to do everything within their power to stop a Turkish invasion of northern Syria”. He said that such an attack would be senseless, and would “send Syria back to square one”.
I hope those leaders are listening.