The government insists that Iraqi Kurdistan is safe and is deporting hundreds of Kurdish and other asylum seekers to Iraq. By Amanda Sebestyen
Mohammad Hussain was one of the best-known and loved members of the Kurdish community in the north of England, ‘a big man with a big heart’. Originally from Erbil, he had been a political campaigner all his life. He was forced to seek refuge in the UK in 2000 after threats from members of the governing Kurdish Democratic Party.
For the eight years Mohammad lived in Doncaster, struggling to gain refugee status, he was a fierce defender of refugee and human rights. An active member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group and treasurer of the Doncaster Focus Group of refugee and migrant volunteers, in October 2007 he marched 40 miles from Sheffield to Lindholme detention centre to protest at conditions there.
This year, he got to see Lindholme from the inside, along with a string of other detention centres. The Home Office tried to deport him on 14 May; his solicitor and defence campaign managed to halt his deportation just 40 minutes before the plane was due to fly.
At Lindholme he was already in a lot of pain. But when Mohammad explained that he had a lump in his stomach and it was getting bigger and harder, he was given a mild painkiller, then sold a headache tablet. He died of cancer on 3 August, his bedside crowded with friends and well-wishers.
The government, insisting that Iraqi Kurdistan is safe to return to, has deported more than 500 Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers over the past three years. Many have since died, and others still in the UK are desperate to avoid the same fate.
‘Iraqi Kurdistan is neither an independent state, nor part of a stable state,’ says Dashty Jamal of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR). ‘Kurdish people are in limbo. Their lives hang on an ever-changing US agenda and two ruling parties that are authoritarian, undemocratic and corrupt. Persecution of campaigners and journalists by the authorities, combined with intimidation on a daily basis by terrorist groups and Islamic parties, is causing people to flood out of the country in fear of their lives.
‘Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and even US State Department reports all show the violations of human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan.’
Yet the countries that support the occupation will not admit that Iraq still isn’t safe, and so they go on deporting Kurds and others back there. IFIR, which works to help those held in detention centres in the UK and track them if they are sent back to Iraq, sees the human stories behind the geopolitics – the kind that never reach the newspapers.
Sadullah was 16 when he first arrived in the UK; he lived in Peterborough for four years. His asylum application was refused, and the Home Office told him that if he did not go home he would be forcibly deported. After four years living off the charity of friends, he gave up and went back. He was killed by a car bomb in Kirkuk in January 2007.
Sirwa Nouri was seven months pregnant when her husband was forcibly deported in April. She gave birth in June, but she has heard no word of her husband in all the months since his deportation.
Hussein Ali arrived in the UK six years ago. A fellow detainee, Muhammad, told IFIR that he wrote many letters to the Home Office while he was detained asking to remain in the UK but was still deported. He shot himself on 10 August.
Kadir Salih Abdullah arrived here in 2000, after being forced to leave a family of six children in Kurdistan. After five years fighting for asylum, not being able to work and being forced to rely on the support of friends, Kadir gave up the fight and signed ‘voluntary return’ papers in March 2005. Shortly after arriving in Kurdistan, he was kidnapped in front of his home by a militia linked to the governing PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) party. His daughter committed suicide, and his five remaining boys and family have contacted IFIR to report his disappearance and ask for help.
‘The problems which have forced refugees and asylum seekers to leave their homes have been caused by the emergence of brutal, nationalistic and ethnocentric, political and religious wars,’ says Dashty Jamal. ‘All people who believe in human rights and have a desire to establish a free and equal society should challenge this barbarism, and help us in calling for an end to the criminalising and persecution of refugees and asylum seekers.’
IFIR is part of the Coalition Against Deportations to Iraq, and publishes a newsletter, Echoes, at www.csdiraq.com. Requests for more information, and donations, are welcome to IFIR, PO Box 1575, Ilford, IG1 3BZ, tel 020 8809 0633
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram