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
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself