Connect with us

kurdistan

Experience: I spent 40 days in an Iraqi prison



Robert Daw, right, and Rae Lewis-Ayling.  - 5638 - Experience: I spent 40 days in an Iraqi prison

It was 1am on 1 August this year when my best friend Rae and I were caught trying to cross into Syria from Iraq. Crouching in the dark, waiting for the signal from our Kurdish fixers to run, we could see the border no more than 100 yards away. Then a shout rang out. Suddenly we were surrounded by an Iraqi Peshmerga border patrol, yelling at us to hit the ground.

I’m a security guard from Preston; Rae is a railworker from north Wales. We’re both committed socialists. When we read about the socialist and feminist revolution that the Kurds are building in northern Syria (known as Rojava), we wanted to show our solidarity, so we saved up and bought plane tickets to Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. We spent nine days there before we were met by the fixers who would smuggle us into Rojava, via Iraqi Kurdistan. Crossing over legally was not an option, as the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan are doing their best to undermine Rojava’s revolution.

“You’re Isis,” the soldiers kept shouting. “We kill Isis.” They blindfolded us, put guns to our heads and told us we would be executed on the spot. I was terrified. No one knew where we were. I closed my eyes and waited. But they didn’t shoot. Instead, they drove us to Erbil General Security Directorate, a huge, shiny, US-built compound in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Our cell was 5m x 13m, and occupied by 100 men. Inmates ranged from drug dealers to westerners who’d fought Isis with Rojava’s Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Walking into the cell, I was filled with a mixture of fear and adrenaline. But a Brazilian, a Spaniard and a Frenchman came up to us and told us that if we westerners stuck together, we’d be fine. The Brazilian whispered, “Welcome to hell.”

We had no idea how long we would be held. At night, the only way to sleep was to lie on our sides against each other, like sardines. The guards never turned off the light. They were sadistic, dishing out beatings for things as minor as laughing in their presence. Incredibly, though, they left me and Rae alone. I later learned they’d been told to go easy on us because we were revolutionaries, not fighters. The others weren’t so lucky.

The mock execution had frightened us so badly that we became numb to what we saw. But I think the constant light, fear of beatings and boredom sent some men insane. Three tried to kill themselves while we were there. There was so little to do that there were fights over who’d mop the floor. On the plus side, it meant the cell was always spotless. The food was OK – bread, yoghurt, goat or chicken, plus rice or boiled potatoes cut into soggy fingers – but what we would have given for a plate of chips and gravy.

There were moments of humanity, too, such as learning chess from a 70-year-old former mujahid called Sarhan, or teaching Billy Bragg songs to the revolutionary Kurds, which they loved (especially Power In A Union). On my 21st birthday, the western prisoners managed to get a small cake smuggled in. It was the first time I felt that somebody, apart from Rae, cared about me. There were members of Isis there, too, such as Deniz, a 25-year-old from Germany who loved 50 Cent and ran a gym in Frankfurt before converting to Islam.

At first, neither our families nor the British government had any idea where we were. We began to wonder if we’d ever get out. The guards allowed us only two five-minute phone calls in 40 days. We rang the only number we knew by heart: Rae’s mum. She was amazing. She rang the British consulate in Erbil, who ultimately negotiated our release.

On 10 September, the consul- general picked us up. “Go and pay your $340 visa fines, get the next flight home and do not come back,” he said. We were elated. We landed at Heathrow three days later and went straight for fish and chips.

I wake up some mornings and think I’m still in jail. I remember the revolutionary Kurds and YPG westerners, without whom I’m not sure we’d have got through the experience. I’m sure most are still there. I don’t regret trying to get into Syria, just getting caught. The experience taught me I’m mentally tougher than I thought: if I survived that, I can survive anything.

As told to Matt Blake

Do you have an experience to share? Email experience@theguardian.com

theguardian

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

kurdistan

Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin

- AfrinReu - Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities launched investigations on Monday against scores of people—among them journalists, writers, and lawmakers—and arrested dozens of others over their criticism on social media of Ankara’s invasion of the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

The chief public prosecutor’s office in Istanbul announced probes targeting 57 individuals for the crimes of “propaganda in support of a terror group, inciting public hostility, insulting the President, and sharing content that contravenes realities.”

Over the weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke harshly of those daring to protest his army’s aerial and ground attacks on the isolated Kurdish enclave where Turkish airstrikes have killed dozens, among them civilians and fighters of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG).

He vowed to “pulverize” them, directing his words also at the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an opposition bloc already bracing an ongoing crackdown since late 2016 that saw its Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, nine lawmakers, 80 mayors, and thousands of members imprisoned.

In the Kurdish province of Mardin, Diyarbakir, and Mus, police arrested at least 30 people.

Journalist Nurcan Baysal and local co-head of HDP’s branch in Diyarbakir’s Bismil district Refai Baran were detained in midnight raids for their tweets and Facebook posts in support of the people of Afrin.

Three other journalists and authors, Ishak Karakas, Aziz Tunc, and Ismail Eskin, were also taken into custody by Istanbul police.

According to the Turkish Journalists’ Association, prisons across Turkey are home to over 160 reporters, photographers, writers, and other media workers.

Elsewhere, in Van, on the border with Iranian Kurdistan, the public prosecutor began probes against four HDP lawmakers representing the province at the Turkish Parliament.

In Dersim, MP Ali Oncel was the target of another Ankara-appointed prosecutor.

HDP Spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen and Hakkari MP Nadir Yildirim were already under investigations for their tweets regarding the Afrin offensive.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany



Source link

Continue Reading

kurdistan

Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin

- EUparl - Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned Turkey’s ongoing military operation against Kurds in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin.

Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou, who is also the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to Turkey, “strongly condemned the Turkish invasion” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

“We stand with all the peacekeeping forces that call for an immediate end to the invasion and the withdrawal of Turkish troops,” Hadjigeorgiou continued.

“We express our solidarity with the Syrian people and the Kurds in both Syria and Turkey who are constantly threatened by the Turkish government,” he added.

German MEP Martina Michels also criticized the military operation in Afrin, stressing that “it is unacceptable that the Turkish army has been attacking Kurdish villages.”

“[The campaign in Afrin] goes to the heart of Erdogan’s long-held dream of destroying Kurdish self-determination—not just within Turkey, but in Iraq and Syria as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat called on the international community to “act quickly by taking a stand against these operations and by bolstering our support to the inhabitants of Afrin.”

During a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, said she was “extremely worried” about the ongoing Turkish attacks against Syrian Kurds in Afrin.

Mogherini also noted that the violence might undermine the peace talks on Syria in Geneva, and severely affect the humanitarian situation on the ground.



Source link

Continue Reading

kurdistan

KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week

- AbadiKRG - KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister announced he would be meeting with his Iraqi counterpart at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.

During a press conference following a Council of Ministers meeting in Erbil on Monday, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said he had a “productive meeting” with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Sunday and is scheduled to meet him again in Davos.

Prime Minister Barzani and an accompanying KRG delegation met with Abadi in Baghdad for the first time since the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum.

Barzani said he had discussed the salaries of public employees, oil, airports, and border crossings with Abadi, adding the KRG “will be in communication with the Baghdad-appointed committees sent to the Kurdistan Region to resolve all the outstanding issues.”

Barzani, who will attend the World Economic Forum, revealed that he would sit with the Iraqi PM and Minister of Oil once again, noting that the meetings between the KRG and the Iraqi government would continue in the future.

Regarding the end of an international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region’s airports, the KRG Prime Minister admitted it was still unclear when Baghdad would lift the ban, but said the relevant committees had been working to resolve the issues.

Barzani also explained that the KRG delegation’s visits to Tehran and Baghdad “did not result in any agreements as we worked on restoring the two sides’ relations with the Kurdistan Region.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany



Source link

Continue Reading

Recent News

- 5a666daafc7e93e2318b4567 - Europe’s ‘concessions’ make Trump less committed to nuclear deal – Tehran - 5a666daafc7e93e2318b4567 - Europe’s ‘concessions’ make Trump less committed to nuclear deal – Tehran
Iran2 mins ago

Europe’s ‘concessions’ make Trump less committed to nuclear deal – Tehran

© Raheb Homavandi / Reuters

- 23turkey1 facebookJumbo 400x240 - As Turkey Attacks Kurds in Syria, U.S. Is on the Sideline - 23turkey1 facebookJumbo 80x80 - As Turkey Attacks Kurds in Syria, U.S. Is on the Sideline
Syria5 mins ago

As Turkey Attacks Kurds in Syria, U.S. Is on the Sideline

Photo Turkish soldiers at the Syrian border on Monday. The United States has not chastised Turkey for attacking its allies,...

- 20180123 20180123 img 20180123 wa00031172d3 image9ab53f image 400x240 - Turkish state commits a crime against humanity in Afrin  - 20180123 20180123 img 20180123 wa00031172d3 image9ab53f image 80x80 - Turkish state commits a crime against humanity in Afrin 
Rojava2 hours ago

Turkish state commits a crime against humanity in Afrin 

The invading Turkish army continues committing a crime against humanity in its airstrikes targeting Afrin Canton of Northern Syria. Since...

- AfrinReu 400x240 - Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin - AfrinReu 80x80 - Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin
kurdistan2 hours ago

Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities launched investigations on Monday against scores of people—among them journalists, writers, and...

- 20180123 20180121 sdf834945 imagedabe39 image 400x240 - SDF: Turkish army has made no advance for three days  - 20180123 20180121 sdf834945 imagedabe39 image 80x80 - SDF: Turkish army has made no advance for three days 
Rojava3 hours ago

SDF: Turkish army has made no advance for three days 

The General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued a statement about the attacks of the Turkish invasion attacks...

- 20180122 20180122 44444f897f1 imagef376d3 image 400x240 - “We will give Turkish state gangs an unforgettable lesson”  - 20180122 20180122 44444f897f1 imagef376d3 image 80x80 - “We will give Turkish state gangs an unforgettable lesson” 
Rojava3 hours ago

“We will give Turkish state gangs an unforgettable lesson” 

Jaysh al-Thuwar Press Spokesperson Dilşer Idlib made a statement about the Turkish state’s invasion attacks against Afrin and Rojava. Idlib...

- 23kurd explainer1 facebookJumbo 400x240 - What’s Behind Turkey’s Attack on Syria’s Kurds - 23kurd explainer1 facebookJumbo 80x80 - What’s Behind Turkey’s Attack on Syria’s Kurds
Syria3 hours ago

What’s Behind Turkey’s Attack on Syria’s Kurds

Photo Syrian Kurds carrying portraits of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader imprisoned since 1999. Credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse...

- EUparl 400x240 - Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin - EUparl 80x80 - Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin
kurdistan3 hours ago

Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned Turkey’s ongoing military operation against Kurds...

- AbadiKRG 400x240 - KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week - AbadiKRG 80x80 - KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week
kurdistan4 hours ago

KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister announced he would be meeting with his...

- 20180122 y296972 image 400x240 - First footage from the Afrin resistance  - 20180122 y296972 image 80x80 - First footage from the Afrin resistance 
Rojava5 hours ago

First footage from the Afrin resistance 

The invading Turkish army, which alleges to have controlled large areas of Afrin is seen patrolling behind the wall it...

Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2017 KurdDaily.com