Lida Weerts: "Defend Kurdistan" has just begun

Dutch human rights activist and feminist Lida Weerts lives in Norway and was in South Kurdistan with #Delegation4Peace. The work of the #DefendKurdistan initiative founded there has just begun, she says.

The International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan, consisting of more than 100 human rights activists, academics and politicians from various European countries, was formed in response to and in opposition to the Turkish incursions in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and planned to visit Hewlêr (Erbil) in June. The aim was to make observations in the areas occupied by the Turkish state, to assess and report on the destruction to people, nature and ecology, and to contribute to building friendly relations between the Kurdish people and the peoples of Europe.

Despite attempts by the Turkish and German governments and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to physically prevent the visit with violence and arrests, the delegation was able to make contacts in the region, meet people and make observations, after which the delegation members returned to their countries in groups. They are now in the process of organizing events in various European cities to share their observations about the situation in the region and about the Turkish invasion and occupation.

Lida Weerts: human rights activist and feminist

Lida Weerts, a Dutch human rights activist and feminist living in Norway, has been closely following developments in Turkey and Kurdistan for years. In recent years, she has also actively campaigned for the rights of women in Kurdistan.

She has also been involved in the international initiative for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan and sees the PKK founder, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for 22 years, as a key factor in finding a solution to the Kurdish question.

Weerts traveled to Hewlêr in March 2019 on behalf of the Solidarity with Kurdistan Initiative to support the hunger strike initiated by HDP politician Leyla Güven against Öcalan's isolation. Later, she also participated in the hunger strike herself in Stockholm, Sweden, and made a public statement on the demands of the hunger strikers.

"Touching the hearts of the people"

Dilan Karacadag of the daily newspaper Yeni Özgür Politika asked Lida Weerts, spokesperson for the international initiative "Defend Kurdistan" founded in Hewlêr, about the work of the initiative and the visit to South Kurdistan.

Weerts emphasized that the Kurdish issue is a matter of human rights. She said, "Maybe we are in a position to make a difference. I realized that our work just started when we returned to Europe. We need to call on people to protest against the geopolitical powers in Kurdistan and try to stop the process.”

The activist continued, “According to Freedom House's 2021 Index, Iraq and South Kurdistan are on the list of unfree countries. South Kurdistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world in terms of freedom of expression, for human rights defenders and journalists. Unfortunately, most cases of murder and attacks on journalists and activists go unpunished. So they were definitely not happy about our visit. But being there and raising our voice gave strength to the whole Kurdish people."

Commenting on her impressions of the delegation's contacts, Weerts said: "It was nice to be in Kurdistan, to talk to the people, to listen to their problems. It gave us strength to see that people have such a will to defend their rights. I preferred to talk to the activists because they are even more passionate. The politicians' speeches were more diplomatic. I hope the politicians we met keep their word and put the interests of the people before their own interests."

Weerts described the Defend Kurdistan Initiative as a "very motivated group, saying, "Our goal is to become an effective movement in Europe. It is only the imperialists with geopolitical motives who do not care about the people of Kurdistan. Therefore, we have to touch the hearts of the people in Europe and convince them to raise their voices."