Left-Wing Danish Party Backs Syrian Kurdish Rebels

COPENHAGEN, Denmark—Kurdish organizations and a leftist party in Denmark have donated funds to support Kurdish rebels engaged in fierce battles with Islamic State militants in Syria.
Salih Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), on Friday received 155,500 kronor ($26,350), in the Danish Parliament. The leftist party Unity List presented Muslim with a check for 53,500 kroner ($9,000), while various Kurdish organizations in Denmark gave 102,000 kroner ($17,290).

“As Europe we should support the Kurds in Syria like we support the Kurds in Iraq. The Kurds in Syria are urgently in need of weapons if they are to stop the Islamic State (IS), so we are giving the money without conditions,” an MP from the Unity List, Nikolaj Villumsen told Rudaw.

“It is a symbolic amount, but our goal is to make an appeal to Europe to support the Kurds in Syria,” he said.

Muslim, who was presented with the money during a news conference in the Danish Parliament, said he was emboldened by the donations. He said local authorities would distribute the funds in Kobane, where PYD fighters are battling IS militants for the Kurdish city which is strategically located near the Turkish border.

“For us it’s not the money that matters,” he said. “Rather, it’s the recognition that we have received from our Danish friends.”

Danish support for the PYD split the Parliament in the small Scandinavian country. Soren Espersen, an MP and foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, criticized the Unity List saying the donations may be illegal because the PYD is connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization by the European Union and NATO.

“The Unity List shouldn’t support parties they don’t know well. Nobody should directly or indirectly raise money for groups on the terrorist list,” Espersen told Rudaw.”We are already supporting Iraqi Kurds with a lot of weapons. They have a recognized army. But we don’t know whom we’re supporting, if we send money and weapons to Syrian Kurds,” Espersen added.

Despite the PYD’s controversial status, the Danish Foreign Affairs Ministry agreed to a low-level meeting with Muslim during his visit in Denmark.

Pelle Dragsted, spokesman for the Unity List, rejected the criticism and stressed that “the money will go to PYD and not the PKK.”

“We have investigated the matter and can ensure that the money won’t fall into the wrong hands,” Dragsted said.

According to Villumsen, local branches of the Unity List raised the funds.

Muslim criticized the international community for its “inaction and failure in Rojava,” the Kurdish name for Kurdish-majority areas in Syria.

“For years we have tried to make the international community hear our voice. The world woke up once IS entered Mosul in June,” Muslim said.

Dragsted said the PYD “stands on the frontlines” in Syria.

“The Kurds, Christians and Arabs in northern Syria have long been under attack by IS. We must support them,” Dragsted said.

The Unity List doesn’t support the PKK’s designation as a terrorist organization, noting that since last year Turkey and the PKK have engaged in peace talks.

“It’s absurd that we label the PKK as terrorists when even Turkey meets and negotiates with them. If we are to support peace negotiations, we must remove the terrorist label,” Dragsted said.

The Unity List was the only one party to vote against the Danish Parliament’s decision last week to send seven F-16 fighter jets and 140 support staff to Iraq to fight IS. Denmark is also providing humanitarian relief for refugees.

The party instead suggested arming the Kurdish forces in Syria, a proposal that was rejected by the other parties in Danish parliament.

Deniz Serinci, 4/10/2014

This report first appeared on Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.