Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Kurdish group 'had no choice' but to storm EU parliament

  • Protesters say the storming was the only way to get heard

People arriving at the Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (7 October) morning saw a familar scene from recent days: a group of protesters calling for help for Kurdish victims of Islamic State (IS).

But at around 11am local time the scene became more hectic.

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“The protesters stormed the building”, Orhan Murat, the spokesperson for the Federation of Kurdish Associations in Belgium told EUobserver.

He said about 150 Kurdish activists ran to the parliament’s ‘Spinelli’ entrance on the Luxembourg square and between 50 and 60 of them got in.

“We outnumbered them [EU security guards] … they could not withstand so much anger from so many people”, said protester Fuat Aydas, speaking via Aldur Kudret, another demonstrator who acted as an interpreter.

The Place du Luxembourg protesters had been there for 10 days, but felt no one was taking notice.

“We had no choice”, said Dilan Guzel, a student from Liege. She added that storming the parliament building was the only way to get heard.

And they were heard in the end.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz and other MEPs spoke to some of the activists who got inside.

“He said he personally sympathises with the Kurds”, the spokesperson, Murat, noted. “He promised us he would call the secretary-general of Nato and release a press statement.”

“After we were heard, we did not have to stay. [But] we were inside for a good hour”, he added.

The Schulz press release, published at 2.30pm, noted: “Although I stressed that this is not the way to express one's demands, I fully shared their concern for the situation of civilian populations in Syria and Iraq”.

It added that Schulz will speak to the Nato chief as well as to three top EU foreign policy officials.

For its part, the left-wing GUE/NGL group released a statement of solidarity. But how could they have so easily entered the parliament, where security guards make you take out your laptop and keys just like in airports?

David Lundy, spokesperson for the group, told EUobserver the demonstrators got in because they were “more numerous” than the “four or five” EU security guards.

“I don't think they are able to prevent this from happening”, said Lundy, who emphasised that the protest was peaceful. “They obviously just wanted to be heard. We welcome peaceful protests … it [the EU assembly] shouldn't be like Fort Knox”.

The Brussels protest comes after Kurdish protesters also entered the Dutch parliament building the night before. Other rallies took place in Cologne, London, Rome, Stockholm, and Vienna.

The sense of alarm comes amid an IS assault on the Syrian city of Kobane, near the Turkish border. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the city will soon fall into the hands of the militants.

EP to spend €8mn extra on security

A group of Kurdish demonstrators was able to storm the building last year. To prevent that from happening again, the EP will install three "defence lines".

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