Labour activists welcome news that MP who praised Turkish government could leave party

Labour activists welcome news that MP who praised Turkish government could leave party
Labour MP John Woodcock’s reported impending exit from the party is being welcomed by activists. His loyalty to leader Corbyn has been questioned and his recent praise of the Turkish government’s “pluralism” has been raked up.

While protests mount against the conflict in Afrin, Syria, Woodcock has been labeled an “apologist” for Turkish war crimes. The Barrow and Furness MP has long been accused by Kurdish campaigners of being a Turkish propagandist.

Now, an article he did with a Turkish newspaper in December has reemerged, sparking fury among many Labour supporters.

In the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah, the MP praised Turkey – failing to mention human rights abuse allegations, many of which have been documented by Amnesty International. Claims include torture, intimidation, and attacks on Kurdish communities both in and outside of Turkey.

Tens of thousands have been arrested over accusations of being linked to US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen. So-called Gulenists have been rounded up and detained, often without trial.

Despite his record, Woodcock said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is running a peaceful nation.

“Those in the UK campaigning to leave the European Union repeatedly used Turkey synonymously with a sense of threat and extremism,” he wrote.

“That was wrong and you only have to spend some time in the country to understand how misguided that was, that actually this is a country which has a deep commitment of security to its own citizens every bit as much as the United Kingdom and any other nation within the European Union.

“I hope that in the coming months and years, we will be able to get a greater understanding of the steps Turkey has taken in order to fight against extremism, not least through the huge investment which it is making in supporting Syrian refugees and attempting to make safe areas in Syria for refugees to return to.”

Woodcock said he hopes Turkey continues to show the world the “plurality and the tolerance.”

The MP went on a trip to Turkey with the Bosphorus Centre for Global Affairs, a think tank which describes itself as a “non-governmental organization.” The company is reportedly run by President Erdogan’s son-in-law.

Amnesty International detailed abuse in Turkey in 2017. An official statement said: “Dissent was ruthlessly suppressed, with journalists, political activists and human rights defenders among those targeted.

“Instances of torture continued to be reported, but in lower numbers than in the weeks following the coup attempt of July 2016. Any effective investigation of human rights violations by state officials was prevented by pervasive impunity.”

Young Labour activists have condemned the Blairite Labour MP, Woodcock. The organization voted to back a national demonstration in London this Saturday calling for a ceasefire in the Kurdish region of Afrin and for the body of Anna Campbell to be repatriated. Campbell, 26, from Lewes was killed fighting Turkish forces with the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), an all-female militia.

Woodcock recently told friends, reports say, he would resign his Labour party whip, effectively making him an independent MP. Open clashes with Corbyn’s front bench have been witnessed in Parliament, while Woodcock is known to have been angered by Mr. Corbyn’s decision to sack Owen Smith from the Shadow Cabinet for calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, as well as his stance on Russia.

The reports that he was to lose the party whip was welcomed by many on the left of the party and their allies, while Tories were quick to offer Woodcock a place on their benches. 

Woodcock said: “The last few weeks in particular have been pretty awful but any suggestion that I have made up my mind to leave is not true and not helpful to have it played out in public.

“My loyalty is to my constituents and local party members and anything I say in future will be to them first.”

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