My name is Ibrahim Dogus.
I am the founder of the Centre for Kurdish Progress and I am here to wish you a very Happy Newroz.
Mr Mayor, let me thank you for your hospitality today and for inviting us to City Hall.
Sadiq, you are a friend of the Kurds, not just at New Year, but all Year Round.
I still remember you defending young Kurdish artists wrongly arrested while rehearsing for Harold Pinter’s play, “mountain language” in the Kurdish community centre in Haringey.
You work closely with Kurdish Londoners, you look after our interests, you speak up for our concerns, you are a true friend of the Kurdish people. Thank you.
Let me start by thanking our partners and sponsors for tonight the Kurdish People’s Assembly in Britain and their co-chairs Ercan Akbal and Besime Basar and its director Turkan Budak – thank you.
Centre for Kurdish Progress is an independent and non-partisan organisation established in June 2014. We organise speaker series, panel discussions and social events, in order to progress the position of Kurdish communities in London and to offer a space for debating Kurdistan’s position in the world.
Our mission is very simple:
We want to expand the significance of the Kurdish issues internationally and make society aware of the situation in the region and diaspora.
However as a not-for-profit, our work needs your support, we are always in need of donations, volunteers and interns to maintain the high standard of our great and important work.
We are always deeply appreciative of your support, and of course, we would also like to offer our thanks to the Kurdish People’s Assembly in Britain for sponsoring the event.
Newroz is a celebration of new life, new hope, new beginnings. It symbolises the renewal of the natural world, with the flowering of bulbs and new buds on the trees.
It also represents our own personal renewal, casting off the mistakes and conflicts of the past, and looking to a fresh new start.
I am proud to be British, proud to be a Londoner, and proud to belong to the Kurdish community in Britain.
The Kurdish community represents around 300,000 people, drawn from the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Most of us live in the capital. Many come to London as refugees from war, or seeking asylum from persecution, just as so many others have done in the past – the Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France, the Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia, the Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin, and so many others.
We come to the United Kingdom because it is the best country on earth. It is a place with a deep tradition of parliamentary democracy, of religious freedoms, of respect for the rule of law, of a free press, and human rights.
It is a country where anyone can succeed if they work hard, where dreams can come true.
We come to London because it is the best city on earth. Diverse, vibrant, modern, a place of glittering opportunities.
I started waiting on tables, now I run my own business. I serve the people of Lambeth as their councillor.
This is a country where anything can happen, and most of the time it just did!
The Kurdish community in the United Kingdom is growing in confidence and strength. We are moving from the margins to the mainstream. We are making our contribution to society. We are barbers, minicab and bus drivers, takeaway owners, we run coffee shops and yes, we dish up delicious kebabs as part of London’s economy.
But not only that…
We are entrepreneurs, engineers, academics, doctors, scientists, carers, writers and poets.
We have made Britain our home and we are putting down our roots. We look back to the places from where we’ve come with great concern.
We look to Turkey and see an authoritarian regime which suppresses all opposition and locks up dissidents including mayors, councillors, journalists and trade unionists.
We think of Leyla Guven, a kurdish member of parliament in Turkey, arrested by Ergogan’s forces, and now on hunger strike in protest against the continuing incarceration of Abdullah Ocalan.
She has been joined in her protest by 5000 other political prisoners.
We stand in solidarity with them.
We look to the Kurdistan region in Iraq, where Kurds are playing a constructive role, building a new federal constitution and an autonomous Kurdish region, and we pay tribute to the Kurdish fighters taking on ISIS.
We look to Syria, where Kurds are again in the frontline of the fight against ISIS and at the same time building a new kind of democracy, based on equality and freedom.
In Iran, too, it is the Kurds who stand up for equality, peace and democracy.
The British Government must do all in its power to support the Kurdish people in these struggles, and to strive for a peaceful settlement across the region.
London’s politicians must continue to work internationally for peace and reconciliation.
So as we look around the troubled region, we see terrible war, oppression, and denial of human rights.
But we see something else too – we see the seeds of peace, we see the buds of hope, we see the emergence of democracy and equality like the first bulbs of spring, coming into bloom.
Hope, optimism and a future better than the past.
That is the true meaning of Newroz.