Mark Thomas knows where Mrs T should be buried
The UK is selective when it comes to judging a nation's human rights record. That's why it supports
For lovers of traditional joke forms, I would like to start this column with a traditional gag. "What's the difference between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher?" Answer: "A couple of weeks, if we're lucky." Margaret Thatcher has always seen herself as an uber-patriot, and so I feel, after we lost our match against France in the Euro 2004 championships, that the least she could do for England is die.
Few care about how she goes, though some poetic irony - such as falling down a disused mineshaft - would be nice. It is her send-off that is of concern. If there were any justice in the world, her funeral would take place in the Falklands. The military should take her coffin down to the beach, launch it into the sea and then torpedo it. Admittedly, she hasn't publicly requested such a funeral, but I feel instinctively that it's what she would want.
In reality, we will have a huge state funeral with the press lionising her as a great leader and, just as it has with Reagan, airbrushing out the awkward facts: Reagan's administration trained and armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan, the contras in Nicaragua and sold arms to America's public enemy number one - Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.
From our side of the Atlantic, Thatcher's administration armed Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet, and oversaw a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland.
It is no surprise that George Bush and Tony Blair admire their predecessors so much - they have continued the policy of judging others' human rights abuses selectively, while ignoring their own. In this "war against terror", there is only one rule: the terrorists are the ones you can't do business with.
Both Bush and Blair support the most undemocratic of regimes, so long as they are "business-friendly". From Colombia to Indonesia, and from Saudi Arabia to China, the US and UK have armed and assisted torturers and murderers. None more so than Turkey, which has consistently used British-supplied weapons against the Kurds, to deadly effect . . . Sound familiar to anyone? Britain has helped kill so many Kurds that you would be forgiven for thinking that Blair probably regards it as a Turkish "country sport" and, once fox-hunting is banned, might even allow it here.
In 1994 Layla Zana, a democratically elected MP for the pro-Kurdish DEP party, was charged with the crime of wearing a headband of the Kurdish colours (red, yellow and green) and speaking part of her oath of allegiance to parliament in Kurdish. For this, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison - an offence and punishment of which not even the illegitimate offspring of David Blunkett and Saddam could dream.
In 1995, after years of allowing arms sales to the regime, Europe awarded Layla Zana the Sakharov peace prize, given to people imprisoned in the cause of peace. It is an odd sort of honour because, to win it, you really do have to be totally up shit creek. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Zana had not had a fair trial and recommended her release. On 9 June 2004, Turkey decided to free her and then had the audacity to suggest that this was a milestone in Turkey's reform process.
The repression of the Kurds continues - and once again, it is happening with British and American help.
Kongra-Gel (the Kurdistan People's Congress) was formed in 2002 to work democratically and non-violently for the rights of all Kurdish people. On 24 March this year, Gordon Brown, in a press statement primarily relating to Hamas, announced that the UK would freeze Kongra-Gel's assets, as it was a terrorist organisation.
When Brown made his decision, had Kongra-Gel committed any terrorist act? No. Was Kongra-Gel supporting a five-year ceasefire by Kurdish armed rebels? Yes. Was Kongra-Gel consistently calling for democratic reforms? Yes.
Labour decided to label this organisation as "terrorist" for two simple reasons. First, the Bush administration had done it. Second, Turkey, which is next door to the destabilised and insurgent Iraq, and has vital oil interests, is a friend - and Turkey wanted it. With Britain, and now the EU, declaring Kongra-Gel to be a terrorist organisation, Turkey can happily continue to persecute Kurds under the guise of fighting terror.
However, there is something that you, dear reader, can do to help the Kurds. While a case appealing against the EU ban on the organisation is being prepared for the European Court of Justice, Kongra-Gel is asking people to join it if they want to work for peace and justice.
If thousands of us do this, it will be extremely hard to enforce a ban, when Kongra-Gel might well have a higher membership than the Tory party. Unlike Labour, you won't get a membership card when you join, but at least Kongra-Gel will never invade Iraq.
For information on joining Kongra-Gel, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org