The Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world. Since the First World War, we have fought for rights, freedoms and representation within the borders of states carved up by the French and British: Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Since the 1980s many Kurdish people have come to the UK in search of freedoms, tolerance and a hopeful future.
Like many other peoples, Kurds have found a home in Britain, a place we can enjoy freedoms not afforded to our brothers and sisters elsewhere. Today some 250,000 Kurds live in the UK, predominantly from Turkey, but from all over the Kurdish regions. The Labour Party’s commitment to addressing inequality and championing diversity has been central to making Britain a place where we are proud to put down roots, and vital to combatting the Tories’ shameful ‘hostile environment’.
In Kurdistan, we are still struggling for peace, democracy, and equality. Here in the UK, Kurdish communities are working hard to support the same values, so it is unsurprising that so many Kurds have found a natural home in the Labour Party. In numerous areas across Britain Kurds have worked hard to deliver Labour gains. And yet, we still lack representation in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
I have been an active member in the Enfield Southgate CLP for decades and it has been inspiring to play a role supporting the synergies between the Kurdish and Labour Party struggles in our area. Our community has been buoyed by the support of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, and we know the importance of strong voices in favour of immigration and diversity speaking out at a time when basic notions of equality and fairness are under threat.
However, for Labour to truly be the party for the many and not the few, the transformation must extend to political representation. We are lagging behind. In 2010 the Conservative Party selected and elected its first Kurdish MP, to a safe seat and one without any significant BAME communities. The Labour membership deserves no less: at the next General Election we should take advantage of retirements and resignations in seats such as Vauxhall, Poplar and Limehouse, and in other possible constituencies to select a Kurdish candidate.
It is time for Labour to give a clear voice in Parliament to the diverse range of communities from which they draw their support. By selecting MPs from diverse backgrounds, we can become a party which truly embodies a progressive vision for the Britain we should aim to build after the next General Election.
Mustafa Topkaya is a member of Kurds for Labour and the Rose Network