Embarking on an eventful official trip to the UK, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani arrived in London last Monday where he met with his British counterpart and several other senior officials to discuss expanding strategic partnership in different fields. Among them was the case of Kurdistan’s natural gas resources that attracted international media’s attention amid the Russia-Ukraine war that has caused concerns over gas supplies to the EU.
If the Kurdistan Region manages to establish right partnerships and bring in more investments, exporting natural gas is expected to boost its economic development within the next decade, as explained by experts. For this, PM Barzani also discussed the matter during his recent visits to the UAE and Qatar with the leading Gulf states.
However, while he was briefing the prestigious Chatham House think-tank in London about KRG’s strategic vision to secure a better future and stronger position on the international energy map, a group of some 50 young Kurdish men gathered outside the building and chanted aggressive slogans.
The demonstrators attempted to approach the motorcade and the people accompanying the delegation in what appeared from videos and photos to be provocation in hopes of turning the gathering into violence. However, police prevented the attempts and there were no reports of injuries or violent clashes.
Interestingly, among the demonstrators were also migrants with Islamist background carrying photographs of people being charged with terrorism-related crimes, membership in the Islamic State (ISIS), and plotting terrorist attacks against civilians in the Kurdistan Region.
This might be completely understandable for Kurdish policymakers and even the people of Kurdistan, but understanding the hidden personal and political agendas behind such aggressions takes a little more than looking at it as a freedom of expression in the heart of one of the oldest democracies in the world.
The majority of the young men who have migrated to the UK have spent tens of thousands of dollars and taken enormous risks to survive the many human traffickers on their way usually from Turkey to Greece, Italy, France, and then crossing the Channel into the UK. Since they are economic migrants and not political asylum seekers, usually their shady applications remain unapproved by the Home Office for years if not decades.
The majority of the young Kurdish migrants move to the Europe with the dream of a better economic future, but to secure a permanent residence permit, they often make up fake applications to pretend that they escaped persecution and they are in imminent danger in their home country. Having no proof to back up such applications often leaves the applicants with two options: make fake evidences or being patience to come up with another solution.
Pshtiwan Jaff, a Greece-based Kurdish journalist whose parents migrated decades ago, said in an article about the demonstration outside the Chatham House earlier this week that the young men are desperate to make a case that could back up their migration applications. They seize every opportunity when a senior Kurdish official arrives in Europe to provoke the delegation into a violent reaction — which has never happened so far — to portray it as an “imminent threat to their lives” if they are deported to Kurdistan.
“Some of them have applied under fake names. They use these fake names on social media to write against the [Kurdistan] Regional Government and its officials… they post pictures of such activities to tell the British government that they had participated in anti-government activities and they cannot return to the Kurdistan Region for safety reasons,” Jaff wrote.
“The interesting point is that when they finally obtain a British passport, their first destination is Kurdistan!”
Meanwhile, the provocative attempt of the demonstrators was not the only unfortunate event in the recent days. The photoshopped pictures of the incident were of greater disappointment after they were posted and circulated on official social media pages of outlets which foreign diplomatic missions fund in the Kurdistan Region as part of their support for free media.
However, with all these, the prime minister’s visit was described as historic and constructive by both the governments of the Kurdistan Region and UK. British Consul General in Erbil, David Hunt, who accompanied PM Barzani during his visit to London, wrote on Twitter that the visit has set “an ambitious agenda for our future cooperation.”