Former Labour MP John Woodcock will still be busy after leaving the Commons, as the BBC has reported. “Former Labour MP John Woodcock has been appointed as special government envoy to tackle violent extremism. The independent Barrow and Furness MP announced he would not stand in the general election as he and his partner Isabel Hardman were expecting a baby”. Tackling extremism, eh?
That’s an interesting one. Do go on. “Home Secretary Priti Patel said Mr Woodcock would bring ‘a range of skills and experience to the role’ … Mr Woodcock has been a member of the Defence and Home Affairs Select Committees and is experienced in counter-terrorism legislation, the Home Office said”. He certainly knows a little about extremism.
Take his close relationship with the Saudi Government, for instance. That’s the Saudi Government which is conducting a war in Yemen which has seen millions go hungry. The Saudi Government that had Jamal Khashoggi executed within the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Woodcock has visited Saudi Arabia recently.
But this is nothing compared to his closeness to Government, or Government linked, organisations in Turkey. The Bosphorus Centre for Global Affairs, believed to have links to the Erdogan Government, told in late 2017 that “John Woodcock came to Turkey upon the invitation of our Center. He visited Istanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep and Izmir”.
There was more. “He held meetings with the ruling AK Party deputies Markar Esayan and Sena Nur Celik and the opposition CHP deputies Selina Dogan and Sibel Ozdemir and MHP deputies Kamil Aydın and Mehmet Gunal in the parliament”. The MHP is an ultra-nationalist party, so if Woodcock wants to explore the modus operandi of the far right, he’s met the right people. And the MHP’s youth wing has a singularly grim reputation.
That organisation is called the Grey Wolves, and is widely regarded as a paramilitary force. It has been proscribed in more than one country outside Turkey, and has been accused of being a terrorist group. It’s also accused of involvement in the trade in illegal narcotics, especially the movement of heroin from Turkey into Western Europe.
To quote from the Grey Wolves Wikipedia entry, “In their ideology and activities, they are hostile to virtually all non-Turkish or non-Sunni elements within Turkey, including Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, Christians overall, and Jews. They embrace anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as those put forward by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They have distributed the Turkish translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf”.
Small wonder the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign concluded “He’s been one of the most vocal pro-Turkey voices in Parliament and is now ‘counter-extremism’ envoy, he has stated that he believes the Kurdish YPG are terrorists and today in London, President Erdoğan called on NATO to proscribe YPG. Woodcock is not fit for office”.
They also asked “Why did John Woodcock, disgraced ex-Labour MP, meet with two MPs from the far-right antisemitic MHP party in Turkey whose ‘militant youth wing’ Grey Wolves distribute Mein Kampf in Turkish?” I’m sure Woodcock will have an answer to that one.
And I’m sure his fact-finding will extend to representatives of the Kurds. Perhaps.
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