Ibrahim Dogus, Kurdish Labour Candidate in UK Elections: I Want to See Rights Secured for Kurdish People Everywhere

Ibrahim Dogus is Labour’s parliamentary candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency in the UK General Election on Thursday 8 June.

Interview by Kawa Rash:   

Kawa Rash: May I start by asking you for some basic personal details, especially about your family background?

Ibrahim Dogus: I moved to the UK at the age of 14 following my father who was an asylum seeker. I grew up in London. From the age of 15, I started working as a waiter, going on to work as an assistant manager at a restaurant, a community outreach worker, and later a publisher. At the age of 23, I set up my own business. I now own three restaurants very near Waterloo station in South London, employing dozens of local people. I have been a community organiser and campaigner for the Labour Party since I was 19 years old.

Kawa Rash: How important to you is the Kurdish issue in the UK?

Ibrahim Dogus: I care deeply about the Kurdish issue and I want to see rights secured for Kurdish people everywhere. However, I am above anything part of the mixed society of Great Britain and my concern is first and foremost for the country that I have made my home and where I am raising two children. London welcomed me and my family when we were fleeing oppression and I want to give something back to this community. I live and work in London and it is here that I am part of a living, breathing community. As a human being and as someone who fled oppression, I want to make sure that no one has to go through that again. I have a deep respect for my cultural heritage and I am making sure to pass that on to my children, ensuring they learn Kurdish and understand their culture. Great Britain is a place where we can enjoy being Kurdish and not have to worry about what the state will do to us for teaching our children our language. I think my becoming MP would demonstrate that you can make it in this country, whatever your background, if you are willing to work hard and treat others well. I would love for young Kurdish people in this country to see this and recognise that they can be a part of this society. I also want the world to see how British people treat with kindness people coming to their country.

Kawa Rash: We all know about the UK, one of the five most powerful countries in the world. Have you got any plans to one day discuss in parliament in detail about the Kurdish problem in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and even in Iraq?

Ibrahim Dogus: I would definitely like to work to draw more attention to what is happening in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. One of the UK’s greatest strengths is that it is seen as a country that stands up for what is right and we need to work hard to maintain that and show it is the case. The current government thinks it can make money quickly by ignoring other countries’ attitudes on human rights but will end up sacrificing the UK’s soft power as a consequence. The UK can lead by example. By staying strong on these issues, in the long term, the UK will be a more powerful country.

Kawa Rash: You are also active as an organiser for the Turkish and Kurdish communities in London and the UK, and we heard the Labour leader’s speech, when Kurds celebrated Newroz in London. Is there any hope for a renewed Kurdish and Turkish peace process if Labour wins the election?

Ibrahim Dogus: I think if Labour wins then Jeremy Corbyn will do more to encourage the UK’s partner, Turkey, to show greater respect to its Kurdish population. Mr Corbyn cares deeply about oppressed communities. As I said, I believe it is important for the UK to use its position to create partnerships based on values of tolerance.

Kawa Rash: Some UK MPs have created the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan. How are you planning to work with this group?

Ibrahim Dogus: I regularly work with members of the APPG for Kurdistan on different events raising the profile of the Kurdish community and enjoy their support on this.

Kawa Rash: How can you work for all the Kurds in the UK who are applying for asylum but having their cases refused, and are being denied permission to stay in UK, while as we know the Kurds are the biggest nation in the world without an independent country ?

Ibrahim Dogus: Under a Labour government, we would strive to implement a fair and efficient asylum system so that we let in those in need and do not keep people waiting for years in detention, which costs the country a lot of money as well. Many legitimate claims for asylum come from Kurdish-speaking regions and by investing more in processing claims we can make this process fair and efficient.

Kawa Rash: We are hearing about an Iraqi Kurdistan referendum. If you become an MP, will you support independence for south Kurdistan and get more support for this from other Labour MPs?

Ibrahim Dogus: The issue of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence is a domestic issue for Kurds in Iraq and I support transparent and open communication between Erbil and Baghdad over this issue. We would encourage Baghdad not to put any boundaries to the democratic wishes of people within the borders of Iraq. I think an independent Kurdistan could do great things and if the people of Iraqi Kurdistan choose this option then I would be encouraging the UK government to invest in supporting the independent state, which I believe could flourish. However, as I said, this is a question for Kurds in Iraq to answer and I would not want to push people either way.

Kawa Rash: What is Ibrahim Dogus’ big dream for the future? Do you hope one day to become London mayor or UK prime minister?

Ibrahim Dogus: I would like to continue making change in this country and working for a better future for my family, friends and community, including Kurds everywhere.

This interview first appeared in ‘Awene’.

Kawa Rash is based in the UK and has written for newspapers in south Kurdistan, including ‘Hawlati’ and ‘Awene’

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