cloudy.png
Tuesday October 4th, 2022 9:02AM

Former Kurdish rebel has key role in Sweden's NATO bid

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

STOCKHOLM (AP) — When Turkey’s president rails against “terrorists” in the Swedish Parliament, Amineh Kakabaveh is convinced he is talking about her.

The former Kurdish rebel fighter turned Swedish lawmaker has emerged as a central figure in the drama surrounding Sweden and Finland’s historic bid to join NATO. Turkey opposes NATO membership for the two Nordic countries, accusing them of harboring Kurdish militants.

Kakabaveh, a strong advocate for Kurdish self-determination in the Middle East and a fierce critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, holds extraordinary leverage because the Swedish government depends on her vote for its one-seat majority in Parliament.

“He cannot decide over us,” she says of Erdogan. “I stand up for Sweden’s values and Sweden’s sovereignty.”

Despite a long history of non-alignment, Sweden and Finland rushed to apply for NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but were stunned by opposition from Erdogan.

To allow the Nordic countries into NATO, a decision that requires unanimity among the alliance's members, Turkey demanded they lift arms embargoes on Turkey, extradite alleged Kurdish terrorists and stop supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey says those fighters are closely linked to PKK, a domestic Kurdish group that Ankara and the West consider a terrorist organization.

Meeting those demands would have been difficult for the Swedes and Finns in any case, but with Sweden’s government dependent on Kavikabeh’s support for its survival, there is little room to negotiate a compromise.

“We are not used to single members of Parliament having such influence,” says Svante Cornell, director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm. “It’s maximal bad luck for the government’s side, you could say.”

Kakabaveh’s backing allowed Social Democratic leader Magdalena Andersson to become Sweden’s first female prime minister last year. In return, the center-left Social Democrats agreed to deepen cooperation with Kurdish authorities in northern Syria.

The minority government survived a no-confidence vote last week thanks to Kakabaveh and will need her support again on Wednesday to push its spring budget proposal through Parliament.

Kakabaveh, an independent lawmaker, says she has not yet decided how to vote and is waiting for the government to show its plans on issues close to her heart, including efforts to fight honor-based violence and oppression against women and girls in immigrant communities and how it will deal with Turkey’s demands.

“I don’t want them to retreat,” she says.

The prime minister's office declined to comment.

The unusual situation has raised Kakabaveh’s political profile in Sweden and internationally. It has also exposed her to criticism that she is holding Sweden’s NATO bid hostage to advance her own agenda. Kakabaveh says she has received threats from both Turkish nationalists and Sweden’s far-right fringe.

“It is a terrible situation,” says Kakabaveh, 48. “But I don’t want to sit in a corner and say, ‘I’m scared.’ I left my family, my childhood, everything I had, to stand up for what I believe in.”

Kakabaveh, who grew up in a poor Kurdish home in western Iran, says she was just 13 in the late 1980s when she joined peshmerga fighters rebelling against the Islamic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In her parliamentary office in Stockholm, she showed pictures of her teenage self in the rugged mountains between Iran and Iraq, a Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder.

The rebels fought against the Iranian regime and that of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against Kurdish villages.

Kakabaveh says many of her comrades and some relatives were killed. She breaks down in tears as she recalls the contrast between her life in Sweden and the hardship she left behind. For years after she arrived in Sweden as a refugee in 1992, the whirr of helicopters made her instinctively want to run for cover.

A socialist, Kakabaveh continued her political activism in Sweden, joining the Left Party and campaigning for gender equality in immigrant communities. Her activism against “honor culture" soon put her at odds with party colleagues who worried her work stigmatized Muslims. After years of tension, she left the party in 2019 and since then serves as an independent lawmaker in the 349-seat Parliament.

The governing Social Democrats in November struck a deal with Kakabaveh to work more closely with Kurdish autonomous authorities in northern Syria, led by the PYD political party. The PYD's military arm, the YPG, with U.S. support played a key role in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Turkey makes no distinction between the Kurdish groups in Syria and the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, which has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. The group is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the U.S.

Kakabaveh has called for taking PKK off terror lists, which hasn’t gone unnoticed in Turkey.

“As you know, Sweden at the moment is a country that terror organizations like the PKK, PYD and YPG use as a playground,” Erdogan said in a speech last week. “In fact, there are terrorists even in this country’s parliament.”

Though he didn’t mention her by name, Kakabaveh says he is referring to her.

“For sure,” she says, adding, “I’ve never been a PKK member. I have even criticized them. But on the other hand, I think they have paid a price.”

Kakabaveh says she believes the NATO memberships stalemate will be resolved with a backroom deal between the U.S. and Turkey. If it isn’t, and Sweden is unable to join NATO because of her, Kakabaveh won’t have any regrets. She is against NATO membership anyway, saying it would undermine Sweden’s ability to be a voice for peace in the world.

“I am for disarmament,” she says. “The world needs more peace and diplomacy.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
FDA advisers consider Moderna's COVID shots for older kids
A government advisory panel is meeting to decide whether to recommend a second brand of COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children and teens
10:56AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Former Kurdish rebel has key role in Sweden's NATO bid
A former Kurdish rebel fighter turned Swedish lawmaker has emerged as a central figure in the drama surrounding Sweden and Finland’s historic bid to join NATO
10:50AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Russians control 80% of contested city in eastern Ukraine
A regional governor says Russian forces control about 80% of the city of Sievierodonetsk — the main focus of the war now in eastern Ukraine
10:48AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Top state court rejects effort to free Bronx Zoo elephant
New York’s top court has rejected an effort to free Happy the elephant from the Bronx Zoo
9:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
US stocks open higher a day after falling into bear market
Stocks are edging higher in early trading on Wall Street Tuesday, finding some stability a day after dropping into a bear market
9:44AM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden to visit 'pariah' Saudi Arabia and Israel next month
President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East next month with visits to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia
9:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Reps. Mace, Rice face hard GOP primaries after defying Trump
Two Republican House incumbents in South Carolina who have drawn the ire of former President Donald Trump now find themselves facing tough primary challenges Tuesday
5:34AM ( 5 hours ago )
Election 2022: Nevada GOP contest crucial to Senate control
A Nevada Republican with a political pedigree and the backing from former President Donald Trump and the GOP establishment is facing a surprisingly strong primary challenge
5:25AM ( 5 hours ago )
Victim of pandemic, Hong Kong floating restaurant towed away
A landmark floating restaurant that fed Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise and millions of other diners has been towed out of Hong Kong after falling victim to the pandemic
4:44AM ( 6 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
1/6 panel postpones hearing with ex-Justice Dept. officials
The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol has postponed a hearing that was to feature Trump-era Justice Department officials
9:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
Poland changes judiciary law; demands EU release COVID funds
Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law regulations replacing the controversial body disciplining judges with a new accountability panel
9:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
Congress examines fraud in pandemic aid for small businesses
A congressional panel is set to examine payouts under a federal coronavirus pandemic aid program intended to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 outbreak
9:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Kentucky shatters its fatal overdose record; fentanyl blamed
A new state report says fatal drug overdoses rose nearly 15% in Kentucky last year
5:46PM ( 17 hours ago )
Biden signs bill for national Asian Pacific history museum
President Joe Biden has signed a bill creating a commission to study establishing a national museum on the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States
5:13PM ( 17 hours ago )
Ohio governor signs bill allowing armed school employees
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill into law allowing school districts the option of arming employees
5:01PM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
FDA advisers consider Moderna's COVID shots for older kids
A government advisory panel is meeting to decide whether to recommend a second brand of COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children and teens
10:56AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Russians control 80% of contested city in eastern Ukraine
A regional governor says Russian forces control about 80% of the city of Sievierodonetsk — the main focus of the war now in eastern Ukraine
10:48AM ( 14 minutes ago )
'In our hearts': London remembers 72 Grenfell fire victims
The names of the 72 people who lost their lives in a London high-rise tower blaze have been read out at a memorial service to mark five years since the tragedy
10:32AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Wall Street wobbles a day after tumbling into bear market
Wall Street is wobbling Tuesday in its first trading after tumbling into a bear market on worries about a fragile economy and rising rates
10:29AM ( 33 minutes ago )
3 missing, swept away in drainage ditch after severe storms
Authorities say a child and two adults were missing after they were swept away in a drainage ditch in Milwaukee following severe thunderstorms that brought heavy rains and damaging winds to a wide swath of the Midwest and parts of the South
10:28AM ( 34 minutes ago )