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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 15:46 GMT
Kurds plea to Blair
Kurds demonstrating outside Downing Street
Kurds fear Turkish intervention will end their freedom
Tony Blair is being called on to ensure the protection of millions of Kurds if Turkey gives the go-ahead for the deployment of US troops in the region.

Hundreds gathered outside Downing Street to express their fear that any Turkish intervention into Iraqi Kurdistan will mean the end of Kurdish self-governance.

Some of the banner-waving protesters spoke out in anger at British MPs who voted against the government's hardline stance on Iraq.

For the first time in our lives, we want to choose a leader
Koris Siwaily
Koris Siwaily, 18, who was smuggled into the UK two years ago, insisted: "They don't know what we have seen in our country and they have no idea what they are talking about."

Members of the Kurdish Cultural Centre handed in a letter to Mr Blair on Friday afternoon praising his "courage" in the way he has dealt with the Iraq issue, but asking him to ensure democracy remained in the Kurdish north.

'Millions killed'

As his friends shouted: "Down, down, down with Saddam" and "no Turkish intervention", Mr Siwaily, an IT student at Harrow College, insisted: "War is a solution. We have seen enough.

"For the first time in our lives, we want to choose a leader.

"Millions of people have been killed or taken by Saddam. My father is one of them.

Koris Siwaily
Koris Siwaily: Angry with British MPs who voted against Blair
"We think Saddam took him and we don't know what has happened to him.

"We support any way of removing Saddam, but we do not want Turkey to take Saddam's place.

"I don't think there is any way to get rid of Saddam without war. I don't think he will say 'here's my biological and chemical weapons'."

War inevitable?

Sherko Sindy, on the management committee of the Kurdish Cultural Centre, said the demonstration was about the "liberation of Iraq and against any possible Turkish intervention into Iraqi Kurdistan".

"Unfortunately, war seems to be the only way of making any changes," he said.

"The Iraqi people in Iraqi Kurdistan have set up democratic institutions, a regional parliament, there is freedom of expression, freedom of the press, a lot of rights - including rights for women."

He said it was the first time that Iraqi Kurdistan, and Iraq as a whole, had experienced this democratic development.

Chrow Abdulrahman
Chrow Abdulrahman: Wants Saddam out of Iraq
Mr Sindy went on: "We want that situation to remain, to develop and to be an example for Iraq in the future.

"Turkey has no right to suppress this experiment with interventions and conditions.

"Our letter to the prime minister is praising his courageous stance regarding the Iraqi issue.

"We are also pressing upon him to take an even more active role in ensuring that fighting Iraq is for the Iraqis and democracy will be supported by the UK and US."

'Out with Saddam'

Ghassan Habib, 34, who came to the UK from Baghdad, said: "We are with America and Britain, but we are against Turkish intervention of our land.

"We would like our country to be liberated from the Saddam regime, but we don't want the Turkish army to enter our land because we have had bad experiences with them."

Sherko Sindy
Sherko Sindy: 'Iraqi Kurds are enjoying democracy'
One of the few women in the protest, shopworker Chrow Abdulrahman, 27, said while she did not want war on Iraq, she wanted Saddam "out of my country".

"War is not a good solution for any problem, but we know Saddam is a dictator and we don't want him."

She added: "I am here to say stop the Turkish army. Turkey does not want the Kurds to have their own country."

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