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Demonstrators gather in Helsinki to protest Turkish invasion

Many of the 500 people assembled in Senate Square were representatives of Finland's 15,000-member Kurdish community.

Gelavei Viyan
Gelawej Viyan is confident the Kurds in Syria will stand strong. Image: Yle

Several hundred people turned out in Helsinki's Senate Square on Thursday afternoon to protest a military offensive by Turkey in Kurdish regions in Syria following the US military's withdrawal from the area.

Police reported that the demonstration caused brief traffic disruptions in the Helsinki city centre, but by 5pm, the situation was back to normal.

The event started out as a rather subdued gathering with peaceful music playing in the background, but it became more animated as the group walked down Aleksanterinkatu towards their Helsinki Music Centre destination, when participants began shouting slogans condemning Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"They have no intention of leaving"

Participant Gelawej Viyan is one of an estimated 15,000 people with Kurdish origins in Finland. She came with her family to Finland as a quota refuge, and now works as a project coordinator for a non-profit organisation.

"My message for the leadership of Turkey is that we will not give up. We will fight until there is just one of us left, if we have to. Those of us here in Finland will stand in support [of the Kurds] and do what we can," she said.

Viyan said she has friends that live in the area under attack, but she hasn't been able to make contact with them.

"I know that people [in Syria] are worried, but they have no intention of leaving. They want to defend the region," she added.

Viyan noted that the demonstration, which was quickly organised after just one day of the Turkish military campaign in Syria, is an example of the tenacity of Finland's Kurdish community in the face of their circumstances, despite their sorrow and shock at the turn of events.

Erdogan sees a threat

Turkey's offensive in Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria entered a second day on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people in the autonomous Rojava area to flee, and killing at least a dozen.

"I am of the opinion that the reason for Turkey's attack is its fear of Rojava's democratic model. Erdogan sees it as a threat," Viyan said.

President Erdogan has threatened to flood Europe with 3.6 million refugees if nations in Europe continue to criticise the military operation, especially if they call it an invasion.

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