The FreedomForÖcalan.org trade union campaign was joined by academics, politicians and leading civil rights lawyers for a special conference in the House of Lords on the 20th anniversary of Abdullah Öcalans capture. The meeting called on the Turkish government to honour its own legal framework and the internationally accepted “Mandela Rules” and end the isolation of Öcalan.
Kurdish leader Öcalan was captured and renditioned from Kenya by Turkish security forces on the 15th of February 1999. He was en route to South Africa, at the invitation of the Mandela government. Denied his legal rights he was summarily sentenced to death and has been in extreme isolation for twenty years on Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara.
Roadmap to peace
Representatives for the Syrian Democratic Council spoke at the event on the significance of Öcalan’s thinking for shaping their pluralistic resistance to Daesh and a roadmap to peace.
“The war in Syria was turned into a global war. The Kurdish people choose not to side with the regime or the Islamic Opposition but took a new way. We established a project where all peoples could live together.”
Ilham Ahmad Co-chair of Syria Democratic Council
The international community must make its voice heard
Speaking at the event, the South Down MP Chris Hazzard expressed solidarity in the strongest terms and also expressed growing concern at the increasing authoritarianism of the Erdogan regime.
"As we gather in London to mark the 20th anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan’s abduction by Turkish forces in Nairobi in 1999, it's worth remembering that he has now been held in prison longer than Nelson Mandela spent on Robben Island. His continued isolation must end and he should be released immediately, along with other Kurdish political prisoners in order to advance the peace process.
International powers have sat back and allowed Erdogan to seize all levers of political control, imprison opponents and rule by decree. A state of emergency has been normalised enabling independent voices in politics, the media and academia to be savagely suppressed.
Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for democracy and stand with the Kurdish people in their struggle. The international community must now make its voice heard to demand the release of Abdullah Öcalan.”
The meeting also paid tribute to Leyla Güven, the imprisoned HDP politician on the 100th day of a hunger strike to demand freedom for Öcalan along with hundreds of other hunger strikers around the world. The assembly also paid their respects to the sacrifice of Anna Campbell, the British YPJ volunteer who gave her life fighting on the frontlines with her Kurdish comrades against Daesh in much the same way as comrades from the Internationale Brigades made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against fascism in Spain.
The activist and academic David Graeber framed the campaign in a wider context explaining;
"Current events in the Middle East have made it abundantly clear just how crucial the freedom of Öcalan would be for a peaceful settlement in the region.
There is a remarkable social movement emerging there, inspired in large part by Öcalan's ideas, that provides the best framework for demilitarizing society, reducing religious and ethnic tensions, and promoting grassroots democracy and women's rights (and not just rights, but women's actual social power) currently being promoted in the region.
It is a terrible injustice that a figure who has offered so much to the world, even from prison, should be held in near-complete isolation, and anyone interested in world peace has an interest in his freedom.”
David Graeber Professor of Anthropology London School of Economics
Trade union values
Closing remarks drew specific attention to the significance of the meeting's location and made a direct appeal to the importance of the trade union movements continued solidarity.
“It’s of huge significance that we’re meeting today, in the heart of the UK government to demand freedom for Öcalan. As we’ve heard today the trade union movement must break the silence on this issue and lead the way. The values of Öcalan and the Kurdish liberation movement - equality, democracy, peace; are the values of the trade union movement and we must show our continued solidarity.”