UK Parliament hosts historic meeting on Öcalan

The ‘Freedom for Öcalan Campaign’ led by British trade unions has been initiated with a widely attended meeting in the British parliament. The isolation of Öcalan criticised and the contribution Öcalan’s freedom will make to peace in the region is expressed in the historic meeting which sparked great interest.

The campaign for the freedom of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan led by Unite and GMB, two of Britain’s largest trade unions, has launched in the British Parliament. The meeting held yesterday evening in Committee Room 10 in the House of Commons was attended by many, including union representatives and MPs. The meeting drew a lot of attention and the speakers expressed that Öcalan’s freedom will contribute greatly to peace in the Middle East, especially in Turkey.

Unite The Union, also known as Unite, is the largest worker’s organisation in the United Kingdom and Wales with 1.5 million members. GMB (British Trade Union), the third largest labor organisation with 650,000 members from dozens of different areas, had also worked previously for the democratic solution of the Kurdish issue. The second largest trade union in Britain with 1.3 million members Unison’s Scotland representative who attended the conference also expressed that they support the campaign.

Scottish MP Natalie Mc Garry moderated the meeting and Bert Schouwenburg (GMB), Steve Turner (Unite the Union), Stephen Smellie (Unison), Simon Dubbins (Unite international director), Kamuran Yüksek (DBP Co-chair), Dilek Öcalan (HDP MP) and Lord Rea from the House of Lords gave speeches.

Öcalan’s books in English were placed in the front of the table for the speakers.


Unite International Director Simon Dubbins who had visited Amed recently expressed that it was very important that they could break a taboo and call for Öcalan’s freedom in the British Parliament and that this was the beginning of a far-reaching campaign. Dubbins stated that the mountains were not the only friends of the Kurds anymore, and pointed out the international solidarity.

Highlights from Dubbins’ speech is as follows:

“When one sees what is happening in Kurdistan for oneself, there remains no doubt that the civil war in Syria is happening now in Turkey. There is no question. The violence inflicted by the Turkish state is the worst I have seen anywhere – and I have been to Palestine, to Colombia. I have seen many conflict zones. But what we have seen in Sur was utterly despicable and vile. These attacks need to stop.


Allowing Erdoğan do as he pleases, giving him millions of pounds and allowing him to do as he pleases regarding the people, the freedom of press, the union rights and to wage war on the Kurdish people, as long as he keeps the refugees away is utterly despicable. Other states, not just Britain, should put pressure on Turkey to end this situation.


Last week we discussed Öcalan’s model for democratic confederalism. It shows Öcalan’s politics and intelligence as a leader that he pays this much attention to what Turkey might look like and the peace might look like in the future. If anybody here hasn’t read Öcalan’s books, I suggest they read them. His book on the origins of civilisations is a surprising perspective on the whole region. A man who can produce such an analysis while under isolation, not allowed to speak to almost anybody, has an amazing intelligence and we need to recognize that.

How can true and lasting negotiations and applicable results be reached when the only leader of the people who can do the negotiating and has the will is kept in isolation? There wasn’t a peace negotiation like this in Ireland. Even in Colombia, the state meets with FARC face to face. There is a need for a correct peace process and Öcalan’s freedom is imperative for that.

Do not underestimate the power of international solidarity. I believe a hundred per cent that we are on the right track. It is the right time historically. Let’s all work together for Öcalan’s freedom and a peaceful solution in Turkey.”

Last week we discussed here the democratic confederalism model proposed by Öcalan. The fact that Öcalan pays this much attention to what Turkey and peace might look like in the future is proves his politics and reason as a leader. If you haven’t read Öcalan’s book yet, I strongly suggest you do it. His analysis, especially those in his book on the origins of civilizations, which is an amazing viewpoint on the entire region, proves his astonishing intelligence that we all should get to know.

How could a true and lasting negotiation be conducted and bring along favorable outcomes while the only leader of a folk remain in isolation? There was no such a negotiation in Ireland, while in Colombia the state is having face to face talks with the FARC? We are in need of an accurate peace process, for which Öcalan’s freedom is essential.”


Speaking after, HDP Deputy for Urfa and Öcalan’s niece Dilek Öcalan recalled that the Kurdish leader remains in aggravated isolation and deprived of all his rights in İmralı Island prison for 17 years, in addition to which he is not allowed meetings with anyone for the past one year. Dilek Öcalan pointed out that the talks between the Turkish state and the Kurdish leader had promised hope to the peoples of Turkey during the three years of negotiations. She noted that the country was dragged into a great chaos after the Turkish side overturned the table.


Bert Schouwenburg from the GMB Trade Union read the message of Paul Kenny, the former president of the GMB who is heading the ‘Freedom for Öcalan Campaign’. Kenny mentioned the similarity between South African leader Nelson Mandela and Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, stressing that both fought for the freedom of their peoples, paid heavy prices and declared terrorist for their pursuit of freedom, and subjected to long-term isolation, mainly Öcalan. “During the long history of wars, solutions were reached only with the acknowledgement of the fact that dialogue between equal citizens is the only way for that.”


Steve Turner in the name of the Unite trade union emphasized that they as trade unions have ignored what the Kurdish people have been through for years, and that they should mend this now. Turner said the UK had a part in the pains suffered by the Kurdish people, for which reason it was important to launch this campaign in the British parliament.

Turner also stressed that it was not possible to conduct peace negotiations while one of the two sides was jailed and deprived of basic human rights. “This has to stop and the British state should help do it. This parliament shouldn’t accept the actions of the Turkish state”, he added.


Sinn Fein Party sent a solidarity message to the meeting in a written not signed by MPs Pat Dowerty, Paul Maskey, Framic Molloy and Mickey Brady. In their message, Sinn Fein deputies called upon the Turkish state to give an urgent end to its attacks on Kurds and to ensure Öcalan’s freedom. The message read; “As Sinn Fein we send our feelings of solidarity to the campaign, and we continue to support the Kurdish people’s struggle. It requires a good leadership to end long-term differences and conflicts, to resolve problems through dialogue and to convince the enemy. Abdullah Öcalan met the requirements of this leadership and became the voice of peace. We appreciate this leadership and vision of his. The Turkish state should stop its attacks on Kurds and return to the negotiation table at once.”


The meeting witnessed strong participation from several political parties including British parliamentarians Angela Rayner, Jim Shannon, Kelvin Hopkins, Diana Johnson, Dave Anderson, Julie Elliot, Valerie Vaz, Andrew Gwynne, Neil Gray, Tania Mathias, Ruth Smeeth, as well as Lord Rea, Lord Hylton, Lord Dholakian and Lord Judd from the House of Lords.

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