The Kurdistan Digital Media Council today will launch a social media campaign calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been jailed in Imralı Island in Turkey since 1999.
“Freedom will prevail” will be the motto of the hashtag campaign, which will be organised on all social media platforms throughout October, and its peak will be on 8, 9 and 10 October at 19.00 CET (20.00 GMT +3 Istanbul time).
Campaigners are demanding Öcalan’s release from prison. This will enable him to contribute to the attempts to reach a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question, one of the greatest obstacles to realising democracy in Turkey. The roots of the Kurdish question date back to the Ottoman period, and today there is still a refusal on the part of the Turkish state to fully recognise the cultural identity of its Kurdish citizens.
“It is time for Mr. Öcalan to be physically freed from prison walls. Our campaign, which will run through October, will see its peak and its most majestic moments on 8-9-10 October with the #hashtag campaign that will be launched at 19.00 CET. We urge Kurdish people and all their friends to actively engage in our struggle and say ‘Freedom for Öcalan’ in all languages, everywhere,” campaign organisers said in a written statement on Twitter.
We invite all our people and friends to actively take part in the Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan hashtag campaign. pic.twitter.com/yASL35CyHQ
— Meclîsa Medya Dijîtal A Kurdistan (@MeclisaDijital) October 8, 2021
Supporters of the campaign from over thirty countries shared support messages ahead of the campaign. 791 supporters, including politicians, authors, artists, journalists, union activists and academics, have sent their messages of support for the hashtag campaign for freedom for Öcalan.
Debbie Bookchin was among those who appealed to the international community to support the social media campaign.
“In northern Iraq, relentless bombings are endangring thousands of lives where Turkey has already killed so many people and especially targeted women. This carnage has to stop. And there is only one way forward, peace talks. And there is only one person who can lead those peace talks, Abdullah Öcalan,” Bookchin said in a video-message she sent to the campaign organisers.
She compared Öcalan to Nelson Mandela, concerning his role in building peace. “Like Nelson Mandela before him, Öcalan can lead the way to a lasting peace that will affect stability in the entire Middle East. It’s time to move forward, it’s time to release Abdullah Öcalan from prison. Free Öcalan, do it now,” she said.
Simon Dubbins, British Workers Union (UNITE) International Director and co-chair of the UK trade union campaign “Freedom for Ocalan” shared a call for the hashtag campaign.
“Our campaign is critical, because Abdullah Öcalan has been held in isolation for over 20 years. That is held to be a form of torture by international definitions. But most importantly, there will never be a proper peaceful solution to the problems in Turkey, in the wider region, unless Abdullah Öcalan is freed and allowed to play the role that only he can play in bringing about peace,” he said.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour Party’s MP for Brighton Kemptown and the chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurds in Syria and Turkey also declared his support for the Freedom for Öcalan campaign.
“I’m supporting the Freedom for Ocalan Campaign because we need to ensure that a leader is not just locked up without any access to proper lawyers, any access to the outside world, in what is tantamount to a form of torture when we need to be working towards a peaceful and democratic situation rather than a growing authoritarian situation. The key to peace and justice is freedom for Öcalan,” he said.
Bambos Charalambous, the Labour Party’s MP for Enfield Southgate since 2017, said in a video message he shared for the campaign : “I am supporting the campaign for freedom for Abdullah Öcalan. It has been way too long. He has been imprisoned for 22 years: we cannot accept the leader of the Kurdish people to have been imprisoned for so long. So, I am encouring the international community to support the campaign for freedom for Öcalan.”
Political activist and academic Kerem Schamberger made an appeal from Germany for supporters of peace to join the social media campaign.
“On 8 October, we will start to take to the streets actively for his freedom. Not only to take to the streets, but also to the social media campaign and all events for him to be finally freed. He is the guarantor that peace negotiations between the Kurdish freedom movement, its armed units and the Turkish state can begin,” he said.
Schamberger recommended Öcalan’s works for those who have not followed his life and work: “He has written a number of important books in prison over the past 20 years. He has written about how to develop socialism in the 21st century. He has written a lot about the causes for the defeat of the first socialist attempt and is trying to develop it for the future.”
“This man doesn’t belong in prison, he belongs in the university or in politics,” he said, “Therefore, beginning on 8 October, we will demand his freedom. Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan means peace in Kurdistan.”
The campaign is being launched today as 8 October marks the 23rd year since Öcalan’s expulsion from Syria on 8 October 1998. After Öcalan was expelled from Syria, he went to Greece, Russia, Italy and then again Russia and Greece before going to Kenya, where he was abducted in disputed circumstances at Nairobi airport and arrested by Turkish officials on 5 February 1999. On 29 June 1999, a court in Ankara had sentenced Öcalan to death. That decision was upheld by the Court of Cassation, but Ankara State Security Court on 3 October 2002 commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.