Many political activists were detained in Istanbul, as police tried to obstruct a march to Turkey’s western port of Gemlik on Sunday in protest at the severe isolation imposed upon Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to initial news reports around 20 were arrested.
Öcalan has been incarcerated on İmralı island, a small prison island within the borders of the district of Gemlik, since 1999.
Marches set off from various cities in Turkey to Gemlik on Saturday with groups starting from the Kurdish-majority cities of Diyarbakır (Amed) and Van (Wan), the southern cities of Adana and Mersin, and from the western city of Izmir, despite attempts by the police to obstruct the marchers, and several arrests being made.
Groups gathering in Kadıköy, Istanbul to join the march from there on Sunday were met with police violence and barricades everywhere, while some were kettled, harassed and arrested by teams of police.
The marches against isolation have been organised under the joint leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Diyarbakır-based Democratic Society Congress (DTK), the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), the Free Women’s Movement (TJA), the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) and the Federation of Prisoners Families Solidarity Associations.
The marchers aim to converge in the town of Gemlik to stage a demonstration calling for an immediate end to Öcalan’s isolation.
A ban on legal visits to Abdullah Öcalan was extended for a further six months in May. The last time Öcalan’s lawyers were able to contact him was three years ago, in August 2019.
An application for a family visit was rejected earlier, on 29 March, the 10th in a series of such rejections since 2018.
The last time Öcalan had any contact with a family member was on 25 March 2021, when he was allowed a very brief telephone conversation with his brother Mehmet Öcalan. That conversation was abruptly cut off after only a few minutes.