Activists from around the world are marking the 25th anniversary of the arrest of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan with the 8th annual ‘Internationalist Long March. The Kurdish community believes Öcalan’s arrest was the result of an international conspiracy involving the security services of several nations, including the CIA, MI5 and Mossad.
Held annually since 2017, this year’s march saw around 200 activists from across Europe, including Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland and the UK, embark on a journey from Basel, Switzerland, to Strasbourg, France.
The PKK leader was captured in Kenya on 15 February 1999 and from there extradited to Turkey. His arrest remains controversial, with legal experts arguing that it violated both Kenyan law and international legal principles.
Since then Öcalan has been held in İmralı Island Prison, where he has endured conditions of increasing isolation. For the past 35 months, Öcalan has had no contact with his family, legal representatives or anyone else outside the prison.
Demands for dialogue
The anniversary of Öcalan’s abduction has become a rallying point for widespread calls for his release. This year’s international march is an integral part of a greater
global campaign calling not only for his release, but also to address the wider Kurdish issue through dialogue and political means. The campaign, which is gaining momentum as Öcalan’s imprisonment enters its 26th year, underlines the growing international support for the Kurdish cause.
The march kicked off on Sunday with a rally on Basel’s Theaterplatz, where Democratic Societies of Kurdistan Congress in Europe (KCDK-E) co-chair Zübeyde Zümrüt emphasised the global resonance of Öcalan’s ideas of freedom and democracy in a speech. “The paradigm of the leader Öcalan has spread worldwide and rallied those who stand for freedom and democracy,” said Zümrüt, underlining the importance of the march in the global movement for justice.
Lori Kollonfai, representing the international participants, echoed this sentiment, pointing to Öcalan’s vision as a beacon of hope amid the crises facing the world today. “We are marching because we believe that another world is possible, a world inspired by Öcalan’s ideas,” Kollonfai said, inviting others to join the rally, which culminates in Cologne, Germany.
Kurdish politician Nejdet Atalay further emphasised the importance of Öcalan’s philosophy, noting its power to unite people around the world in a common cause for freedom and equality.
The march continues
The participants, marching under the banner “Freedom for Öcalan, a political solution for the Kurdish question”, will pass through various cities on their way to Strasbourg, where the march will end with a press conference on 16 February.
The action will then move to Cologne for a central rally on 17 February, where they will reiterate their call for Öcalan’s freedom and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.