Recently, while watching the panel titled ‘Women discuss and demand Öcalan’s freedom,’ organised by the network Women Weaving the Future, an issue stuck in my mind. Fazela Mahomed of South Africa explained that during the years of captivity, Nelson Mandela was seen as a representative of all political prisoners in the country.
While the fight against the prison policy of the racist-fascist apartheid regime was carried out, Seal Island, where Mandela was held, was treated as a prototype. The fight for Mandela’s freedom was seen as a fight for the freedom of all political prisoners. The fight was pioneered not only by the Africa National Congress (ANC), led by Mandela, but by all anti-apartheid organisations.
While Fazela Mahomed, an activist on the draft committee of South Africa’s democratic constitution was describing her country, the prisons of the fascist TC [Turkish Republic], and especially İmralı, came to my mind. While the Kurdistan freedom movement has been drawing attention to İmralı ‘s prototype nature for years, a common and holistic line of struggle against the fascist regime’s prison policy has not been developed by opposition forces until now.
However, leader Apo has represented all political prisoners in TC in terms of his position and the conditions under which he is held. Therefore, the demand for ‘Freedom for Öcalan’ is not limited to one person, but also covers all political prisoners.
Likewise, the rights struggle for leader Apo involves the rights of all political prisoners in prisons. As some have claimed, it is not about prioritising a person over thousands of people; conversely, it is a fight to end the prison policy of the state.
The government is implementing a plan to develop an isolation and torture system that will cover thousands or even tens of thousands of people through the most ‘vulnerable’ people. So, it is a fight for the policy of the state. Moreover, the struggle to secure the physical freedom of leader Apo is, of course, a fundamental struggle for the Kurdistan freedom movement.
İmralı is no ordinary prison. It is a two-axis prototype. The first axis is its international dimension. While leader Apo was naming İmralı as the first prototype of Guantanamo, he tried to draw attention to the violations of rights and law, especially when passing through the first gate of the prison, where you enter a region where there is no law.
US and EU states wanted everybody in the world to believe that the people held in Guantanamo were ‘notorious terrorists’: they sought legitimacy to deprive the prisoners of any rights. So, the defense of the rights of the people held there was illegitimate. As a result, the innocence of many people could only be proven years later.
The second axis concerns the prisons within the borders of the TC and the policies carried out here on political prisoners who are seen as the ‘enemy.’ In this respect, İmralı is also a prototype. As a system of isolation and torture, the conditions in İmralı gradually spread to all the prisons of the TC. The isolation was implemented through leader Apo and spread throughout the country because, as his lawyers pointed out, he was not considered a normal prisoner.
At a time when five political prisoners have been murdered as a result of these practices in prisons within ten days, it is necessary to rethink the comprehensive and holistic struggle against the İmralı isolation and torture system. İmralı’s prototype position and the relationship between İmralı and other TC prisons should be analysed correctly and then, after developing a struggle accordingly, it may be possible to get results.
The conditions in İmralı are changing and getting worse. As if it wasn’t enough that leader Apo and the other three prisoners in İmralı are deprived of their basic rights to communicate and are completely isolated from the outside world, a new policy of isolation has been developed in the name of ‘disciplinary action’ recently.
Leader Apo is already kept in solitary confinement and isolated, but is locked up in an empty cell under the guise of ‘solitary confinement.’ Rights and laws aside, what this means for the general prison policy of the Turkish fascist regime is somehow not discussed by the left outside of the Kurdistan freedom movement.
For the fascist regime, prisons do not mean something outside the genocidal war, on the contrary. The funerals that have come out of prisons in recent days show this very concretely. It is now vital that this is analysed correctly, and that the struggle is developed.
It is more necessary than ever to put leader Apo and the torture and isolation system in İmralı at the centre of this struggle. Both the Turkish regime, but essentially the United States and the EU, see leader Apo as the most powerful actor and try to weaken that position through the İmralı system. A struggle should be developed through analysing the dialectical nature of that. When approached like this, İmralı can become a prototype of the opposite.