For the rights of Turkey’s most discussed political prisoner, Abdullah Öcalan, to be recognised and respected by Turkey’s authorities, a group of lawyers has been committed to following Öcalan’s case and conditions. This group of lawyers has been working in Asrın Law Bureau and it has been acting to legally represent Öcalan, who has been imprisoned in Imralı Island Prison since 1999.
Since 2011, Öcalan’s lawyers have been able to visit their client in Imralı Prison only five times: the fifth and the last time was just over two years ago, on 7 August 2019.
“You will either come to our line of thought or rot here, they say to our client. This is as simple as that. A curious dialectic has been running in Imralı through three stages of isolation, between 1999 and 2005, 2005 and 2015 and from 2015 to the present. There have been three different processes at work in Imralı Island.”
These are the words of Emran Emekçi, a lawyer from Asrın Law Bureau representing Abdullah Öcalan, who spoke to MA regarding the wider goals of the confinement of Abdullah Öcalan in Imralı Island.
There is a specific, unique and extraordinary system of detention in Imralı Prison, Emekçi observed: “They said they did not want to execute Öcalan and make him a hero of the peoples. They rather kept him alive, destroying him piece by piece, via a cruel and unique isolation system; a system based on killing him over time, not suddenly.”
Emekçi says the laws of Turkey were bypassed in order to build the Imralı Prison system. “You cannot talk about the legality of Imralı. You cannot explain the system of Imralı within the current laws of Turkey,” he said. “To imprison Öcalan, the law of Turkey’s own constitution was bypassed.”
“A brand new law was introduced in Imralı. An aggravated life imprisonment sentence was turned into a confinement until death in Öcalan’s case.”
The goal of isolating Öcalan from society, Emekçi further noted, “is to break his will and pull him to their own line of thought. They have been thinking of how they could break the will of Öcalan via the isolation system in Imralı. They have introduced the isolation system on this basis.”
Imralı, he says, was “an international project” just like Öcalan’s capture was the product of an “international plot.”
“This is not a prison built by Turkey. This is a prison built by the coalition of the USA, Europe and Turkey all together,” he said.
He went on: “Their goal is to adopt the Guantanamo model: a model based on breaking one’s will. This is the logic upon which the isolation is developed. That is why one must evaluate Imralı separately from other prisons. He is an international prisoner, not solely a prisoner of Turkey.”
Emekçi pointed to Öcalan’s role in challenging the status quo of hegemonic Western powers in the Middle East. The uniqueness of the isolation system of Imralı is related to the the political personality of Mr. Öcalan, he stated.
“He is a political actor; a political actor in the Middle East. He was challenging the status quo, the nation-state system and the divide-and-rule policy of the US regarding the Middle East with the democratic unity system he introduced,” he said.
Emekçi added: “He was increasingly drawing the attention not only of the Kurds, but of the peoples of the Middle East. Thus, he became the target of capitalist modernity.”
He explained that Öcalan’s imprisonment was a part of the project for a Greater Middle East, which envisaged the Middle East map as a collection of small nation-states: “In the Greater Middle East policy, a tiny nation-state is envisaged for the Kurds; the model of South [Iraqi Kurdistan]. It is their intent to stick all Kurds into that tiny little nation-state.”
“Barzani complied with that plan, Öcalan stood up against that plan,” he added.
Emekçi believes that if Öcalan came to terms with the line of the hegemons of the region, which means agreeing on a “nation-state” for the Kurds, he would not have been jailed in a remote island for almost 22 years now.
“If he agreed, they would not have had him arrested in the first place. But he chose to defend the greater good for the people, for the Kurds and for the peoples of the Middle East. This is the price he pays for defending his truths,” he said.