As the 23rd anniversary approaches of the coordinated covert operation supported by the CIA and involving many states alongside Turkey and the US which resulted in the incarceration of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), on 15 February 1999, there was a further call for his release with the start of a “Long March” with two prongs, one from Germany and one from France over the weekend.
Öcalan is held under conditions of severe isolation on İmralı Island in the Marmara Sea, Turkey, for the last 23 years.
Marching in the German section of the Long March and calling for his release are 137 young people from various internationalist groups in South and Central America as well as from European countries and the United States.
The 180km Long March started in Frankfurt at 11am on Sunday. The marchers braved the rain and wind and marched 34km to the city of Darmstadt. Kurdish groups accompanied the internationalists throughout the march. The marchers spent the night in Darmstadt, and on Monday they will march a further 22km to Bensheim and from there to Weinheim.
The section of the march that left from Germany will march a total of 180 km to join activities to be held in Saarbrücken on 11 February. The next day they will move on to Strasbourg for the main demonstration.
Posters of Öcalan and Kurdish colours banned
Although the march is being held with the permission of the German police and local courts, it is forbidden to carry posters of Öcalan or the Kurdish colours, yellow, red and green.
It was stated that the reason for the colours being banned was that the yellow, red and green colours surrounding a photograph of Öcalan in the leaflet were ‘suggestive of the PKK’. The organising committee applied to a higher court for the annulment of the decision, arguing that it is political.
The ban on the three colours is widely practiced in Turkey, a country labeled ‘not free’ with a total score of 32 according to Freedom House, in contrast to Germany, a ‘free’ country with a score of 94.
The internationalist activists participating in the Long March protested against the decision with a civil disobedience action. They have hung the words, “Posters of Abdullah Öcalan banned in Germany” on notices over their tabards (demo vests).
The ethnic Armenian activist Soghomon Tehlirian, who has joined the march from Austria, spoke on behalf on the internationalists:
“The Democratic Confederation project the Kurdish people have developed under Öcalan’s leadership has taken enormous strides in ecology, democracy and women’s rights. Rojava [North and East Syria] is the best example of this. Europe is beside Turkey in attacking this project because it presents an alternative to the capitalist system. We do not accept that Öcalan, the creator of such an amazing project, should be in prison, and kept under isolation.”
Diana Montseney from Catalonia said:
“There has been no word from Öcalan for a long time. There is no information as to his state of health. Öcalan’s Democratic Confederalism project is a democratic project based on people as opposed to the nation state. Freedom for Öcalan means freedom for progressive, revolutionary and democratic people as much as for the Kurdish people themselves. We will march together to the end.”
Turkey’s cross border chemical attacks and airstrikes condemned
The second section of the Long March also started on Saturday, from the city of Sierentz in France. The start of the march of around 300 young individuals from all across Europe drew interest.
The first 32-km leg of the Long March from Sierentz to Mulhouse was completed on Sunday, and the next stage of the march will be from Mulhouse to Colmar.
As well as condemning the covert operation and the severe isolation targeting Abdullah Öcalan, the marchers demonstrated their anger at Turkey’s chemical attacks and airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan and Rojava with banners and slogans in Kurdish and in Turkish.
Abduction of Öcalan in 1999
Abdullah Öcalan was first forced to leave Syria in October 1998, then arrived in Italy in November after visiting Russia for a brief period of time. He was detained in Italy due to an arrest warrant issued by Germany, and was compelled to leave the country in January 1999. After a time he spent in Russia and Greece, he decided to fly to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on an invitation by some Greek diplomats.
He was abducted in Kenya on 15 February 1999, while on his way from the Greek embassy to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, in a joint operation carried out by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and the CIA.