Trade union representatives from Spain, Italy, Britain and Colombia have repeated calls for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founding leader Abdullah Öcalan’s freedom and release from prison.
The long-term campaign for the freedom of Öcalan will continue with a press conference in Brussels.
“We are calling for the freedom of Öcalan and we want you to come to the press conference on 26 July in Brussels where we are going to explain why his freedom is important and that we need information about the conditions that Öcalan is in now,” Simon Dubbins, Director of International Research for Unite the Union told Medya Haber’s Erem Kansoy.
Campaigners previously held a press conference in Reykjavik, Iceland in May, calling for an end to the incommunicado imprisonment of the PKK leader.
Öcalan has been serving a life sentence in a specially built prison on Turkey’s northwestern İmralı island since 1999, and had been allowed to communicate with his family and lawyers only on irregular intervals until 2011. After 2011, restrictions became much stricter and visits were limited to a few times a year. Since 2021, Öcalan has been under an absolute isolation from the outside world. His last contact was in an interrupted phone call with his brother.
“Öcalan must be freed, it is a precondition for a new peace process in Turkey and the wider region. It is essential for it,” Dubbins said.
UNITE is Britain’s second largest trade union, organising British and Irish workers. With more than 1.2 million members, the union has been active in international causes for justice.
“We support this campaign for Öcalan’s freedom, for peace and rights globally,” said the spokesman for Spain’s CCOO de Industria, Juan Blanco. “This case is very important for justice around the world.”
CCOO de Industria is part of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) in Spain, forming the largest trade union together with 17 other organisations. It is also part of the Europe-wide industriAll union.
Nuria Martinez from Fensuagro, Colombia’s agricultural workers’ union, said, “As Colombians, we understand what has been happening very well, we have been living through war for a long time. We believe Öcalan’s freedom is very fundamental for a peace that can be built in Turkey and with the Kurdish people.”
Fensuagro is affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions and is the largest representative for agricultural workers and small farmers in Colombia. It has worked for land reform since the 1970s, and its leaders have been targeted in assassinations and forced disappearances since.
“The campaign for freedom for Öcalan is a very important one, not only because it is a human being in question, but also because his ideas are very crucial in the Middle East and, I think, all over the world for reaching peace,” Fiom CGIL Italy spokeswoman Valentina Orazinni said. “The ideas of Öcalan and the struggle of the Kurdish people are very inspiring. It could be a good direction for other peoples in the world who seek peace.”
Fiom CGIL, the Italian Federation of Metalworkers was founded in 1901 and banned in 1924 under Italy’s fascist government. It was re-established in 1944, and reached more than 600,000 members at its peak.