Representatives from various Kurdish NGOs and the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) called for unity among Kurds in an Istanbul meeting focusing on the isolation behind bars of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founding leader Abdullah Öcalan.
“Our struggle will continue until Mr Öcalan and Kurdistan are both free,” YSP MP Ömer Öcalan, who is also the nephew of Abdullah Öcalan, said in the meeting.
“Kurdish youth have set out on their path with a new tactic,” Ömer Öcalan said. “Mr Öcalan’s father told him that the Kurdish issue is a shirt of flames, to wear it is to burn. The children of this nation put this shirt on.”
Abdullah Öcalan has not been allowed to communicate with the outside world for 31 months, as he serves a life sentence in the specially built İmralı Island Prison in northwestern Turkey.
“Our people have been fighting these policies of isolation in four parts of Kurdistan,” Ömer Öcalan said.
The isolation of Abdullah Öcalan from society goes back 24 years, to when he was first captured and tried in 1999, Free Women’s Movement (TJA) member Ülker Özadikti said.
“Operations continue in Kurdistan every day and our children are murdered,” she said. “None of us can be free before he is free, and his freedom is only possible through the freedom of his people.”
The meeting itself faced pressure from authorities, Marmara Solidarity Association for Prisoners’ Families (MATUHAY-DER) co-chair Şafi Erol said. “The attempt to shut this meeting down is part of the policies of isolation. Every Kurd should embrace the struggle fully in the face of this pressure.”
“I believe in the youth and this fight. Our struggle will liberate Abdullah Öcalan and all prisoners,” Erol added.
Other participants include the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Peace Mothers activist group, and Anatolia Association for Families of the Lost (ANYAKAY-DER).
“If the law existed in Turkey, the strict isolation of Mr Abdullah Öcalan would not have happened,” Ömer Öcalan said in a tweet ahead of the event. “Isolation is a crime against humanity.”
Pro-government media targeted the MP after the event, saying he “abused” Kurds and was engaging in “terrorist propaganda”. One outlet called Kurdish politicians “dogs of the West” and “traitors without limit”. Another said MP Öcalan was a “treacherous separatist”.