Kurds and their allies are ready to set out on the March for Freedom on Saturday, from 122 centres throughout Turkey towards Gemlik in the northwestern Bursa province, where Abdullah Öcalan is held under an incommunicado state in the İmralı Prison.
Saturday’s march to demand an end to the absolute isolation of the jailed founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will begin from Kurdish-majority provinces in the east and southeast, while groups from the Turkish capital Ankara will join the convoy on Sunday.
Abdullah Öcalan, serving a life sentence in an isolated island prison since his capture and trial in 1999, has not been able to meet with his family or lawyers for more than 32 months, despite hundreds of appeals to the prison administration and the Justice Ministry. The PKK leader and three other top level PKK prisoners held in the same prison have not had any contact with the outside world during this time.
“We are undertaking this action in the hopes for a new beginning towards peace, freedom, and an end to the chaos in the Middle East. We invite everybody to join the Gemlik march for peace, justice, democracy, and a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue,” Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Caucus Member İhsan Seylan told Mezopotamya Agency.
“We believe Mr Öcalan’s discourse and the methods he proposes will offer a solution to the policies of suppression imposed upon Kurds and all peoples of the Middle East. We believe this isolation has seeped through all parts of society, and that the whole world is aware that it has nothing to do with the law,” Seylan said.
The eastern leg of the march is led by the Democratic Regions Party (DBP). The party’s co-chair Keskin Bayındır said the march would be “a first threshold in a historic era to come”.
“The Kurdish issue is more than the political goal and purpose of the Kurds, it is a matter that all peoples in Turkey should approach within the framework of peace, democracy, human rights and the law,” Bayındır added.
In local assemblies Kurdish activists have organised since July, the Kurdish community has put forth “a strong tendency towards ending the isolation and allowing Mr Öcalan to play his role as the main actor in the solution to the Kurdish issue”, the co-chair said.
“We invite people from all metropolises of Turkey to join this march, a march for freedom and all oppressed groups who demand democracy, equality and justice,” he concluded.
Earlier in the week, the Bursa governorate issued a ban on public gatherings and demonstrations in relation to the march. The governorate has also banned entrance to the province for “persons and vehicles understood to have travelled to join this demonstration”.
The governor’s office in Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) province also issued a ban on gatherings and efforts to promote the march, as well as a ban on entry to or exit from the province with the aim to participate in it.
“The march to Gemlik for Abdullah Öcalan is a democratic demand. The state must not hinder this, but they have already put up roadblocks,” HEDEP MP Sinan Çiftyürek said.
The prevention of Kurdish people, politicians and activists from protesting the isolation imposed upon Öcalan is “hypocritical”, the MP said. “The solution to the Kurdish issue and the end of the war depends on Abdullah Öcalan’s words. If he is able to speak, peace can be established.”
The most recent appeals to the Turkish Justice Ministry for information on Öcalan’s health have not been answered yet, Çiftyürek continued. Several appeals by Öcalan’s lawyers and various pro-Kurdish political parties have been left unanswered during the absolute isolation period.
The official reason for Öcalan not being able to contact his lawyers has been disciplinary penalties, issued over infractions not declared to the public. The most recent such penalty was issued on 31 October, depriving Öcalan of lawyer visits for another six months.
“Hegemonic powers wish to leave Kurds in four parts of Kurdistan without willpower and make them dependent. They do not want a free Kurd. But Mr Öcalan’s ideas offer people light and freedom,” Emin Kılıç, co-chair of the MEBYA-DER solidarity association said.
The association for families who lost loved ones in the conflict is among the signatories of the Call for Freedom declaration where more than 170 pro-Kurdish and leftwing associations, unions, political parties and activist groups called for Öcalan’s freedom.
“Öcalan has overcome the system of perpetual crisis and developed his theory for solution while he was isolated from the world in İmralı,” the groups said in the declaration.