Medya News convened an expert panel to cover the global campaign in which a total of 74 press conferences took place launch the international campaign “Freedom for Öcalan, A Political Solution for Kurdistan”.
The central goal of the campaign is the release of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, which is seen as a crucial step towards initiating a renewed peace process in Turkey and the wider region. But the immediate priority is to end Öcalan’s prolonged isolation, which has lasted for two and a half years.
Introducing the panel, Kurdish political representative Nilufer Koc addressed the international implications of Öcalan’s continued detention, saying: “What does the ‘Kurdish question’ mean? That a nation of 45 million people doesn’t exist. because according to international law, you exist when you have a nation state, and since the Kurds have been excluded from the right of getting a nation state. But then with the emergence of the PKK, this started to change.”
Ozlem Goner, an Associate Fellow at the City University of New York, then addressed Öcalan’s detention from her perspective as a specialist in abolitionist thought. She explained: “It’s certainly a violation of human rights and international law from many different angles. But you know in my work and I think in in our politics here, in our organising efforts here in the US we try to look at it from different angles. And one of the one of the important angles is… when you not only focus on the violations of human rights and violations of law, because this makes us accept the existing international order and the existing laws around this international order which as we know for centuries has been based on oppression and colonisation.”
The panel then heard from two international guests who participated in the global wave of events. Speaking from South Africa, academic Mahmoud Patel pointed to the links between the Kurdish and South African liberation struggles, particularly with regards to South African icon Nelson Mandela. He said:
“As he himself stated, Öcalan’s struggle is similar to Nelson Mandela after he and his fellow inmates were incarcerated after their trial that then became the Long Walk to Freedom. Although they never met, there was an intention for them to meet. But the prison conditions that we know on the island of Imrali are contrary to international law. They violate the UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners which are referred to ironically as the ‘Nelson Mandela rules‘ None of the privileges afforded to a political prisoner are afforded to Abdullah Öcalan.”
Speaking from Italy, Michaela Arricale of European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights explained why resolving the Kurdish issue remained urgent in the time of the Middle East: “With all the wars developing, we have to focus on the Kurdish issue, because the root causes of all the conflicts in the world are the same. In opposition to the self-determination of the people, there is an international relations systems that deny some people their rights because it’s structured as a capitalist system.”
The panel also heard from other participants in the global campaign. You can listen to the full recording via the link above.