The anniversary on 9 October represents an important turning point for the Kurds. It marks the beginning of the conspiracy that led to Abdullah Öcalan’s extradition from Syria. The process, which began in 1998, culminated in Öcalan’s abduction from Kenya and his being taken to İmralı Island on 15 February 1999. Öcalan and the Kurdish people called this process an “international conspiracy”, one which involved several states and local authorities. Since that day, Öcalan has been kept imprisoned on İmralı Island, with no news heard from him for the last three years. [*last contact was in March 2021]
🔴 Amed Dicle looks at the three key reasons why #AbdullahOcalan should be freed, pointing to his vital role in resolving conflict in the #MiddleEast and beyond, and the unlawfulness of his absolute #isolation on Turkey's prison island.
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) October 9, 2023
Before summarising how this process started, it would be useful to draw attention to the following point. The recent developments in the region, the direct war of Turkey against the civilian population in the north of Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma and the atrocities show us how important the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan is for the peoples of the region. This is the reason why the campaign for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan is in progress. You will have heard or will hear the statements that have been made or will be made on this issue in 74 centres around the world by the time you read this article.
Now let us go back a little bit, before returning to the burning reality of the present day.
Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK he founded are the result of the Turkish state’s 100-year policy of denying, annihilating, assimilating and taking over the Kurds. Those who do not agree with some of the actions of Öcalan and the PKK must consider the issue from this point of view. Otherwise, it will not be possible to find a resolution. Abdullah Öcalan has always been aware of this fact and has been developing processes for a political solution since the beginning of the 1990s. Indirect talks were held between Ankara and the PKK in 1998, and on 1 September 1998 Öcalan declared an indefinite ceasefire live on Med TV. However, it turned out that the interlocutors in Ankara had set up a negotiation mechanism not for a solution but for a wider war. This is the institutional strategy of the Turkish state. They did the same in 2008 – 2011 and 2013 – 2015.
Once Öcalan was brought out of Syria and captured following this ceasefire decision, a war was planned that would last for decades. The state saw itself as stronger and assumed that the Kurdish movement could not survive without Öcalan. Because of their economic cooperation with Turkey, countries like the USA, Israel and Russia did not hesitate to sacrifice the Kurds. It was more profitable for them to collaborate with Turkey. Isn’t that the way history has been written anyway?
However, Öcalan was aware of this situation when he was abducted to İmralı and took steps to disrupt it. He restructured himself and his movement there and developed brand-new models. The Kurdish freedom movement, which was supposed to be destroyed by the abduction of Öcalan, has grown to become a regional power beyond the borders of Turkey. In recent years, with the defeat of a barbaric power like ISIS, it has transcended being Kurdish and has become a regional hope. Of course, this hope became a prescription for the turmoil in the Middle East not only through the political and military resistance, but also through the social model that has been developed by the PKK.
The concrete example of this model is being institutionalised today in the north of Syria. But it is subject to all-out assault. This is because every sovereign state considers such a model to be against its own interest. This model has the following features:
It is not based on ethnic and religious fanaticism; it is a community-based model of coexistence. It is an anti-sexist women’s liberation model. It is a model in which ethnic and religious identities are not rejected; on the contrary, they are seen as a source of richness and are the subject of peaceful coexistence. Öcalan stresses the importance of creating a new society rather than simply another state. This model is the only hope in a geography like the Middle East, where everyone sees the other as a danger to themselves. But we are well aware that this model is a disturbance to international and regional hegemonic structures. Because situations like the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region keep chaos and war alive, and the hegemonic powers are the ones who benefit from it. Therefore, Öcalan, who developed an alternative model to this situation, is the target of these powers.
On the basis of this synopsis, it is easy to understand why Öcalan is being isolated and why institutions such as the Council of Europe are sitting on the sidelines. At the same time, there is no doubt that Öcalan’s freedom cannot be expected from these forces. This can only be achieved by the peoples and all those who are against this chaos and war.
If there is a question why Abdullah Öcalan should be free, there are three points that should be in mind;
First, and most important, for humanitarian reasons. Because Abdullah Öcalan is someone whose ideas matter to millions of people and who is seen as a leader. But it should also be borne in mind that he could be anybody. He has been locked up on an island for the last 25 years, left all alone. He has had no contact with his family or his lawyers for years, with no information whatsoever provided for the last three years. He has been deprived of all his human rights. Turkish and international law does not apply in his case. There is no recognition of the ‘right to hope’ that arises from these laws. Therefore, he is imprisoned under a system of torture. Anyone who claims to be a human being should be against it.
The second reason is Öcalan’s ideas. Our region, and even the whole world, is in need of Öcalan’s ideas. The ideas of Öcalan should not only be seen in the context of the problems of the present. A solution to the problems of our age can be found in the paradigm of a free individual and a free society. Öcalan’s proposal is a model of life on the basis of all kinds of sociality. He is a defender of the right to life and freedom not only for human beings, but for all living creatures. Those may be abstract concepts, but in his books, Öcalan analyses them in a comprehensive way. Everyone can benefit from them. Even if we look at the current context, Öcalan’s freedom means the end of the war in Turkey, the solution of the Syrian crisis, and the calming of the chaotic environment in Iraq and Iran. More importantly, it will be the birth of a new model of life under the leadership of women with the slogan “Jin Jîyan Azadî”: Woman, Life, Liberty.
Third reason: The Kurdish question cannot be solved without Öcalan. There is no way to resolve this, not only in Turkey, but anywhere. No problem in the Middle East can be solved without solving the Kurdish problem. The Kurdish question is not only a question that affects Turkey. It affects Iran, Iraq and Syria. Taken together, these make up the Middle East. In addition, the continuation of a problem in one country means that it will continue in other countries as well. The Turkish-Syrian issue is a vivid example of this. There is only one leader who can be the undoer of this knot, and his name is Abdullah Öcalan. With the political and military power behind him, Öcalan is not a man who can be ignored. At the same time, Öcalan is in a position to mobilise this power in favour of a solution. The most realistic and applicable model at the moment is the one proposed by Öcalan, especially in Syria. If we look at Rojava, we can see how all the peoples there are trying to live together in a fraternal way and in freedom. We are also in awe of the power of women in life and politics.
For these reasons and more, Abdullah Öcalan must be free. These facts cannot be ignored by those who are against Öcalan’s political ideas and ideology. If there are people who are against the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan and who ignore the three reasons summarised above – and unfortunately there are such people – then we cannot say that these circles stand for something right.
However, there are millions of people all over the world who recognise the importance of Abdullah Öcalan, and their number is increasing. That’s why voices from all over the world are calling for Abdullah Öcalan to be released. This appeal, this action is extremely precious, extremely historic. But even the most splendid action will be incomplete and insufficient as long as Abdullah Öcalan is not released from the prison in Imrali. Therefore, all of us who want peace in the world and in our region, all of us, regardless of our ethnic and ideological background, let us come together to say ‘Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan’ with a much louder voice.
Amed Dicle was born and raised in Diyarbakır, Turkey. He has worked for Kurdish-language media outlets in Europe including Roj TV, Sterk TV and ANF. His career has taken him to Rojava, Syria, Iraq and many countries across Europe. Follow him on Twitter.