Abdullah Ocalan was forced out of Syria on the 9 October 1998 when he embarked on a journey to seek a political solution to the Kurdish question. After he was kidnapped on 15 February 1999 in Kenya as part of an international conspiracy he was subjected to a political show trial for over three months in a purpose built court house on the prison island of Imrali Island.
On 29 June, 1999, when the court announced the death sentence of Abdullah Öcalan the leader of the PKK, who had led the latest Kurdish uprising, the 29th against Turkey’s forced assimilation policies since 1923, Öcalan responded from behind his glass screen stating that: “Freedom Will Prevail”.
Today he has spent over 22 years of imprisonment. Öcalan is now 73 years old and continues his resistance for freedom under conditions of absolute isolation and mostly in solitary confinement. He has only been heard from once in the last 19 months, by his brother via a short 4-minute phone call.
The reason I write this article today calling for Öcalan’s freedom is to make a humble contribution to the wider democratic campaign beginning today on the anniversary of the date that began the process that would see Öcalan’s arrest as part of an international conspiracy led by the CIA when he was forced to leave Syria’s capital Damascus and sought asylum from European countries on October 9, 1998.
The Kurds and their friends will be once again holding demonstrations and protests in many countries and cities around the world to draw attention to this situation of absolute isolation and torture. And also on social media, one of the most important protest mediums of the digital age there is a planned global mobilisation with hashtags calling for the freedom of Öcalan.
The consequences over 20 years: How the conspirators lost, and how Öcalan and the Kurdish people won
In the 23rd year of his life sentence and contrary to the expectations of the Republic of Turkey and countries of NATO, Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish Freedom Movement have come a long way in establishing the democratic unity and confederal freedom of the Kurdish nation, especially when compared to the period before the international conspiracy.
The aim of the conspirators was the rapid destruction of the organisation.
However, bringing a nation from the brink of genocide to a position of recognised status and autonomy, and exposing its colonial oppressors as dictatorial and reactionary regimes all over the world, have been the greatest results of the first 20 years of the new millennium.
The Syrian Baathist administration, the Turkish Ergenekon regime (Turkish racist nationalism), the Iranian mullah state, and the Iraqi tutelage administration have all been shown as the biggest status quo-oriented dogmatic structures blocking the democratic transformation of the Middle East.
Öcalan has written five volumes of a liberation manifesto in the last 22 years.
He has written all of these volumes as part of his lawful right of defence at the appeal hearings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
From after he ended his virtual defence with the ‘’freedom will prevail’’ in June 1999 to October 2021, in addition to these hand-thousands of hand written pages of manuscripts, he also succeeded to be an exceptional negotiator exemplified in his talks with his lawyers, family members and a group of politicians and based on the statements he made during the negotiations.
He achieved the highest level of production that a single-cell-prisoner of war could ever do. His last book, which he managed to get out in 2011, was the last work of his five-volume defence, which was published as “Kurds in the Grip of Genocide: Democratic Nation Solution”.
After that date, none of his books were allowed to go out. The principles set by the European Convention on Human Rights, and the reports published after its visits, and in accordance to its findings the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Ill-Treatment, Degrading Practices and Torture of Prisoners (CPT), and the Committee against Torture (CAT) of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the conditions of Öcalan’s detention in İmralı Overseas High Security Prison are a complete violation of these agreements and constitute an illegitimate state.
Öcalan’s detention conditions are in violation of the Nelson Mandela Rules!
As an historical irony and satirical comment of the extraordinary detention and imprisonment conditions of political hostages and particularly in the case of Abdullah Öcalan, the name of the violated signed legal convention should be mentioned here in order to fully understand the deep cruelty embedded in this modern world system.
It is called the Nelson Mandela rules that the UN General Assembly, which represents the international community, has adopted as universally agreed minimum standards on all aspects of prisons and prison management, from admission and classification to the prohibition of torture and limits on solitary confinement.
Ironic as Abdullah Ocalan was en route to the Republic of South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela when he was kidnapped in Kenya and held in isolation as a political hostage against all international conventions as a result of the international conspiracy.
This situation is trampling on the UN convention, which is defined as a ‘dungeon within a dungeon’ situation with no communication to the outside world, as was expressed in the 2019 report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s visit to İmrali prison.
In fact, like every other anti colonial resistance movement, the Kurdish Freedom Movement deserves serious analysis in terms of its importance in the social history of the world, as it has many similarities and some important differences with other similar movements.
The pre and post isolated captivity periods are particularly quite interesting for Öcalan’s adventure of existential being as a person and leader. The struggle against isolated captivity or ‘dungeon resistance’ that takes place within the person of Abdullah Öcalan himself has been attributed as a miraculous human recreation of the example and even of his own comparison with the Greek God Prometheus mythology of Ancient Greece to the extent of re-creation against all the means of cruelty and torture.
The explanation for this situation is embedded in the historical development of both himself and the movement. Even if it goes much beyond the limits of this short article, there is still enough space for writing its basic headings.
In the years leading up to his capture were the cursed times when NATO’s super powers fully supported the Turkish state’s low-intensity ‘Dirty War’ against the Kurdish Freedom Movement and people.
Following the end of the Cold War, systematic ethnic cleansing was carried out in Northern Kurdistan, thousands of villages were burned out and completely destroyed, and tens of thousands of people were killed as a result of extrajudicial executions and murderous campaigns. In the context of crimes against humanity and war crimes, numerous known war crimes of the Turkish state have been committed right in front of the modern world’s eyes with numerous eye witness testimony and accepted evidence.
With the official US adoption of the PKK as a terrorist organisation by President Bill Clinton and the Democrat Party’s US administration in 1997 and with the treaty signed between Turkey and Syria for no longer giving a safe haven to the PKK in Syria in 1998 that was mediated by the Russian Federation reinforcing its hegemony in the Middle East as it was during the times of Soviet Union rule, it became clear that both Öcalan and the PKK were being forced to lay down their arms and surrender.
As the minimal results of these two strategically decisive deals, the Kurds’ national rights and claims of liberty had been taken away, and were left to be assimilated in accordance with the interests of capitalist modernity in the greater Middle East region.
Öcalan’s smart creativity as a resistance stance in prison
Öcalan has differed from his counterparts and national leaders who have experienced similar processes of detention, like Mumia Abu Jamal, the leader of the Black Panthers (Black People’s Liberation Army), who is still imprisoned since 1982, and Abimael Guzman, the imprisoned leader of the Shining Path of the Peruvian People’s Liberation Army, who passed away very recently, and also, even if their contexts are different, in comparison with Nelson Mandela’s situation of arrest.
We can easily state that the fact that Öcalan still manages to remain the leader of his organisation, or even much more, being attributed as the leader of the Kurdish Nation 22 years after he has been arrested, in the conditions of inhumane isolation is directly proportional to his own management of the prison conditions.
One of the unique differences of Öcalan was that he had developed his own personal resistance in accordance with the will of his fellow comrades who were martyred under torture of the Amed prison dungeons, which formed the existential conditions for him and and the movement.
Öcalan must have been the one who would evaluate and manage these detention conditions he had been exposed to in the best way he can. Abu Jamal, who is still in prison, Guzman and Mandela, who passed away, did not write tens of volumes of books like Öcalan, they did not force the state to sit at the negotiation table on various occasions, and they did not present manifestos of freedom that could yield results in the new world conditions with ideological transformation.
Öcalan had to carry out this creative resistance. It was an existential process of fate for him. Otherwise, as it is known from the birth of the movement, that it was decided very early on with bold decisions to liquidate it, from the beginning until the last day of its capture.
The defeat of terrorism doctrine of 9/11
When we evaluate from a wider perspective of the facts, the date of September 11, 2001, can be associated with the beginning of the doctrine of terrorism, which could not been achieved since the end of the cold war in 1989.
Motivated by fascistic and quite openly occidental rhetoric, sometimes being referred to as the crusades of the new millennium against the reactionary east, NATO’s new security era has recently come to an end with the abandonment of Afghanistan to the Taliban after recent controversies and political turmoils. There is a direct relationship of this doctrine with Öcalan’s arrest and criminalisation of Kurdish National Liberation Movement.
The process of the PKK’s inclusion in the list of terrorist organisations, which actually started in 1997 and became a full-fledged concept in 2001, and Öcalan’s enormous and miraculous resistance in isolated captivity and his intellectual production to the extent of his ability and practice to lead the movement strategically in very spite of brutal and cruel isolation conditions, actually went hand in hand with this process.
He had forced NATO and its vanguard power, the United States, to cooperate with the movement in the relatively most recent period during the Syrian Civil War. Despite the Republic of Turkey, NATO’s outpost in the Middle East with its second largest and most powerful army, it had to accept the existence of the original forces of Öcalan and the Kurdish Freedom Movement in Syrian Kurdistan and make a long-term agreement and alliance with it.
This success alone has shown that it is possible to fight the capitalist centralised world system without contradicting its own dreams of freedom and principles, but in a way that makes them even more applicable.
Let be free all political prisoners in the world
As I finish this article, there is a clear call that Öcalan is able to be physically liberated from where he was imprisoned based on the joint democratic resistance of the Kurdish people and the peoples of the wider Middle East, as well as the progressive, socialist, democratic, women’s libertarian forces and progressive organisations of the world who say that a better world is possible.
The regional and global conditions are more mature than ever before. The way for the Rojava freedom revolution to spread to the Middle East and turn it into a model that is encouraged for the whole world is through the new international struggle.
And liberating Öcalan in the struggle is the first moral and political responsibility of those of us who believe in such a world.
It is time to step up, globally, and call for Abdullah Öcalan and all the political prisoners’ freedom, and take initiatives to let there be freedom for all political prisoners in the world.