The French authorities have cancelled a planned campaign rally calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and for a political solution to the Kurdish question.
The event, which included 74 meetings around the world, was to take place in front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The location is symbolic of the defence of human rights. The cancellation decision has sparked outrage and condemnation from organisers, international politicians and supporters of the Kurdish movement.
The campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of Öcalan’s incommunicado detention and the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, had gained momentum with international speakers, including politicians from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, scheduled to address the gathering. The event also aimed to mobilise hundreds of people for four days of public action in Strasbourg, but permission to hold the event was withdrawn.
The main reason given for this last-minute cancellation was the organisers’ alleged sharing of a message on social media expressing the Kurdish movement’s support for Hamas. No concrete evidence was provided to support this accusation.
The Kurdish movement, known for its role in countering ISIS and inspiring the Women’s Freedom of Life movement against the Iranian regime, vehemently denies any affiliation or shared views with Hamas, particularly regarding violence against civilians.
Despite the setback, Kurdish activists quickly reorganised and held statements by invited speakers in two locations. One group spoke in front of the station, while MPs attending the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly addressed the crowd in the foyer of the Council building, outside the debating chamber. The assembled MEPs expressed their strong support for Ocalan’s freedom and the solution of the Kurdish question, while condemning the French decision.
Emmanuel Fernandes, MEP from Strasbourg, underlined the questioning of the ban and pointed out that even the French parliamentarians were questioning it. Irish MEP Paul Gavan pointed out the irony of the cancellation of the event in the very institution that is supposed to protect fundamental rights. Catalan MEP Laura Castel shared insights from the recent Imrali delegation, highlighting the dire conditions faced by Öcalan and the implications for all political prisoners in Turkey. Jeremy Corbyn from the UK emphasised the central role of Ocalan in achieving peace.
Other MEPs present at the event included Andrej Hunko from Germany, Søren Søndergaard from Denmark, Andrea Orlando from Italy and Alexis Tsipras from Greece. The organisers have vowed to challenge the prefecture’s decision in court and will release video footage of the event to the public. Meanwhile, supporters continued to hold actions in solidarity with the Kurdish movement worldwide.