A global outcry for the release of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has intensified as he and three other detainees remain incommunicado for the 32nd consecutive month. Öcalan has been held under severe isolation conditions at İmralı F Type High-Security Prison for 24 years. The last contact with him was a truncated phone call with his brother Mehmet Öcalan on 25 March 2021.
Lawyers and families continue to seek access to the detainees, with 462 applications made to both Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office and İmralı Prison Management since the last contact on 25 March 2021. All these applications have either been ignored or obstructed with unspecified ‘disciplinary penalties’.
On 10 October, lawyers from Asrın Law Office filed an application with Bursa Enforcement Court, requesting family visits and information on any new ‘disciplinary penalties’. The court responded on 13 October, confirming the existence of a new disciplinary penalty but providing no further details.
On Tuesday, the Asrın Law Office submitted another application to meet with their clients. Despite taking the issue to the Constitutional Court and challenging disciplinary penalties cited as reasons for the denial of visits, the lawyers have received no response.
The Justice Ministry has defended the situation, claiming no “ill-treatment” exists, while the legal team has accused the Ministry of distorting European Court of Human Rights decisions in order to legitimise the ongoing isolation. The court also rejected the lawyers’ request for case file samples, citing that the information would “leak to the press”.
Asrın Law Office has also made an ‘urgent’ application to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), warning that “tomorrow may be too late”, requesting an immediate visit to İmralı.
International campaign for Öcalan’s release continues to grow
Meanwhile, the international campaign for Öcalan’s release, initiated on 10 October, continues to spread. Launched in Strasbourg, France, under the slogan ‘Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan: a solution to the Kurdish issue’, the campaign has so-far received support statements from 74 different centres worldwide. Various events have been carried out in over 100 countries.
The campaign comes at a time when Kurds and their allies are increasingly frustrated with the lack of action from international institutions, adding urgency to calls for Öcalan’s release, and to facilitate his involvement in renewed dialogue towards resolving the Kurdish issue.
‘Öcalan’s freedom is linked to the autonomy and freedom of Sinjar’
On Wednesday, authorities and residents in Sinjar (Şengal), a town in the Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq, voiced their support for the international campaign. Sinjar Democratic Autonomous Assembly Co-chair Xwedêda Eliyas emphasised that Öcalan’s freedom is intrinsically linked to the autonomy and freedom of Sinjar, the Yazidi (Êzidî) community, and the people of Sinjar.
“The students of Öcalan were the ones who saved us from the massacre in 2014. We will never forget those days,” Eliyas stated. He criticised the silence of international human rights organisations and underscored that Öcalan holds the key to resolving many of the world’s issues.
Members of the Yazidi Free Women’s Movement (TAJÊ) also said that the campaign will continue until Öcalan is released, stating that opposing the ongoing isolation in İmralı is a “moral obligation” for the people of Sinjar.
Peace Mothers: ‘End Öcalan’s isolation to stop mothers’ tears’
Members of the Peace Mothers Assembly in Batman (Êlih), Turkey, have joined the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to the isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan. They argue that lifting the isolation could pave the way for peace in the Middle East. “If the isolation ends, peace will come to the Middle East, and mothers’ tears will stop,” stated Halise Bilir, a member of the Peace Mothers Assembly.
Peace trees for a political solution and an end to isolation
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Free Women’s Movement (TJA) planted ‘peace trees’ in Hevsel Gardens in Diyarbakır’s (Amed) Sûr district and marched to protest ongoing wars in the Middle East. Speakers highlighted Kurdish women’s fight for equality in the 21st century, and criticised the treatment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stressing the detrimental effect on wider society of the Turkish government’s isolation policies. Calls were made for unity against war and patriarchal mindsets, and for the protection of nature and women’s freedom.
‘Calling for the freedom of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is not a crime’
During an ongoing high profile lawsuit known as the Kobani (Kobanê) case, filed against 108 pro-Kurdish politicians in Turkey, defendant Aynur Aşan emphasised that calling for the freedom of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is not a crime. Aşan criticised the court and prosecution for their stance and said that the issue of isolation, particularly concerning Öcalan, is a matter of public concern. She argued that lifting the isolation imposed on Öcalan would benefit the country, a sentiment she claims is shared by the public and even members of the ruling party. Aşan insisted that advocating for Öcalan’s rights and freedom is not illegal and should not be the basis for criminal charges.
‘Towards freedom with the slogan Jin, Jiyan, Azadî’
In Şırnak (Şirnex), Turkey, women gathered for a workshop as part of a campaign entitled ‘Towards freedom with the slogan Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’ (Woman, Life, Freedom), organised by the Free Women’s Movement (TJA). The workshop focused on the ongoing isolation of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and the struggle for women’s rights. Newroz Uysal Aslan, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), formerly the Green Left, spoke about Öcalan’s efforts for peace, highlighting that despite facing international conspiracies since 1993, Öcalan has not abandoned his commitment to peace and continues to fight for it.
Düsseldorf event: ‘Öcalan’s solitary confinement is illegal’
An international forum organised by the Kurdish women’s movement took place in Düsseldorf, Germany, attracting around 300 participants from various countries and organisations. The event focused on women’s liberation and the influence of Abdullah Öcalan. Speakers, including lawyer Raziye Öztürk and feminist scholar Yanira Hermida Martin, discussed the illegality of Öcalan’s solitary confinement, and his critical role in the development of the women’s movement. A joint statement called for Öcalan’s release and urged support for the international campaign aimed at finding a political solution to the Kurdish question.
Information hubs set up across Europe
Activists across various European cities, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France, have set up information points to promote the ‘Freedom for Öcalan: a political solution to the Kurdish question’ campaign. Stalls have been set up offering leaflets, books, and dossiers to educate the public and invite campaign participation. Associated activities range from press statements to rallies, designed to advocate for his release and shed light on Öcalan’s vital role in finding a political solution to the long-standing Kurdish question.
Three-day tent protest in Berlin
A three-day tent protest advocating for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan and a political resolution to the Kurdish issue is underway in front of the German Federal Assembly (Bundestag) in Berlin. Organised by the Dest Dan Women’s Council and Nav Berlin (Assembly of Free Kurdistan), the event has attracted a diverse crowd including parliamentarians, lawyers, writers, journalists, and civil society organisations. Videos present Öcalan’s unique paradigm, while leaflets detail the Imralı isolation and torture system, and outline demands for Öcalan’s release. The protest aims to spotlight the global Kurdish issue.
Italy’s former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs condemns EU for silence on Turkey’s human rights violations
Italy’s former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Danieli, also a lawyer, has voiced strong support for the international campaign demanding the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan and a political solution to the Kurdish issue. Danieli criticised Turkey for its “aggravated isolation” of Öcalan, stating that it violates international humanitarian law and democratic principles. He also condemned the European Union for its silence on human rights violations in Turkey, attributing the silence to arrangements made with the country to curb the refugee crisis. Danieli emphasised that now is the time for Öcalan’s release and called for a global amplification of voices advocating for his freedom.
Brazilian Trade Unionist Matheus Crespo: ‘Kurdish leader’s freedom is crucial for democracy in Turkey’
Brazilian Central Sindical e Popular Conlutas National Secretariat Director Matheus Crespo emphasised the importance of securing the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan during a recent meeting of the International Trade Union Network of Solidarity and Struggle, in Brazil. Crespo, who is also a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Movement, described Öcalan’s imprisonment as a symbol of Turkey’s dictatorial tendencies and systematic persecution of Kurds. He called for international solidarity, including diplomatic pressure, to secure Öcalan’s release, stating that the Kurdish leader’s freedom is crucial for democracy in Turkey and for the broader Kurdish liberation struggle. Crespo also criticised the Turkish State’s actions against the Kurds, particularly in Syria, as crimes against humanity.
Kobani residents: ‘Öcalan’s ideas form the basis of the will of the people in North and East Syria’
Residents of Kobani (Kobanê), a Kurdish-majority town in northern Syria, have rallied in support of the international campaign advocating for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan. During a gathering at Şehit Egîd Square, speakers emphasised that Öcalan’s ideas form the basis of the will of the people in North and East Syria and called for intensified efforts to secure his rights.
‘Freedom for Öcalan’ vigil on its 592nd week
Activists from Liege, Belgium, have taken over the 592nd-week vigil in Strasbourg, advocating for the freedom of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. Held in front of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture since June 2012, the vigil aims to end Öcalan’s isolation in Imrali Island Prison, where he and three other prisoners have had no contact with the outside world since March 2021. The activists expressed their commitment to continue their efforts until Öcalan is freed and lent support to the global campaign, ‘Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan: a solution to the Kurdish issue’.
The vigil unites a diverse range of supporters, including academics, NGOs, and Nobel laureates, and calls for immediate legal and family access to Öcalan, as well as his eventual release to contribute to resolving the Kurdish issue.