Politicians and activists from various countries sent messages of solidarity to the rally being organised in Strasbourg, France, on Saturday, calling for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Öcalan, imprisoned in Turkey’s İmralı Island prison since 1999, is under severe solitary confinement and no word from him has been heard since 25 March this year, when he was last permitted to have a very short phone conversation with his brother.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had previously ruled that Turkey’s implementation of aggravated life imprisonment, leaving out any possibility of a conditional release, as well as the imposition of severe solitary confinement constituted violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey has not taken any steps to abide by or address these rulings.
Ebrahim Ebrahim, the former deputy international relations minister of South Africa, called for the unconditional release of Abdullah Öcalan in an audio message.
“He sacrificed his life for the cause of freedom and justice, not only for his people, but his teachings and his ideas are relevant to all the people of Turkey and the greater Middle East area,” he said. “His imprisonment was a conspiracy of the imperialist powers, and his continued imprisonment, like that of Nelson Mandela, is unjustified. We must call on the international community to demand his unconditional release, and he must be a part of a dialogue and negotiations to bring freedom not only for the Kurdish people, but all the people of Turkey and the Middle East.”
Solly Mapaila, Deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa, has released a video message for the campaign.
“We call on all progressive people and the international community to exact more pressure on the Turkish government for Öcalan’s immediate release,” he said, and added: “We wish the Kurdish struggle great success and more strength.”
Mansoor Jaffer, a journalist and activist from South Africa, called for the unconditional release of Öcalan: “Abdullah Öcalan advocates for an inclusive and progressive democratic solution for the Kurds and all other groups in the Middle East. He’s been imprisoned since 1999 under inhumane and illegal conditions. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdullah Öcalan.”
Sivarajan Arumugam, General Secretary of the Malaysia Socialist Party, is among the supporters of the campaign. “If we talk about the Rojava Revolution, then we have to talk about Abdullah Öcalan who has been in detention in Turkey for many many years now,’ he stated in his video message. “The Rojava Revolution, which stands for gender equality, social and economical justice, was certainly inspired by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan’s ideas. It’s completely unacceptable that he’s still detained. Free Abdullah Öcalan and free him now!”
“We urge the Turkish state to stop the inhumane conditions in which Abdullah Öcalan is held,” Fazela Mohamed, a South African activist said in her video message. “He must be removed from isolation and allowed to contact his legal advisors and allowed visits from his family and friends. We urge the Turkish authorities to use this opportunity to release Abdullah Öcalan unconditionally and begin negotiations for a just settlement of the Kurdish Question.”
Professor Laura Corradi, an academic, researcher and activist from Italy, called everyone who demanded freedom for Öcalan to join the rally in Strasbourg: “From 2-31 October, hundreds of people will be in front of the Council of Europe for initiatives to free Abdullah Öcalan,” she said. “The time has come. Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan! Come to Strasbourg. We’re all waiting for you.”