Kalkan: Imrali is the continuation of the international conspiracy against Ocalan

Kalkan asked why international institutions responsible for Imrali [and the compliance with international law and human rights] remain silent as if they approve the Turkish administration.

KCK Executive Council member Duran Kalkan spoke about the situation of political prisoners in Turkey and the inspiration that Abdullah Öcalan's resistance has given to people all over the world.

Abdullah Öcalan has been held captive on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara for almost 25 years, but he continues to resist and his political ideas seem to be spreading. What more can you tell us about his situation and what can you tell us about the connection between the person of Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish question itself? What is the situation outside of Kurdistan in the international context?

At the beginning, I would like to respectfully salute the historic resistance on [the prison island of] Imrali by Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan]. Right now there is a big struggle going on, including important international initiatives, for his physical freedom both on a legal as well as on a political level. For example, a few days ago, our people and our international friends were demonstrating in many European cities and showed a magnificent stance and clear demands for the freedom of Rêber Apo. So I would also like to send my greetings to the protests especially in Düsseldorf and Strasbourg, but also the other protests in Europe by our people, our international friends, by young people and women. I would like to wish them continued success in their struggle and underline that we are fully convinced of our struggle to continue successfully.

It has been more than two and a half years now that there is no information about the situation of Rêber Apo. Most recently, his lawyers made an important call to the [‘European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’] CPT, asking them to disclose the information and findings they have.

It can be seen, that the struggle against the system of Imrali, the system of torture, isolation and genocide, is actually getting bigger and more meaningful. This is a clear indication of the extent to which Rêber Apo has shattered the walls of isolation in Imrali and how he managed to expand his ideological leadership to a global level. It can be clearly expressed, that he created a leadership guiding the way to liberation of oppressed people, especially women, youth and working people worldwide.

A lawyer once said that without the physical liberation of Rêber Apo and the disintegration of Imrali, it is meaningless to even talk about peace. One can see that the ideas of Rêber Apo, the new paradigm – the paradigm of women’s liberation and an ecological-democratic society – is being spread. People watch, follow and adopt them with interest. They see solutions to their own problems within his ideas and the new paradigm. There is indeed a serious search for a new political system, that started especially after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The answer to that lies in the ideas and the new paradigm developed by Rêber Apo, where the people see the path to freedom, democracy and equality. They see their own salvation in it and that is the reason why people are more interested, struggle more, participate more, and raise their voices more. They take a more definite and clear stand for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo, and are seriously questioning the AKP-MHP fascism.

Still, the official institutions lack any kind of reaction to this struggle of the people. Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration has not surprisingly turned out to be lying. To say that they have built an empire of lies and fear is still an understatement. What Tayyip Erdoğan has developed, is a fascist dictatorship. We understand their intentions, we know their policies, and we also know their ideology, which is a fascist, colonialist, genocidal one. That is also the reason why they are constantly attacking. What is difficult to understand and the main problem is, why other international institutions responsible for Imrali [and the compliance with international law and human rights] remain silent as if they approve the Turkish administration. There is a partnership in crime or a partnership of interest. Through this, the physical freedom of Rêber Apo is being prevented. It can be stated as a clear fact, that the most severe fascist, colonialist, genocidal oppression, persecution, torture and genocide known to history is being practiced on Imrali.

Of course, we always ask the question of what to do. And our answer is clear; we will struggle without expecting immediate and huge results. The torture and isolation system of Imrali stems from the Kurdish question itself. The questions mean the genocidal ideology and politics imposed on the Kurdish people. It is perhaps one of the most severe problems known to humanity. The Arab-Israeli contradiction and conflict is the heaviest and oldest problem in history, but the Kurdish problem has surpassed it, because it is not limited to the Turkish Republic and the states of the Middle East. The global capitalist hegemony is based on an ideology and politics in which Kurdish existence is being denied and Kurdish people are targeted for  extermination. Therefore, it can be put as much force as wished on the fascist AKP-MHP, a coup can be initiated, the country can even be forced to collapse; but still, at the end, there will be someone there to support and save this ideology and politics. This has been seen several times in history.

The Kurdish question is no question that can be solved quickly and easily. In order not to be wrong and not to make mistakes, the problem needs to be grasped well. It can be described as the most comprehensive struggle for freedom and democracy in history, which is why it has merged, not by coincidence, with the other most comprehensive struggle in history, the struggle for women’s liberation to solve the problem of freedom of women. The development of [the science of women] ‘Jineolojî’ within the Kurdish freedom struggle and the beginning of the women’s liberation revolution is definitely not a coincidence. It is related to the essence and scope of the Kurdish question and struggle.

The international conspiracy was organized and, as a result of it, Rêber Apo was taken to Imrali, because he was searching for a solution to the Kurdish question. The Imrali system is a continuation of the international conspiracy. They did this in order to carry out the genocide of the Kurds, to prevent a solution to the Kurdish question, and therefore prevent the democratization of Turkey and a democratic influence in the Middle East and the world. In this respect, the struggle for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo needs to be seen as the struggle for the freedom of Kurdistan, for Kurdish freedom, for a democratization of Turkey, and for a freer life of humanity as a whole.

It can be stated, that the solution lies in developing this struggle in every aspect, by every method and in the strongest way. In particular, legal struggles should be developed on this basis. Like it has been said many times, within the framework of democratic law, the Imrali system must be discussed, scrutinized and thoroughly exposed. We need to develop the struggle on a political level as well as within the masses, the youth and the women. Our movement is already developing the struggle for freedom and our guerrillas are fighting heroically. The sum of all these is the struggle that will ensure the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. We have to be persistent in this struggle, have to be stubborn, strong-willed and patient, we have also to believe in victory and fight with determination until victory is achieved. With that in mind, I would like to wish success to all those waging this struggle.

You have already mentioned that the system of Imrali is being expanded. In which sense should this be understood? What is the current situation of political prisoners in Turkish prisons? How is the handling of the Kurdish question reflected in the Turkish prisons?

Rêber Apo stated a few years ago about his situation: ‘Such a system has been established here that without talking about myself, my own situation, still hundreds of people are subjected to extreme pressure, persecution, imprisonment, torture, because of me, because of this system here.‘ This affects everyone and therefore has to be opposed and fought against.’ Now we are facing that situation in almost all prisons. The situation of political prisoners is not being turned into Imrali, not to that extent, but it is deeply affected by it.

There is very heavy fascist oppression, terror and torture in the prisons. Corpses are coming out of the prisons, as the prisoners are being martyred. The last prisoner that was martyred was Şakir Turan, whom I would like to respectfully commemorate. I also would like to remember all our friends that have been martyred in prisons. I share the pain of our people and the pain of Şakir Turan’s family. The families of the ones imprisoned are struggling against the prisons, which is very important, but it is necessary that it gets better organized and better planned. There are indeed shortcomings and weaknesses, so there is an opportunity to strengthen them.

But the situation is obviously not only the problem of families. A human rights organization recently published a report and stated that right now 313 prisoners are being held in prisons for arbitrary reasons, even though their sentences imposed by the courts have been completed. This is a very serious situation which is a result of the spread of lawlessness practiced in Imrali. 313 people is not a small number. Some of them have finished serving their sentences six months, some a year, some two, three years ago, but they are not being released. By saying this, it is not as if we are approving those sentences, because they are completely unjust punishments with no democratic legal aspect to them. They were sentences based entirely on fascist, colonialist, genocidal considerations, but even that is no longer respected.

In the same report mentioned above, it is stated that in 2022, they noted 1,201 cases of use of torture. If it were not for the administration of Tayyip Erdoğan, but a different one that would use even just a quarter of this oppression and torture, hell would break loose from many circles. But there is not much noise against the Tayyip Erdoğan administration and all the reports about it are being ignored. As they say, it is the metaphor of the three monkeys. The world is indeed turning a blind eye to what the AKP government is doing to the Kurdish people.

What is being applied to the Kurds is also being applied to the workers, the women and the youth, as well as the revolutionary democratic socialists of Turkey. The people are resisting in the prisons by following the tradition of July 14th resistance. [In 1982 a hunger strike was started in the prisons, which spread all through the country.] No pressure or persecution can make them give up their goals or break their will. The last words of martyr Şakir Turan were: ‘My head is upright.’ Everyone should stand up straight.

The administration of Tayyip Erdoğan put tens of thousands of people, men and women, in prisons, but still they did not manage to break the political will of the people. Everyone stood upright, struggled and was struggling. I would like to once again send my greetings to them and wish them success. Their resistance is difficult, it may be painful, they may be tortured, and some may be martyred. They are fighters for the cause of freedom and democracy.

It is necessary to be in solidarity with this struggle, to see it, to understand it, and to protect it. In this sense, the struggle is not only that of one of the families, but is actually the struggle of the whole society. The scale of torture in prisons has now become so high that it will spill over into society. Now everyone is saying that the torture practiced on Imrali has spread to all of us. This pressure, oppression, exploitation, hunger, crisis, economic crisis, political crisis, everything stems from there and from the Kurdish problem. Imrali exists just because of the Kurdish question. All this war, bloodshed and death are all things caused by the Kurdish question. Therefore, the ones responsible for this are those who created the Kurdish question and did not want to solve it. Those who imposed oppression, persecution, genocide and colonialism on Kurds, and those who want to destroy Kurds who do not accept their existence, freedom and democratic rights. When we talk about the Kurdish question, no one should see the Kurds as responsible. On the contrary, there is this persecution, oppression and extermination of the Kurds, for which they are jointly responsible.

The resistance in the prison needs to be understood, and there has to be more solidarity and support. These practices of persecution and torture have to be exposed more. There is no regime in the world that is able to execute this kind of torture; it will collapse upon exposure. In this respect, it is necessary to support the prison resistance more strongly.