Peace in Kurdistan writes to UK Prime Minister about ongoing isolation of Abdullah Öcalan

Peace in Kurdistan wrote to the UK Prime Minister about the ongoing isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.

Peace in Kurdistan wrote to the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to expose the continued isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and added that it must be brought to an end and Öcalan released.

The letter said: "It is not only his loyal supporters who demand this. Common decency and justice demand it. Öcalan has been imprisoned for well over two decades. He is held in complete isolation and not even granted the basic rights that ordinary prisoners are allowed. He cannot see anyone or communicate with the outside world. His family and supporters are not even given any insight into his state of health or wellbeing. Öcalan’s mistreatment is a clear human rights violation and should not be acceptable to anyone. If we believe that prisoners are entitled to clemency for good behaviour, then Ocalan, an elderly man, should be entitled to avail himself of this concession. He has apparently behaved like a model prisoner."

The letter continued: "Fortunately, Öcalan’s family and loyal supporters are not alone in wanting to see the Kurdish leader released. The campaign for his freedom has support internationally. Lawyers, human rights activists, trade unionists, politicians, various public figures, are stepping up the campaign for Öcalan’s release with numerous delegations going to Turkey to draw attention to his plight and lobby for action to break the deadlock.

Turkish policy in respect of the Kurds has taken a very dark turn in recent years. The government headed by President Erdogan believes that it can eliminate the “Kurdish problem” by force once and for all and is resorting to violent crackdowns and military action, which is proving to be ineffective. A government cannot eliminate a people. That fact must be recognised."

The letter added: "The Kurdish population are a substantial minority in the country,  constituting millions of people. They dwell in areas where they have lived for many centuries. They have a distinctive culture, a living language and a way of life that they cherish. They have a right to live as they see fit. They should be allowed to express themselves freely as a people. They seek only to be allowed to do this and want to live peacefully alongside their neighbours.  

The Kurds in Turkey are now organised into numerous social organisations and cultural societies flourish as never before. Öcalan’s political leadership and writings have influenced generations of Kurds. He helped to awaken their consciousness as a people and has built the Kurdish movement as it exists today. When we look back and examine Öcalan’s achievements, we will be compelled to conclude that his role has been an entirely positive one. We will come to understand why he is seen as a national hero by many millions of Kurds. We will appreciate that he is a unique figure in Kurdish history and still has the capacity to play a key role in winning a lasting peace."

The letter underlined that "Öcalan succeeded in liberating Kurdish women, who were formerly some of the most oppressed members of their community. We today see women active across Kurdish society and taking leading positions in politics and various professions. They are breaking free from the traditional roles imposed on them. This is a major positive gain that is reshaping Kurdish society. Öcalan should be given credit for his contribution to this great change in attitude and behaviour.

Öcalan has become the voice of the Kurds. By silencing him, Turkey seeks to silence the Kurdish nation as a whole. By keeping Öcalan detained and isolated, Turkey is denying the very existence of the Kurds in the country and flouting their right to be represented by the political leader whom they have chosen. Öcalan has no legitimate rival, there is no-one with the same status who is respected and seen widely as a leader in the sense that Öcalan is. The Kurds must be able to select their own leader, someone they can trust to represent them politically. At some stage, negotiations will be needed to bring about peace in the country. This is desperately needed."

The letter also pointed out that "Turkish President Erdogan is not succeeding in any of his objectives. The violence, hatred, animosity, conflict and warfare that we read about constantly inside Turkey and in the region are rooted in a failure of Turkish policy in its approach to the Kurds. This failure is because of Erdogan’s decision not to deal with the Kurds as responsible political actors or even to treat them as human beings. He has refused all negotiations. In taking repressive action, Erdogan has unfortunately received encouragement from his allies, who have stood silently and refrained from making comment on Turkey’s actions, which have become increasingly ugly and intransigent. The situation is getting worse by the day. The tragedy is that Öcalan could play a positive role in bringing about a lasting peace.  

People are taking action to draw attention to Öcalan’s plight and his intolerable prison conditions. A grave injustice is being perpetrated on Öcalan and the Kurdish people. This is an affront to humanity and cannot simply be brushed aside any longer. 

Peace in Kurdistan demands action from the British Government to help break the deadlock and ensure justice for the Kurds. Öcalan deserves to be treated as a political prisoner and must be granted all the rights available to him under international law. 

It is time we changed policy. It is time we spoke out. It is time that Öcalan was freed. He has served his time and has earned the right to live in freedom and to enjoy the remaining years of his life."