International campaign 'Freedom for Öcalan, A Political Solution to the Kurdish Question’ launched

A new international campaign called "Freedom for Öcalan – A Political Solution to the Kurdish Question" has been launched on Tuesday.

Press conferences are taking place in 74 places around the world, from France, to Belgium, from Italy to the Spanish state, from Germany to the UK, from Ireland to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece and across the ocean in Australia, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador. From South Africa to Kenya, Japan, India, Bangladesh, East Timor, the Philippines.

The campaign's demand is clear: Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan must be allowed to meet with his lawyers and family and, ultimately, freed under conditions that allow him to play a role in finding a just and democratic political solution to Turkey’s decades-old Kurdish conflict.

The joint statement for the campaign reads as follows:

The international 'Freedom for Öcalan, A Political Solution for the Kurdish Question’ campaign unites social movements, political parties, municipalities, unions, activists, intellectuals, and millions of Kurds and their friends worldwide around a shared goal: making a just and democratic political solution to Turkey's century-old Kurdish question possible by enabling Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan’s participation in a renewed dialogue.

Abdullah Öcalan is a Kurdish political leader seen by millions of Kurds globally as their political representative. In February 1999, he was abducted in an international intelligence operation and sent to Turkey. He has been in prison ever since, barred from all contact with the outside world for years at a time. He has been subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment.

Despite this, the movement Öcalan built, and the people inspired by it are at the forefront of Kurdish struggles for self-determination and multi-ethnic, multi-religious movements for democracy in the Middle East. His theories inspire those fighting for self-determination, women’s liberation, and an end to all forms of inequality and exploitation across the globe.

Turkey's unresolved ‘Kurdish question’— the conflicts and political instability deriving from the Turkish Republic’s violent denial of fundamental civil and political rights to 20 million Kurdish citizens—has cost tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions, and empowered hardline nationalists, religious fundamentalists, and autocrats worldwide. It is linked to many of the most serious regional and global challenges impacting the lives and well-being of millions—occupation, racism, the oppression of women, religious intolerance, economic exploitation, and the destruction of the environment.

The campaign is international in part because the Kurdish question is an international problem. Kurdistan is divided between four states: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. It was European powers, including Britain and France, who created these divisions a century ago. Turkey’s ability to wage war on Kurds across the Middle East is the result of decades of unconditional support from the United States and other NATO members—and Turkey’s new strategy of playing those powers off of other states, like Russia and Iran, to extract anti-Kurdish concessions from all sides.

It is also international because Öcalan’s solutions are international. His framework for a political solution to the Kurdish question could end a century of war and oppression in Turkey and neighboring countries. The universal theories that provide the framework for his solutions and be a model for people everywhere seeking alternatives to the great crises of our time—from steepening inequality to climate change to the rise of far-right autocrats taking advantage of growing disillusionment with the system.

When Öcalan is free to participate in a political process to resolve the Kurdish question and to continue to develop his ideas, the result will be more freedom and more peace for all of us. Unfortunately, the authoritarian leadership in Turkey knows this and greatly fears this scenario—and so, with the support of the international community, it has kept Öcalan in isolation for nearly three years in order to maintain its hold on power and prolong its endless wars.

In Öcalan’s last conversation with his lawyers, which occurred in 2019, he said that he could solve the Kurdish question in a week if given the chance— and that he had developed his ideas for a political solution to the Kurdish question even further since the Turkish government last abandoned peace talks. As Turkey expands its occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan and North and East Syria and its crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, the Kurdish people and other peoples of Turkey, the communities of the Middle East, and the world need a political solution now more than ever.

We are also more concerned about Öcalan’s security and well-being than ever before. Isolation is internationally recognized as a form of torture. For this form of torture to go on for three years is extremely dangerous. We do not know anything about Öcalan’s fate beyond the fact that he has recently received ‘disciplinary measures’ to block meetings on false pretenses and has allegedly been sent death threats.

This situation is unsustainable. For this reason, we make the following demand:

Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan must be allowed to meet with his lawyers and family and, ultimately, freed under conditions that allow him to play a role in finding a just and democratic political solution to Turkey's decades-old Kurdish conflict.”