“On the anniversary of his expulsion from Syria, beginning the odyssey that culminated in his abduction nearly 24 years ago, Peace in Kurdistan reiterates once again its call for Ocalan to be freed. He is a political prisoner unjustly detained and convicted in a sham show trial. We demand justice for Ocalan and all political prisoners.”


On the anniversary of Abdullah Ocalan’s Exile

Peace in Kurdistan marks the anniversary of Abdullah Ocalan’s expulsion from Syria by repeating its call for the immediate release of the Kurdish leader.

It is now 24 years since Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was forced out of Syria, and eventually abducted from Nairobi, Kenya, on 15 February 1999, and that action remains a stain on the world that will never be forgotten. The squalid circumstances that led up to his detention have undermined the whole international political order, discredited the system of justice and called into question those institutions that were established to defend the rights of political prisoners.

Turkey was not acting alone in pressuring Syria to expel Ocalan on 9 October 1998, nor in the planning and tracking that led to Ocalan’s abduction on 15 February 1999. It was patently a special operation conducted in collusion with international intelligence agencies. The plan was to extinguish the Kurdish movement for all time by incapacitating its leadership. This, so it was reasoned, would be achieved by removing its leading thinker from the scene, humiliating him as a human being and discrediting his ideas. All this can be seen to have failed.

Ocalan’s incarceration has signally not reduced his influence. Support for Ocalan and his ideas has not been expunged; it has grown immeasurably.

A sense of burning injustice motivates the Kurdish movement which has successfully channelled popular anger into constructive political action. Their movement has grown massively over the past 24 years. Support for politicians who adopt pro-Kurdish political positions has increased, despite the savage repression imposed by the Turkish authorities.

Awareness of Ocalan’s peace message has widened and attachment to the cause of Kurdish freedom that Ocalan’s fought so hard to achieve remains a growing political force. Ocalan’s visionary ideas inspire younger generations of Kurdish men and women into political activism in defence of their communities. Freedom is within their grasp and remaining passive is not an option. That much and more has been taught them by Ocalan.

Despite the subsequent show trial, the attempts at public humiliation, the efforts to discredit Abdullah Ocalan’s ideas and efforts to dismantle his organisation, he is today a formidable force in contemporary politics. His ideas concerning new democratic institutions, the ecological society, the empowerment of women and political representation, among others, are widely viewed as offering viable solutions to the problems confronting modern societies and as having applicability and relevance to communities far beyond Kurdistan and the Middle East.

In fact, Ocalan’s ideas have transcended borders and inspired groups of people all over the world. New generations have grown up in the nearly half century since Ocalan was removed from the pollical scene and meant to be silenced forever. These young men and women have drawn inspiration from his writings and example as had past generations and Ocalan’s contemporaries. In these important respects, the special operation that was meant to destroy Abdullah Ocalan and eliminate the movement that he founded has demonstrably not succeeded at all.

The exile, odyssey and abduction was a direct attack on the entire Kurdish movement and the whole people. It is described by Kurds as an “international conspiracy”. It was undoubtedly a conspiracy against the people by a tiny group of individuals exercising unrestrained power and acting opaquely. They were very short-sighted in these actions. A whole people cannot be eliminated from history and the Kurds have justice on their side.

The Kurdish people have shown that they will never be silenced despite all the repressive measures inflicted on them as individuals, on their organisation and on their leaders. The political and philosophical ideas that Ocalan articulated have been developed and adapted by his followers to meet new conditions.

Ocalan remains a political prisoner and has stayed the course as a peace maker. He offers real practical solutions to the crises that currently face Turkey and the wider Middle East, which are immersed in a crisis of political representation, as well as a profound social and economic crisis.

In the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurds, the casualties mount up with no end seemingly in sight. Ocalan and his ideas are needed now more than ever. It is time that he was freed.

Each martyr to the cause is another human tragedy but their example provides another reason to end the conflict, which can only be concluded by a just settlement that takes full account of the remedies proposed by Ocalan.

It is in the interest of peace that Ocalan should be released, apart from also being a simple matter of justice. His continued imprisonment is an affront to any sense of justice and a deep stain on Western democracy and the continued silence of political leaders on his mistreatment is an indictment of all those who claim to espouse “freedom and democracy”.

On the anniversary of his expulsion, which culminated in his near 24 year incarceration, Peace in Kurdistan reiterates once again its call for Ocalan to be freed. He is a political prisoner unjustly detained and convicted in a sham show trial. We demand justice for Ocalan and all political prisoners.

London, 9 October 2022


Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella@gn.apc.org
Contacts Estella Schmid: 07846 666 804 & Melanie Gingell: 07572 430903

Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP,  Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director,  Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor,  Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist,  Steve Sweeney, journalist,  Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.