Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER
The continued isolation of Abdullah Ocalan must be brought to an end. He must be released.
It is not only his loyal supporters who demand this. Common decency and justice demand it. Ocalan 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. Ocalan’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 as a model prisoner.
Fortunately, Ocalan’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 Ocalan’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 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 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. Ocalan’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 Ocalan’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.
Let us acknowledge how Ocalan 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. Ocalan should be given credit for his contribution to this great change in attitude and behaviour.
Ocalan has become the voice of the Kurds. By silencing him, Turkey seeks to silence the Kurdish nation as a whole. By keeping Ocalan 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. Ocalan 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 Ocalan 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.
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 Ocalan could play a positive role in bringing about a lasting peace.
People are taking action to draw attention to Ocalan’s plight and his intolerable prison conditions. A grave injustice is being perpetrated on Ocalan 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. Ocalan 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 Ocalan 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.
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
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.