Peace in Kurdistan, 15 February 2021

The anniversary of the detention of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan should be the occasion for stepping up efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Ocalan remains in prison because this issue has gone unresolved. His fate is bound up with that of his people. Ocalan retains his status as the leader of the Kurdish movement and, despite all the pressures exerted to weaken the ties between Ocalan and the Kurds, he still commands their loyalty. Ocalan has been shut away in isolation for decades, but he will not be forgotten by the Kurds whose support is undiminished.

Abdullah Ocalan has reshaped how the Kurds see themselves as a people and inspired their modern national identity. It is not too much to speak of a renaissance in Kurdish national social, cultural and political identity in the wake of Ocalan’s activism and advocacy. His writings on Kurdish history and politics continue to be read and studied by new generations of Kurdish people, which means that Kurdish youth are some of his strongest supporters. Ocalan has come to represent hope and resistance for the Kurds whose historic grievances have gone unresolved.

Ocalan’s imprisonment actually represents a failed policy of those who are responsible for having incarcerated him because their objectives of detaching Ocalan and his ideas from the people have failed miserably. His ideas are stronger than ever before, so even though he has been denied a voice by his Turkish captors, Ocalan’s words still speak to people. The Kurds still have a voice. The injustice meted out to them is encapsulated in the treatment of Ocalan, who has now been imprisoned for more than 22 years.

The 15th February is an anniversary that nobody wants to mark for another year. Ocalan is now in his seventieth decade and has spent nearly a third of his life behind bars. Justice demands that he is released. His record in the struggle for peace and reconciliation between Turkey and Kurds needs to be generously acknowledged. This is the key to breaking the deadlock and moving forward. A Turkey ruled by President Erdogan is an unhappy country where freedoms are stifled, and where civil rights are trampled on. Imagination is needed to enable the country to change course radically from its deepening descent into oppression and state tyranny.

Peace in Kurdistan believes that it is now time for that change to begin. This anniversary of Ocalan’s capture by means of an undignified collaboration of international security agencies shows that the attempt to destroy the Kurdish movement by removing its leadership has failed and that a new approach is urgently required; one that is based on beginning the process of talking to each other and reaching agreement.

Some might say that we might be able to anticipate a reset in relations between the United States and Turkey with the new Biden presidency, whose administration repudiates Trump’s America First policy to adopt a more assertive approach. While US intervention may be once more back on the agenda, there could also be an attempt to look for negotiated solutions in certain conflict situations which might open up the possibility of more diplomatic efforts on the Kurdish part. We cannot depend on change simply coming from the top, however; the fate of the Kurdish people and the fate of Abdullah Ocalan ultimately depend on the strength of their movement, the level of political engagement and the unity of the people.

Ocalan will surely one day be freed and so will the Kurdish people. Justice demands it and it is the task of all those who believe in a better world to work tirelessly until these aims are met.


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,  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, 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.