Celebrating the True Significance of Abdullah Ocalan on his Birthday

Now aged 74, Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has spent 24 of his years in prison, almost a third of his life. That is a grave injustice inflicted in him, but Ocalan’s spirit and status remain undiminished; on the contrary, if anything, Ocalan has grown in significance and his ideas have become more relevant.

The true strength of Ocalan lies in his ideas of liberation and his solutions for building a different kind of social order where the people are fully in control of their future, able to run their own lives and manage their own affairs and resources for the common good.

His ideas point to a series of new relationships between different peoples, creeds, between men and women, between the generations and between the people and our shared environment. The ideas that Ocalan espouses have been refined over the decades he has spent as a political leader, during his time in exile and during his years in prison.

Turkey and its allies would have us forget entirely about him. That is why he is silenced and kept in total isolation. It is why there has been no relaxation to the punitive constraints and unique prison conditions that are imposed on him. All the measures that Turkey has taken to diminish Ocalan have proved to be futile. They have failed to eliminate his political influence and his wider significance for the Kurds and for people more generally. Ocalan remains the leader of his people and his ideas are becoming increasingly relevant with every day that passes.  Although Ocalan is locked up, Turkey has failed to remove him from the political scene and that in itself is a great cause for celebration on his birthday.

His birthday, 4 April, is now rightly marked by Kurds as a date of historic and permanent significance. it is one of those dates in the national calendar that will be remembered for generations to come. It is time to celebrate the unique contribution that Abdullah Ocalan has made, and is still making, to the cause to which he has devoted his entire adult life, namely the liberation of the Kurdish people.

Ocalan has taken on something of the status of the father of his people. He is a living historical figure, but he is no monument. His critical thinking and analytical contributions to understanding the nature of Kurdish society, the wider region, world politics, ecology, religion, gender relations and historical change have been remarkable in their scope and originality. Ocalan’s ideas are living ideas developed in his various writings and speeches now published in various languages and also republished in different formats to meet continuing, indeed growing, demand.

These writings give the Kurds the arguments to deepen their understanding of their own social conditions and to organise a plan of action and programme for the future. Ocalan’s ideas constitute far more than a series of demands for rights but amount to a blueprint for a new society and a new social order founded on the principles of freedom, equality, friendship between peoples and a new form of direct devolved democracy.

On this day, 4 April, the Kurdish people everywhere pay tribute to the political leader who has done more than any other person to rescue them from the forces that would seek to annihilate them and eradicate all traces of their existence, for that is exactly what the Turkish project has amounted to. Turkey is still trying to continue this annihilation by waging its brutal war of aggression, by systematic discrimination and state led ideological policies that deny the very existence of the Kurds.

Ocalan is never far from the thoughts of the Kurds; he guides their actions with ideas that inspire them in everything they do. Ocalan stands as a living example of the vital importance of the spirit of resistance that is a necessary part of what it means to be truly human. He teaches the Kurds that they can find the power within themselves to act as a united people and by so doing to exercise their full potentialities to achieve the freedom that has been long desired but has so far eluded them. Ocalan makes their future possible.

But Ocalan’s ideas are not of exclusive relevance to the Kurds because he addresses fundamental concerns that are relevant for everyone. He spoke about ecology and sustainability long before concern about the climate crisis came on the international agenda as an urgent political challenge.

Ocalan has placed women’s empowerment, political representation and liberation right at the very centre of his thinking. His vision of a transformed Middle Eastern region offers a pioneering feminist manifesto in a part of the world where basic women’s rights and freedoms too often continue to be denied by the forces of religion, custom and politics.

Ocalan has inspired the Kurdish younger generation to take possession of their own destinies by emboldening them with the confidence to pursue their dreams and exercise their creativity. This trend of young people’s activities manifests itself not simply in political activism but is equally apparent in music, art, film, social media, writing and theatre to the extent that it is credible to speak of a renaissance in Kurdish culture.

Turkey insists that Ocalan be viewed only as a convicted criminal and terrorist. Forlornly, successive Turkish governments and their allies have sought to side line and ignore him. They aim to erase him from history just as they intend to erase the Kurds as a whole. That they have totally failed to achieve this is in large part because of the power of the ideas that Ocalan has articulated. He speaks for his people, he gives them a voice, he provides them with the means of understanding the world and he sets out a credible vision for their future.

As the Kurds celebrate Ocalan on his birthday, we recall precisely what Ocalan has to say and what he truly represents for the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan and indeed for the people of the world.

Ocalan is multifaceted: he is a political leader, a visionary, a historical personality, a man of the people, an original thinker and above all else a fully rounded human being. The great injustice is that he is still denied the basic rights that all human beings seek and are entitled to enjoy.

His current lack of freedom reflects the condition of the Kurds themselves who continue to struggle for their freedom as a nation. Ocalan embodies the struggle that he has done so much to inspire. The fate of the people and their leader remain inextricably bound together by this shared condition, also by a common history and a joint outlook. This relationship provides a unity of vision and purpose that is shaping the future.

Ocalan’s mission remains unfinished, and his invaluable influence can never be diminished now that the Kurds have been awakened as a people. They have been brought to recognise their responsibilities by Ocalan and are determined now to shape their own future, struggling to achieve their freedom for themselves and for future generations.  Peace in Kurdistan joins in the celebrations of Abdullah Ocalan on his birthday.


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,  Dr Radha D’Souza, writer,  Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Lord Hylton, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor,  Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru; James Kelman, novelist, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC,  Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd; John McDonnell MP, Mike Mansfield QC, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, 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, anthropologist,  Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Father Joe Ryan; Dr Thomas Schmidt, ELDH Europe, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Chris Stephens SNP MP,  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.