Abdullah Ocalan has been incarcerated on the prison island of Imrali for 22 years, mostly in circumstances of aggravated isolation, denied access to family and legal visits. Nevertheless, despite these extreme conditions, he has continued to contribute to progressive philosophy and political thought. He has produced many volumes of well researched, original thinking much of which is focused on the centrality of women’s emancipation.

Kurdish women have contributed massively to the resistance against gender inequality, polygamy, femicide, sexual harassment and forced child marriages in the Middle East and much of this struggle has been based on the writings of Abdullah Ocalan.

Women’s emancipation has been at the forefront of the political and social structures of the majority Kurdish regions of Rojava where women have been engaged in a double struggle against both the forces of ISIS and of the patriarchal traditions of their own societies. But now in Rojava women have the right to equality with men, they have fought for and achieved equal status in property law, banned forced and underage marriages, quotas for women and ethnic groups to ensure representation at all levels of politics and a system of co-chairs in all committees to ensure gender parity is built into the highest levels of decision making.

In Turkey, the existence of the Kurdish people and their distinct identity and culture are subject to a systematic campaign of denial and persecution, which has included extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, the destruction of thousands of villages, and other human rights violations. The armed conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has now lasted nearly four decades. This conflict has been variously characterised as a non-international armed conflict by many specialised organisations and international experts, including the highest court of Belgium. There have been several national and international initiatives to resolve this armed conflict in a peaceful manner, all of which have been welcomed and supported by Ocalan.

Ocalan is accepted by millions of Kurds as the legitimate representative of the Kurdish people and the leader of their resistance against Turkish state oppression, and has played a central role in discussions of a peaceful solution from 2013 to 2015 with the Turkish government.

For a solution to the Kurdish question and a peaceful settlement of the conflict we call for his release so that he can play his necessary role in a meaningful peace process. We also call for an immediate end to his isolation and the inhumane prison conditions he that continues to endure.