As the vigil demonstration in front of the Council of Europe by the representatives of Kurdish institutions in Europe for the freedom of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan continues, a press statement was given with several European parliamentarians and human rights defenders attending. Speeches given in the press statement emphasized the importance of the urgent freedom of Öcalan for peaceful solutions in Kurdistan and the Middle East.

A press statement was given on the fifth day of the vigil in front of the Council of Europe by representatives from institutions in the European Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (KCDK-E). Kurdish politician Adem Uzun spoke in the demonstration and said they wanted to give a message to institutions and all of humanity with the Freedom For Öcalan Vigil, which has continued for four years. Uzun said they are working towards the freedom of all prisoners, as well as Öcalan, and thanked the people carrying out the vigil for four years.


European parliamentarians from Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as well as HDP MPs attended the press statement where Steve Swenny gave a speech in the name of the unions in Britain. Swenny said the vigil started with the demand for the freedom of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan was on its fourth year but Öcalan has been captive for 17 years. Swenny reiterated that Öcalan was imprisoned with the aid of international secret services and that his prison conditions did not meet the requirements of international treaties.

Swenny emphasized that the release of Öcalan would bring Turkey closer to European values and said the dialogue started between Öcalan and the Turkish state made their work easier as well. Swenny mentioned that this dialogue process had come to a halt and called for it to be reimplemented.

Swenny pointed out the importance of Öcalan’s ideas on especially women and coexistence with minorities and said the Kurdish People’s Leader should be able to play his part.

The British unionist also said that the Erdoğan dictatorship had risen up for an attack on all fronts and called for an immediate end to this.


In his speech, Swedish human rights defender Martin Flückiger said the hope that arose following the June elections last year was being smothered under pressure and that “There is a great war in Turkey.” Flückiger criticized the European Union for staying silent.

Stating that the EU had “kneeled before Erdoğan” following the refugee deal, Flückiger said “EU needs to break this silence at once and oppose Erdoğan’s policies.”

Martin Flückiger also called for an urgent removal of the PKK from the EU list of terrorist organisations and emphasized that the Turkish state and Erdoğan should realize that war is not the answer. Flückiger also said the most important action to take for peace is the freedom of Öcalan.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe member Iceland MP Ögmundur Jonasson said they have had a chance to follow the massacres imposed upon the Kurdish people in the recent months and last year, and that their support for the development of peace will continue despite the pressure.


PACE Left Group Spokesperson Dutch parliamentarian Tiny Kox mentioned that the Turkey report was accepted following the discussions of the previous day in the PACE.

Kox emphasized that the report included the pressure in Turkey and said representatives of all countries in the meetings voiced their criticisms on the issues mentioned in the report. Kox issued a call for Turke to stop the actions of war urgently.

Tiny Kox said there will be an effort along with the HDP MPs to reinstate the peace process and added that he hoped the peace efforts would have results and that Öcalan will be released.


Italian sociologist and researcher Federico Venturini said, “Today we hear that state violence in Cizre and many other cities has peaked. There are several international reports on the matter.” Venturini also pointed out the reemergence of the clashing and the violence as the Turkish state severed the dialogue process with Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan in April 2015 and criticised the rejection of 600 appeals by Öcalan’s lawyers.

Venturini said they appealed to the Turkish authorities for a visit with Öcalan twice but they didn’t receive an answer. Venturini said that the CPT should also visit Öcalan and mentioned that the CPT were able to meet with Öcalan in April as a result of their application. Venturini said the CPT said there would be developments in Öcalan meeting with his lawyers and family members and criticised that there were no updates.


Emphasizing that the important thing is that Öcalan is released for a true peace process, Federico Venturini quoted Nelson Mandela by saying “Only free people can carry out negotiations, not the imprisoned.” Venturini underlined that the PKK had to be involved for the process to carry on.


PACE’s member from the German Die Linke Annetta Grott said the women would be saying the last word for peace and that “as a feminist, she supports the Kurdish women’s struggle”. Grott saluted the Kurdish women’s success in the implementation of the co-chair system in all aspects including the local administrations and gave the message that they will continue their joint struggle.

Grott added that they still have the hope that the Kurdish people will be successful in their struggle.


Amnesty International Sweden representative Maya Heuschmann said the people carrying out the freedom for Öcalan vigil for years gave them the message that “there is a problem and you need to look into this”. Heuschmann said they will continue to defend the rights of the Kurdish people and emphasized that they will support the struggle for the freedom of Öcalan and the rights of the Kurdish people.


HDP MP Ertuğrul Kürkçü said the efforts for Öcalan to attend the negotiations as the leader of his people should be understood correctly. Kürkçü emphasized that the problem wasn’t the freedom of one person, that the peace efforts could reach a different level if Öcalan is free.

Stating that there were massacres in Turkey and Kurdistan and that parties in the democratic struggle faced arrests and other pressure, Kürkçü said these efforts and the voice of the opposition was starting to be heard.

Stating that Öcalan is still not free in the fourth year of the vigil, Kürkçü said the struggle for freedom in all parts would continue.

Italian parliamentarian Florian Kleinbischer said he represented the German minority region in Rome. The German minority representative said the patience exhibited by the Kurdish people for their freedom was admirable and that the years long struggle has been an example for them.


Rainer Heider from the Freedom for Öcalan Initiative said that despite the isolation, Öcalan is in a different position from that of 4 years ago and that he was seen as the representative of the Kurdish people and chief negotiator by representatives from all countries in the Council of Europe.

Heider said this had been made possible by the struggle waged by the Kurdish people and underlined the “Peace for Kurdistan, Freedom for Öcalan” motto of this struggle was the primary “leading force”.

Heider said this effort in Europe will have a great role in Öcalan achieving freedom and Kurdistan achieving peace and promised continuing support for these efforts.



I am Federico Venturini, part of the Imrail Peace delegation, headed by Judge

Essa Moosa of the High Court of South Africa and former lawyer of Nelson


The situation in Turkey today is critical. The recent escalation of conflict

surrounding the Kurdish question is most dangerous.

The Syrian civil war has already spilled over into widespread hostilities across

the Southeast of Turkey, in a conflict that I recently witnessed with a visit to

Cizre, conflict that many of the people here are living on their skin. There are

several reports of human rights’ atrocities committed by the Turkish army in

Cizre and other towns and cities, and there is a very real threat of a further

spiraling of violence throughout the country. It has been recently declared the

sole conflict in Turkey has already displaced one million people.

The state’s repression and intimidation of Turkish academics and journalists

who have spoken out against the war reveals the intimate connection

between the struggle for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish question and the

struggle for democracy in Turkey more generally. For example few days ago

three journalist of the campaign ‘Editor-in-Chiefs On Watch’ has been arrested

and just yesterday the freedom has been denied to two lawyers from the

Libertarian Lawyers Association. They have been all accused of being

members of a terrorist organization and propagandizing for it.

However, lawyers and journalists are persecuted for their professional

activities. Journalists are targeted because reporte inconvenient news and

lawyers are identified with their clients or their clients’ cases.

Moreover, the Erdoğan government continues to bombard the Kurdish forces

in Syria. However, the Kurdish forces have proven to be the only reliable force

on the ground fighting ISIS, while Turkey has an ambiguous position towards

Islamic fighters.

If the current conflict in South East of Turkey escalates further the

ramifications would have grave consequences. More people in the Middle

East will be pushed to flee for Europe. In this context to resume the peace

process is a matter of urgency and Öcalan, as a moral leader of the Kurds,

has a crucial role in this. From April 2015, the Erdoğan government has

shifted from a peace footing to a war footing. The shift from peace-making to

war-making has coincided with the total isolation of Öcalan.

Öcalan’s only human contact on the Imrail Island is with his guards. Not even

his family can visit him. His lawyers, who have not been able to visit him since

2011, apply to visit at least once a week, but they have applied more than 600

times now and are repeatedly turned down, given absurd excuses that the

boat is broken. No one at all has been permitted to visit since the last HDP

delegates left on April 2015. No communication from him has been received

since then. He is suffering from poor health and his access to medical care is


In February 2016 the Imrail peace delegation that I am part of went to

Istanbul, asking an audience with the Turkish minister of Justice to engage

him on the question of the resumption of the peace talks and seek his

permission to visit Imrali prison to engage with Öcalan on the same issue.

Until today no final answer has been received to the official request.

In April the delegation came to Strasbourg to call upon the Council of Europe

to persuade its member Turkey to resume the peace talks with Öcalan.

Specifically the delegation called upon the Committee for Prevention of

Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to visit

Imrali prison as a matter of urgency to investigate why CPT’s

recommendations in their last report have not been implemented.

Our efforts have been successful and at the end of April the CPT visited

Öcalan in the Imrail prison. At the moment we look forward to the availability

of a full report.

In its latest public report, dated January 2013, the CPT recommended that the

Turkish authorities allow access to lawyers for Öcalan and other prisoners on

Imrali Island. However, visits of lawyers have been denied since 2011 and of

his family since 2014. We propose to re-open the procedure under article

10(2) for the non-compliance of the Turkish authorities with the previous

recommendation in ensuring access to lawyers and his family.

We call upon the Turkish Government and Öcalan to resume the peace

process as a matter of urgency. In 2012, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu said

that “Peace is better than War” and appealed to the Turkish Prime Minister to

resume the peace process with Öcalan who is the recognized Kurdish leader.

In order for genuine Peace negotiations to take place, Öcalan has to be

released unconditionally from prison, to enable him to take his rightful place at

the negotiating table for the lasting resolution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey

and for the democratization of Turkey.

Until Öcalan is freed, only talks about talks, and not actual negotiations, can

take place. Nelson Mandela emphasized that only free persons and not

prisoners can negotiate, on behalf his people, for a political solution.

We call upon the Turkish Government to level the playing field by, amongst

other, legitimizing PKK and other banned organizations, releasing of all

political prisoners and permitting exiles to return to the Turkey to participate in

the peace process.

We call upon the international human rights organizations to investigate, as a

matter of urgency, the human rights abuse perpetrated by the Turkish

authorities against the civilian population in the areas of conflict and to assess

and determine whether such abuses constitute war crimes, crimes against

humanity, genocide and/or contravention of the Geneva Convention.

Finally, intimidations and repression against intellectuals, journalist and

lawyers must end.

Only at these conditions a real peace process for a lasting peace in Turkey

and in all the Middle East can start.