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Dear friends,

The armed conflict between the Turkish and the Kurdish freedom movement that has raged for nearly three decades appears now to have reached an historic turning point. It would be a fair assessment to predict that the achievement of a political solution to this conflict will have a positive impact on the process of change in the entire Middle East.

An important step forward will take place on 8 May when the PKK will start to withdraw its forces from Turkey to Northern Iraq. This is part of an agreement that has been the result of months of painstaking negotiations between representatives of the Turkish state and the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan.

At the end of last year it became public that the phase of dialogue which had stalled in July 2011 was being reopened. As a result of these talks Abdullah Ocalan made his historic declaration on the occasion of the Kurdish New Year celebrations on 21 March 2013 when he declared the start of a new era with the following words:

‘‘Our fight has been against repression, ignorance, injustice and against enforced underdevelopment as well as all forms of repression and oppression. (…) Today we are waking up to a new Turkey and a new Middle East (…) Witnessed by the millions of people who heed my call I say a new era is beginning, politics gain prominence over weapons. We have now come to the stage of the withdrawal of our armed forces outside the borders. (…)”

The Kurdish question inevitably concerns Iraq, Iran, Syria and in particular Turkey and remains one of the major unsolved problems of the Middle East. The conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdish freedom movement continues to the present day. Due to this conflict, so far more than 40,000 lives have been lost; about 4,500 villages have been evacuated or burnt down; while millions of people have become refugees dispersed over different territories.

From the past experience of other contemporary conflicts we know that for a peace process to succeed there is a need for strong personalities whose leadership can convince their communities to look for peaceful solutions. Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, José Ramos­Horta and Aung San Suu Kyi are all such examples. It is surely correct to say that Abdullah Ocalan also falls into this category. It is due to him that over the past few years the focus of the Kurdish freedom movement has shifted decisively away from military to political solutions.

This is also the reason why from 1993 onwards successive Turkish governments have from time to time approached Ocalan and in doing so have thus recognized his key role in the search for a solution.

What is more, the vast majority of Kurds continue to rally behind Ocalan. In 2006­2007, 3.5 million Kurds signed a petition stating that they regarded him as their political representative.

Furthermore, Ocalan exercised a decisive influence in the ending of the 68-day hunger strike in Turkish prisons at the end of last year which averted a major catastrophe and much loss of life. He has been a central figure in the development of the present phase which has put peace so firmly on the agenda. The New York Times has listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

As the one leader who possesses the confidence of the Kurdish people, and as the prime mover behind today’s peace process, Ocalan is indispensable to resolving the Turkish­-Kurdish conflict once and for all. Unfortunately, as long as he remains in confined and isolated in prison, with all the restrictions that inevitably entails, he will be unable to fulfill this role at this critical moment.

Your signature to this petition will contribute to the democratic peace process and will help ensure the greater possibility of success under fair conditions of negotiations for both parties. Recent history in South Africa has shown that without the release of Nelson Mandela as a negotiating partner the peaceful ending of apartheid would not have been guaranteed.

Your support will help us to make the campaign far more effective.

The demand for Ocalan’s freedom is a fundamental demand in order to ensure a peaceful and just resolution to one the major conflicts in the Middle East.

We thank you for your support at this crucial period in the Kurdish people’s history.

International Initiative

“Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan-Peace in Kurdistan”