The Social Workers Union recently passed the following motion at their AGM on Sept 23rd, and have affiliated to the Freedom for Ocalan campaign group.

Motion 4:

Proposer – Dave Callow (SWU Executive)

Additional recording from the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign Group

The time has come for freedom for Öcalan – Clare Baker – YouTube

This AGM calls for the release of Abdullah Öcalan – the Kurdish Mandela – and encourages

SWU to work with the Freedom for Öcalan campaign and apply political pressure on this

government to demand:

  • Abdullah Öcalan be released so he can play his role in the peace process
  • The Turkish state to obey its own and international laws
  • A peaceful and democratic resolution to be sought between Turkey and its Kurdish citizens
  • The reconvening of peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan

Workers Party (PKK)


Who is Abdullah Öcalan?

As the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish freedom movement, Abdullah Öcalan is a powerful

symbol of the Kurdish people’s desire for peace. Öcalan was kidnapped and handed over to

the intelligence service almost twenty years ago, in 1999. Initially sentenced to death, Öcalan

has been held in prison in İmralı island in the Sea of Marmara – the Turkish ‘Robben Island’.

The Turkish government claim that no domestic or international law applies to the prison

island, using it like their own Guantanamo Bay.

In 2002 Öcalan’s initial death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Held in solitary

confinement, Öcalan used his legal defence to advocate for a peace process and develop

the ideas which would be used as a blueprint for the Kurdish-led democratic society in


  • Since his abduction in 1999, Abdullah Öcalan has been continuously denied his human

rights under Turkish and international law and we draw particular attention to the UNmandated “Mandela Rules” (58 to 63) (1) for the ethical treatment of prisoners as well as

the European Convention of Human Rights which Turkey signed in 1986.

  • The Turkish state is currently abusing anti-terror legislation to persecute and criminalise

its political opponents. A large number of Kurdish political prisoners are currently being

held in Turkish prisons the majority under charges of terrorism, including the former cochair of the HDP party.

  • Öcalan has called repeatedly for a democratic resolution within Turkey to secure a

peaceful and lasting solution.

  • The illegal invasion of Afrin by the Turkish regime has displaced 150,000 civilians and is

a destabilising influence on the region. Turkey has stated that Kurds east of the

Euphrates “will be buried in their ditches when the time comes”. This along with calls for

a second Cyprus are tantamount to signalling the intent to commit war crimes.

  • In 2017 the UK Trades Union Congress unanimously passed a motion giving the support

of the UK’s 6 million trade unionists to the demands for Öcalan’s release.

This AGM believes:

  • The Turkish President Erdogan and the ruling AKPs (Justice and Development party)

increasing authoritarianism and the direct threat of war crimes in Northern Syria must be

challenged by the international community.

  • Öcalan is key to a peaceful solution in Turkey. He has the support of the Kurdish people

as is clearly demonstrated by the fact that over 10 million people signed a petition calling

for his release.

  • The values of Abdullah Öcalan; peace, democracy, equality – are the values of the

international Labour movement and it’s our responsibility to show solidarity with Öcalan

and the Kurdish people.


John McGowan

General Secretary

Social Workers Union

Tel: 0771 1958 802


Head Office:

Wellesley House

37 Waterloo St


B2 5PP