On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Remember Abdullah Ocalan Held for More than Two Decades on Imrali Island Special Turkish Prison in the Sea of Mamara
On United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June 2021, Peace in Kurdistan insists on the importance of reminding the world of the position that Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan continues to endure in his Turkish prison cell where he has been confined and silenced for more than two decades.
Ocalan is now 72 years old and has suffered frequent health problems which many see as exacerbated by his prison conditions. He has been held by Turkey as a solitary prisoner on Imrali Island, a special prison in the Sea of Mamara, since 1999. This makes him one of the world’s longest serving political prisoners.
During this time, the Kurdish leader has been denied access to his legal team, refused regular visits from family members and prevented from communicating with friends. He is kept in isolation and independent monitoring of his conditions is highly restricted. The outside world is not allowed to know details of Ocalan’s conditions, including the state of his health, which leads to fears that he is being mistreated or is seriously ill. All of this constitutes forms of torture.
Turkey has refused to treat Ocalan as a political prisoner in an attempt to deny his stature as the preferred leader of the Kurds. Turkey has sought to belittle and humiliate Ocalan as a means of humiliating his followers, which consists of many millions of Kurdish people. This is because Turkish officials know only too well that Abdullah Ocalan continues to hold profound importance for the Kurds, who at every available opportunity demonstrate in overwhelming numbers their support for him and for his ideas. In reality, it is an expression of the Turkish authorities’ fear of Ocalan and the strength with which his ideas and his message of peace, dignity and reconciliation resonate throughout the region.
Despite the intolerable treatment that Ocalan has faced at the hands of Turkey, he has remained undeterred in his commitment to the pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish state, and the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of the region. But those who presently exercise power in Ankara have adopted an aggressive approach towards the Kurds, seeking to stifle every trace of independence of thought, expression and organisation of the Kurds, willing even to eliminate the Kurdish identity itself, by means of physical force. As such, it is the Turkish political leadership of President Erdogan, the AKP and their MHP partners who are the single greatest obstacle towards building a lasting peace inside Turkey.
The treatment of Abdullah Ocalan by the Turkish authorities clearly amounts to torture. That much we should all take note of as we mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and show our solidarity with all those suffering torture around the world.
Yet Ocalan, of course, is by no means the only political prisoner held by Turkey who has suffered conditions amounting to torture. Many more men and women, Kurds and non-Kurds, including political activists, trade unionists, community leaders and civil rights campaigners, have terrible stories to tell about their treatment by the Turkish authorities. Torture is practiced systematically in Turkey, as a way of silencing dissent, and the stark reality is that far too many detainees over the years have not lived to tell the tale.
The lack of transparency inside the Turkish prison system facilitates torture and abuse of those who are detained. The record of the government of Turkey and the political situation inside the country do not attract sufficient attention from investigative journalists in the international media or international human rights organisations. Ankara’s powerful political allies, including those in Europe and the United States, all too often fail to speak out about abuses of power in Turkey including the repeated reports providing evidence of torture. For the governments of Europe and the United States, the economic and geopolitical value Turkey holds as an ally outweighs any concern about its human rights violations. As long as these actions of the Turkish government go unchallenged, torture is bound to continue, and the governements of Europe and the United States too will bear responsibility for these crimes.
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Peace in Kurdistan calls on those who exercise power and have influence to take action to eliminate torture and prevent the threat of torture in Turkey, and on the people of the world to raise their voices and speak out against this injustice. Abdullah Ocalan and all who are incarcerated inside Turkish prisons deserve to be treated with full dignity as human beings; that means being free from torture and the threat of torture. This is an issue concerning us all, for if those wielding power are able to abuse that power without consequence, the day will come when we too become victims of that abuse.
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, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, 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, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, 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.