Statement, 9 October 2016

The 9th October marks the 18th anniversary of the expulsion of Abdullah Ocalan from Syria where he had remained for the best part of twenty years.

In 1998 Turkey was sabre rattling and openly threatening Syria to remove Ocalan and renounce its support for the PKK.  Tremendous political pressures were exerted on Damascus, which was beset by severe economic strains and the weakening of its relations with its traditional global ally, Russia, itself was deeply damaged politically and embroiled in a destabilising financial crisis. Despite all the pressures, Damascus did not hand Ocalan over to Turkey, but was forced to insist that he left the country. Ocalan fled to several countries including Russia, Italy and Greece in his ultimately unsuccessful search for political asylum. His fate was all played out in the full attention of the international media until in February 1999 he was eventually apprehended in Nairobi by an intelligence operation which saw Turkish state security forces co-operating with the CIA and other security agencies.

This sorry story, described with good reason by Kurds as an “international conspiracy”, was to end in the abduction of Ocalan by Turkey, his show trial in Ankara, an inevitable conviction (given the politicised legal system) and his incarceration for the most part in total isolation which continues with hardly any remission until this day.

During the intervening eighteen years the Kurdish people have remained steadfast in their determination to see Ocalan released and resolute in regarding him as their chosen leader and best guarantee of their ultimate liberation.
In the process natural justice was flagrantly denied Ocalan who was not permitted to exercise his rights to claim asylum. The use of torture against Ocalan was also alleged.

The conflagration in Syria, with its domestic dilemmas stoked up by outside interventions and geo-strategic political machinations thrust the Syrian Kurds centre stage during the battle for Kobane against ISIS while the continuing struggle inside the country with its shifting alliances has assumed tragic proportions with misery piled upon misery and no clear end in sight.

The operation against Ocalan has not brought peace to either Turkey or Syria. The Kurds have not been pacified; in fact their movement for justice has grown in strength. The Kurdish people have learned much from Ocalan’s teachings and his leadership continues to inspire them. The international conspiracy against Ocalan and the Kurds has in all essential respects failed abysmally. It has not quelled the Kurds, even though they are still suffering and denied their basic rights.

Ocalan is still playing a political role despite Turkey’s cruel attempt to silence him by denying him visits by lawyers and his family. He has been kept in strict isolation, but this has failed to diminish his status or tarnished his authority in the eyes of the Kurds. The eighteen years since Ocalan was expelled from Syria have witnessed the destruction of much of that country. The Kurds are building a new society in Rojava from the ashes of that conflict. This is a beacon of hope amid all the terrible atrocities being committed in that country.

9th October is remembered by the Kurds as a day when they were grossly betrayed by the international community. Neither Ocalan nor the legitimate demands of the Kurds for their civil and political rights have gone away. The Kurdish people are still waiting for the international community to make right the historic injustices that have been inflicted on them. They have demonstrated immense fortitude in their struggle and have inspired other people all over the world by their remarkable courage and by the fundamental justice of their cause.  At present, we see the renewed conflict inside Turkey showing no signs of abating, coupled with an exacerbating crisis across the border in Syria and Iraq, added to which there are the deep economic problems and unmanageable refugee catastrophe, all adding to the increased instability in the region and the world. It is surely high time 18 years after the catastrophic events for the Kurds initiated on 9th October 1998, that Ocalan is brought out of isolation and that peace talks are resumed.  We urge responsible governments to exert their influence on Turkey to start to make peace with the Kurds rather than embarking on yet more repression and conflict.

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Kate Osamor MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary,
Simon Dubbins. UNITE International Directpr, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall, Melanie Gingell