At the launch of the UK-based campaign to free imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ӧcalan, on Monday night (April 25), a standing-room only crowd in the House of Commons heard international speakers condemn the UK and European governments for their failure to condemn Turkish President Erdogan’s genocidal assault on the Kurdish population.
They included Kurdish MP, Dilek Ӧcalan and Kamuran Yuksek of the DBP. European governments and the European Commission were accused of turning a blind eye to the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in south-east Turkey in return for Erdogan’s cooperation in preventing refugees escaping the Middle East conflict from crossing into Europe.
The new campaign to free Ӧcalan enjoys cross-party support in the British Parliament.
Unite and GMB, the unions at the forefront of the initiative, believe there must be a negotiated solution to the Kurdish question and that the presence of Ӧcalan, as the undisputed leader of the Kurdish people, is essential for any peace process to succeed.
Ӧcalan has been incarcerated in the notorious Imrali Island prison for 17 years since being abducted In Kenya. During that time, and despite spending much of it in solitary confinement, he has remained consistent in his advocacy of a peaceful route to reconciliation.
“The launch of this campaign is an historic moment that signals the full engagement and support of the trade union movement and wider civil society in the campaign for the release of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ӧcalan,” said Unite international director Simon Dubbins.
“The latest wave of unrestrained violence and repression by the Turkish government against the Kurdish population, and indeed against all progressive and democratic forces in Turkey, is outrageous and has to stop,” he added.
“The Turkish government needs to understand that they will not resolve this conflict through force and that only a negotiated peace settlement offers any prospect of a better future, and that for a real peace process to begin Abdullah Ӧcalan must be released in order to play the role that only he can play,” Dubbins went on to say.
“We are confident that this will quickly become a mass national and international campaign and urge all those interested in a better future in the region to offer their full support.”
GMB international officer Bert Schouwenburg noted that the British state bears “heavy responsibility for the plight of the Kurds in Turkey”.
“One hundred years ago, the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement carved up Kurdistan from the remains of the Ottoman Empire and left its people stateless in the countries we now know as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
“This century, British participation in the appalling attacks on Iraq and Libya has unleashed a spiral of violence that has led to millions of refugees leaving the devastation of war-torn Syria,” he added.
“Instead of supporting the utterly cynical policy of allowing President Erdogan to massacre the Kurds and support ISIS, in return for stopping those refugees from getting into Europe, the British Government should be making every effort to arrive at a negotiated solution to the problems of the Middle East,” Schouwenburg went on to say.
“Kurdish involvement in those negotiations is essential because they represent a viable secular alternative for the region as a whole. For that to happen Abdullah Ӧcalan must be released and Turkish repression of his people must cease.”