The anniversary of Abdullah Ocalan’s expulsion from Syria – a stain on the world’s treatment of the Kurd

Statement, 9 October 2017

The 9th October marks the 19th anniversary of the expulsion of Abdullah Ocalan from Syria where he had remained for the best part of twenty years.

In 1998 Turkey was openly threatening Syria and demanding it remove Ocalan and to 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, which 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 left for several countries including Russia, Italy and Greece in his ultimately unsuccessful search for political asylum. His fate was 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 until this day.

During the intervening 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 to the centre of world attention during the battle for Kobane (2014-2015) 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 tarnish his authority in the eyes of the Kurds. The nineteen 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 Syria.

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 rectify 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 an unmanageable refugee catastrophe, all adding to the increased instability in the region and the world. It is surely high time 19 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 which cannot bring a solution.

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: John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP,  Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director,  Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Gareth Peirce, Maxine Peake, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Stephen Smellie, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas,  Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP.

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