Kurdish supporters of Abdullah Öcalan occupy the European Parliament

Demonstrations in support of Abdullah Öcalan - occupation of European parliament
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Around a dozen Kurdish people launched a protest on Wednesday inside the European Parliament. 15 February is the anniversary of Turkey’s capture of Kurdistan Worker’s Party co-founder Abdullah Öcalan.

Protesters halted the debate session for three hours. Members of the European Parliaments (MEPs) left the chamber as banners were unfurled bearing Öcalan‘s image, and demonstrators shouted slogans critical of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

One MEP told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the protesters were on an upper deck above the Strasbourg chamber, some sitting on a balustrade and dangling their legs above the parliament’s floor.

International solidarity

Demonstrations for the Freedom of Öcalan were in held in Rojava in northeast Syria and in Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. Protests were also held all over Europe, including in Rome, Geneva, Lausanne, Paris and Greece.

A freedom for Öcalan conference was held in London, at the House of Lords. Over 120 people also took part in an annual long march for his freedom. This year marchers walked from Switzerland to France.

Six Basque trade unions released a manifesto demanding Öcalan’s release. They underlined his vital role in peace negotiations:

The current Turkish government run by Erdoğan held negotiations with Öcalan for two and a half years, during which the Kurdish leader proposed a gradual plan to achieve peace, from confidence-building measures, through a disarmament process under international surveillance, to a permanent political solution to the Kurdish question. Although the negotiations broke down in 2011, Öcalan’s proposals, included in his “Road Map”, continue to be of the utmost importance to address and seek a negotiated solution to the so-called ‘Kurdish question’

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The statement continued:

The demand for Öcalan’s freedom is vital to break the military logic of the conflict and thus divert attention towards peaceful negotiations and towards a democratic resolution of the Kurdish conflict

24 years of imprisonment

Ocalan was arrested in Kenya by Turkish agents on February 15, 1999 and sentenced to death in June of the same year. Now 73, his sentence was reduced to life in prison in 2002 and supporters continue to demand his release. His capture involved collaboration between the Turkish state and several other states. The Kurdistan Freedom Movement calls it the international ‘conspiracy’.

According to the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—Peace in Kurdistan!”:

On 15 February 1999, a new phase in the war against the Kurds and other communities raised its head with the NATO-led abduction of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan from Nairobi, Kenya. A series of actors in Europe and in the Middle East as well as the US were behind this operation.

The statement continued:

The US and Europe, who led this operation against the Kurdish people’s leader, continue to legitimize the colonization and occupation of Kurdistan and condemn any resistance to it as terrorism, and are the ones that brewed this genocidal fascist regime. This is because the Turkish state paves the path for them to further ecocide, genocide, capitalism and colonialism in the region. The indigenous peoples’ existence is a resistance to these.

Ideas that ‘inspired millions of people to fight’

Öcalan is currently imprisoned on the island of İmralı in the Sea of Marmara, one of 10,000 prisoners from the Kurdistan Freedom Movement. He has written at least 12 books in prison. His ideas inspired the Rojava revolution, ongoing in northeast Syria since 2012

Internationalists released a video statement to commemorate the anniversary. The international volunteers had joined the revolutionary struggle in Rojava.

They said:

The life and philosophy of Abdullah Öcalan inspired millions of people to fight for democracy, ecology and women’s liberation. As Internationalists, we came to join the Rojava Revolution because we found inspiration within the revolution that is based on Öcalans philosophy. As internationalist members of YPG/YPJ [peoples’ protection units], we condemn the conspiracy. But however they try to attack our longing for freedom, they will never be able to take what we found here: hope.

Abdullah Öcalan’s ideas continue to ignite hopes for revolution and freedom, despite nearly two and a half decades in prison. His supporters see his liberation as essential for bringing an end to Turkish fascism, and achieving peace in Kurdistan.

You can find out more about the UK Freedom for Öcalan campaign by clicking here.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Screenshot/ANF Firat

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