Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan: For a political solution to the Kurdish question

February 20, 2024
Abdullah Ocalan
Imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Twenty-five years ago, on February 15, 1999, the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan was abducted from Nairobi, Kenya in a NATO-orchestrated operation — an early example of later used so-called “extraordinary renditions”.

His abduction and subsequent death sentence did not solve anything. Rather, it demonstrated the blatant unwillingness of nation states — including every single European Union member state — to address the Kurdish issue.

Despite this, since 1999 and from prison on Imrali Island, Öcalan has become a symbol as well as an effective actor for progressive change in the Middle East.

His freedom has much wider implications. It will mean not only freedom for other political prisoners, but a boost for the democratic and revolutionary changes that have already been brought about by people — especially women — inspired by his ideas, including the now famous connection he made between women, life and freedom.

Öcalan’s ideas offer a way out of the current crises the region and the world face. His freedom will strengthen the struggle against genocidal nation-statism and increase the freedom for all — including your freedom.

He explained the background of the international conspiracy for his abduction in The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century:

"Since I have been imprisoned on Imrali I have been trying to work for a lasting peace in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. This is even more difficult than waging war. Peace based on the acceptance of different cultural identities will help to advance a renaissance of the region and further democratic progress in Turkey.

“Eventually, every war ends with peace. If we prove unable to end this war, we are doomed to be used for the purposes of our enemies. My efforts for peace received a wide variety of responses. Most of this was, however, opposition from various and even contrarian political circles. Some have not yet understood the relevance of the peace process for Turkey. The Kurdish issue has produced the longest and most severe crisis in the history of the republic. Without a just peace the crisis will continue.

“The February plot is also of some significance with a view to human rights and human rights conventions. My abduction and extradition violated these rights and conventions. It is mostly the European governments and the USA that are responsible for this breach, rather than the Turkish government. Their colonial understanding of foreign policy and the way they proceeded in my case have produced the present situation.

“Hence, my appeal to the European Court was meant not only simply to accuse Turkey of unlawful practices. Rather, I also wanted the unlawful and ethically wrong practices of the EU and the USA, which had been directed against me and against the will of the Kurds for freedom, to be put on trial. They had worked together assiduously in three European capitals. They all had made their contributions until a bunch of corrupt head-hunters in Africa sold themselves to a capitalist intrigue and consigned me to a Turkish airplane.

“It had begun in Athens. They treated me like a slave whom they could order around at will. They hoped for concessions on Cyprus and the Aegean issue. They betrayed our friendship and shamelessly disregarded the Human Rights Convention. My situation, however, did not only concern me as an individual. Millions of Kurds who felt very close to me were betrayed just as badly.

“Nor was Israel right to make me a victim of their strategic considerations. They wanted to include Turkey in the balance of power of the Near East.”

Öcalan explained that his abduction from Kenya was accomplished with the agreement of the EU and the United States:

“Greece and Kenya had to do the dirty work and deliver me from the Greek embassy to Turkey. Again, the EU had found a way not to get directly involved in my case. They enlisted the help of some corrupt Kenyan police officers.

“I think it has become clear, and former President Clinton has confirmed it, that the Greek secret service and the CIA did not participate in the ploy out of love of the Turks. I am sure that their strategic objective was to have me killed by the Turks, and that’s probably true for the British too.

“However, I did not express any hatred towards the Turks and the Turkish general staff acted very considerately, so the situation did not escalate. Such an escalation might have cost tens of thousands of lives. Nonetheless, this plot is exemplary historically in that it attempted to pit Kurds against Turks without leaving them room for a solution of the conflict.

“Why did Israel participate? Traditionally, Israel had good relations with the Iraqi Kurds. When I appeared on the scene, and in particular when we relocated our headquarters to the Middle East, I was an independent actor who disrupted their strategic balance. This made me dangerous. Furthermore, the Israeli right favored an alliance with Turkey to offset the political weight of the Arabs.

“It was also the Israeli lobby in Russia which had accomplished my expulsion with the help of the then Russian prime minister [Yevgeny] Primakov. I remember that Ariel Sharon had also gone to Moscow at that time.

“The USA, with their pro-Israel lobby strong while Clinton was weakened by the [Monica] Lewinsky affair, put Italy under pressure. With the help of Mossad I became persona non grata in Europe. So I travelled from place to place until eventually there was nowhere else for me to go and I was sent as a prisoner to Turkey."

[Nilüfer Koç, is member of the Executive Council and spokesperson for the Commission on Foreign Relations of the Kurdistan National Congress.]

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