The repressive Turkish state and the governments of the United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia currently proscribe the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for allegedly being a terrorist organisation.
The Kurdistan Digital Media Assembly will launch a global campaign, on November 26, to end this unfair and unjust ban. Messages of support from around the world will be broadcast and a “Twitter storm” will run for several days to highlight the issue.
The PKK is a liberation movement of the Kurdish people that pursues freedom and democracy against the brutal and repressive states between which Kurdistan was divided by colonial powers in the early 20th century. Its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been imprisoned by Turkey since 1999 and remains in isolation in a prison on the island of Imrali.
In the countries which have proscribed the PKK, it is an offence to belong to the PKK, support it and in some cases even to display its flag or the image of Öcalan.
Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook regularly block or ban their users for expressing the slightest support for the PKK or its leader, or even posting images of Öcalan or the PKK flag. The Kurdistan Digital Media Assembly itself is being subjected now to such political censorship as it organises the de-listing campaign.
In Australia, Kurdish community organisations have repeatedly urged the federal government to delist the PKK as it is unwarranted and effectively discriminatory against the Kurdish people who are restricted in their freedom of political expression.
Despite these appeals, in August, the Australian government renewed the terrorist listing of the PKK for another three years.
However, in a case against Kurdish journalist Renas Lelikan, New South Wales Supreme Court judge, Justice Lucy McCallum recognised in 2019 that “the ideology of the PKK as expressed in the writings of Abdullah Öcalan has more in common with the values of our democracy than it does with extremist violent jihad. It is based on the notion of ‘democratic confederalism’, which Öcalan describes as being ‘open towards other political groups and factions … flexible, multicultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented’ and an ideology of which ‘ecology and feminism are central pillars’.”
Justice McCallum also found that there was no evidence to suggest that Australia faces any threat from the PKK.
The European Court of Justice and the Belgian Court of Cassation have also ruled (in 2018 and 2020, respectively) that the PKK should not be listed as a terrorist organisation.
Nevertheless, the governments of the rich and powerful states refuse to abide by these rulings.
The Australian government should take the PKK off the terrorist list and allow the Kurdish people who have made this country their home after fleeing repression to have their full democratic right to express their political views.