Central rally in Strasbourg calls on the CoE and CPT to take urgent action for Öcalan

Kurds and their friends gathered in Strasbourg to call on the Council of Europe and CPT to fulfil their responsibilities against the isolation of Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Masses joined a rally organized by the Freedom for Öcalan Worldwide Campaign in Strasbourg on Monday. The action denounced the complicity of the Council of Europe and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in the inhuman treatment reserved for Abdullah Öcalan in the Turkish Imrali prison for several years.

The sit-in is part of the campaign Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan – A political solution to the Kurdish question, launched globally in October 2023. According to the organizers, "Both the Council of Europe and the CPT are responsible for monitoring the conditions of detention of Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan. They therefore have a legal obligation to ensure that the signatory states, in this case Turkey, respect international legal standards. In the case of Öcalan, however, these organizations failed to fulfill their solemn obligations. For example, the CPT recently visited Turkey from February 13 to 22, and during this period its delegation must have known that February 15 was the 25th anniversary of Öcalan's kidnapping; Yet the organization inexplicably refused to visit Imrali’s prison island or check on and confirm Öcalan’s well-being."

The rally in front of the Council of Europe started with a minute of silence. Kurds and their friends from many European countries participated in the rally, carrying banners and placards demanding freedom for Abdullah Öcalan.  DEM Party MP Ömer Öcalan, French and Irish parliamentarians and a lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also attended the rally.

‘We demand to hear from Öcalan as soon as possible’

The rally began with a press statement on behalf of the organisers and Kurdish organisations, noting that millions of Kurds have been taking action and protesting for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan since the beginning of the year. "As Kurdish organisations, we demand to hear from Leader Öcalan as soon as possible," it said.

The first speeches on the stage highlighted the fact that the European institutions were complicit in the crimes committed by the Turkish state by closing their eyes to the isolation.

‘Time for the physical freedom of Leader Öcalan’

Fikret Çelik, Co-Chair of the Strasbourg People's Assembly, stated that the legal doors are closed when it comes to Abdullah Öcalan and Kurds, remarking "the struggle of the Kurdish people and their friends against the AKP and MHP fascist bloc has begun to bear fruit" and pointing to the results of the 31 March local elections in Turkey. Çelik said, "It is time for the physical freedom of Leader Öcalan."

‘The struggle must reach a level that will break down the walls of İmralı’

KCDK-E Co-Chair Zübeyde Zümrüt emphasised that the reason for their gathering in front of the Council of Europe and CPT was the Kurdish people's demand for freedom for Abdullah Öcalan. Zümrüt noted that they have not heard from Abdullah Öcalan for three years and added, "We will fight until we ensure the freedom of Leader Öcalan."

Zübeyde Zümrüt pointed out that the international campaign for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, which was launched on 10 October last year, has reached an important stage and that this struggle must reach a level that will break down the walls of İmralı. Zümrüt emphasised that the Kurdish people do not accept isolation, reacted against the silence of European institutions and demanded his freedom.

‘The people will give the strongest response’

KCDK-E Co-Chair Engin Sever condemned the co-operation of CPT and European institutions and said, "No one can make dirty calculations on the life of Leader Öcalan. The people will give the strongest response, just like they said 'No one can darken our sun' 25 years ago.”

After the opening speeches, Kurdish singer Diyar Dersim took the stage and sang his songs. In a short speech, Dersim said, "Leader Öcalan is the freedom of all peoples who want freedom. We do not accept a life without the leader" and called on the European institutions to fulfil their responsibilities in the face of the isolation imposed on Öcalan.

‘We will no longer accept your silence’

Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) Co-Chair Zeynep Murad, who also attended the rally and delivered a speech, conveyed greetings from the four parts of Kurdistan to İmralı and said "We will not give up this struggle until the gates of İmralı are broken". Pointing out that Abdullah Öcalan's ideas have spread all over the world, Zeynep Murad condemned the inaction of the Council of Europe and CPT and noted that Abdullah Öcalan must be freed and be among the people. Emphasising the resistance carried out for this purpose, Murad addressed the international institutions and said "We will no longer accept your silence. Today our people have a great power". Murad noted that the enemies of the Kurdish people will no longer be able to stand against this resistance.

After Zeynep Murad, singer Sidar Amed took the stage with his songs accompanied by the slogan "Bijî Serok Apo" (Long Live Leader Öcalan).

Revolutionary Communist Party in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle

Young representatives of the Revolutionary Communist Party took the stage to give a message of full solidarity to the struggle of the Kurdish people. Saying that "the persecution of the Kurdish people is a product of capitalism", the communist youth activists emphasised the necessity of a communist struggle against imperialism and exploitation, stating that the solution against imperialism is the working class.

Irish politician: Bijî Serok Apo

Thomas Pringle, an Irish independent politician who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Donegal constituency since 2016, stated that it was great honour for him to be among the Kurdish people and highlighted his solidarity with the struggle for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan.  Pointing out that the struggles of the Kurdish people and the Irish people are similar, Pringle said: "The Turkish state's approach towards political prisoners and Abdullah Öcalan shows the fear of the Turkish state. Abdullah Öcalan's struggle and the uninterrupted struggle of the people is very valuable and it is the struggle of all of us." Pringle ended his speech by saying "Bijî Serok Apo".

MP Ömer Öcalan: Our people are protecting their will

After Pringle, DEM Party Urfa MP Ömer Öcalan took the stage. Making his speech in Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish, he said, "This embrace should become stronger and we should work until we get results. We must continue our struggle conscientiously, legally and politically. We are going after the truth.”

Ömer Öcalan stated that the Council of Europe and CPT are "unfortunately silent in the face of the persecution of Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan" and underlined that the Kurdish people see Abdullah Öcalan as their "leader".

Stating that the Council of Europe should play a positive role for Kurdistan and the Middle East, Ömer Öcalan said: "We have concerns. We have concerns about Mr Öcalan's safety and health. There have been no meetings for three years (...) Why is this injustice being carried out? Our patriotic and selfless people are protecting their will."

Ömer Öcalan said, "It is time for work, time for struggle. Our people and the eyes of Kurdistan are here (...) This is a sacred work. The Kurdish and Kurdistan alliance must be strengthened, the international alliance must be strengthened".

Ömer Öcalan called on the European institutions not to succumb to the blackmail policies of the Turkish state and said, "We will walk to the end in our struggle for truth. There is no hesitation on this issue."

Ömer Öcalan underlined that Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan and Kurdistan should be free and said, "Everyone should work to break this isolation."

Assange's lawyer: Your courage encourages other people

A lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also attended the rally and saluted the resistance and struggle of the Kurdish people. The lawyer, who is also a member of the Labour Union, expressed his pleasure to be among the Kurdish people and said, "Your courage encourages other people. It gives us great excitement."

Stating that they follow many cases around the world, the lawyer said, "However, the situation in Turkey is disastrous." Assange's lawyer stated that there is no precedent for the state of incommunicado with Abdullah Öcalan and said "Mr Abdullah Öcalan must be free". Criticising the attitude and silence of the Council of Europe, the lawyer said, "I am here in solidarity with all Kurdish people. I am in solidarity with all political prisoners."

MEP Fernandes: Abdullah Öcalan must be free

Emmanuel Fernandes, a politician of the French leftist party La France Insoumise (LFI), said: "It is an honour for me to be here. I am here to express my solidarity and support. Abdullah Öcalan's situation is really reprehensible, unacceptable and against all international conventions. Demanding freedom for Öcalan, the French politician criticised the “weakness of the Council of Europe”.

Fernandes saluted the courage and struggle of the Kurdish people and emphasised that they stood by them. He said he would raise the situation of Abdullah Öcalan and Selahattin Demirtaş when he took the floor at the Council of Europe.

Commenting on the French state’s recent repatriation of Kurdish refugees to Turkey, Fernandes said, "This was not done on my behalf. It was not done on behalf of the LFI. It was not done on behalf of the French left. It is a shame. We will continue to defend our comrades. We demand freedom for Abdullah Öcalan and political prisoners."

After Fernandes' speech, singer Kawa Urmiye, who was also the presenter of the rally, took the stage. Urmiye sang the first song for the resisting Kurdish mothers. The rally ended with Urmiye's songs.