In a compelling speech at a Cologne press conference for the Freedom for Öcalan campaign, Dr Thoreau Redcrow, an American Global Conflict Analyst specialising in Kurdish Studies, highlighted the illegal isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and called for international solidarity and accountability from European institutions.

A press conference in Cologne on Friday marked the launch of the second phase of the “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan, A Political Solution to the Kurdish Question” campaign, expanding the movement’s scope and extending the call for international solidarity. Dr Thoreau Redcrow attended the conference, and spoke there, highlighting the illegal isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and calling for international solidarity and accountability from European institutions.

Thoreau Redcrow

In the second stage of the Freedom for Öcalan campaign, we are seeking the support of internationalists and non-Kurds to speak about the illegal and inhumane isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. One of our focuses in this next part of the campaign is holding European institutions accountable who are refusing to fulfill their legal duty to hold the Turkish state accountable for their violations of international law.

International law says that it is illegal to hold any human being in solitary confinement in a state of “incommunicado” detention. This word “incommunicado” may sound clinical, but what it really means is dropping someone into a hole of non-existence to the outside world. It is essentially confining a person to a living coffin, where they are unable to even hear another person’s voice. Keeping a person locked away and deprived from human contact in this cruel way is also recognized as an act of torture.

This is what Turkey has done with Abdullah Öcalan for the past 3 years, where he has been denied all human contact, even with his lawyers and family. Because of this, millions of Kurds and his supporters around the world have no information related to his health. But while this action by the Turkish state is of course immoral, we must recognize that it is also illegal under international law, European law, American law, and even Turkish law.

The democratic and civilized world has agreed that torturing a person is a depraved act and should be banished from modern society. To ensure this, Europe for instance established the CPT (Committee for the Prevention of Torture). Their job and sacred responsibility is to ensure that states who agreed to their statutes do not carry out acts of torture. Turkey is one of those states.

However, around two weeks ago, the CPT visited Turkey, during the 25th anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan’s abduction, and refused to visit Imralı Island Prison where he is being tortured in isolation. The CPT’s refusal to check on Mr Öcalan was a cowardly and pathetic abdication of their sole duty. If the CPT cannot find the bravery to insist that Erdogan’s regime allow them to visit Imralı Island, then they should not exist as an organization.

For this reason, in this next stage of the campaign, we are asking everyone to come to the CPT headquarters in Strasbourg from 15-19 April, where thousands of people are going to hold a sit-in protest of civil disobedience to force them to fulfill their duty and stop the torture of Abdullah Öcalan.

As an American, I also want to speak about the importance of giving this campaign a global dimension. It should not just be Kurds advocating on behalf of Öcalan’s human rights. Because if they can disappear him, a man beloved by millions of people and seen as the political representative of an occupied nation, then they can commit this act of torture on anyone. Today it is Öcalan, but tomorrow it will be another civil rights leader or person who speaks truth to power and fights oppression or occupation.

The Kurdish struggle is not just relevant to Kurdistan, but to all the stateless and occupied people in the world. As someone who studies conflicts I can assure you that the fight of the Kurds is similar to the struggles of the Tamils, people of Baloch, West Papuans, Sawahiris, Amazonians, Basques, Catalans and Scots. From the jungles of Chiapas to the islands of the Phillipines, similar guerrilla struggles are also being waged for human dignity, in the same way they are in the Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan. And all of these causes can take wisdom and advice from the writings of Abdullah Öcalan, whose paradigm offers a democratic blueprint on establishing your own society outside of an occupying state. This is why they want to keep him locked away on an island in a dark box for years, unable to speak to the outside world.

The Turkish state believes that if they keep Öcalan silent that he will be forgotten, but he is alive now more than ever, even without a single person seeing his face or hearing his voice. Because we thankfully have his words, which they cannot erase from history. These words inspired over 50,000 people to march through this very city of Cologne just two weeks ago.

On the stage that day we also heard from internationalists who had come from all over the world to advocate for Öcalan’s freedom. From Iceland, Sardinia, Valencia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Columbia, the Basque country, Barcelona, Norway and Sweden plus dozens of other countries. Öcalan is a Kurd, yes, but he is speaking for all of humanity, which is why they are trying to silence him and why the CPT refuses to insist that Turkey allows him to exist and share his ideas with the world. They have locked up his body on Imralı Island, but that is not really what Ankara fears, what they truly fear is Öcalan’s mind.

Turkey also treats him cruelly as a way to collectively punish the entire Kurdish nation for demanding their existence. Turkey has locked away the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) mayors, thrown thousands of Kurdish activists into prisons, used JİTEM (Gendarmerie Intelligence Anti-terrorist) death squads, burned down 5,000 Kurdish villages, flooded away the history of the Kurds in Hasankeyf, and buried the history of the Kurds in the rubble of Sur – and yet, over 20 million people in the Turkey still refuse to deny they are Kurdish.

And one of the main reasons for their defiance and will to never give up, is because they are armed with Öcalan’s philosophy, which teaches them to live as free people. That is why his prison isolation must end. Thank you.