Calls for the immediate release of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah öcalan reverberated through the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament. Aneel Hegde, an influential member of the Janata Dal (United) party, delivered an impassioned speech urging India’s top ministers to intervene in Öcalan’s 24-year solitary confinement on Turkey’s İmralı island.

The Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament, on Tuesday heard calls for urgent action to free Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been held in solitary confinement on the Turkish island of İmralı since 1999.

In his address to the Council of States, Aneel Hegde, a member of parliament from the Janata Dal (United) party, spoke passionately on the issue of Öcalan’s prolonged detention.

During the parliamentary session, which was attended by India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Home Minister Amit Shah, Hegde presented a petition to both ministers, urging them to intervene in the matter and emphasising their longstanding commitment to fighting inequality and human rights violations not only in India but also globally.

The Janata Dal (United) representative highlighted the party’s history of standing up for social justice and democracy, citing instances where it had stood in solidarity with figures such as the Dalai Lama and Aung Suu Kyi. Stressing the importance of defending human rights and democracy regardless of geographical location, Hegde mentioned their continued support for these principles in Kashmir and worldwide.

Highlighting the plight of Abdullah Öcalan, Hegde urged the Indian government to urgently contact Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and appeal for his release.

“I humbly request and urge the government, through our Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Home Minister Amit Shah, to immediately intervene and initiate a dialogue with President Erdoğan to secure the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan,” Hegde said.

The appeal in the Indian Parliament adds to the ongoing global campaign ‘Freedom for Öcalan, a political solution for Kurdistan’.

Although he has been held in solitary confinement for 24 years, Öcalan’s isolation has become increasingly severe in recent years, raising international concern.

Öcalan has had no contact with the outside world for two and a half years, in violation of both Turkish and international law. The last meeting with his lawyers took place in August 2019, and the last communication with anyone outside prison walls – a brief phone call with his brother – dates back to March 2021.

The campaign aims to advocate for Öcalan’s right to meet with his lawyers and family, and ultimately to secure his release under conditions that would allow him to contribute to the pursuit of a just and democratic political solution to the long-standing Kurdish conflict in Turkey.