The Scottish National Party, Scotland’s ruling party and the third largest party by membership in the UK, has released a statement that calls for an end to Turkey’s illegal isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and for a reinstatement of peace talks with him as representative of the Kurds. It urges the UK government to protest the repression of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by the Turkish Government, and emphasises the SNP’s long-standing advocacy for Kurdish rights.
Many people have compared the imprisonment of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. As Mandela was key to negotiating the end of apartheid in South Africa, so engagement with Ocalan is key to negotiating a peaceful, fair, and dignified future for Kurds in Turkey and beyond, and for Turkey itself to step back from its decent into fascism. Ocalan has not only been held in isolation on an island prison for twenty-two years but is currently deprived of all communication with the outside world. In turn this deprives the world of hopes for peace, and also of the opportunity to discuss his ideas with him directly: ideas that are transforming society in autonomous North-East Syria and can help build strong empowered communities everywhere.
As the Turkish state clamps down ever harder on democracy, it is vital that external voices stand up for those being oppressed. In the last two weeks, over 700 people were detained under Turkey’s ever-elastic terrorism legislation, including HDP provincial and district chairs; Turkey’s highest court confirmed the two year prison sentence for an HDP member of parliament who was convicted of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ on the basis of a social media post; an HDP co-mayor was left unable to speak at her court case due to severe battering by prison guards after she resisted a strip-search; and the first steps were taken to lift parliamentary immunity from a further nine HDP MPS, including the party’s co-chair, so that they too can be tried and imprisoned. Already, thousands of party members have been jailed, and almost all the elected mayors have been replaced by government appointed trustees. If democratic parties in other countries remain silent while all this is happening, that is tantamount to condoning Turkey’s attack on democracy. We hope that the SNP’s statement can encourage others to speak out – and that words will be followed by action.