Activists aim to bring solidarity from Scotland to Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg


Activists on hunger strike in France and in Turkish prisons demand an end to the isolation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan

–          Scottish activists Sarah Glynn and Fiona Napier will travel to Strasbourg this week to offer solidarity to 15 members of the Freedom for Öcalan Initiative on hunger strike

–          The strike hopes to “end the ongoing, inhumane isolation the Turkish state has imposed on the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan”

–          In addition to the Strasbourg action, 162 prisoners in 36 Turkish prisons are reported to also be on hunger strike

–          Glynn says the strikers hope to apply pressure oj European institutions such as the European Council of Human Rights and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture

SCOTTISH ACTIVISTS will this week join international delegations heading for the French city of Strasbourg to spread awareness and offer solidarity for 15 Kurdish political activists on hunger strike in support of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Öcalan, also known as ‘Apo’ and ‘Leader Apo’ (a diminutive of both Abdullah and ‘uncle’ in Kurdish), is a leader and founding member of the pro-independence revolutionary resistance group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in armed struggle against the Turkish state since its formation in 1978.

Öcalan was arrested in 1999 by by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency with the support of the CIA and initially sentenced to death, but this judgement was commuted following Turkey’s abolition of the death penalty during its efforts to secure European Union membership. During his imprisonment, he has advocated a peace plan to the Kurdish conflict involving a ‘Truth and Justice Commission’ to investigate war crimes committed by both the PKK and the Turkish state, and has attracted international outcry in support of his release.

The Strasbourg hunger strike began on 17 December 2018 and includes amongst its participants an academic, a journalist and an MP. The strike follows an earlier hunger strike begun by Leyla Güven, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who was arrested in January 2018 for criticising the Turkish military and for being the co-chair of a Kurdish political umbrella organisation. She began her hunger strike in support of Öcalan on 7 November, and has since been joined by 162 prisoners in 36 Turkish prisons.

READ MORE: Sarah Glynn: Why are 162 Kurdish political prisoners on hunger strike?

Sarah Glynn, a committee member for Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, will be travelling to Strasbourg on 24 January alongside Fiona Napier, the secretary of the Aberdeen Trades Council.

Glynn describes the trip as a “solidarity visit, with a very personal element,” due to her friendship with Kardo Bokani, on of the hunger strikers, who she met in Syria.

In explaining the rationale behind the strike, Bokani recently wrote in ANF News: “Europe’s indifference towards the Kurdish issue in general and the Ocalan case in particular, have left us with no alternative.

“This is a direct result of Europe’s inaction. The continued failures of its institutions, such as the CPT [European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment] and the Council of Europe, to carry out their duty which are forcing its citizens to embark on such a fatal course.”

Speaking to CommonSpace, Glynn confirmed that the Strasbourg hunger strikers are being visited regularly by a doctor, and that they are taking water, sugar and vitamins in order to prevent organ failure. However, a report in ANF News this week stated that “their health condition is getting worse with every passing day.”

READ MORE: Women and Kurdish liberation: Roza Salih on the Rojava Revolution 

Asked what she hoped the outcome of her solidarity visit and the strike would be, Glynn said:  “Well, I’d like to see a lot more people aware of what’s happening, but the specific call here is to end the isolation, which would just be a beginning, so that his [Ocalan’s] lawyer can see him, and that his family can see him.

“Obviously, what the Turkish Government tried to do was to let his brother see him for 10 minutes, and hoping that would be sufficient to end the strike. [But] they’re not being bought off by something like that, because that isn’t ending the isolation. I mean, it was great to know that his health was good, but what they’re doing is breaking all human rights rules.

Glynn continued: “The particular point of the Strasbourg one is to put pressure on the European institutions, like the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the European Council of Human Rights – because although Turkey isn’t a member of the EU, they are a member of these different European organisations.

“We will not be content with the crumbs of freedom. Our resistance will continue until the isolation on Leader Apo is lifted. We call on our people to deepen the resistance.” Statement from the Strasbourg hunger strikers

“People are aware, and people care. The main point is to take their message back and make more people aware. The message I would bring is that everybody who knows about it is sympathetic – our problem is getting people to know about it. So, the more people we can reach through actually talking to them will make their stand actually reach people, which is what it’s for. It’s a desperate action by people who aren’t otherwise heard.”

Solidarity delegations from France, Germany and the Netherlands have also visited the members of the Freedom for Öcalan Initiative who are on hunger strike in Strasbourg.

In a written statement released earlier this month, the strikers said: “Despite a visit with Leader Apo having been granted, the reality is that he is still under total isolation. As a matter of fact, in 2016, the AKP fascism enabled a similar meeting in an attempt to prevent the resistance. Now, with a similar move, it has put into effect such a special method of warfare to deflect the direction of the resistance and to break the will of our people. This visit can only play a role for us, that of increasing our motivation for action.”

The statement continued: “Because we know that the Kurdish people’s resistance culture created by our movement is the source of every achievements reached so far, we also know that any achievement can only be reached through resistance.

“We will not be content with the crumbs of freedom. Our resistance will continue until the isolation on Leader Apo is lifted. We call on our people to deepen the resistance.”

On 16 January, Green MSP Ross Greer put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament, which “calls on Turkish authorities to unhold basic rights to a fair trial, to cease the use of isolation of prisoners and to end what it [the Scottish Parliament] considers its persecution of the democratic opposition.” The motion gained cross-party support.

Picture courtesy of Sarah Glynn

COMMONSPACE FORUM 31 January: 100 years on – Will the Clyde run Red again?