It has become a tradition for Kurds from across Europe to march through Strasbourg on 15 February, the anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan’s capture. But this February, all attention was on helping the survivors of the earthquakes. The march for Öcalan’s freedom was postponed for two months, and, the main march was then moved to Germany, home to the biggest Kurdish community outside Kurdistan. Other marches took place in London, Vienna and Marseille.
In Düsseldorf, Kurdish women led thousands of people from different parts of Europe in a march that started at the main railway station and finished in the Rheinpark. Speakers at the concluding rally included Foza Yûsif from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that is attempting to put Öcalan’s ideas into practice in North and East Syria.
Cemîl Bayik, co-chair of the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union (KCK), addressed the rally by video, beginning with the demonstration’s historic meaning:
‘It is well-known that the Kurdish people have regained their identity because of Leader Apo [Öcalan] by struggling alongside him and by developing themselves into a nation. The occupying and genocidal enemy is carrying out a policy of genocide against the Kurdish people, especially through its approach towards Leader Apo.’
Bayik also talked about the Treaty of Lausanne, which, a century ago, divided Kurdistan, leaving the Kurds to be oppressed by four different states:
‘We are now approaching the 100th anniversary of the Lausanne alliance. It is well-known that through this alliance the denialist policy and the genocide against our people are being kept alive. Yet, Rêber Apo [Öcalan], the PKK and the Kurdish people have defeated the Lausanne alliance through their struggle. They have rendered this alliance meaningless. The Kurdish people no longer want to live according to the Lausanne Treaty. They want to live freely. This is their clear decision. Today, everyone must accept this decision of our people.’
Kurdish politics moves from one tense moment to another, and today the crisis of Ocalan’s complete isolation is combined with the run up to an election that will decide whether Turkey will turn back towards democracy or plunge further into an autocratic abyss. Bayik stressed the importance of Turkey’s forthcoming election, where Kurdish hopes are embodied in the Labour and Freedom Alliance, of which the major constituent is the Green Left, dominated by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
‘The fate of Turkey lies in the hands of the [Labour and Freedom] Alliance in the upcoming elections. I am convinced that this alliance will fulfil its historic role in the elections for both the Kurds and all the peoples of Turkey. The alliance and all democratic forces need to finally bring about the end of the AKP/MHP government. Because we have brought this government to an end with our struggle and resistance. Now the [Labour and Freedom] Alliance must complete this in the elections.’
The link between the election and the struggle for Oçalan’s freedom was spelt out by Remzi Kartal, co-chair of Kongra Gel, speaking to the thousands-strong rally Marseille:
‘Öcalan’s freedom depends on resistance. An enhanced resistance and struggle by our people would force them to sit at the table with Öcalan. This will be seen clearly once our people send away the fascist chief Erdoğan and double the votes of the Green Left Party (YSP) on May 14.’