This week a campaign calling for Ocalan’s freedom and for a political solution for the Kurdish Question was launched with 74 meetings across the world. The main meeting was scheduled to be held in Strasbourg, France, outside the Council of Europe, which was established to defend human rights. Plans had been made for statements from international speakers, including politicians attending the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly, to be accompanied by four days of public action on the street outside the council, bringing together hundreds of people.
At the eleventh hour, the organisers received a message to say that the permission for this long-planned event had been cancelled by the French state. There must be no demonstration in Strasbourg, nor in Paris. Worse, the main reason given was that the organisers had shared on social media a message from leaders of the Kurdish Movement expressing support for Hamas. They have not produced any evidence to support this accusation, however, it should not be necessary to say that the Kurdish movement, which lost 12000 people defending the world against ISIS and which inspires the Women Life Freedom movement against the Iranian regime, has nothing in common with the world outlook of Hamas and condemns violence against civilians. Regardless, the state’s accusation has been publicly tweeted by the Préfacture of Bas-Rhin, an action that could have serious consequences for all Kurdish people. Every act of repression by one state normalises repression by others. And the way this been done is unbelievably dangerous.
Sadly, Kurds are used to setbacks, and arrangements were quickly made to rearrange the Strasbourg statements in two locations. Invited speakers gave statements in the space in front of the railway station, while the MPs who are here for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, spoke in the foyer of the council building, outside the debating chamber (see image). The support from the MPs was clear and strong – both for the original message of the campaign for Öcalan’s freedom and a political solution to the Kurdish Question, and in condemnation of the French state’s ban.
Strasbourg MP, Emmanuel Fernandes, made clear that the French state’s decision is being challenged by France’s own parliamentarians. Paul Gavan, from Ireland, noted how this attack on fundamental rights was taking place in the home of the European body that exists to defend them, and used the example of the Irish peace agreement to stress the need for all-encompassing dialogue. Catalan MP, Laura Castel, spoke about the findings of the recent Imrali delegation, of which she was a member, which discussed how the extraordinary regime of isolation being imposed on Öcalan has become a pilot for the mistreatment of all Turkey’s political prisoners. And Jeremy Corbyn, from the UK, emphasised the importance of Öcalan for bringing peace. Also present were MPs Andrej Hunko from Germany, Søren Søndergaard from Denmark, Andrea Orlando from Italy, and Alexis Tsipras from Greece.
We are challenging the decision of the préfacture in court, and will share the video of today’s event when it is available. Meanwhile actions are continuing across the globe.
UPDATE The Strasbourg demonstration that was supposed to be outside the railway station was moved again, to be hidden away in the small street outside the Kurdish Community Centre.