These are turbulent times in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, the AKP, has been waging a war against the Kurdish population in its own country for some time; it is now also escalating militarily against gains made by Kurds in Syria and Iraq. So a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish question seems as far away as it has for a long time. The struggle of Kurdish society for self- determination has become a key element in the democratic reorganization and stabilization of Turkey as well as the entire region. In this sense, the constitutional recognition of the Kurds, guaranteeing their cultural, linguistic and political rights, is central to the solution of the Kurdish question and the democratization of Turkey.
On the Kurdish side, a central condition for peace is the ending of the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the most important political representative of Kurdish society. Ever since he was abducted, in violation of international law, from the Greek embassy in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, in February 1999, Öcalan has been detained on the Turkish prison island İmralı. For this reason, the international initiative Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—Peace in Kurdistan launched the worldwide “Free Öcalan” campaign. Millions of people have been campaigning for Öcalan’s freedom for years.
Most recently, the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group in South Africa and the Congress of South African Trade Unions have called for support for the international campaign “The Time Has Come: Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—For a Just Peace in Turkey.”
In a joint open letter, the two organizations state: “Our key objective is to promote a just peace in Turkey and the region. President Erdogan’s authoritarian regime has in the last few years pursued an internal and external policy of expansionism and aggression. These expansionist policies have negatively affected the Kurds in Turkey and undermined peace efforts in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, and Europe. The release of Abdullah Öcalan as the legitimate representative of the Kurdish people is essential to pave the way for peace in Turkey and the region. We know from our own experience in South Africa that the release of legitimate and credible leaders is inevitable and a necessary condition for any peace process.”
The campaign is aimed at the United Nations. Its initiators are pressing the UN to act with a coordinated international solidarity campaign.