We Have to be the Voice of Political Prisoners

The 15th of February: the kidnapping of Abdullah Ocalan has become engraved in the collective consciousness of the Kurds. In the person of Abdullah Ocalan and his arrest by an international conspiracy, the Kurdish society should be erased from history. There was the expectation that the arrest of Öcalan would break the whole Kurdish movement. This approach of the Turkish state has disregarded the values, efforts and aspirations created by Kurdish society for decades.

Abdullah Öcalan has worked for many decades for the peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish question. As early as the 1990s, Öcalan approached Turkish state representatives directly in order to create a platform for discussion, including with Turkish Prime Minister Özal. He appealed that a military confrontation was no solution for both sides and that a peaceful agreement should therefore be reached. This found no resonance in Turkish politics. Those who were prepared to respond to the appeals were put out of the way.

On the prison island of Imrali, Ocalan had the opportunity to deepen his ideas and proposals for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question, which had been deliberately ignored until then, and to develop a new paradigm. He developed the thesis of the “democratic republic”. If this thesis would really be heard, the freedom of all social groups in a republic would be guaranteed. He has explained his ideas in depth in his defence writings and also in his statement on Newroz in 2013 he has given us concrete ideas. Despite all his peaceful efforts, Ocalan is subject to prolonged isolation. Talks are exclusively subject to the arbitrariness of the state.

Kurdish society has expressed in various ways that they will not accept this approach to Ocalan. When there were reports of his possible poisoning, Kurds protested in all parts of Kurdistan and the diaspora. There is a continuous protest of the society against the isolation policy. There have been a lot of self-immolations against the International Conspiracy of February 15 and the isolation policy. It was declared that Öcalan is not only a person but the representative and leader of the Kurdish society.

In 2018, Turkey intervened in the northern Syrian canton of Afrin. I myself was the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) at that time. We condemned this occupation. I was arrested for this protest and imprisoned in Diyerbakir prison. At that time, there was again a strong repression against the HDP. The immunity of HDP MPs was lifted, Kurdish communities were put under forced administration, Kurdish institutions were closed, the Kurdish press was censored, tens of thousands of activists were imprisoned. It was a crime to be a sympathiser of the HDP or the women’s movement.
Delegates of the DTK were also arrested. In prison, I began to reflect on this situation and to think about where our mistakes were. Could it be that we failed to define the repression, which is nothing more than a colonial policy? Was our policy too ineffective? As a result of these considerations I came to the decision to start an action. I was not thinking as an individual, but in terms of the needs of our political party and society. So I organized the hunger strike. At the beginning I thought about starting this action as a death fast on July 14th. But my trial did not start in July, but in November. On November 7, I decided to declare this action as a Kurdish woman and co-chair of DTK to express my opposition against the isolation policy on the prison island Imrali. A wave of hunger strike actions was started worldwide. A clear message was sent out in this way: End the isolation against Ocalan, who is the only one who can find a solution to the Kurdish question.

Leyla Güven on her 129th day of the hunger strike in march 2019

Through these actions, there were several visits to Öcalan. The statements of Ocalan had a great impact on the Kurdish society. He once again put on the table the responsibility of all parties to find a solution to the question. It was now the state’s turn to act and to start a new phase of negotiations. Despite this, there is no new will of the Turkish state for a solution.

There are currently tens of thousands of political prisoners. Sick prisoners die every day. Despite the Corona pandemic, no political prisoners have been released. If you want to assess the political situation in a country, you should look at the situation in prisons. We see here a large number of human rights crimes in the prisons. Political prisoners are exposed to political arbitrariness. Every campaign for political prisoners is important in this sense. We have to strengthen them, we have to be the voice of political prisoners. We attach great importance to the campaign started in Europe and we believe that in this way the doors to the prisons will be opened.

Leyla Güven,
HDP delegates and co-chair of the DTK

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