Interview with the Hunger Strikers

  1. Can you tell us who are you and why did you join this indefinite hunger strike?

This is Kardo Bokani from East of Kurdistan. I am member of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK). We launched this indefinite hunger strike on 17th December to end the isolation imposed on Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been imprisoned in Imrali island prison since 1999.

As you may know, we have no news from him since September 2016. Since then, his families have been denied visit permission, and his lawyers have not been allowed to visit him since 2011. This situation has deeply concerned us, forcing us to do something to end it.

  1. Why did you decide to do it here in Strasbourg?

We launched our strike in front of CPT (Committee for Prevention of Torture) and the Council of Europe. The CPT, as its name speaks for itself, was established as a non-political institution to investigate cases where there are allegations of torture. If they find instances of torture they should do their task and prevent it. But for the last twenty years, there have been a persistence torture inflicted on Ocalan, yet CPT has not done its duty. For the last three years, almost, Ocalan is held incommunicado, yet CPT has stayed silent. This silence has encouraged Turkey to continue torturing Ocalan with no qualms. We demand CPT change its attitude towards Ocalan and the Kurdish people. Our demand is neither excessive nor impractical. It is simple, humane and practical. We demand CPT send a delegation to Imrali island to visit Ocalan. His health and security are of paramount importance to us.

  1. Do you see any link between Ocalan isolation and the Turkish state’s threat of attacking Rojava?

Sure, one should remember that the Rojava Revolution is based on Ocalan’s philosophy. In contrast to the neighbouring countries where you see centralised, totalitarian states, constructed on the identity of a single ethnic group, the Rojava Revolution constructed a new system based on direct democracy, gender equality and religious tolerance, inter-ethnic cooperation and ecology. This is quite unique in the region. For this reason, among others, it is not liked by these authoritarian states.

The Turkish state in particular does really hate the Rojava Revolution and has been the most adamant power in the region to stifle it right from the very beginning. You don’t have to be a political scientist to acknowledge the fact that Turkey supported ISIS. Why did Turkey do that? Because it wanted to prevent the Kurds from developing their democratic project in Rojava. It resorted to Islamists extremists to fight the Kurds.

But when Erdogan, the Turkish president, realised the it was the Kurdish forces who defeated ISIS, he started to interfere directly. We remember that it was at the beginning of this year that Turkey invaded the Afrin Canton, during which they burnt the city, looted it and expelled its populations. Not long after this, once again we see that they want to invade the rest of Rojava, in order, first not to let this democratic project flourish any further and, secondly, not let the Kurds maintain their political status.

  1. What’s your message to the Kurdish people, especially the youth?

Ocalan is not a simple person. Firstly, and most importantly, he is a political figure recognised by millions of Kurds as their rightful leader. Secondly, he is a political theorist whose contribution to the literature on a variety of philosophical issues can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Thirdly, he is the most vocal voice in the whole Turkey for peace. Since 1993 he has been urging for peace and a political solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey. The PKK under his leadership since then declared eight unilateral ceasefires and withdrew its forces from Turkey to northern-Iraq twice. Since 2009 he had been engaged in a peace process with the Turkish government which ended in 2015, after Erdogan called it off and launched an all-out war against the Kurdish people. Simultaneously, they cut all contacts with Ocalan and put him in a complete state of incommunicado. They have tried to silence Ocalan, because he asks for peace and a political settlement to the Kurdish issue.

Now, that the Turkish state does not want peace and keeps striking war drums, the Kurdish people, especially the youth, as well as all democratic and progressive forces in the world should throw their support behind Ocalan and, firstly, end the isolation imposed on him and stop the aggressive policies pursued by the Turkish state.

Youth the major force for change. To change the status quo, it is vitally important for the youth to raise their voices in protest to the brutal politics the occupying powers of Kurdistan are pursuing in Kurdistan. Ocalan dedicated his entire life to bring about a life of dignity to the Kurdish youth and, now, it is the turn of the Kurdish youth to stand up against what Turkey does to Ocalan and the cause he stands for.

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