The international Peace Delegation went to Turkey and Kurdistan from 11 to 16 February. The International Peace Delegation to Imrali held a press conference to report on its visit to Turkey and Kurdistan.
The International Peace Delegation to İmralı was organized by the International Initiative “Freedom for Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan,” with support from the Freedom for Öcalan campaign and trade union group (UK), comprising politicians, academics, trade unionists, and public figures.
Reporting on the hunger strikes going on all over Turkey and Kurdistan as well as Europe, the Delegation had this to say: “The situation regarding Öcalan is now at a critical point. There are currently more than 330 people in Turkey and around the world on indefinite hunger strike demanding that Turkey end the isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan. The hunger strikes were started by Leyla Güven, an MP from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), on 7 November 2018, while she was in prison for publicly criticizing the Turkish state’s invasion of Afrin in Northern Syria. Since Güven declared her hunger strike, more than 315 other political prisoners across Turkey, as well as Kurdish politicians, activists, and academics in Strasbourg, Hewler, Wales, and Toronto, have followed her in declaring indefinite hunger strike. Many of the hunger strikers are in critical condition, but they are refusing medical treatment until the isolation is ended.
Request to visit Imrali went unanswered
The delegation visited Turkey from 11-16 February, with the intent of visiting Abdullah Öcalan to try to break the isolation. The delegation wrote to the Minister of Justice of Turkey from the office of Ögmundur Jónasson asking to visit Öcalan on İmralı Island. The delegation also requested a meeting with the Justice Minister in order to express concern regarding the condition of the hunger strikers and the worsening human rights situation in Turkey. The delegation never received a response to this letter.
However, the delegation was able to “meet with Leyla Güven, then on her 98th day of hunger strike, in her home in Diyarbakir, where she has been since being released from prison on 25 January 2019. Ms. Güven told the delegation that her hunger strike is not an attempt at suicide, but rather an expression of her deep love for life. The hope of the hunger strikers is that ending Öcalan’s isolation will function as the first step in restarting talks for peace negotiations.”
As to human rights violations, the delegation has this to say: “We met with numerous MPs from the HDP, including the HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan, representatives from human rights organizations, trade unions, the BAR association, the Kurdish freedom movement, and the Peace Mothers organization. Together these individuals painted a consistent picture; during the time of the talks for peace negotiations, there was an atmosphere of democracy and free expression in Turkey.”
The situation in Turkey, said the delegation, “represents a failure of international human rights mechanisms, and the silence of Western states is unacceptable, as they continue to maintain close military and economic ties with Turkey.”
What is needed, said the delegation, “is immediate pressure applied on the Turkish government by Western states and international mechanisms to end the isolation of Öcalan and restart the peace process, before the situation in Turkey violently escalates out of control.”
The members of the Delegation
The members of the delegation are as follows:
Ögmundur Jónasson – Former Minister of Justice, Minister of the Interior in Iceland; former member of the Icelandic Parliament; former trade union leader; former foreign news editor for Icelandic State TV.
Manuel Cortes – General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) trade union (UK).
Beverly Keene – Coordinator of Dialogue 2000 – Jubilee South (Argentina); teaches Economic and Social Rights at the National University of Buenos Aires.
Paul Scholey – Partner at Morrish Solicitors LLP, the leading trade union law firm in the UK.
Maxine Peake – Actor, director, and playwright; Vice-President of The Marx Memorial Library, London.
Tony Burke – Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union (UK and Ireland).
Connor Hayes – Student of Philosophy (UK).
John Hunt – writer, editor (UK); long-time international election observer.
Jon Spaull – filmmaker, photographer (UK).