PH groups join global call to free Kurdish Leader Abdullah Öcalan, all political prisoners

October 11, 2023

On the occasion of the Prison Awareness Month in the Philippines this October and the international campaign of ‘Parallel Press Conferences Worldwide to Call for News about Abdullah Öcalan on October 10, 2023,’ solidarity and friendship groups, progressive mass organizations, and representative of anti-imperialist movements gather in the Philippines to express their support for the Kurdish people’s call for freedom for their political leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

In a press forum led by the Philippine-Kurdistan Friendship Association (PKFA) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), Filipinos bring attention to the plight and struggle of the Kurdistan people and the issue of political prisoners worldwide.

The unresolved ‘Kurdish question’ in Turkey is driven by the conflicts and political instability deriving from the Turkish State’s violent denial of the fundamental civil and political rights of 20 million Kurdish citizens. This has cost tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions, and empowered religious fundamentalists and autocrats worldwide. The long-time struggle of the Kurdish people is linked to serious regional and global challenges impacting the lives of millions – occupation, racism, oppression of women, religious intolerance, economic exploitation, and the destruction of the environment.

It is from these very reasons that Öcalan actively led the Kurdish liberation struggle as the head of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) from its foundation in 1978 until his abduction on February 15, 1999. He was a staunch freedom fighter who has led a long succession of uprisings for the independence of the Kurdish people.

In 1999, he was apprehended in Kenya and taken back to Turkey where he was tried and sentenced to death by the Turkish State for extreme allegations of ‘treason’ and ‘sedition’. He was tagged as a ‘terrorist’ by the Turkish State, with the support of the US and Israeli fascist forces and was held in solitary confinement as the only prisoner in the infamous Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara, outside of Istanbul.

Last July 18, he was imposed with a new “disciplinary sanction,” without any basis in Turkish or European legal framework. During the same month, in the European Parliament, unions, political parties, and experts warned that the Turkish State may be in breach of various vital international legal standards, notably the ‘Mandela Rules’ regarding torture and other forms of inhumane treatment.

Öcalan as a symbol of multi-states oppression

“The incarceration of Abdullah Öcalan aims to depict the Kurdish resistance as terrorism, whereas it truly stems from the systemic oppression faced by the Kurds under the Turkish regime, a significant ally of the US,” says Teddy Casino, Chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

According to BAYAN, the enduring struggle of the Kurdish people is a fight against the Turkish nation-state’s belief that it can secure its domination through the genocide of the Kurds.

Casiño emphasized that the plight of Öcalan mirrors the Philippine government’s detainment of activists, critics and anyone who persistently resist both US imperialism and state terror, a situation that has been more pronounced with the resurgence of the Marcoses in power.

In the Philippines, as of the end of June 2023, human rights group KARAPATAN reported that some 78 individuals have been illegally arrested on trumped-up charges under the Marcos Jr. regime, comprising almost 10% of the country’s 778 political prisoners. In addition, KARAPATAN also tallied 191 illegal arrests without detention. These detentions have been facilitated through the use of spurious search warrants, continuously threatening critics, activists and human rights defenders.

“The current US-Marcos-Duterte administration further perpetuates a climate where human rights are disregarded, and individuals are labeled as ‘terrorists’ without due process, all under the pretext of the 2020 Anti-Terror Law,” Casino asserts.

Continuing onslaught on the Kurdish minority and other oppressed nationalities

Amirah Lidasan, a moro-activist in the Philippines remarked that, “Western governments speak of ‘self-determination’ for smaller nations like ours, but in reality, they are the gravediggers for the peoples’ identity and culture. The capture of Öcalan is part of a continuing onslaught of annihilation, assimilation, and mass slaughter of the Kurdish minority by the Turkish State.”

Lidasan, the spokesperson for Sandugo- Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, emphasized, “The Turkish State’s domestic and foreign policies constitute a vast campaign marked by denial and persecution, which encompasses extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, the obliteration of thousands of villages, and numerous other egregious rights violations targeting vulnerable religious minorities.”

Filipino-Kurdish solidarity for Öcalan

One of the main areas of the ongoing national liberation struggle being waged by Öcalan and the Kurdish people is women’s freedom.

“We draw inspiration from the brave Kurdish women who share the same thirst for emancipation from imperialist powers like the US which have long sponsored fascist governments in the name of maintaining and expanding control and power over resource-rich territories”, Joms Salvador, GABRIELA Vice Chairperson.

They further assert that, akin to the Turkish State, the Marcos-Duterte regime has wholeheartedly embraced the US’ military and economic aggression, seen in its rabid

support to greater U.S. troop presence and basing in the Philippines through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), resulting in the tragic loss of lives and livelihoods and the threat to lives and security particularly impacting women, youth, children, LGBTQ+ individuals, and exacerbating the plight of the toiling masses.

Organizations for the rights and freedom of political prisoners in the Philippines also raise concern about the deafening silence of the European governments on Öcalan’s condition.

The European governments, European Union (EU) human rights organizations, and the Council of Europe’s woefully inadequate response reveals a tacit endorsement of the violation and abuse of Öcalan’s fundamental human rights as a political prisoner, says Bonifacio Ilagan, from the organization of former political prisoners in the Philippines, SELDA.

Ilagan underscores that this act of deliberately withholding sufficient public information on his incarceration concerns all political prisoners who have been enduring the same harsh and inhumane prison conditions. It is imperative that rights of political prisoners should be protected and ensured under humanitarian and international law,” Bonifacio Ilagan, SELDA Spokesperson.

Need for stronger international solidarity for liberation and just peace

“In the face of repressive policies of the Turkish government and its inhumane actions against Öcalan and those who fight for freedom, the Filipino people unite with the Kurdish people in their demand for a just and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. Like Öcalan, we stand for peace based on social justice, free from the chains of US imperialist colonization,” says Pastor Allan Rey Sarte, ILPS Philippines Secretary-General.

“As the stalwarts of western ‘democracy’ remain silent on Abdullah Öcalan’s condition, there is an urgent call for solidarity with the Kurdish people. Our League will be launching a Global Solidarity Campaign for Kurdistan, urging all its members to support the Kurdish people’s struggle, particularly the demand to free Öcalan. History proves that democratic, anti-imperialist movements render despotic regimes powerless and lead to victories for self-determination and liberation,” says Len Cooper, ILPS Chairperson.

“We will intensify the strong relations between the Kurdish and Philippine mass movements, based on a shared common predicament of oppression and exploitation under colonial powers. In honor of our long shared history of revolutionary resistance with Kurdish people, we are one with the call to free Öcalan and all political prisoners worldwide,” says Faisal Solaiman, Philippines-Kurdistan Friendship Association Spokesperson. #


Philippines-Kurdistan Friendship Association, 09171348231