International Peace Delegation to Imrali – 1 year on

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The delegation to Imrali

A year on, and not much has changed.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I returned from the International Peace Delegation to Imrali, in support of the Kurdish leader Ocalan.

Ocalan was finally granted (limited) access to family and lawyers – not long after our delegation departed. But he remains incarcerated and alone and the prospects of movement there do not appear great. Meanwhile the authoritarian regime in Turkey under Erdogan continues with impunity:

In December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the civil society leader Osman Kavala had been arbitrarily detained since November 2017. In its ruling, the ECtHR said that there was no credible evidence linking Kavala to criminal activities, that his detention was an attempt to intimidate both him and other civil society activists in Turkey into silence, and that he should be immediately released.

“The Annual International Conference on the EU, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds” took place just 3 weeks ago and the speakers’ views were stark; here’s just a representative sample:

“We have seen a brutalisation of politics in Turkey. A denial of a right to a liveable life for Kurds. The question is how to contribute to a peaceful resolution from Europe?”

“There is a frightening suppression of Trade Unions in Turkey.” (I reported from our own delegation that Unionists had told us they had been described as “godless communists” – the establishment has, astonishingly, successfully conflated in the public mind the ideas of trades unionism and terrorism.)

Speaking on behalf of the Freedom for Ocalan campaign Simon Dubbins of Unite said “What the Erdogan government is doing in Northern Syria is nothing less than an ISIS rescue mission.”

There is no imminent light at the end of the tunnel. But international solidarity hasn’t ever been about “quick fixes”. The Kurds we met wanted to be heard: “tell our stories,” they said.

I’ll keep revisiting the campaign to support the Kurds. The stories are worth retelling.

A summary of our report can be found here.

Written by Senior Partner, Paul Scholey.

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