THE BLOG

Planned Protest in London to Demand Freedom for Abdullah Ocalan

13/02/2014 09:57 GMT | Updated 14/04/2014 10:59 BST

Abdullah Ocalan is the founder and leader of a Kurdish armed resistance group within Turkey's southeast. He founded Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in 1978 as a response to the Turkish state's denial of Kurdish people, and was subsequently arrested in 1995. He was imprisoned on the Imrali Island and from 1999 until recently he was the only prisoner on the Island. Despite the restrictions placed on him, he has authored several books, and in recent times has urged his followers to become political participants in the age of diplomacy.

In spite of the concessions made towards Kurdish people in Turkey, who were once denied and are now struggling to become key political participants due to the wide scale crackdown on activists, dissidents and those who support greater recognition of Kurdish people in terms of linguistic, cultural and political rights. There is little discussion on whether Abdullah Ocalan who has been imprisoned for nearly 15 years will ever be freed.

A small number of Kurdish people in London have organised a protest 'cycling for freedom' against the Turkish government's life imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan. Their message is clear on the Facebook page created, with over one thousands invites sent out already:

As the 15th anniversary of the abduction of our leader is approaching, we as the Kurdish youth will be cycling for freedom around London.

To get a clearer view of who Kurdish people are, and the Human rights violations in Turkey, read my previous post "Turkey's regional influence is tainted by Human rights violations". The Kurdish community in United Kingdom is quite vocal about their grievances by staging protests to challenge the political structure in Turkey on a regular basis (as well as protests against the Syrian government), unfortunately their efforts have not translated into immediate action or generated a sustainable discussion on the plausibility of a re-trial for Abdullah Ocalan or even a state sanctioned pardon.

I think the real issue is that Abdullah Ocalan, unlike other political prisoners has failed to gain public sympathy because of the ongoing media campaign against him. He is depicted as someone "feared and worshipped" although that is not the case (and in his recent letter to the Guardian he explains why, more on this here). In order to gain an international platform of recognition as a "freedom fighter", he must be given a fair platform to represent his views, and those who support him without censorship, but for the time being this seems unlikely.