An urgent appeal from my hunger striking friend, Dr Kardo Bokanî, to his friends and colleagues

The letter below is from my friend Kardo Bokanî, who taught political philosophy at University College Dublin. He has asked me to send it out for him because, after 66 days without food, he no longer has the mental concentration needed to organise this, and his eyesight has also been affected. I have visited Kardo and the other hunger strikers in Strasbourg, and came away feeling that if the rest of us shared just a fraction of their integrity and commitment, the world would be a much better place. I have just read the most recent report on their deteriorating health, and it’s terrifying. I hope that, after you have read Kardo’s letter, you will want to add your name to our open letter to the Council of Europe and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, in support of the Hungers strikers’ very simple, human rights-based demand. They are calling on these institutions to act to make Turkey, which is a member of the Council of Europe, end the isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and allow him visits from his family and lawyers, in line with European Human Rights law, the UN Mandela Rules on minimum rights for political prisoners, and Turkey’s own constitution.

This letter is written from academics in Europe, but if you don’t fall into that category, you can still show your support by ensuring more people learn about what is happening. And letters to parliamentary representatives can help. It is an appalling indictment of our political system and mainstream media that these selfless political activists have felt the need to put their lives on the line in order to try and get their message heard. But we can at least help amplify it.

If you would like to add your name to our letter, please email me at scottishsolidaritywithkurdistan@outlook.com, along with the name of your academic institution if you have one. And please share this appeal widely. I would like to get the letter off by next Monday (25th February) at the latest.

Thank you

Sarah Glynn

HERE IS KARDO BOKANÎ’S LETTER:

Dear friends and colleagues,

Dear academics, intellectuals and philosophers,

I write from the Kurdish hunger strike in Strasbourg to ask you for your support in our demand that the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been held in solitary confinement for the last twenty years, be allowed his basic human rights.

I am an Irish citizen, and with 13 other political activists, including a lawyer, a former MP, a politician, an intellectual and a journalist, I have been on indefinite hunger strike in Strasbourg since 17 December. We based ourselves here because it is the home of the Council of Europe. There are now over 300 Kurds on indefinite hunger strike in different places, many of them political prisoners in Turkey. The hunger strikes were begun by imprisoned MP, Leyla Güven on 7 November. The aim of our action is to end the inhumane isolation that the Turkish state has imposed on Ocalan. We demand that he be allowed his right to regular visits by his family members and lawyers, as required by international law on human rights and Turkey’s own constitution.

Ocalan is not an ordinary political prisoner. First, he is a political figure revered by millions of Kurds as their rightful leader, who has dedicated his life to Kurdish emancipation from the brutal, internal colonialism practised by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Second, he is a political theorist whose philosophy gave shape to what we see now in Northern Syria (Rojava); a democratic, multi-cultural and feminist society that has been admired by progressive forces throughout the world. Third, he has been the most vocal politician in Turkey urging for peace and a democratic solution to the Kurdish conflict. To silence a political figure such as Ocalan is to silence the most vital voice for peace in Turkey.

You may rightfully ask, why would you put your life in danger? The answer is straightforward: Europe’s indifference towards the Kurdish issue in general and the Ocalan case in particular, has left us with no alternative. The continued failures of European institutions, such as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Council of Europe, to carry out their duty are forcing us, as European citizens, to embark on this fatal course. Their failure to act points to a crisis of democracy and loss of humane values, and they will be responsible for any fatality. Ultimately, the European institutions need to do much more than support our simple demand, but what we ask should be a practical, attainable first step.

So long as our demand is not met, we will not end our strike. The prospect of death does not scare us away from our protest. We understand that we, as humans, are accountable for the world we live in. We, together, have the power to decide what that world looks like. We choose not to accept the global retreat from democracy. We choose to push back against the deafening silence and indifference to inhumanity.

As a young political philosopher who taught at University College Dublin (UCD), and on behalf of more than 300 hunger strikers, I call upon you to urge the European institutions to hear the call of their citizens – who may perish at any moment in Strasbourg – and to fulfil their responsibility, set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, to help lift the isolation imposed on Ocalan before it is too late.

Kardo Bokanî

Strasbourg

18 February 2019

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