The State of Law and Human Rights in Turkey and the Case of Abdullah Ocalan...

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Portcullis House

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"I am calling for the release of Abdullah Öcalan and all other political prisoners in Turkish jails... The Turkish Government must end their oppressive measures and recommence a credible peace process with Kurdish representatives.” Martina Anderson MEP Sinn Fein, 13 December 2019

Public Forum

The State of Law and Human Rights in Turkey and the Case of Abdullah Ocalan

Date: 22 January 2019, 6.30pm

Venue: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Westminster

Hosted by Francie Molloy MP Sinn Fein

Chaired by Elif Sarican, Activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement

Speakers: Ibrahim Bilmez Kurdish lawyer; Professor Bill BowringProfessor of Law in the School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London; Simon Dubbins Director of International for UNITE the Union in the UK; Reimer Heider, a Spokesperson of International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan - Peace in Kurdistan; Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley,Lecturer in Political Sociology, University of Cambridge; Dr Gianni Tognoni,Secretary General of the Permanent People's Tribunal.

Called by Freedom for Ocalan Campaign, Peace in Kurdistan, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK, Kurdish People’s Assembly in Britain

It is now twenty years since Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish freedom movement, was abducted by Turkey. He has served the last two decades mostly in total isolation on Imrali island and more recently he has been denied all visits from his family, his legal team and independent observers. While Abdullah Ocalan is the most well-known political prisoner in Turkey, opposition politicians are increasingly arrested as President Erdogan steps up his war on dissent.

During his years in prison, Ocalan has continued to inspire his people with proposals for transnational participatory democracy known as "democratic confederalism" and for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish conflict.

Meanwhile, politically Turkey has been moving backwards, remodelled as an executive presidency that allows Erdogan to rule by decree. A state of emergency has been normalised enabling independent voices in politics, the media and academia to be savagely suppressed.

An increasingly aggressive foreign policy has led Turkey to threaten the invasion of northern Syria in a drive to eliminate Kurdish-led Rojava and its experiment in freedom, democracy and gender equality, which has flourished despite the ongoing Syrian conflict.

At our public forum speakers will address these and other urgent questions surrounding Erdogan's authoritarian regime and how it poses a threat not only to the freedoms of the Kurds but to the peace and stability of the entire region with consequences for the whole world.

The UK and all Turkey's allies should break their silence in the face of Erdogan's aggressive, destabilising policies and its escalating violations of basic civil and human rights

Issues speakers will consider include: How we can help secure Ocalan's release from prison; What can be done to defend Rojava imperilled by Turkish aggression; How can solidarity actions assist the democracy movement in Turkey; What steps can our governments take to end the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds?


Ibrahim BilmezKurdish lawyer who studied at Faculty of Law at the Marmara University of Istanbul. He has a Masters Degree in Human Rights from Bilge University of Istanbul. He works at the Asrin Law Office in Istanbul. In 2011, during the wave of arrests against lawyers dealing with the Abdullah Öcalan case, he was imprisoned. Bilmez was later released, but the court case against him is still continuing.

Professor Bill BowringProfessor of Law in the School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London, and a practising barrister at Field Court Chambers, Gray's Inn. He is well known for his work in the field of human rights and combines his academic work with practice at the Bar, appearing in the European Court of Human Rights, and advising the Council of Europe, European Union, OSCE, United Nations, on human rights, minority rights and related issues. He is Executive Committee Member of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales; President of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH); and Founder and Chair of the International Steering Committee, of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC).

Simon Dubbins Director of International for UNITE the Union in the UK, Simon has worked for the Graphical Paper and Media Union, was the Head of International for AMICUS and has been the Director of International & Research for UNITE since 2010. He now coordinates the European and International work of UNITE across all its sectors. He is a member of the European Trade Union Confederation Executive Committee and is a co-chair of the UK trade union’s “Freedom for Ocalan Campaign”.

Reimar Heider A physician by training and a human rights activist, Reimar is one of the spokespersons of the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—Peace in Kurdistan” and has translated several books by Öcalan.

Dr Thomas Jeffrey MileyLecturer in Political Sociology, Department of Sociology, at the University of Cambridge. He received his B.A. from U.C.L.A. (1995) and his PhD. from Yale University (2004). He has lectured at Yale, Wesleyan University, and Saint Louis University (Madrid); and he has been a Garcia-Pelayo Research Fellow at the Center for Political and Constitutional Studies in Madrid. His research interests include comparative nationalisms and empirical democratic theory. His current project is on comparative struggles for self-determination in the 21st century. He has published widely on dynamics of nationalist conflict and accommodation in Spain and, increasingly, in Turkey. He is the co-editor of “Your Freedom and Mine” – Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish Question in Turkey”published by Black Rose Books,

Elif Sarican has a MSc in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics with a focus on values theory, traditions of radical democracy and myths. She is a coordinator of the Kurdistan Students Union in the U.K. and an activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement.

Gianni TognoniA medical doctor, with a long career of clinical and public health research which is well documented in international literature; his work includes extensive promotion and coordination of collaborative projects in both Latin America and Africa. He was involved in the activities of the Russell Tribunal on the dictatorships in Latin America, and in the preparation of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (Algiers, 1976). He has served as Secretary General of the Permanent People's Tribunal since its foundation in 1979. In March 2018 he chaired the Permanent People´s Tribunal on Turkey and Kurds.

For information contact:Peace in Kurdistan -

e-mail:– mobile: 07846 666 804

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