Repression and the Rule of Law in Turkey: The Case of Abdullah Ocalan

Thursday  24 January  2019  5:00 PM    Thursday  24 January  2019 7:00 PM
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Last update 25/01/2019

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 one of Abdullah Ocalan's lawyers, Mr. Ibrahim Bilmez, 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 the speaker 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 Bilmez Kurdish 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. 

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