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GMB condemn refugee policy

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
EU And UK Refugee Policy Condemned At Launch Of Trade Union Campaign To Free PKK Leader, Abdullah Ocalan

President Erdogan’s attacks on Turkey’s Kurdish population must cease, say GMB and Unite.

At the launch of the UK based campaign to free imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, last night, a standing-room only crowd in the House of Commons heard international speakers condemn the UK and European governments for their failure to condemn Turkish President Erdogan’s genocidal assault on the Kurdish population. They included Kurdish MP, Dilek Ocalan (Abdullah’s niece), and Kamuran Yuksek of the DBP. European governments and the European commission were accused of turning a blind eye to the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in south-east Turkey in return for Erdogan’s cooperation in preventing refugees escaping the Middle East conflict from crossing into Europe.

The new campaign to free Ocalan enjoys cross-party support in the British Parliament. GMB and Unite, the unions at the forefront of the initiative, believe there must be a negotiated solution to the Kurdish question and that the presence of Ocalan, as the undisputed leader of the Kurdish people, is essential for any peace process to succeed.

Mr Ocalan has been incarcerated in the notorious Imrali Island prison for 17 years since being abducted in Kenya. During that time, and despite spending much of it in solitary confinement, he has remained consistent in his advocacy of a peaceful route to reconciliation.

Simon Dubbins, Unite Director of International, said “The launch of this campaign is an historic moment that signals the full engagement and support of the trade union movement and wider civil society in the campaign for the release of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. The latest wave of unrestrained violence and repression by the Turkish government against the Kurdish population, and indeed against all progressive and democratic forces in Turkey, is outrageous and has to stop.

The Turkish government needs to understand that they will not resolve this conflict through force and that only a negotiated peace settlement offers any prospect of a better future, and that for a real peace process to begin Abdullah Ocalan must be released in order to play the role that only he can play. We are confident that this will quickly become a mass national and international campaign and urge all those interested in a better future in the region to offer their full support.”

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said: “The British State bears a heavy responsibility for the plight of the Kurds in Turkey. 100 years ago, the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement carved up Kurdistan from the remains of the Ottoman Empire and left its people stateless in the countries we now know as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. This century, British participation in the appalling attacks on Iraq and Libya has unleashed a spiral of violence that has led to millions of refugees leaving the devastation of war-torn Syria. Instead of supporting the European Union’s utterly cynical policy of allowing President Erdogan to massacre the Kurds and support ISIS, in return for stopping those refugees from getting into Europe, the British Government should be making every effort to arrive at a negotiated solution to the problems of the Middle East. Kurdish involvement in those negotiations is essential because they represent a viable secular alternative for the region as a whole. For that to happen Abdullah ?calan must be released and Turkish repression of his people must cease.” 


Contact: Bert Schouwenburg on 07974 251764, Simon Dubbins on 07785 265964 or GMB press office on 07970 863411 or 07739 182691

Notes to editors

1 GMB press release dated Monday, February 15, 2016

GMB Call On Turkish Government To Release Kurdish Leader Abdullah Ocalan On The 17th Anniversary Of His Abduction

Abdullah Ocalan’s freedom is an essential prerequisite to a negotiated settlement and we call for his immediate release says GMB.

GMB commented on the 17th anniversary of the abduction of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Mr Ocalan has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999.

Bert Schouwenburg, "As Abdullah Ocalan endures another year in captivity, the Turkish government are engaged in a largely unreported dirty war against the Kurdish population in the south of the country. Hundreds of men, women and children have been killed and thousands of dwellings destroyed.

In spite of the genocidal assault by the Turkish state, from his prison cell Ocalan continues to advocate a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. His freedom is, therefore, an essential prerequisite to a negotiated settlement and we call for his immediate release."


2 GMB press release dated 12th October 2015

GMB Call On Turkish Government To Cease Hostilities Against Kurds To Secure Negotiated End To Decades Long Conflict

Turkish authorities must bring perpetrators of atrocity to justice and ensure that citizens can exercise their inalienable right to engage in peaceful protest says GMB

GMB commented on appalling bomb attack in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Saturday, October 10th where the death toll has reached 128 with hundreds more maimed or wounded.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said “GMB is outraged by the appalling bomb attack on fellow trade unionists and other marchers for peace in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Saturday, October 10th. The death toll has reached 128 with hundreds more maimed or wounded and GMB wishes to express its deepest sympathy to the relatives of the deceased.

Trade unionists believe that an injury to one is an injury to all and we stand in solidarity with our Turkish and Kurdish colleagues who are struggling for a democratic, pluralist society within the boundaries of Turkey. We call on the Turkish authorities to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators and planners of this atrocity to justice and ensure that citizens are given adequate protection when they exercise their inalienable right to engage in peaceful protest.

GMB again urges the Turkish government to cease hostilities against the PKK and, instead, engage in dialogue with a view to bringing a negotiated settlement to the decades-long conflict. There can be no lasting peace without the full involvement and participation of the Kurdish community and we reiterate our call for the release of their leader, Abdullah ?calan, in order that he can play a full part in that process.” See copy of GMB press release dated 16th July 2015 on this issue.

3 GMB press release dated 16th July 2015


Abdullah Ocalan should now be freed to strengthen the peace process by enabling talks to move forward says GMB

GMB is backing a call for the Turkish Government to release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said "Ocalan is the spokesman of his people and has played a constructive part in progressive politics in Turkey for decades.

The results of the recent Turkish general election saw the pro-Kurdish HDP make historic gains and broke through the 10% obstacle to achieve representation in the country’s parliament.

The victory for the HDP has transformed the political landscape in the country and it has given hope to the millions of people who want to see a more democratic and pluralistic society.

The party fought the election on a platform of support for talks between the Turkish government and the Kurds which Abdullah Ocalan has been instrumental in developing.

Abdullah Ocalan should now be freed to strengthen the peace process by enabling talks to move forward.

GMB believes that Ocalan has played an absolutely central role in the reduction of tensions and the search for a just solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey which has existed since the establishment of the Turkish republic under Ataturk.

Abdullah Ocalan has remained consistent in his strong advocacy of a peaceful road to achieving democratic rights for the Kurds and made important proposals to this end on the eve of Newroz, the Kurdish New Year.

The post-election mood in Turkey opens up a new opportunity to move forward on this peace process and all sides should be encouraged to grasp this opportunity. Ocalan’s release would contribute to a just settlement.

Ibrahim Dogus, from the Centre for Kurdish Progress in London, said 'A peace agreement between Turkey and the Kurds after so many decades of violent conflict and loss of life on both sides will be an important step towards the building of a more pluralistic, open and democratic Turkey and will have a positive impact on developments across the Middle East.'


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