GMB Experts in the World of Work
Join GMB today
 Follow @GMB_union

Happy Birthday Abdullah Öcalan

Wednesday, April 4, 2018



Öcalan has been in prison for 19 years, mostly in solitary confinement on Imrali Island, where for a number of years he has not had access to his family, lawyers or independent medical advice says GMB

GMB, along with a host of sister trade unions, has sent a birthday card [1] to jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan – via the British Ambassador.

As Mr Öcalan has been in prison since 1999 – predominantly in solitary confinement – it seems unlikely the Turkish authorities will allow the 69th Birthday greeting to be delivered directly.

As a result the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign has asked the British Ambassador to Turkey -  Sir Dominick Chilcott KCMG -  and asked him to deliver it in person. [2]

Stephen Smellie, Secretary of the Freedom for Öcalan Campaign, said:

“Öcalan has been in prison for 19 years, mostly in solitary confinement on Imrali Island, where for a number of years he has not had access to his family, lawyers or independent medical advice.

“Given these human rights are denied to him it is very unlikely that they will allow him a birthday card from trade unionists in the UK.

“Therefore we thought it would be appropriate to seek support from the Ambassador to allow UK citizens to deliver birthday greetings to an elderly gentleman whom we believe is crucial to the efforts for a democratic and peaceful solution to the conflict in Turkey.”


Contact: Stephen Smellie on 07740096864 or GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at

Notes To Editors:

[1] Design of Birthday card attached

[2] The text of the letter to the Ambassador is below:

Dear Ambassador

Today, 4 April, is the birthday of Abdullah Öcalan, Kurdish leader, philosopher and teacher. As you will know Mr. Öcalan is detained in Imrali prison in solitary confinement as he has been for most of the nineteen years he has been in prison.

You will also know that Mr. Öcalan has been denied access to visitors including his family, lawyers and political colleagues for a very long time. During a recent health scare he was not able to access any independent medical advice. This isolation is a violation of his human rights.

The Freedom for Öcalan Campaign has been set up by UK trade unions to raise awareness of his incarceration and the refusal to afford him his human rights of access to family and legal advice.

Over the years Mr. Öcalan has written and spoke of the need for a democratic and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Turkey and the wider region. His teachings on democratic Confederalism, equality and ecology  have inspired millions of Kurdish people and a growing number of UK citizens.

We believe that Mr. Öcalan is the key to resolving the Kurdish Question and achieving a peaceful solution. It is fact that it is he who the Turkish government has turned to on a number of occasions when they sought to achieve a negotiated peace. As recently as 2014/15 government officials were engaged in negotiations for peace with Mr. Öcalan until these talks were ended on the instructions of President Erdo?an.

It is not known whether he is able to receive any information from outside his prison accommodation. It does therefore seem unlikely that he will receive birthday wishes on this his 69th birthday. We therefore ask that you undertake to arrange for the enclosed card to be delivered to Mr. Öcalan on behalf of the UK trade union movement.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Smellie


Cc           Boris Johnson, Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary

                Abdulhamit Gül, Minister of Justice, Republic of Turkey


Share this page