February 21. 2024. 7:32

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EU parliament plenary halted by Kurds demanding freedom for Öcalan


A group of Kurds interrupted the plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, protesting and demanding freedom for jailed Kurdish politician Abdullah Öcalan on Wednesday (15 February).

Öcalan is the founder of Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK), who has been detained for more than 20 years in Turkey on terrorism charges.

EU lawmakers who were participating in a key debate on the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan for the Net-Zero Age were evacuated and the session suspended until further notice.

WhatsApp-Image-2023-02-15-at-12.11.36 [Mirko Paradiso]

Protestors shouted “Freedom for Öcalan” and launched some objects into the hemicycle, most likely papers with some written messages, according to a Parliament source who witnessed the event.

On 8 February, a similar protest demanding Öcalan’s release took place in the square in front of the EU Parliament.

The Kurdish issue in Turkey and in the region of Rojava (Northern Syria) is a historical regional problem that has always created deep instability in the heart of the Middle East.

Kurds in Turkey account for around 18% of the total population and the cohabitation between the Turkish government and the Kurds has always been uneasy.

The PKK, founded in 1974, is considered a terrorist organisation by many EU member states due to their controversial practices of protests promoting the Kurdish cause, which included attacks, guerrilla and kidnappings.

In October 2019, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared war on Rojava, the Northern Syria region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed of different ethnic groups with a significant presence of Kurds.

Rojava is known for its innovative implementation of deliberative democracy, called “democratic conferederalism”, a political system based on self-organisation of different councils, which discuss and make decisions on community issues, based on inclusivity of all minorities and a cooperative ecology.

The theoretical aspect of democratic confederalism was invented by Öcalan himself.

Erdogan applies a zero-tolerance policy to the Kurdish question and has used it as a political card in his relations with the EU.

Turkey is currently putting obstacles to Sweden’s bid to join NATO because of the Swedish approach to the Kurdish question, as Stockholm has been rather favourable to the possible self-determination of the Kurds, a major red line for Turkey.

When Turkey started the war with Rojava in 2019, Erdogan weaponised migration, saying that if the EU made any efforts to stop the war, he would open the borders and allow migrants kept in Turkey to access Europe.