Ross Greer MSP has demanded answers from Facebook-owned social media giant Instagram after its censorship of pro-Kurdish Instagram posts. Two of his posts referring to imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan were censored, despite the content of the posts supporting recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Torture, recommendations which were recently implemented by the Turkish government.
Censorship of pro-Kurdish Instagram posts
Mr Greer’s first post was of a photo he had taken featuring a mural dedicated to Mr Ocalan by the Falls Road in West Belfast. The mural calls for the Kurdish leader’s release features a quote in which Ocalan calls for peace in Turkey and sits alongside a similar mural of Nelson Mandela (posted 15 February and removed 10 May).
The second post featured a photo of the MSP addressing a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament which raised attention to Mr Ocalan’s isolated imprisonment and the wave of hunger strikes, including by UK citizens, which demanded Mr Ocalan be allowed access to his lawyers and family members (posted 4 April and removed 4 June).
Ocalan’s extreme solitary confinement a form of torture
Abdullah Ocalan has been held by the Turkish government on Imrali island prison for twenty years, during which time he has been subject to extreme solitary confinement, a recognised form of torture which runs counter to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the ‘Mandela Rules’.
Both the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) have found that Mr Ocalan’s rights have been violated by the conditions of his imprisonment, including by the period of a number of years, ended in recent weeks, in which Mr Ocalan’s lawyers and more recently his family were denied access to him, despite over eight hundred separate requests by his lawyers. This isolation was the focus of the CPT’s latest report, published in March 2018.
‘to freely express views in support of peace and human rights’
Ocalan is recognised by many millions of Kurds as a leader in their struggle for basic rights and freedoms. He is also a noted advocate of radical models of democracy, placing particular emphasis on the role of women at every level of society. During attempts in 2015 to negotiate a peaceful settlement between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, Ocalan strongly advocated for peace and dialogue. The attempted negotiations were subsequently aborted by the Turkish government.
Mr Greer has demanded that Instagram executives answer a number of questions, namely; why they removed the two posts, whether they allow users to support rulings of the ECHR or Committee for the Prevention of Torture, an explanation of how Instagram’s policy in regards to Mr Ocalan compares to that of comparable figures such as Nelson Mandela or those who negotiated Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement. The Green MSP has also pressed Instagram to explain whether they support the ability for elected representatives ‘to freely express views in support of peace and human rights’ on their platform.
Censoring elected representatives is a move usually left to authoritarian regimes, so Instagram has a lot of explaining to do here. Perhaps they could start by telling us what their problem is with posts which support the rulings of international human rights organisations? What’s made them look particularly foolish in this instance is their censoring a message which the Turkish government, responsible for the abuses, has since complied with. There is no credible basis for censoring an elected representative who is expressing support for peace and human rights, especially when it looks like a cack-handed attempt to curry support from Turkey’s increasingly brutal regime.
Abdullah Ocalan is a leader to millions of Kurds across the world. His advocacy of peace, democracy and women’s empowerment has inspired people far beyond his own community and his treatment at the hands of the Turkish government has been in consistent violation of international law. Even the recent access to his lawyers, denied for years, does not resolve the issue of his unfair trial and his isolated detention. If the Turkish government wants peace, they should embrace Ocalan’s calls for exactly that, rather than lock him up on an island in an attempt to silence him. Instagram appearing to side with that by censorship of pro-Kurdish Instagram posts is not a good look.Ross Greer MSP
How can you help the campaign?
With growing support in the trade union movement, devolved governments and the Parliamentary Labour Party the Freedom for Ocalan campaign is calling on trade unionists and activists to support the many local campaigns now running throughout the UK and Europe.
If you’re a member of a trade union it’s critical you support us by requesting your branch, regional or national trade union affiliate now.
With trade union support in the last twelve months we’ve been able to;
- Have the privilege of being the international solidarity theme for the 2018 Durham Miners Gala and we look forward to a major presence at this years Tolpuddle Martyrs festival
- Sent delegations to Turkey and Kurdistan and supported local trade unions
- Successfully lobby the devolved government of Wales to support the goals of the campaign
- Run conferences in the House of Lords and City Hall London
Members of political parties able to pass motions at a branch or constituency level, particularly Labour members can use this model motion.
Alternatively, if you feel you are able you could make a one-off or regular donation to help the campaign.