The Welsh trade union movement has a long and proud history of demonstrating solidarity with workers and trade unionists internationally fighting for democracy, equality, justice and freedom.
It is against this backdrop that we have worked with our friends across the labour social justice movement, including the People’s Assembly, to lobby our Welsh Assembly, Labour and Plaid members to support a motion, criticising the treatment of Abdullah Ocalan, calling for an ending of the enforced solitary confinement of a political prisoner, stating the imprisonment was
“under conditions which are understood to contravene the Turkish state’s legal obligations in relations to human rights”
Assembly members argued it was incumbent upon on the National Assembly and Welsh Government to recognise and support the part that a Newport man – Imam Sis is currently playing in an international struggle for justice, equality and human rights.
It fills me with a massive amount of pride and joy to say that the Welsh trade union movement succeeded the motion was passed and Wales became the first nation worldwide, through its government and Parliament to show it’s solidarity with the Kurdish hunger strikers.
Welsh trade unions show solidarity
I recently spoke at the Freedom for Ocalan rally in Cardiff alongside my fellow trade unionist Cerith Griffiths, FBU Regional Secretary, Hilary Brown, International Lawyer, Mick Antoniw, Labour AM, several other politicians, grassroots campaigners and Kurdish activists all united as one with a clear message. The demands of the strikers are very simple and uncontroversial: that Turkey honours its commitment to the anti-torture convention of the Council of Europe and for sovereign states to open their eyes and pressure Turkey into complying with internationally recognised human rights standards.
As I said at the rally, it is the history of British imperialism and interference in Kurdistan and the Middle East, the Sykes-Picot agreement, orchestrated by Britain and France in 1916, which led to dividing the Middle East into spheres of influence, drawing of borders that effectively made Kurdish people stateless. More recently it is the UK Tory government’s continuation of selling arms to Turkey that supports this fascist ideology.
Erdogan’s attack on our shared values
We as the people of the UK, of our great nation of Wales, cannot and should not be standing by as Turkey’s President Erdogan tries to silence public sector workers, trade unionists, teachers and campaigners of social justice. People like you and me who seek nothing but fundamental human rights to fair and open democracy, freedom, equality and self-determination.
Many of us have seen news reports about the autonomous revolutionary project in Rojava Northern Syria, where Kurdish people including the strong Feminist women’s revolutionary force who have fought and defeated ISIS. Yet the same American and European allies do nothing in the face of the continued brutality against the Kurdish people. This demonstrates their clear continuation of the complete lack of commitment to achieving peace in the region.
End the persecution of the Kurds
In order to achieve peace, Öcalan the-leader of the Kurds and chief negotiator, who is committed to ceasefires and peace initiatives must be released. There is no hope of an end to the persecution of Kurds as long as Öcalan is held in isolation.
Some people will try and convince others the hunger strike isn’t relevant to ordinary people. Well, we consider Imam Sis and all Kurds living in Wales as Welsh citizens. Imam is one of our own. He has stood on many a picket lines, marched and spoken up against Tory austerity, fought for workers’ rights, demonstrated his solidarity and commitment on many issues so it’s only right that we now support him both visibly and loudly, demanding the UK Government uses its levers of power to, work with other EU states and countries globally to pressure Turkey into freeing Abdullah and accepting Kurds as equal citizens.