Arts & Culture

2007 - 2022

Freedom for Ocalan – a call to Scottish artists

When Glasgow City Council awarded Nelson Mandela Freedom of the City, it made history. It provided an important statement in the long campaign by ordinary people across the world that eventually forced the end of apartheid.

Now, we are being called to give our solidarity to another imprisoned leader, who, like Mandela, has the will and the support to negotiate a peaceful future for his people, if only his and their oppressors can be made to listen.

Abdullah Ocalan is the recognised leader of millions of Kurds who are struggling for freedom, and he holds the key to a fair and peaceful future in Turkey. On top of this, his ideas have inspired the creation of a radical democracy that provides an example for people everywhere. But, since his capture by an international conspiracy nearly twenty-two years ago, he has been shut up in a Turkish prison.

This is a call for artists, writers, musicians, and creative people of all kinds to add their names to the call for Ocalan’s freedom. If you would like to be added to the signatories, please email Estella at Peace in Kurdistan, this week, on [email protected]

Artists’ declaration for Ocalan’s freedom

Throughout the centuries, since the earliest times and in every established civilisation across the world, artists, writers and creative workers have placed themselves at the forefront of the struggle for human liberation.

Art is an enhanced form of human expression embodying the power of communication, with a capacity to transmit shared values and represent common experiences that are felt and lived by people in different communities and over successive generations.  Creative artists are essentially engaged in the process of communication whether the tools of their craft are words, sounds or images.

As creative artists we understand the absolute necessity of freedom and what it means for the human spirit. Freedom nurtures life and sustains human creativity. Freedom is a living principle that connects all humanity. It is a basic requirement of our existence, one that is as essential as food, water, shelter and rest.  Like a flower needs the light of the sun, humanity needs freedom. To deny it is to shut out the light and stifle life.

Artistic expression thrives in conditions of freedom. The best examples of art are enjoyed as shared experience and represent the common values of humanity. Art possesses the unique ability to connect people beyond time and space in history and culture; it enables people to transcend borders and surmount all the barriers of language, age, social class, custom and education. Great art challenges its audience to question its own deeply held beliefs and to rethink its most cherished attitudes. It dispels ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding.

Creative artists recognise that they have a duty to uphold common values. We perform a vital function in our society, guiding popular opinion and acting as the consciences of the nation. There is nothing cynical about the essential truth of art.

As educators and communicators, as artists we carry on our responsibilities with the utmost seriousness with integrity and profoundest commitment. The writers of the Romantic movement regarded themselves as the “unacknowledged legislators” of their nations, in the words of the poet Shelley.

The Kurdish people, like ourselves, are deeply attached to their culture. They are right to be proud of their rich and ancient heritage, language, shared values, folk customs, poetry and traditions of storytelling.

The Kurds share with every nation a desire to express themselves by composing music, performing dance, creating visual art, writing verse, and are active in all the contemporary forms of artistic production including film, theatre and video art. These expressions of their humanity cannot be denied them.

Abdullah Ocalan, the outstanding leader of the Kurdish people, has shown immense dignity, integrity, selfless commitment and profound foresight over the years, even during the decades of his imprisonment. He has inspired multiple generations of Kurdish people to live their lives in dignity and self-respect. He has been a great teacher and encouraged Kurdish men and women to stand tall and stand up for their rights as free human beings.

Throughout their history, the Kurds have been compelled to struggle for their freedom confronted with the intolerance and cruelty of the Turkish state. Ocalan has offered them hope and a means of liberation. The contemporary Kurdish political struggle has engendered a tremendous renaissance in Kurdish culture, numerous examples of which can be found in art, music, literature and cinema.

Abdullah Ocalan himself has written much about the place of culture and language in the lives of the Kurds. He recognises that art is an expression of Kurdish identity and that freedom is a necessary requirement for it to flourish. Art and freedom are both essential for human dignity.

As artists we understand that freedom is essential for the dignity and integrity of every individual. Abdullah Ocalan has served his time and deserves his freedom. He has clearly demonstrated that he is a responsible political leader of his people and has shown that his word can be trusted. It is time for him to be given his freedom.


Supported by

Peace in Kurdistan CampaignGlobal Rights & Diritti Globali, News and International Magazine; Dafydd Iwan, Welsh singer-songwriter and Welsh language campaigner; Dr Jennifer Langer, Founding Director Exiled Writers Ink; David Morgan, writer and poet; Maxine Peake, actress; Brian Eno, musician, composer, visual artist; Jan Woolf, writer; Seamas Carraher, Irish poet and writer; James Kelman, writer; Nathan Felix, composer, US; Blake Weaver, producer, US; Alix Davis, artist, Toronto, Canada; Julia Pascal PhD, playwright; Rahila Gupta, writer; Diane Lanford, novelist; Penelope Dimond, actress and writer; Greta Sykes, poet and writer; Doug Nicholls, writer; Thomas Jeffrey Miley, writer; Les Levidow, musician and activist; Felix Padel, writer and musician; Steve Sweeney, journalist and writer; Janet Biehl, writer and artist, US; Leon Rosselson, song-writer, children’s author; David Rovics, musician and author, US; Dave Lippman, songster, US; Jagdeep Raina, artist; Aonghas Macneacail, Scottish poet; Sara Kermanian, writer and poet;  Naomi Salaman, conceptual artist, writer, curator; Emily Johns, Artist; Atiha Sen Gupta,  playwright; Tony Shephard, musician, graphic designer; Jonathan Chadwick, Director, Az Theatre company; Quincy Saul, musician; Mehrnoosh Fetrat, Director, US; Jack Hirschman, Emeritus Poet Laureate of San Francisco, US; Agneta Falk, Swedish-born poet and painter, US; Paolo Rossi, comedian, Italy; Moni Ovadia, artist, actor, musician, Italy; Nādt Orchestra, world music group, Italy; Simone Nola , musician, Italy; Lorenzo Napoletani , musician, Italy; Domenico Romano , musician, Italy; Marco Porcelluzzi , musician, Italy; Lorenzo Righetti , musician, Italy; Yado Uzun , musician, Italy; Gionata Lazzari , musician, Italy; Vincenzo Amodeo , musician, Italy; Sandra Graniti , musician, Italy; Dennis Ghiani , artist, Italy; Vincenzo Durante , musician, Italy; Valentino Roberto  Pirino , musician, Italy; Anna Lombardo, poet, Italy; Azibar Terreros Ulibarri , musician, Basque Country; Rafael Moran , musician and professor, Cuba; José Ochoa , musician, Cantabria; Raimon Molà , musician, Catalunya; Victor Ignacio Moreno , musician, Chile





Comments (6)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Graham Ennis says:

    The history of Art is that the artists are the canary in the coal mine. We are the first to sensitise to oncoming dangers against freedom.
    I know and understand about Ocolan.
    Let him find peace and freedom. I support Him. Put my name on any of the lists.
    (Michael Patrick Ennis is my painting name).
    Is there an art and culture boycott of Turkey>
    Can anyone write to him, and does anyone get any letters to him?.
    WEhere can I write to him, if so?
    Michael Patrick Ennis

    1. Sarah Glynn says:

      Hi Graham. Sadly, the criminal isolation of Ocalan is a major concern and subject of many protests, including the current hunger strike of 2,500 political prisoners. Contact is next to impossible, even for his lawyers and family. Turkey is only getting more authoritarian, which is why international solidarity is so important. Did you send your name to Estella at the email given in the article?

  2. richard says:

    I have very few heroes but Ocalan is one of them. Avery great theorist and man – Richard G.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I can understand the impulse to shame artists into doing some good, but (historically and presently) art has also been associated with negative propaganda, superstition, demonisation, false representation, fawning patronage and, to be frank, various forms of serious bodily harm. In his novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut’s USAmerican senator says “The Madison Avenue people have made us all more alarmed about our own armpits than about Russia, China and Cuba combined.” That is art. The romantic view of vampiric royalty, the adverts and disposable product-design driving consumer-capitalism, the fabricated colonial-bliss histories: these are art. Should we not be calling out these artists, too?

    Sometimes the greater good would be served by stopping performing one’s art, like Prospero breaking his staff and ending his enchantments.

    It may also be unnecessarily divisive to call some people artists and some not. Who has not turned a phrase, or drawn a picture, cooked a meal, made some musical noise, or (given access to the technology) taken a digital photograph? Still, if the cause be good…

  4. Dougie Harrison says:

    Thanks for this Sarah. Two of my old Scots friends are on the list at the end of your piece. I have emailed as you suggested. Be well.


  5. Azad Rojava says:

    Turkey is against anything Kurdish. The real terrorist organization is the Turkish regime that sponsors Jihadist terrorism and perpetrates ethnic cleansing against the Kurds. On the other hand, the PKK fights against the Turkish-commanded Jihadists and the Turkish forces that occupy Kurdistan and ethnically cleanse the Kurds and perpetrate flagrant crimes against religious minorities and women. The Turkish regime is an Islamist apartheid similar to the Pretorian Apartheid, and the designation of the PKK as terrorist organization by NATO members is based on no legal criteria but to satisfy the Turkish regime as they did when they designated the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela . Freedom for Ocalan and the subjugated Kurdish people.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.