Alp Altınörs has spent years in a Turkish jail because of his support for the Kurdish-led fight against ISIS. In an op-ed for Jacobin, the jailed socialist explains why the values of that struggle should also mean solidarity with Palestinians.

A protester holds a placard with portraits of former HDP cochairs Selahattin Demirta and Figen Yüksekda, along with other party officials including Alp Altınörs in Ankara, Turkey, on May 17, 2024. (Tunahan Turhan / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

I am writing these words to you from my cell in a maximum security “No. 2 F-type” prison in a remote district of Ankara. The sun is beating down on our courtyard. My mind is on the four corners of the globe, with our friends and comrades whose hearts beat together with ours.

We, the members of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), who ten years ago published a call to action against ISIS’s intended genocide in Kobani, have been paying the price for this sentiment for the past four years in prison. All that just for a tweet. On May 16, the court announced its decision: each of us was sentenced to between twenty and twenty-four years in jail. Our democratic call for protest to stop ISIS’s massacre led to our conviction on the most severe “terror” charges.

The Kobani Conspiracy Trial has become yet another example of the political powers of Turkey’s use of the Anti-Terror Law as an oppressive tool to suppress democratic politics and freedom of expression. I myself have received a sentence of twenty-two and a half years.

I remember November 1, 2014, “World Kobani Day”: when democrats, peace-lovers, human rights defenders, labor unions, and socialists from all over the world rose up in protest against the ISIS barbarism in Kobani.

ISIS, who committed genocide against the Yezidis in Shingal on August 3, 2014, and before that had carried out a genocide against the Turkmen of Tel Afar, could not do the same in Kobani. It did not let itself be written into history as a city that suffered the pain of genocide — and instead became known as the city that stopped ISIS.

Today, the world is witnessing another genocide: the one perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The Israelis want to annex Gaza and expel its Palestinian population (just as they did in the Nakba of 1948). Let us recall what Naomi Klein wrote about disaster capitalism. Once again, a part of the Palestinian homeland will be filled with settlements by the occupation forces. The pain and suffering of the Palestinians will be transformed into profits for Israeli monopolies.

Those who upheld the democratic protests against the ISIS genocide in Kobani yesterday, today come out against Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The universities of the United States are raising their voices against this barbarism.

When there is a genocide ongoing, to watch in silence is also a crime. We who ten years ago tried to prevent a genocide unfolding before our eyes, are today punished with prison sentences in this political trial. The court violated the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which stated that our call “remained within the bounds of political expression and accordingly did not constitute any crime.” Just as they did not recognize the ECtHR’s decision calling for the freeing of Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ (the cochairs of the HDP at the time). And this is also in violation of the Turkish constitution (Article 90). Because according to the Turkish state’s own constitution, all courts are bound to the decisions of the ECtHR.

[Vladimir] Lenin said that an imperialist war “obliterates the difference between republic and monarchy.” In the world today, there are open imperialist rivalries and wars. Freedom of expression is being trampled upon even in those countries, such as the United States and Britain, where it is supposedly the most sacred. Turkey is one of the countries furthest ahead of the pack when it comes to suppressing this freedom. Calls to “take to the streets” are especially demonized. Two significant “showcases” may be offered in this regard: the Gezi and Kobani cases. The constitutionally protected (Article 34) right to democratic protest is declared the greatest crime. On the other hand, social disaster is being imposed upon the working population with the International Monetary Fund–supported austerity program. Under a presidential government, profits are protected through the frequent banning of workers’ strikes. An endlessly extended state of emergency still grips our country by the throat.

Our four years of custody on account of a tweet, and the subsequent twenty- to twenty-four-year prison sentences, are the symbol and encapsulation of these political conditions. Turkish politics has been redesigned on the basis of the Kobani Conspiracy Trial. A case was opened to ban the HDP. Voters were manipulated in the 2023 elections.

As a result, we, the Central Executive Board of the HDP of the period in question, together with our cochairs, are still in prison under the pretext of a tweet that was determined by two separate decisions of the ECtHR to fall within the bounds of free expression. We are “guilty” of showing our international solidarity with the oppressed Kurdish people who were surrounded and slaughtered by ISIS terrorists in Kobani!

I, as an internationalist socialist, will never turn my back on any people subjected to genocide, whether they are Kurds, Turkmen, or Palestinians. I cannot sit and watch such savagery. I would like to thank all of our friends and comrades around the world in advance for not remaining silent about this oppression that is inflicted upon us, for developing a mutual solidarity with us.

“Solidarity,” as Che [Guevara] would say, is “the kindness of the oppressed.”

Long live international solidarity!


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