Shilan Ozcelik trial begins at the Old Bailey*) in first PKK trial in over a decade
The trial against Kurdish woman Shilan Ozcelik, who was arrested in January for allegedly attempting to join the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), will appear in court on Monday 7 September, 2pm, for the first day of her trial.
The 18 year old was charged with ‘engaging in conduct in preparation to for giving an effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism’ under section 5 (10) (a) of the Terrorism Act 2006 and has been held on remand in Holloway prison since early March.
Her arrest and charge was met with outrage by the Kurdish community in the UK and supporters of the Kurdish struggle, who condemned it as a blatant example of selective and political criminalisation of the Kurdish community, which has continued since the PKK was listed as a ‘terrorist organisation’ in 2000.
We reject this labelling of the PKK, which we believe confuses the Kurdish people’s legitimate struggle for self-determination with terrorism and has the effect of criminalising anyone in the Kurdish community who is part of peaceful political activity. We know that Shilan has never committed any act of violence and poses no threat to the people of this country. As such, we reiterate our call for the charges against her to be dropped.
Her arrest also came at the height of the ISIS siege on Kobane, Rojava, when the YPG and YPG, the Kurdish self-defence forces, resisted a fierce onslaught which garnered them international recognition. These forces, along with the PKK, have been coordinating with the US authorities to fight ISIS in northern Syria, despite the terrorism designation that looks increasingly nonsensical.
Ali Has, solicitor, said:
"This case for me highlights the clear hypocrisy designed to submerge human rights defenders. No matter how the trial of my client pans out and what the result, the underlying rational and political drivers behind this and such prosecutions are clear; the PKK (which is embraced by millions of Kurdish people as being a legitimate defender of their basic rights) is banned as a "terrorist" organisation and therefore any allegiance to it will not be tolerated. This seems to be the world's response to the plight of the Kurdish people whom have suffered decades of brutality at the hands of the Turkish state, in Iraq and most recently at the hands of ISIS.”
He continued: “The case also highlights the fine line between the freedoms of thought and conscious and potential illegality, with the latter acting as a constant threat to expressing the former. Most importantly however, it is a clear demonstration of the potential for criminalising an entire community and thereby assisting in legitimising state terror. Indeed, Turkey has for decades used the proscription of the PKK, in legitimising its terror on the Kurdish people, and criminalising Kurdish people as its main discourse of submerging their demands for basic human rights and freedoms."
The PKK was, until the end of July, holding to a two-year long ceasefire while early stage negotiations between PKK leadership and the Turkish government were taking place. The party has made numerous statements declaring their commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish question in Turkey, and currently plays a key role in the stabilisation of northern Syria and Iraq. Given this context, the arrest of a young Kurdish woman for allegedly attempting to join the fight against ISIS seems more than a little contradictory.
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign has begun a postcard campaign calling for the government to drop the charges against Shilan. We aim to send hundred of postcards to land on the Home Office doorstep and we need as many people as possible to send them.
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> / firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> and we will send you a set of cards.
Old Bailey London EC4M 7EH Maps and directions <https://maps.google.com/maps?q=51.515492052,-0.101996674451>
CAMPACC Briefing: The UK Ban on the PKK – Persecuting the Kurds
Campaign to Delist the PKK: www.delistthepkk.com