BDS conference in Istanbul: support the Palestinian captives and boycott G4S

On November 29, 2015, BDS Turkey (Turkish section of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel movement) organized a conference with the title “The Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners, International Solidarity and Boycott”, in order to support the struggle of Palestinian captives in Israeli prisons and to discuss international solidarity options with an effective boycott campaign. Militants of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP) of Turkey, who also actively and continuously take part in the BDS Turkey’s works, were heavily involved, together with their Palestinian, Turkish and Kurdish friends in the BDS movement of Turkey, in organizing, and working for the success of, the conference. This conference was also an announcement of BDS Turkey’s new campaign about the boycott of G4S, which is a security company providing infrastructure for Israeli prisons, detention centers and checkpoints through the apartheid wall. 

The conference was held in Istanbul on the 29th of November, 2015. There were two opening speeches at the beginning of the conference, one by Selim Sezer, on behalf of BDS Turkey, and the other by Zeina Hamad from the Palestinian diaspora in Turkey. Sezer’s speech pointed out the importance of the 29th of November, the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, while Hamad underlined that the peoples of Turkey and Palestine find their paths in the poems of Nazım Hikmet and Mahmoud Darwish. 

The first session was moderated by Kutlu Dane, a member of BDS Turkey and also a militant of DIP. There were two important speakers in the first session. Amne Muna, sentenced to life in 2001 by the occupation forces, gave important and staggering details about the daily life of Palestinian captives in the prisons of the Zionist enemy. She was released by the so-called state of Israel in 2011, as part of a prisoner swap between Hamas and the occupying forces. The second speaker was Leena Khattab, a young woman who was held captive for 6 months by the occupying forces. As a student at Birzeit University, Khattab spoke about the student movement against the Zionist regime in her speech. She was arrested during a demonstration of Palestinian students who protested the conditions of Palestinian captives in the Zionist prisons. 

Mahmoud Hassan, (the lawyer of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)General-Secretary Ahmed Saadat and the representative of Ad-Dameer organization, which supports Palestinian captives), Fadwa Barghouti  (Palestinian lawyer, activist and the wife of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti) and Ayşe Düzkan (author and BDS Turkey’s member) were the speakers of the second session,  moderated by Mehmet Özgün Özkul. Hassan pointed out the important fact that the age of detention had been lowered to 12 in Israel and that the destruction of prisoners’ homes was now being used as a tool of collective punishment. Fadwa Barghouti said that the Palestinian people will go on with their struggle as long as the occupation of the Zionist state proceeds. The third speaker Ayşe Düzkan gave broad information about the resistance movements in Turkish prisons and around the world. Düzkan pointed to the fact that hunger strikes became an important resistance method in Turkey especially after the military coup in 1980. Düzkan also noted that the most important expectation of the prisoners was always the support of people from outside the prisons; that’s why the support for Palestinian prisoners from Turkey and around the world, as well as boycott campaigns against the occupying state such as the prospective G4S boycott campaign of BDS Turkey, were of crucial importance. 

The conference ended by the reading of the final declaration. The declaration was read by Eren Yıldırım, a member of BDS Turkey and also a militant of DIP. More than a hundred people from Turkey and Palestine participated in the conference. 

You can read the final declaration of the conference below:

Today is 29 November, the Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It is a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have turned every place in which they take a breath into an arena for struggle against the illegitimate Israeli state and Zionism, from the West Bank to Gaza, and from the refugee camps to prisons and detention centres. As in past years, this 29 November is also being marked by solidarity events around the world. We believe that we are making a contribution to these international solidarity events with this conference.

This conference comes amid a special period. Particularly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, we are witnessing the intensification of attacks by the Zionist entity directed at the Palestinian people everywhere in Palestine, an increasing number of extrajudicial executions and, in conjunction with this, mass arrests with every passing day, as well as the rise of a new popular uprising.

Today, the number of Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails has reached nearly 8,000, with close to 2,000 of these arrests occurring in the last two months. Since the start of the occupation, the number of arrested Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem has reached 800,000. At present, 45 of the Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails are women, while a significant portion are also children. Moreover, the number of child prisoners is likely to rise following legal amendments by the occupational regime lowering the age of detention to 12.

Palestinian prisoners in the jails, who are subjected to every form of systematic torture, are naturally also being deprived of their right to life. At the moment, 25 Palestinian prisoners are suffering from cancer; in addition, the administrators of Zionist jails have restricted detainees’ access to food containing B12 vitamins or phosphorus, opening the way to potentially permanent brain- and nerve-related illnesses. Another recently passed law has provided legal backing to the torture-like force-feeding of prisoners participating in hunger strikes.

The occupier Israel has especially targeted the leaders of the Palestinian people with their arrest attacks. A number of Palestinian parliamentarians – particularly popular leaders such as Ahmed Saadat and Marwan Barghouti – have been incarcerated for years as part of an attempt by the Zionist entity to intimidate the entire Palestinian people while also effecting their surrender and bondage. Israeli courts, which are entirely devoid of the slightest desire for justice, never advance beyond being a mere formality for the occupying regime.

As the organizers and speakers at the 29 November “Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners, International Solidarity and Boycott Conference,” we declare once more that we support the struggle of Palestinian prisoners with all our heart and strength. In concrete terms, we support the campaign that was begun in 2013 on Robin Island, the site of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration in South Africa, to demand freedom for Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian captives. In a similar fashion, we offer our support from Turkey to international campaigns to secure freedom for Ahmed Saadat. At the same time, we are not restricting our solidarity to mere declarations of support. Today, one of the most effective vehicles for concrete solidarity with Palestinian prisoners is the boycott campaign, which will soon target the G4S company.

Considered to be the world’s third biggest employer with 650,000 employees in 120 countries, G4S launched operations in Palestine in 2002 after it purchased a company called Hashmira. As part of an agreement signed with the Israeli Prison Authority in 2007, it provides equipment and services to prisons and detention centres. At the same time, however, it also provides equipment to military checkpoints in the West Bank, illegitimate settlements and police stations.

G4S has been accused of its complicity in the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian prisoners in jails and detention centres. Children, meanwhile, are not exempt from such treatment, with some being subjected to solitary confinement. In some instances, the torture has resulted in the deliberate death of prisoners, while medical aid and treatment has been prevented from reaching ill inmates. At other times, fresh air and water have been denied to prisoners.

In summary, a company is accruing profits by compliciting in torture and ill treatment on a people, whose land has been occupied, in prisons and detention centres! A company is making money by helping to restrict a people’s right to movement at illegal settlement units and checkpoints!

The Palestinian National Prisoners’ Movement has sent a letter from prisons and detention centres to the International Boycott Movement with a number of recommendations and requests. The letter notes that all security companies that support the occupying government, especially G4S, are chiefly responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people and that boycotting these companies would entail the protection and defence of the Palestinian people, whose homeland is under occupation and who is subjected to new massacres every day.

As such, we, the Boycott Israel for Palestine Initiative (BDS-Turkey), which has been exposing and boycotting Israel and Zionism in every arena in Turkey since 2009, declare that we will heed the call of the Palestinian National Prisoners’ Movement and boycott more than 350 organizations that have an association with G4S, which employs 4,250 people in 18 provinces around Turkey at firms such as Yapıkredi, Koç Museum, Finansbank and Sabancı University, until the company ceases its practices in Palestine and completely withdraws its investments from the occupied territories.

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