December 26th, 2008

We have published a first report on the 7th International Symposium against Isolation, which was held in Vienna, from 19th-22nd December 2008. It brought together about a hundred people from at least 20 countries and several organisations, united by their resistance to imperialism and repression and its attempts to isolate all forms of resistance, prior to destroying them.


The 7th Symposium of the International Platform Against Isolation took place between December 19 and 22 in Vienna, Austria. It brought together about a hundred people from at least 20 countries and several organisations, united by their resistance to imperialism and repression and its attempts to isolate all forms of resistance, prior to destroying them.

On the first day, speakers covered migration and attitudes to asylum seekers. The trend towards the far right, not only in Austria where two far right parties polled nearly a third of the vote in a recent election, was noted, and its influence on attitudes to and treatment of refugees and migrants examined. These attitudes included an increasing tendency to see migrants as a security problem for host countries, especially if the migrants were Muslims. A speaker from the Anatolian Federation drew attention to increasing political repression of people from Turkey, particularly in Germany and France.


On the second day, one of the highlights was a video conference with Dr. Mariam Abu Daqa, the chair of the Palestinian Developmental Women Studies Association and an activist for Palestinian women prisoners. She was speaking from Gaza, since she was denied a visa to leave the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip to attend the Symposium. She spoke of the plight of Palestinians in general and women prisoners in particular, mentioning that many of them were disowned by their families after they were released from prison. The Symposium gave lengthy applause to Dr. Daqa as a gesture of solidarity with her and the Palestinians in general.

Statement of Mariam Abu Daqa during the video conference

 Other issues discussed on the second day included how to defend basic rights and freedoms. A speaker from the German Committee against Paragraph 129a and b, described that law’s criminalisation of political belief and association and noted that the current trial of prisoners in Stuttgart-Stammheim on charges of DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front) membership was an attempt to establish a precedent for further repression. Another speaker was Patrick McManus of the Danish organisation Oproer, which had been prosecuting for selling T-shirts and passing on money to the FARC in Colombia and the PFLP in Palestine. He described the trials of the past arising from anti-terror legislation his group and others sought to challenge by deliberately breaching, and mentioned trials to come. Desmond Fernandes of Scottish Campaign against Criminalising Communities described these laws as an attempt to criminalise liberation movements. A Basque speaker spoke of repression by both the Spanish and French states against Basques. Austrian speakers touched on cases of political repression in Austria itself.

Later the same day, speakers discussed defending trade union rights in the current climate.

A particularly noteworthy part of this was participation by Greeks, who spoke vividly of the social turmoil currently affecting their country, of which the police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6 was the catalyst. One of them said a new movement was widely expected to arise out of the events. One speaker discussed the riots by youths. He divided those rioting into three categories – genuinely anarchist youths, police provocateurs hoping to discredit protests, and people totally hopeless, atomised and alienated who were expressing their alienation through street conflict.


Later speakers from Cuba and Venezuela then moved onto the theme of defending sovereignty and independence. The former described the effects of the prolonged blockade against Cuba, while the latter spoke of regional economic and other forms of cooperation developing in the countries of Latin America, reducing the influence of the USA.

The final day of the Symposium had as its theme political prisoners and the struggle for humanity. This included as a highlight a video conference with ex-Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg. Begg was invited to the Symposium but cannot leave the UK, so he spoke to the Symposium from his London flat. He described the circumstances of his arrest, torture during his stay in both Bagram and Guantanamo, including the practice of “waterboarding” and also being made to hear female screams from a room next to where he was being interrogated and being told it was his wife. Begg also mentioned that he planned to conduct a tour of the UK talking about Guantanamo and his experiences, and that one of his guards, filled with remorse about what had happened, was to accompany him on the tour. Begg, like Dr. Daqa, was given lengthy applause by participants.


Other speakers like the lawyer Behic Asci spoke of resisting prison isolation in Turkey, and there was a contribution from Josephine Hayden of Republican Sinn Fein, describing her prison experiences in Ireland.


Ahmet Kulaksiz, who lost both his daughters in the prolonged hunger strikes in Turkey, spoke about their sacrifice. Mohammed Safa from Lebanon called for the release of prisoners in Israeli jails and the Arab countries. Referring to the video conference with Mariam Abu Daqa he described Gaza as a big prison. The Iraqi lawyer Sahar Mahdi spoke of the situation of Iraqi prisoners and the Iraqi people under occupation in generally.

A released former DHKP-C prisoner was the last speaker, who described the inhuman isolation and arbitrary measurements in F-Type prisons of Turkey


There was a call for solidarity with the Cuban Five, given repeated life sentences by the USA for actually fighting terrorism.


That evening there was a cultural event, with solidarity messages from prisoners read out, and music performed by Grup Yorum from Turkey and the Latin American band Sol Caribe.


The next day there was a protest in central Vienna in front of the monument by Alfred Hrdlicka, warning of war and fascism. During the protest solidarity was expressed with all political prisoners in the world, as well as with the victims of the 19th December (2000) assault in Turkish prisons, and with all 122 people who have been killed in a 7 year lasting resistance against isolation were commemorated. The action was held in order to call people for more sensitivity, not only with prisoners but with oppressed people in generally, even in the most far of countries.

Participants of the 7th International Symposium:

Lawyer Behic Asci, TAYAD chairman (Turkey)

Lawyer Selcuk Kozagacli, secretary general of the Progressive Lawyers Association -CHD (Turkey)

Ahmet Kulaksiz (Turkey)

Akman Simsek, representative of the trade union KESK (Turkey)

Erdal Dalgic, former political prisoner at Sincan F Type prison (Turkey)

Josephine Hayden, secretary of the POW Department of Irish Republican Sinn Fein

Lawyer Sahar Mahdi, Union for political prisoners and Iraqi prisoners (Irak)

Mohammad Safa, secretary general of the Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (Lebanon) Ariyanendriran Packiyaselvam, parlamentarian of the Tamil National Allicance - TNA (Sri Lanka)

Patrick MacManus, Opror (Denmark)

Desmond Fernandes, Scottish Campaign against Criminalizing Communities (Scotland)

Tuncay Yilmaz, Anatolian Federation (Germany)

Committee against §§129ab (Germany)

Basque Observatory of Human Rights - Behatokia (Basque Country)

Senza Censura (Italy)

ODYE (Greece)

PAME (Greece)

OLME (Greece)

ADEDY (Greece)

Lawyer John Hobson, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (Britain)

Michael Genner, Asyl in Not (Austria)

Ursula Berner, Club president of the Green Party in the 7th district of Vienna (Austria)

Aslan Ergen, Local Council for the SPÖ in Vienna and member of the Assyrian Democratical Organisation - ADO (Austria)

Erdal Kalayci, Local Council member for the Green Party (Austria)

Martin Balluch, VGT - Association against animal factories (Austria)

Dr. Fritz Edlinger, Society for Austrian-Arabic Relations (Austria)

Mag. Mustafa Akgün, Society for Threatened Peoples (Austria)

Lawyer Dr. Lennart Binder (Austria)

Leo Gabriel, Latin American Institute and member of the Austrian Social Forum (Austria)

Paula Abrams-Hourani, Women in Black Vienna (Austria)

by video conference:

Mariam Abu Daqa, Developmental Women Studies Association (Gaza strip/Palestine)

Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo detainee and member of Cageprisoners (Britain)


Grup Yorum (Turkey)

Latinamerican music group Sol Caribe (Austria)