9th International Symposium Against Isolation Took Place
The 9th International Symposium Against Isolation took place in Vienna on December 4-5, 2010.
In the course of two days, dozens of representatives from Iraq, Palestine-Gaza, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba, Bulgaria, Greece, the Philippines, Britain, Denmark and Germany took part in the Symposium and discussed political prisoners and isolation, policies of embargo and imperialist attack directed at countries, the trade union struggle, racist anti-foreigner laws and the policy of terror towards the resistance of the peoples, directed above all at emigrants’ organisations.
On Saturday, the first day of the Symposium, proceedings started with a panel on political prisoners. The panel was entitled "We are prisoners – both in our own countries and behind walls".
The speakers in the first panel were Mariam Abu Dagga from Palestine/Gaza, Sahar Mahdi, a lawyer from Iraq, Behic Asci from Turkey, the Bolivarian Continental Coordination Committee, Republican Sinn Fein Vice-President Fergal Moore, a representative of the Comite de Apoyo al Pueblo Mapuche and the Mumia Abu Jamal Committee in Vienna.
The speakers described the policies of isolation and slaughter operated by imperialism and its collaborators in their own countries. Mariam Abu Dagga from Gaza, who had previously been a prisoner of the Israelis, spoke on the problems of Palestinian women and children and called for solidarity with revolutionary leader Ahmad Saadat, who has received a 30-year sentence and is in severe isolation conditions.
The speaker from Iraq, Sahar Mahdi, referred to the savagery of the puppet government and said that there were 320,000 prisoners in the country as a whole. According to Mahdi, at the moment there were about 206 prisons that were registered, and another 53 secret prisons. The speaker from Ireland, Fergal Moore, said his country was under British occupation and referred to the organised resistance of political prisoners to bad conditions. Behic Asci described the December 19 prison massacre in Turkey and the attacks aimed at enforcing prison isolation. "We are prisoners – both on our own soil and behind walls. Isolation is not only directed at prisoners – Gaza has been described as the biggest prison of all. ".
"The lawyer Behic Asci described the December 19 massacre and the trial that has started because of it, noting that during the massacre, illegal bombs were used.
"Asci said imperialism told people that ‘if you are against me you are my enemy’ and left no alternative except to resist it – those who did not resist were condemned to decay."
The speaker for the Mumia Abu Jamal committee described the most recent court proceedings of Jamal. Another speaker representing the Bolivarian Continental Coordination Committee spoke of Colombian FARC prisoners being illegally held in the USA in severe isolation conditions. There was a call for greater solidarity to be shown.
After this panel, which continued until one in the afternoon, there was a panel on trade union resistance. The panel participants were Meryem Ozsogut, member of the governing body of SES/KESK (a public service workers’ union in Turkey), the worker Turkan Albayrak, who gave an example of resistance by winning her right to work back after 118 days of protest action, Pavlos Antonoupoulos, a representative of Greece’s ADEDY (train union of civil servants) and a former representative of the Philippine workers’ centre KMU.
Meryem Ozsogut, the first speaker, touched on the TEKEL resistance and the problems of workers in sub-contracted firms, the way that true class trade unionism was not being put into effect and the need for the working class to resist in order to achieve this. Pavlos Antonoupoulos said that because of the austerity policy in Greece, workers’ wages had fallen and there were more strikes being planned for the future. Turkan Albayrak described her resistance in Pasabahce, saying it showed the working class could take hold of its rights by resisting, adding that this success was chiefly down to support from the revolutionaries, the Revolutionary Workers’ Movement and intellectual workers. The final speaker, a former KMU worker, passed on greetings to the Symposium and said international solidarity was important for the release of heath workers in the Philippines who are currently in prison.
The final part of the first day involved holding a solidarity concert. Topoke, a hip-hop artist of Congolese origin living in Austria, and the well-known Roma musician Harri Stoijka put on performances to great applause. After the concert, which went on until half past eight, members of the audience formed a chorus and sang Grup Yorum songs.
The second day of the Symposium, starting at 11 am, continued with a panel entitled "The embargo against Cuba and the dangers to progressive Latin America".
The Second Secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Austria, and representatives of the Austrian Cuban Five Committee, the Cuba Network, the Bolivarian Continental Coordination Committee, the First Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy and the historian Dr. Emilia Lasarova of Bulgaria’s Cuba friendship society took part in the panel. The panel, which went on until half past one, showed images of the blockade against Cuba and its effects, as well as describing the latest situation of the Cuban Five. The representative of the Venezuelan Embassy described the ALBA project and the state of the Latin American member countries. The representative of the Bolivarian Continental Coordination Committee said that a real revolution would not be achieved through a parliamentary system, it would be done through fighting in the streets, as was the case in the Cuban model. Moreover, he made reference to the Honduras military coup, carried out with US support.
In the afternoon, participants in the Symposium exchanged experiences on political prisoners and deportations. Examples were given of attempts to criminalise political activities, and the need to exchange information was stressed. It was decided that suggestions made to the Symposium organisers would be taken up at a future gathering of representatives from institutions that took part in the Symposium.
The final programme of the Symposium consisted of a panel which asked "Whom do the foreigner laws in Europe serve?".
The panel consisted of Michael Genner, chair of the Asyl in Not ("Asylum Emergency") centre for aiding refugees, the chair of the Anatolian Federation in Germany, Latife Adiguzel, Vienna Green State Assembly Deputy Senol Akkilic and Professor Rudolf Sarkozi, chair of the Austrian Roma Cultural Association.
The chair of the Anatolian Federation described the isolation conditions in which imprisoned Federation members are being held in Germany, as well as the increasing harshness of the laws on foreigners and the need for us to make a much stronger campaign against this. Repression would not be able to intimidate revolutionaries and these would continue the struggle whatever the conditions, otherwise it would be inevitable that all sections of society would be harmed. Then Michael Genner described how over 20 years ago Austria had sought to cut the numbers of refugees. Laws were continually changed in European countries with regard to refugees, and their aim was to prevent more refugees from coming. The Green deputy Senol Akkilic called for the abolition of the Dublin 2 treaty and FRONTEX, aimed at protecting the frontiers of Europe. It was necessary for us not to see ourselves as foreign, as for 40 years European countries had encouraged the idea of us being foreign so as to continue our poverty and misery. Roma Cultural Association chair Rudolf Sarkozi described how most of his family was killed in Nazi camps and he himself had been born in one.
Even today there was repression against the Roma everywhere. Roma have no country, it was necessary for them to be accepted in the places where they live, he said.
After the panel ended following some questions to participants, some letters to the Symposium from political prisoners in the USA and Turkey were read out. As solidarity with the messages sent to the Symposium from isolation conditions, the slogan 'Revolutionary Prisoners Are Our Honour' was chanted.
A total of about 170 people took part in the 9th International Symposium Against Isolation, in the course of the two days it took place.