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Who is Öcalan?



I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

Albert Einstein Berlin, 1929

the ideas of ocalan

What we know and what we dream. Our imagination is a recombination of past experiences – but not only. This perhaps is what allows us to have intuition, anticipate arising problems and conceive alternatives to them.
This is unique to human beings: the ability to imagine. Imagine: Another world is possible.

“Humanity in its quest to understand and live a meaningful life
has tried to obtain and interpret knowledge or the ‘truth’”

Abdullah Öcalan

Another world is possible

This is exactly what Abdullah Öcalan and his close circle of friends such as Haki Karer, Kemal Pir, M. Hayri Durmus, Mazlum Dogan, Sakine Cansiz, Mahsum Korkmaz who are no longer alive and others such as Cemil Bayik, Duran Kalkan, Mustafa Karasu, A. Haydar Kaytan who are still beside him, began doing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Imagining and expanding their knowledge. No one could escape the revolutionary power and the after effects of 1968. It just completely transformed how people, including these people, viewed the world. And those that continued to pour in contributed to the dream that another world was and is possible.

Who is Öcalan

Öcalan is not only the founder of the PKK but also the person responsible for ideological and organizational transformation since 1973. The background of these transformations is remarkable and diverse. During the life-span of the PKK not only did real socialism collapse, but national liberation movements also became state actors and failed miserably to alleviate the problems complained about previously, feminism made the exploitation of women visible but came to a standstill, there was a rise of ecological awareness, and the world entered a structural crisis and a chaotic situation. The Kurdish question, however, had several peculiarities:

The Kurdish nation and the land they traditionally lived on were physically divided into four. None of the states occupying Kurdistan officially accepted their existence and none allowed for Kurdish language education. Turkey went the farthest and completely prohibited the Kurdish language and denied there ever were such a people. In return, these colonial states, too, were trapped.

The Kurdish question

The world powers, on the other hand, were consenting. The great tragedy of Anatolian Greeks, the Armenians of Eastern Anatolia and Cilicia, the Syriacs of Mesopotamia, the Caucasian peoples, and most vividly the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as well as the situation of women and religion prompted Öcalan to search deeper than to just pursuing a national uprising. There was no easy way out for the Kurdish question if true freedom was sought.

The Kurdish question and women’s enslavement were indeed a Gordian knot. From the depths of his quest and Kurdish heritage, the turbulent history of Kurdistan and the Middle East, as well as thirty years of his own experiences as the leader of one of the most difficult struggles and finally from the serenity of the enforced isolation of Imrali Island, Öcalan emerged a man with a new and complete vision. Instead of coming out with anger and violence because of the way he was abducted Öcalan rose above his own imprisonment.

Early years

Abdullah Öcalan was born to a poor family in 1949 in the village of Amara (Turkish name: Ömerli) in the province of Urfa in North Kurdistan (the Kurdish region of Turkey). Upon finishing secondary school, he found employment as a civil servant in the city of Amed (Diyarbakır). He later sat for university examinations and registered as a student at the Istanbul University Law Faculty. He transferred the next year, in 1971, to the prestigious faculty of political science at the University of Ankara.

After the 1971 military coup, he observed further denial and suppression of Kurdish identity and culture by the Turkish government. Affected by this problem, and moved by the Kurds’ impoverished social and economic conditions, he and several friends decided to investigate the Kurdish situation further.

NEXT: The oppression of the Kurds

The above text is from a document that was prepared by the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan–Peace in Kurdistan”.

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