Öcalan has initiated numerous peace efforts and for more than 20 years has been struggling to transform the armed conflict in Kurdistan into merely a political one. With his consistent argumentation for a peaceful solution, he has become the most important voice for peace in the Kurdish liberation movement. This is implicitly recognized by the Turkish state who sees him the “key figure” for a solution process.
A political solution
From the late 1980s, Öcalan stated in interviews with Turkish journalists that he would prefer a peaceful settlement with the Turkish state. The first major cease-fire, declared by Öcalan in 1993 with the aim of facilitating talks, was not unanimously popular in the PKK either.
During his trial in which he was eventually sentenced to death, Öcalan used the only opportunity he had to address the Turkish people to deepen his commitment to a political solution. His ground-breaking defence speech and subsequent steps like the withdrawal of the guerrillas from Turkey and the call for “peace groups”, Öcalan worked against efforts to deepen mistrust between Turks and Kurds and incite racial hatred.
“Road Map to Negotiations”
In his prison writings, he elaborated on a defence strategy for all parts of Kurdistan, preparing his movement and its armed forces for eventual peace negotiations and ultimately disarmament. In doing this, Öcalan has published a broad self-criticism regarding his earlier convictions on the role of violence. By doing this he has initiated a wider discussion about how to finally end the vicious circle of violence that has left its mark on the history of the Middle East but also that of the world. In the inner-Kurdish discourse on war and peace, this makes him the most important voice for peace.
In his “Road Map to Negotiations”, he lays out a comprehensive plan for a negotiated solution for the conflict. He is the only one to do so, and all sides until now have taken his “Road Map” into consideration.
The fact that he uses his popularity and influence in the Kurdish liberation movement and Kurdish community at large to foster peace over war makes him the most important actor for peace in the region.
The only model for peace
In the conflict in Syria, Öcalan is largely responsible for the “third-way” strategy of the Kurdish self-defence forces that tried to first keep the predominantly Kurdish areas out of the zone of clashes and later tried to establish a self-administration model that defends all ethnic and religious communities. With this strategy, Öcalan has not only prevented much bloodshed and destruction but also champions the currently only model for a peaceful future of Syria.
Thus, Öcalan favours a political solution within all the four states that have colonized Kurdistan; gender-liberated, ecological and democratic autonomy where Kurdish people will have the autonomy to determine their own future within the borders of that particular country.
Liberation of Women
Women’s Freedom The situation of the women throughout the world is bad but the situation of the Kurdish women has been and still to a large extent nothing but terrible slavery and has its uniqueness in many aspects. The crushing effects of colonialism coupled with already existing feudalism resulted in total lack of freedom, economic inability, and lack of education and health problems for the whole society but especially women and children.
A woman is thus made to pay for the obliteration of society. Men revenged and continue to revenge the loss of their masculinity from women in the form of the
Öcalan’s role here was of high importance. As the leader of the organization, he did not turn a blind eye to the demands of the women joining the ranks and the women in the society. Despite at times severe reaction against him he continued to push for greater women’s freedom and autonomy both in the organization and within the society.
More democracy for all
This is another thing that sets Öcalan apart; yet again he has not gone with the current but has despite resistance both within the organization and within the society pushed aside male dominance within the organization and society in order to create room for a woman as an individual and women’s organized action and organizations. The result has been the establishment of a huge democratization force; organized women who demand their freedom and more democracy for all.
The important role that women play in the democratization of the Kurdish society and the Middle Eastern society as well as change the perception of Kurdish and Middle Eastern women by the rest of the world was seen in the defence fight against ISIS in Kobani/Rojava. These women not only made ISIS be afraid of them but they made the whole world envy their courage and especially their thirst for freedom.
The People’s choice
Over the fifteen years of Öcalan’s incarceration, Kurdish people in all four parts of Kurdistan and around the world have shown their support for him and his policies. They have protested his abduction, the death penalty, his continuing incarceration, and the isolation regime at İmralı. They demonstrate out of concern for his health. They demonstrate in support of his leadership role in negotiations with the Turkish state to resolve the conflict. More than one hundred people have even died in acts of self-immolation – acts Öcalan has strongly discouraged and asked not to be repeated.
Every year on February 15, the anniversary of Öcalan’s abduction from Kenya, Kurds all over the world demonstrate in protest. On October 9 demonstrations are conducted in Gemlik, the town opposite Imrali Island, to mark the anniversary of his forced departure from Syria in 1998. Every year on April 4, Öcalan’s birthday, Kurds travel to Amara, the village where he was born, and celebrate his birth by planting trees.
In a signature campaign conducted in 2005-2006, around 3.5 million people from all parts of Kurdistan signed a statement affirming that they regard Öcalan as their political leader. The number of signatures was remarkable considering that the campaign was conducted under immense restrictions—Turkey, Syria, and Iran declared it illegal. Several people were convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
In 2007 a hunger strike began in Strasbourg, France, to protest Öcalan being poisoned. A wave of protests quickly spread across Kurdistan, Turkey, and Europe. In a second hunger strike, which began in Strasbourg and Turkey in 2011, more than 700 Kurdish prisoners and many ordinary Kurds all over the world demanded the right to speak their mother tongue and insisted that the Turkish state negotiates with Öcalan.
On June 25, 2012, Kurds began holding a daily vigil in front of the Council of Europe building in Strasbourg. They are calling for Öcalan to be freed and are determined to continue the vigil until this goal is achieved.
On September 6, 2012, a signature campaign began, demanding “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan and the political prisoners in Turkey.” The signatories state that “Öcalan’s freedom will mark a breakthrough for the democratization of Turkey and peace in Kurdistan.” The campaign began in Brussels, and so far more than 5 million signatures have been gathered.
NEXT: The Current Situation
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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