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The current situation

The current situation

“We do not have even a day to lose– we must achieve peace immediately.”

abdullah Öcalan

From 2009 until mid-2011, secret negotiations, later known as the Oslo Process, were held between Öcalan, a government-appointed delegation of the Turkish state, and senior PKK members. The subject was a political solution to the Kurdish question. Based on the “Road Map to Negotiations”, which Öcalan authored in 2009, the parties agreed on three protocols. They contained a phased plan for an end of the conflict and a political solution to the Kurdish issue. The Turkish government, however, chose not to implement the plan. In fact, in June 2011 it started an even larger wave of arrests than previously and further major military operations.

Renewed isolation

After more than two years of talks, Öcalan’s total isolation was renewed. Between July 27, 2011, and January 3, 2013, he and five other prisoners (who were brought to the island prison in November 2009) were all completely cut off from the outside world. For one and a half years, Öcalan had absolutely no contact with anyone outside.

What followed were mass arrests that came in two waves, the first against legal Kurdish politicians and the second against intellectuals. Öcalan’s lawyers were all arrested and jailed. In the meantime in 2011 and 2012, recordings and documents in relation to the talks leaked. In 2012 heavy fighting resumed.

Hunger strikes

In September 2012, in an attempt to break the impasse, more than 700 Kurdish prisoners across Turkey began a hunger strike. They were supported by countless ordinary Kurds in Turkey, in Europe, and around the world. They demanded the right to use the Kurdish language, an end to Öcalan’s isolation, and the resumption of negotiations. On the sixty-eighth day of the hunger strike, in November, Öcalan called for it to end, and it did. Despite a year and a half of total isolation, he still had stunning authority over the Kurdish community in and outside of Turkey, something that has made him a key element of any possible negotiation.

The talks with the state delegation resumed, and on January 3, 2013, the very first BDP delegation was able to visit Öcalan at Imrali. Öcalan was quoted as saying “We do not have even a day to lose– we must achieve peace immediately.” However, since June 27, 2011, Öcalan’s lawyers to date have not been allowed consultations with their client.

A massacre in Paris

On January 10, 2013, while talks on the resolution of the Kurdish question were under way, a massacre took place in Paris. Three female political activists, one of them PKK co-founder Sakine Cansız, were killed in cold blood. It is suspected that this massacre was a joint operation of Turkish and European Gladio elements that do not desire an end to the conflict and were attempting to derail the talks. Great anger and frustration erupted among Kurdish communities worldwide, with a potential of heightening the conflict. Öcalan called for these murders to be exposed, but yet again he displayed strong leadership and called on the nation not to seek revenge.

At one p.m. on March 21, 2013, at the celebration of the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, everything came to a standstill in Turkey. More than one million people gathered at Diyarbakır’s main square to listen to Öcalan’s message of peace. This historic moment was a turning point in Kurdish people’s struggle for freedom. The highly philosophical speech underlined a paradigm shift: it declared that Kurds have acquired their identity and have shattered the international policy of denying them. “Today a new era is beginning,” Öcalan declared.

A new era begins

“The period of armed struggle is ending, and the door is opening to democratic politics. We are beginning a process focused on political, social, and economic aspects. An understanding based on democratic rights, freedoms, and equality is growing. […] We have sacrificed much of our lives for the Kurdish people, we paid a high price. None of these sacrifices, none of our struggles were in vain. For as a consequence of them, the Kurdish people have attained once again their identity and their roots. We have now reached the point of ‘silence the weapons and let the ideas and politics speak.’”

Abdullah Öcalan

On the same day, the PKK declared a cease-fire, saying “Öcalan’s decision is our decision.”

In May 2013, at Öcalan’s call, the PKK began withdrawing its guerrillas within the borders of Turkey. But due to the government’s inaction in fulfilling its agreements and its failure to take the required steps toward democratization, the PKK ended the withdrawal of its forces that autumn.

Hope for Democracy and Peace in the Middle East

10 On June 1, 2014, during the eighteenth visit by the newly established HDP (People’s Democracy Party) delegation, Öcalan is quoted as saying:

“In order to make a serious beginning for a solution we need to preserve our hopes.”

Abdullah Öcalan

He has indeed been building the foundations of a peace process since 1993 – that is, for more than twenty years. Despite his harsh prison conditions, he has continued to advance a political solution and to make far-reaching proposals to that end. Despite his abduction and life under terrible conditions, his voice for peace has continued and has become even more profound.

In the 2000s he became the symbolic figure for Kurdish people’s freedom and coexistence in the Middle East for all peoples. With his new ideological and political vision, Öcalan wishes to break this vicious cycle that the Kurds face, namely rebelling, being crushed, being forced to assimilate, and rebelling again. As Immanuel Wallerstein points out in his foreword to the English edition of Öcalan’s “Road Map to Negotiations”, the Kurdish question and its proposed solution by Öcalan “raises issues that are far more general and widespread.”

The Kurdish movement today

The Kurds are surrounded by a ring of changing countries, offering them an opportunity to solve their problems according to democratic criteria. They are no longer an element of rebellion and separation for their neighbours; rather, they want to contribute democratically to the unity of these states. Adopting Öcalan’s new paradigm is what the Kurdish people struggle to implement in Rojava and Syria in general. The time has now come to attempt a solution of the Kurdish question by peaceful and democratic means. For the first time, Kurds have had the chance to do so together with their neighbours. Today the fact that the Kurds live divided across several nations may be an advantage–they have never been poisoned by nationalism and may be better suited than others to build bridges. By democratizing themselves, the Kurdish people impel the countries and nations among which they live to do the same. The Kurdish movement has become a force for peace, liberty, women’s freedom, and amity. Öcalan has often stated that the fate of the Kurds will no longer be ignorance, war, rebellion, and destruction but a democratic and developed civil society and unity in freedom.

Over the course of the decade-old Kurdish conflict, the Turkish state has tried all possible means of repression, including special operations, psychological warfare, massacres, and even genocide. Nothing has worked. If the Turkish state wishes to end the conflict, it must finally grasp the nature of the conflict: it is neither a security issue nor an economic matter; it is above all about the Kurds’ fundamental rights, both as a people and as individuals.

If the Turkish state wishes to find a solution, then Abdullah Öcalan–the key figure in shaping the struggle of the Kurdish movement as well as shaping principles for its continuation through democratic and peaceful means–is the indispensable person for them to work with. Indeed, there can be no end to the conflict without Öcalan’s involvement.

Öcalan’s Role in overcoming the Middle East Impasse

“Only free men can negotiate, prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

Nelson Mandela

Thus Öcalan can contribute to a lasting democratic and peaceful solution only if he is free. For the start of real negotiations and for the peace process to be decisive, his freedom is inevitable.

Another Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has said:

“Öcalan has been persistent despite being held in solitary confinement for most of the fifteen years that PEACE is possible, having gone as far as producing a Road Map to Peace and convinced Kurdish freedom fighters to a cease-fire.”

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Finally, we also have to repeat what Judge Essa Moosa, a lawyer of Nelson Mandela, stated in his capacity as the chairperson of the Kurdistan Human Rights Group (KHRG):

“Besides his influence in the Kurdish issue, Öcalan contributed to the advancement of world peace; the leader recently proposed a nonviolent resolution in order to find a diplomatic manner to resolve the Kurdish issue. These attempts show that Öcalan is in favour of a peaceful solution, in the light of advancement of the world peace.”

Judge Essa Moosa

There is a need to recognize Öcalan’s efforts. Such recognition will not only strengthen and encourage the ongoing peace processes but shall also serve to honour and recognize the Kurdish people’s struggle to exist and the right to flourish. Most importantly though, at a time when the Middle East is divided along ethnic, religious-sectarian lines and women’s enslavement is imposed Abdullah Öcalan offers a paradigm that is based on the rule of law, women’s freedom and democracy. This shall above all mean the strengthening and support of this paradigm. It shall thus pave the way for a brighter, better, and democratic future not only for the Kurds but also for Turkey and the whole region, and indeed will contribute to world peace.


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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