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Kurdish academic who met with jailed PKK leader speaks out

Abdullah Ocalan remains uncontested leader of PKK, opposes US mediation and Kurds separating from Turkey, says Kurdish academic
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The Kurdish vote played a critical role in helping Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party win a do-over of the Istanbul mayoral elections on June 23 by a landslide. With only days left before the vote, an academic largely unknown outside of Kurdish circles dropped a bombshell in a press conference in Istanbul. Ali Kemal Ozcan, a British-educated academic who chairs the sociology department at Munzur University in the mainly Kurdish province of Tunceli, read out a letter he said had been penned by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with whom he met twice ahead of the do-over Istanbul elections. The PKK — an armed militant group that Ocalan founded, initially to establish an independent Kurdish state — has been at war with the Turkish army since 1984. Ozcan said Ocalan is viscerally opposed now to Kurdish independence.

In the letter, Ocalan called on the largest pro-Kurdish bloc in the Turkish parliament, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to remain neutral. This was widely interpreted as a call for the HDP to scuttle its electoral alliance with Imamoglu. The vagueness of the call, couched in Ocalan's signature obfuscatory language, however, allowed for plausible deniability. In the end, the HDP backed Imamoglu anyway.

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