Will PKK cross swords with Ocalan?

Will PKK's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan speak out amid the clashes between the Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants?

al-monitor Demonstrators hold flags with pictures of imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan during a protest against the latest security operations in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sept. 6, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Sertac Kayar.

Topics covered

turkish-kurdish relations, selahattin demirtas, kurdistan workers' party (pkk), kurdish issue, kandil, hdp, abdullah ocalan

Dec 29, 2015

Writer Kurtulus Tayiz wrote something interesting and important yesterday: “PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] command at Kandil does not want their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan [aka Apo], to intervene for a solution and won’t obey him. I don’t think that hopes for Ocalan to get involved will serve anything. As long as the powers that rule Kandil and HDP [Peoples' Democratic Party] don’t want, Apo won’t get a turn to speak out. Even if the state asks him, Apo won’t speak. We have to understand it is now time to hit at Turkey. It is time to Syrianize Turkey.”

It is not possible to dismiss the belief that some powers want to hit Turkey via the PKK. We can’t ignore the claim that there are those who provoke the PKK and HDP in this direction. It is perfectly natural for the Kurds to emerge as an actor in the regional turmoil while borders are being redrawn in the Middle East. It is not possible to treat the Kurdish issue independent of other power struggles and account settings in the Middle East.

When senior PKK official Murat Karayilan said recently, ‘’Either they will accept autonomy or we can go our separate way,” he was telling us that the PKK’s declarations of self-rule are based on a certain strategy.

Recent visits of HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas to the United States, Germany and now Russia signals that major countries see the PKK/HDP axis as a regional player.

Clashes that escalated along with declarations of self-rule and the PKK’s instructions to the youth fighting in these towns to “fight to your last bullet” surely tells us that the dimensions of the strategy we are facing is deeper than what we think.

But there are other points to ponder.


If there is a project aiming at Kurdish independence behind the declarations of "self-rule," we have to ask if that is really possible?

There is one hard fact: Resistance in some towns where self-rule was declared and became digging trenches in streets did not draw in the population.

Have the Kurds subscribed to the idea of an independent Kurdistan? From surveys made and attitudes of the people of the region, we understand that an important segment of Kurds want to live in Turkey with Turks.

That doesn’t mean they agree with the current status quo. What is definite is this: There is formidable popular demand for identity. It won’t be wrong to say that all Kurds, whether or not they are pro-PKK, agree on their demand for democracy and equal citizenship.

Ocalan’s role

As for Abdullah Ocalan's role, we don’t know what Ocalan thinks about the self-rule symbolized by trenches. But looking back to his earlier statements, we make some predictions.

Ocalan was thinking that “a solution must be in Turkey with Turks.” By declaring that the armed struggle was finished and the political struggle era has begun, he had won the popular support of Kurds.

Ocalan’s "democratic autonomy" project was a part of his perspective of "democratization of Turkey." This peaceful project stipulated empowering local administrations against central authority.

Now we are warned that the struggle strategy the PKK introduced after the June 7 elections was part of the regional calculus that sought to sideline Turkey. If this assessment is accurate, we can easily say that Ocalan’s project for a "solution inside Turkey" contradicts PKK objectives. In such a situation, if Ocalan gets up and says, “End the war against Turkey; put your guns down and restart negotiations in atmosphere of non-hostility,” can Kandil respond, “You are under pressure. We don’t listen to you”?

Accepted unwillingly

In March 2013 on the day of Nowruz festivities, Ocalan called on the PKK to give up arms. The PKK agreed with his call and said they may withdraw from Turkey. The PKK never kept its promises.

Senior PKK official Murat Karayilan assessed the situation after the June 7 elections, stating, “We didn’t make ourselves clear then. We couldn’t openly say, ‘we have a war plan, we are fully ready, we want to continue with our war.’ That was our mistake ... we actually wanted to fight. But we had to cancel our war plans. If there hadn’t been the efforts of our Supreme Leader, Turkey would have entered into a major war. …”

How can we assess this statement that admits they had accepted Ocalan’s 2013 call unwillingly?

Ocalan had made his famous call, “Armed struggle against Turkey has ended; political struggle era has begun,” which was received enthusiastically by Kurds two and a half years go because he had analyzed the aspirations of the Kurdish people. More than being a reflection of Ocalan’s personal authority, it was above all the demand of Kurds. When the call came from Ocalan, the Kandil command could not react.

Situation today

Since the clashes resumed, the region where Kurds live is suffering massive losses. People are desperate. They have lost all that they had gained. They probably never felt so strongly for a solution and silencing of guns as they do nowadays.

We can try to analyze Ocalan’s strength in these circumstances. Ocalan still commands a potential force of masses who really want peace and are ready to support a solution. There are many who say that the youth behind the barricades are waiting for Ocalan’s call.

In short, I believe if Ocalan issues the call to "stop this war" and "announce your withdrawal from Turkey,” he will have the backing of the people.

You may, of course, ask: Can Kandil cross swords with an Ocalan who has the backing of Kurdish masses?

No matter what, I still believe that the Ocalan option is still the most effective and significant one available today.

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