News / Middle East

Kurdish Rebel Leader Issues Dire Warning for Turkey

FILE - Kurds take part in a demonstration calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Feb. 16, 2013. FILE - Kurds take part in a demonstration calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Feb. 16, 2013.
x
FILE - Kurds take part in a demonstration calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Feb. 16, 2013.
FILE - Kurds take part in a demonstration calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Feb. 16, 2013.
Reuters
Emerging briefly from solitary confinement in his island prison near Istanbul, Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan said Turkey could become as troubled as Syria or Iraq if it does not take steps to end his group's decades-old insurgency.

A paunchy and graying Ocalan, cut off from the world since his capture in 1999, told a delegation of pro-Kurdish MPs visiting him at the weekend of his plans to end a 28-year conflict that has killed 40,000 people.

Ocalan has been negotiating the outlines of a peace deal with Turkey's government from his cell since he intervened to end a hunger strike by jailed Kurdish militants last year.

With a Turkish intelligence official listening in the background, he spoke for two hours on Saturday about Turkey, the changing Middle East and his political beliefs, relishing attention he has long been denied.

"We must establish a new democratic republic in line with the new world and the new Middle East. The Kurdish problem can only be solved with Turkey's democratization," the 63-year-old Ocalan said, his words relayed to Reuters by parliamentarian Altan Tan.

"If it is not solved, these problems in Turkey will deepen... God forbid, we will end up like Iraq or Syria," Tan relayed him as saying, calling for a new constitution and democratic reforms to avoid such a "disaster."

Seeking autonomy

Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state, but has since moderated its goal to autonomy. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Turkish forces clashed with PKK fighters last month, killing four of the rebels after they killed a police officer in the province of Mardin.

The Turkish military has continued attacks on PKK forces in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq in recent weeks, and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said the military operations will continue until the PKK lay down their arms.

Turkish warplanes bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq on Feb. 20 and Kurdish media said military operations targeting the militants were conducted in southeast Turkey near the border with Iraq this week.

Yet Ankara will need the help of Ocalan to end a conflict which has destabilized Turkey and stunted development in its mainly Kurdish southeast.

It is a remarkable change of fortune for a man dubbed "baby killer" and "monster of Imrali" by nationalists, and reviled by most Turks, who hold him responsible for 28 years of bloodshed.

Critical weeks ahead

For the three visiting Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies, he cut a very different figure. Wearing a gray cardigan, gray corduroy trousers and white sport shoes, the mustachioed Ocalan was "very polite and addressed everybody respectfully," said Tan.

FILE - A Kurdish demonstrator holds a flag with a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Strasbourg, France, Feb.14, 2009.FILE - A Kurdish demonstrator holds a flag with a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Strasbourg, France, Feb.14, 2009.
x
FILE - A Kurdish demonstrator holds a flag with a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Strasbourg, France, Feb.14, 2009.
FILE - A Kurdish demonstrator holds a flag with a portrait of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Strasbourg, France, Feb.14, 2009.
For 14 years, Ocalan has had little contact with the outside world besides newspapers delivered to his cell. His lawyers have been denied access to him for one-and-a-half years, but his brother has been allowed occasional visits.

He also has contact with several other inmates sent to join him in 2009. More recently, he was given access to television.

Ocalan views efforts to draft a new constitution for Turkey as an opportunity to secure the devolutionary reforms long demanded by his group.

His draft peace plan has been sent to the BDP and the PKK leadership in northern Iraq and Europe. The leader of the BDP, which received the "road map" on Tuesday, said all sides needed to respond swiftly.

"The next two or three weeks will be very critical for the process," BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas told reporters late on Monday, saying the government now needed to take "practical, concrete, confidence-building steps."

"This is not a process that can be put on Mr. Ocalan's shoulders alone. Above all the government, but also all groups in favor of peace and solution, society and the public must give strong support for the process,'' he said.

Ocalan could call a ceasefire at the Kurdish New Year on March 21 and, in a first step, the PKK may release some 16 Turkish captives it is holding by this weekend, according to media reports. Such details were not discussed in Saturday's meeting.

Stand-down for reforms

The plan would then see the withdrawal of several thousand PKK fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq before their ultimate disarmament in exchange for reforms boosting the rights of a Kurdish minority which makes up around 20 percent of a population of 76 million.

Erdogan's government has presented to parliament a penal code reform, which could lead to the release of many Kurdish activists jailed over alleged PKK ties. Among other reforms, Kurdish politicians seek Kurdish language education and a constitution boosting equality.

Only a few people have been privy to details of the negotiations between Ocalan and Turkey's intelligence agency, the MIT. MP Pervin Buldan said they had to wait for the arrival of MIT officials before starting Saturday's talks.

Ocalan had been talking with an MIT official when they were taken in to meet him and they shook hands before beginning their talks, Buldan said. She gave Ocalan a pen and Muslim prayer beads as a present.

The third deputy, leftist filmmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder, gave him a parliamentary report on coup investigations.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid