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

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs