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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid