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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More