Posted on September 12, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Kurdistan, Politics
HDP supporters wave a flag with Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and others of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Istanbul. Photo: AP
DIYARBAKIR-AMED, Turkey’s Kurdish region,— A three-decade conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants could be resolved within six months if talks were to be revived, the jailed rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said, according to remarks by his brother on Monday.
They were the first public comments from Ocalan in more than a year, after the government suspended visits to his island prison in April 2015, and they come at a time of violence and political upheaval.
“He said that if the state is ready for this project, we can finish it in six months and that the previous (peace) process has not been completely wiped out,” Mehmet Ocalan quoted his brother as saying, at a news conference in Diyarbakir on Monday.
“‘This is not a war that one side can win. It’s time for the bloodshed and tears to end,’ he said.”
“He has no problems but projects,” Ocalan’s brother said.
“He said if the state is ready for the projects, we can implement them in six months.”
Mehmet Ocalan did not give any details of what these projects might be.
But he quoted his brother as saying in a message to supporters: “If the state gives a signal, this problem will not continue but will be resolved.”
Thousands have died since July 2015, when a ceasefire with the armed PKK, which Ocalan founded, collapsed. Ocalan had negotiated that truce from his prison cell, where he’s been kept since 1999 on a treason conviction.
So far, the Turkish government has shown little sign it will seek a negotiated solution to the latest spasm of violence. The crackdown has coincided with a purge of journalists, politicians, government workers, soldiers, teachers and others after a failed coup attempt in July.
President Tayyip Erdogan, who backed two-year peace talks with Ocalan before the fighting re-ignited, has said the campaign against the PKK – called a terrorist group by the United States and European Union – was now Turkey’s largest ever.
Mehmet Ocalan, who is the first family member to see his brother in two years, said that the 68-year-old was in good health. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture saw Ocalan in April 2016.
The government allowed the family visit before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and after about 50 Kurdish activists began a hunger strike, demanding an end to Ocalan’s isolation. The group said at the news conference they would abandon their eight-day action after the visit took place.
“We had only one request: to receive news from Ocalan,” the group’s spokeswoman Leyla Guven said.
“We have received the news. Therefore, we’ve ended the hunger strike.”
The Jailed Kurdish leader Ocalan has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide, according to analysts and international observers.
Ocalan’s last contact with the outside world was in April 2015, with parliamentarians from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who were acting as mediators in the peace process. Weeks later, the pro-Kurdish HDP saw significant gains in a general election, depriving the ruling AK Party of single-party rule for the first time in 13 years.
The HDP accuses the government of reviving the conflict to regain control, which it did in a Nov. 1 re-run election. Erdogan and the AKP reject any such claim.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 78-million population. A large Turkey’s Kurdish community openly sympathise with PKK rebels.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority.
Activists have accused the security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.
Pro-Kurdish opposition political parties say about 1,000 civilians, mostly Kurds, have perished in the fighting, since the Turkish offensive against the PKK centred in towns and cities in Turkish Kurdistan.