Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling far-right alliance need support from Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Foreign Relations Committee Member Roni Serdem told Medya News in an exclusive interview.
The KCK official’s comments come days ahead of Turkey’s critical parliamentary and presidential elections on Sunday, amid claims that Erdoğan’s government continues secret meetings with Öcalan, who has been completely cut off from the outside world for the last two years in the İmralı Island Prison in northwestern Turkey, unlawfully prevented from meeting with his family or lawyers.
The claim has been voiced by both pro-Kurdish and nationalist/right-wing circles, notably by veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Türk and centre-right Good Party leader Meral Akşener, former interior minister and heavyweight member of the opposition’s Nation Alliance.
“Without the support of Leader Apo, it is not possible for any power to take steps in favour of democracy and freedom in Turkey,” Serdem said. “Any government or power that ignores the Kurdish question like Erdoğan, ignores the democratic rights of the Kurdish people, and uses terrorism against their struggle for freedom cannot avoid descending into fascism and decay.”
In an election rally on Wednesday, Türk said Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) had “seen that it is on the way out” and resorted to sending a committee to İmralı to ask for his support.
“For years family visits were banned, (Öcalan) was prevented from seeing his lawyers. Now they go to his door for one more vote,” Türk said.
In April, Kurdish journalist Amed Dicle announced that government officials had met with Öcalan, but did not publicise details as “they did not get the answer they wished for”.
“We know that there has been an intense back-and-forth between Ankara and İmralı in the last two years,” Dicle told Yeni Yaşam newspaper.
Öcalan refusing to comply with the government’s demands led to a stricter isolation in the island prison, Dicle said. According to the journalist, this refusal was also the reason for the disciplinary penalties Öcalan incurred, which the Justice Ministry cites as the reason why Öcalan has been unable to have any contact with the outside world.
“If these meetings led to a positive signal, the government would not be accusing the opposition of supporting terrorism,” he said. Öcalan pointed to the Kurdish movement and the pro-Kurdish political parties and alliance as the ones to negotiate with, he added.
Akşener, during a live broadcast on a news network, said she knows who was sent to İmralı to meet with Öcalan.
“It is a shame for the state, that is why,” Akşener said, when asked why she did not cite the person’s name. “If it was a politician, I would announce the name, but they sent someone from the judiciary who used an alias in the visit.”
“As I understand, they asked for support, and he said any agreement had to be in writing, as they tend to go into denial later on,” she added.
The Justice Ministry has since denied any talks with Öcalan, saying the only visitors to the island were a group of technicians to handle repairs and maintenance.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also urged Akşener personally to announce who “that judge” is, without the opposition politician specifying a profession.
Meanwhile, AKP’s former MP and current parliamentary candidate Galip Ensarioğlu told reporters that there were “constant” talks with Öcalan.
“The state constantly meets with Öcalan. When Öcalan wants to contribute to a solution, if he wants to contribute to the end of the armed violence against Turkey’s unity and if the state believes that, such meetings happen. But the HDP itself has removed conditions for that,” Ensarioğlu said. “It is not the state that has condemned Öcalan to an isolation, it is the HDP and Qandil (PKK headquarters).”
KCK exclusive interview – I: “Erdoğan knows that the weak spot of the Nation Alliance is the Kurds”
KCK exclusive interview – II: Opposition’s approach towards Öcalan will be their litmus test on Kurdish question