In a series of interviews marking the 25th anniversary of the arrest of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in February 1999, Sozdar Avesta, a member of the Presidential Council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), and Mustafa Karasu of the KCK’s Executive Council, shared insights into the profound impact of Öcalan’s abduction, which many Kurds see as an international conspiracy against their struggle for autonomy and recognition.
Avesta highlighted Öcalan’s strategic response to his capture, which may have thwarted a century-long conflict between Kurds and Turks. She emphasised the unity of various powers to sideline the Kurdish movement, fearing its influence under Öcalan’s leadership. Despite continuous efforts to undermine his philosophy, the campaigns for Öcalan’s freedom and the adoption of his ideas have gained momentum, showing the unwavering commitment of the Kurdish people and their allies.
“For 25 years, the conspiratorial forces have done everything, but they could not get the result they wanted. Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] is not an ordinary person, he is a nation, he represents all nations. Rêber Apo is the architect of the women’s liberation line. Therefore, it is now a danger to keep Rêber Apo captive. Rêber Apo resists for all humanity, for the whole society. We must realize that we also owe a debt to Rêber Apo. Within 25 years, we are the closer than ever to Rêber Apo’s physical freedom. Therefore, we must develop our struggle more,” said Avesta.
Imprisoned since 1999, Öcalan has spent 25 years in solitary confinement and three years in total isolation, but has remained an unwavering symbol of resistance for Kurds worldwide. According to Karasu, Öcalan’s imprisonment was more than a personal tragedy; it was a pivotal moment in the Kurdish freedom movement, galvanising a global campaign for his release and the rights of the Kurdish people.
Karasu underlined Öcalan’s role in redefining the struggle for freedom not only for Kurds but for humanity as a whole, challenging the patriarchal and statist norms that have long oppressed society.
The KCK executive praised Öcalan’s intellectual efforts to dismantle the patriarchal and statist systems from his cell, highlighting his development of a paradigm that challenges the ideological and historical foundations of oppressive regimes. This, Karasu argues, represents a significant ideological breakthrough with the potential to change the course of history in favour of freedom and democracy.
The interview also touched on the earthquakes that shook Turkey in February 2023, with Karasu criticising the government’s response, accusing it of using the tragedy to further oppress Kurdish communities and alter demographics through forced migration and de-Kurdification policies.
Commenting on the political scene and the upcoming local elections in Turkey, Karasu stressed the importance of alliances between Kurds, democratic forces in Turkey and international supporters to advance the Kurdish cause.
“By allying with democratic forces and socialists, the struggle for democracy will develop with a joint attitude, struggle and alliance of the two most dynamic democratic forces in Turkey, the Kurds and the Alevis. We must pay attention to this during the elections. Kurds should pay attention first and foremost. Everyone should be sensitive about alliances and partnerships. Mostly the Kurds because the Kurds need it. Kurds need democratization and the development of democracy the most. They are paying a great price for this. For 50 years a great price has been paid,” Karasu stressed.
“Some circles may block alliances, they may denigrate alliances. Kurdish people should not listen to them. Those who denigrate the alliances are not friends of the Kurds. They do not want the well-being of the Kurds, they do not want Turkey to democratize. They want the Kurds to be left alone. The Kurds have never benefited from nationalist approaches that are not democratic, that are not in favor of democracy, that do not have a democratic understanding, that do not think about the brotherhood of peoples. In this respect, Kurds should develop their main approach in democratic politics and in this election process in line with the development of democracy and democratization,” he added.
He also called for unity and cooperation to combat the pressures facing Kurds in conflict zones such as northern Iraq, where Kurdish guerrillas have been engaged in a protracted conflict with Turkish forces.
Emphasising the guerrillas’ experience and popular support among Kurds, Karasu dismissed Turkish allegations of external support for the PKK as unfounded and attributed the strength of the Kurdish resistance to their deep-rooted desire for freedom and justice.
“Our guerrillas have been in this struggle for 50 years. They have 50 years of experience. Which guerrilla movement in the world has 50 years of experience? Is there a guerrilla army that has fought as hard as our guerrillas? Is there a guerrilla force that has been fighting for 50 years against NATO’s second army, especially one like the Turkish state. Of course our experienced guerrilla have the capacity for action.”
“We also remind them of this. Rêber Apo says: “The greatest technique is human.” The Turkish army have all the techniques at their disposal. The guerrilla, on the other hand, is equipped with limited means. They take from here and there meanwhile the Turkish army get everything they want from all over the world. They get everything, yet they cannot protect themselves. What are you talking about? Of course the guerrilla, the force of self-sacrifice with 50 years of experience will carry out such actions,” he said.
He condemned what he called the betrayal by the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan and stressed the Kurdish movement’s continued commitment to resist oppression and fight for their rights.
“The KDP is working with the Turkish state to end the war with the supposed defeat of the guerrilla. This is not enough, the KDP and the Turkish state are now trying to drag the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) into this. All these attacks are actually happening partly at the request of the KDP. They are trying to see if they can drag the PUK into this system. In this respect, just as the guerrilla struggle has responded to all pressures and attacks, it will continue in 2024 with the same stance,” he said.