With the Turkish Lira crashing to a record low and the country dealing with one of its deepest economic crises, Turkey is set to celebrate Republic Day today.
Formally marking the end of the Ottoman Empire, the newly recognised Turkish parliament proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923 as Mustafa Kemal, who led the Turkish National War of Liberation and was later named “Atatürk,” meaning “the father of Turks,” was unanimously elected as the first president of the Republic.
On this occasion, Medya News presents a compilation of the thoughts of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a leading political figure for millions of Kurds in the Middle East and around the world, regarding his conception of a “Democratic Republic.”
Sharing his evaluations on 28 October 1999, on the 76th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, Öcalan stated: “We are not against the essence of the republic. The intellectual, revolutionary forces of Turkey have also opposed the oligarchic republic of Turkey. (…) The oligarchic republic has no room for us. The solution to that is to establish a new constitution, which would help re-construct a revolutionary-democratic republic.
“Just as much as the language of the 1970s was a language of violence, the language of post-1996 should be a language of democratic evolution. The issue with the Kurds, then, must definitely find its resolution right here. The Kurds have to take their place in the new democratic republic as a founding element within the state. Turkey is at a crossroads.
“There should be no such distincion between Turks and Kurds. What should be predicated upon should be such an integration. This is the way to lead democratic politics, to succeed. All forces should embrace the Democratic Republic project. The issue is to coalesce, like a mosaic structure.”
In another meeting held on 22 March 2000 in Imralı Prison – where Öcalan has been jailed under heavy isolation conditions since 1999 – he stated: “Those who have a quick mind would expand this movement of the Democratic Republic and turn it into the most popular political movement in Turkey. This depends on a few conditions, which are increasingly developing. The democratic line is the expression of our era, we should understand this. One should insist on stating that the democratic line owns the future.”
In a meeting on 2 May 2007, Öcalan provided more details about the diversity and co-existence embodied within his project: “The Democratic Republic is a project, a major one: a project in favour of the Kurds and the state, and actually of other peoples living in the Middle East. A project that peoples of the Middle East can benefit from. (…)
“The Democratic Republic, Democratic Homeland, describes the soils of the homeland: of course, we are not interested in borders, yet these concepts should be clearly expressed in a democratic sense. The concept of the Democratic Nation means the democratisation of the nation: I mean, it is multi-national. It does not only include the Kurds or the Turks, but also other ethnicities, minorities; it represents the co-existence of diverse cultures, of multiple identities, and of multiple nations. With all these together, we can call it a democratic nation. I suggest these joint principles that everybody can be a part of.”
Öcalan later defined his conception of the “Third Way” in relation to his democratic republic project: “The ‘Third Way’ that we formulated against two hegemonic poles is the democratic resolution way. That is what I call the Democratic Republic. There are three principles of our understanding of democraic resolution: one, the democratic nation; two, the democratic homeland; three, the democratic republic.
“The democratic nation represents such an understanding of nation that no nation enslaves another nation, no nation is above another nation, no nation forcibly assimilates another nation. (…) With the Democratic Republic, such an understanding can find its final form. This understanding of ours is also valid for the democratisation of the Middle East.”
On 12 May 2020, Öcalan pointed out the way for a resolution of the problems embedded in a dominant republican Turkish state: “Our solution is a democratic constitution. Not an authoritarian or an oligarchic one: we are defending a democratic constitution. Not the understanding of ‘one-nation,’ we are defending a democratic nation. Not an oligarchic republic, we are defending a democratic republic. Not a monopolist homeland, we are defending a democratic homeland.
“My choice is the democratic consitutional resolution without more blood being shed. Even if blood was violently shed, the ultimate end of the conflict is resolution. Resolution shall prevail.
I endeavor to reach a resolution without so much pain being endured, without so much blood being shed.”