There follows a translation of sociologist author Selim Ferat’s Tuesday article for Yeni Özgür Politika, lightly edited for clarification.
A few days before the celebrations for Abdullah Öcalan’s birthday on 4 April, the Association of Lawyers for Freedom in Turkey called for the an end to the isolation conditions imposed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader in İmralı Prison.
Demanding also the closure of the İmralı island’s F-type prison, the association made its call out to all presidential candidates in Turkey’s coming elections, to be held on 14 May.
It is almost a quarter of a century since Öcalan was first imprisoned in İmralı.
Almost three-quarters of a century has passed since he was born on 4 April 1949.
If we take the meeting where the idea of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party took shape, on the banks of the reservoir above the Çubuk dam in Ankara province on Newroz (Kurdish new year) 1973, as the first organisational gathering, it is half a century since then.
There was a quarter of a century between Öcalan’s birth and the year 1973, when he announced his idea of an organisation for the first time.
But, why am I writing all this?
If you look at Öcalan’s life as a small-scale analysis of time, you must take at least a quarter of a century as a basis for fundamental change.
And I don’t think this is a coincidence.
We learn from the ongoing campaigns for “Öcalan’s freedom” that there may be another opportunity for change in the next quarter century.
Zilan Aydın, a Free Women’s Units (YJA Star) fighter, said “Our leader has been kept in isolation in İmralı under the severest conditions for 25 years. We claim that we will physically liberate our leadership. There is great resistance in the Medya defence zones.* We will continue to expand our struggle to ensure freedom in this century.” It is right to regard this statement as a continuation of the organisation’s biography in one sense only.
This is because the concept of nation, which we consider as a political population, also includes the militant population.
Guerrilla fighters, who emphasise that militants have their roots in the mountains have noted better than we that these roots have spread to the cities, at least since the Newroz [massacre] in Cizre (Cizîr) in 1992.**
Öcalan has been unlawfully detained according to current international law ever since the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared the trial against him an unfair trial, on 12 May 2005.
This being the case, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to assume that it is impossible to rationally comprehend this detention, which is itself irrational.
I consider the assertion that Öcalan is being held hostage by Turkey to be an accurate assessment.
The state, which has the opportunity to play the Öcalan card most effectively in terms of physical conditions, has nevertheless been unable to break Öcalan’s back.
The conditions of isolation in a quarter century of imprisonment have still not made it possible, philosophically, to destroy the bridges between Öcalan and his organisation.
If we start from the premise that it is impossible for colonisers to understand the language of the colonised:
When it came down to it, those who translated Öcalan’s language were his comrades who had been with him physically for more than a quarter of a century.
And the current situation:
The popular view is that the social and national liberation of Kurdistan will be the liberation of Öcalan.
However, the conditions for Öcalan’s free communication with the communities in Kurdistan and Turkey, and increasingly also in the Middle East, may become possible even before absolute liberation.
Listen to Lutfiye Silêman, co-chair of the Sêran District Council in Kurdish-controlled North and East Syria, one of those who planted 100 trees in Kobanê in honour of Öcalan’s physical freedom, as she says, “We will do our best to end the isolation and ensure the physical freedom of the leader Abdullah Öcalan.”
On Öcalan’s birthday this year, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Free Women’s Movement (TJA) planted saplings on the site of the historic İshakpaşa Palace in the Doğubeyazıt (Bazîd) district of Ağrı (Agirî) province in eastern Turkey.
Whichever way you look at it, there is a great possibility of Öcalan’s return, half a century after his first appearance in 1973; for those who have been waiting for it, with the accumulation of 50 years of experience, it will be a surprise new meeting…
* Region under PKK control in northern Iraq.
** The 1992 Newroz demonstration massacre in the Kurdish-majority Cizre district of Şırnak (Şırnex) was historical in the Kurdish people’s struggle. Officially 57, though others claim close to 100, people were killed by security forces.