“The expectation was that Abdullah Öcalan would show a resistance with slogans and hot air for a while and then his organisation would disintegrate, be marginalised and disappear over time,” writes Ehmed Pelda for Yeni Yaşam.
Considering other examples in world history, this would not be such an unexpected result. However, it turned out that this was not the case of what happened with Öcalan.
Öcalan constantly kept discussions going with all state officials, from the judges to the prosecutors, from the military to the bureaucratic authorities, whoever visited the island. According to some people, even though there were steps back, the main point of his efforts was; to be able to communicate with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to complete the transformation process initiated earlier; to try to prevent state violence, pressure and attempts to exterminate the Kurdish movement; to prevent any demoralisation that may occur in society and the rupture caused by state pressure; and to create an intellectual, administrative and political grounds that could bring both sides to meet on common ground in order to solve the Kurdish question through democratic and peaceful means.
In other words, he was not only responsible for organising the movement and society but also the other side, “the state’s side” in a certain level. Therefore, he preferred to be more pro active in his talks with the (Turkish) state and in his dialogues instead of staying on the defensive and on a passive level. He gave a lot of effort in changing the state’s tradition; the historic paranoia of division or fragmentation of the state inherited from the Ottomans to the Republic of Turkey.
If it had reached its consistency, it would be negotiated with the mutual confidence of the Kurds and Turks and a free union would be achieved.
However, his efforts were not able to surpass the monist, sovereign understanding of the state tradition. The state could not see and take advantage of the opportunity to be a democratic, free, equal state where different ethnic and cultural communities live equally, together in peace.
The state approached the dialogue with the intention of completely consuming and finishing “the other side” instead of understanding the process or finding a solution. The first interpretation of the state was that Öcalan would make moves to save himself, so they developed tactics on the assumption that by controlling and using him, they could contol the organisation and the Kurdish people. This has been the main purpose of keeping Öcalan’s external connection channels open.
Of course, Öcalan evaluated state’s tactical steps differently.
In addition to current evaluations, his theoretical and analytical evaluations have been able to reach to the public opinion through his books and interviews. He shared his self-criticisms and his criticisms. Some called this a wekaness, but some saw it as a strength, but overall he created productivty and dynamism.
When we look at the point to where Öcalan and his comrades have reached since the days of the conspiracy against him was put into practice (when Öcalan was arrested) through all those tsunamis and waves of difficulties, we see a system that has been established its thought, with its philosophy and ideas; a system that can can produce its knowledge, a system that can integrate leadership institutions and management organisations, that understands the strategic fluctuations in the region with its own policies and actions, and a system that has the ability to reproduce itself.
On the other hand, the nation-state and its political actors are at an impasse. Technical and analytical studies have been carried out on how to control Öcalan and how to break him, how to intervene his thoughts. They held many public or private sessions, meetings and evaluations, from psychologists to political experts, from intelligence to military staff, from lawyers to civil society officials, from journalists to thinkers. They formed new institutions under different names just for this purpose. But they all failed.
Currently, almost none of those units still exist. They have gone mad to see that how the information flowing through the informants they used for Öcalan strengthened Öcalan, his comrades and the Kurdish people in the end.
However, if they listened to him instead of experts, maybe the solution would be found faster. Of course, there are state officials, who realised this mistake, but they did not raise their voices strongly enough either because of their interests or their timidity. The political units of the state were concerned about repeating the process again and again to maintain the system, instead of producing alternatives and suggesting solutions.
Regardless of all, the state accepted Öcalan officially and publicly as a political interlocutor. The Oslo and İmralı talks and the Dolmabahçe declarations are the main evidence for this. It is obvious that this cannot be reversed.
The state has cut the dialogue with Öcalan for 5-6 years now, because they have no words to say to him. The starting point of the meetings with Öcalan cannot be on a level that is less than the Dolmabahçe declaration and official negotiations held during those times. This is well-known by the state and the state is not ready for it.
According to their plan, they hoped to bring Öcalan’s comrades down and leave the Kurdish people hopeless. However, the most recent Newroz has shown that despite all the attacks, arrests and obstacles, the people have hope and energy, political prisoners actively take Öcalan as their basis, and the PKK reorganises itself to maintain its effectiveness in the Middle East.
During the years when the destruction plan has been in effect, Öcalan’s works has been translated into many languages. The intellectuals spread his ideas among Arabs, Persians, Europeans and through other countries, as well as spreading his thought among Kurds and Turks. The spatial gains and political activities of movements led by them intellectually, philosophically or politically expanded.
Öcalan’s words will have serious consequences if the dialogue channels with him are opened again. It will certainly bring a fresh breath to the deadlocked politics in Turkey. There is such reality of Öcalan and there is also a fear from this reality.
The game is over for cowards. It is now inevitable to negotiate with Öcalan, who will unlock all the deadlock in the Middle East, and to discuss solutions in the context of the interests of Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Persians, Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians and others. It is essential that the resistances in prisons are strengthened with social participation and political activities outside in order to initiate this move.
Abdullah Öcalan was left incarcerated on Imralı Island as a fire ball full of rage. But he sows seeds for the flowers of peace. We need to recognise this beauty and care for it.