Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Spokesperson Ebru Günay spoke to Yeni Yaşam regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Öcalan and his influence on society and his leading role in the search for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey.
The 4 April was celebrated by millions of Kurds as it was the birthday of Abdullah Öcalan, who has been jailed on Imralı prison since 1999.
4 April celebrations have once again highlighted the influence of Abdullah Öcalan on the Kurdish people throughout the Middle East.
HDP spokesperson Ebru Günay answered questions of Yeni Yaşam in relation to Abdullah Öcalan, Kurds and Abdullah Öcalan’s leading role in the struggle of the Kurdish people.
How would you explain the purpose of the conspiracy against Abdullah Öcalan? And why did this conspiracy against Öcalan fail?
Mr. Öcalan said ‘When they handed me over to Turkey, they wanted to begin a continuous cycle of Turkish-Kurdish conflict.” However, at his first trial, he defiantly called for peace and that was the first step that actually contributed to the failure of the conspiracy.
In fact, if you remember, American officials, one of the key actors of the period, issued statements saying that they had not expected such an attitude from him. After Öcalan’s arrest, they had expected it would trigger a much greater conflict in the Middle East and Turkey.
Especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union and with the emergence of new nation states in the 1990s it had important geo-political implications in the Middle East. Kurds were also an important actor in the Middle East. Öcalan was standing against the ambitions of the imperialists in the region. In fact, this was another reason for the conspiracy against Öcalan. Öcalan always said, “I was the man who spoiled the game in the Middle East. That’s why I was expelled from Syria.”
He was spoiling the game in favor of whom and under which conditions? We have to look at these questions. He always intervened in the political process in the Middle East in favor of the oppressed people and women. This role of his had an impact among peoples, women and youth in the region.
I always say that there is a strong connection, a bond, between the Kurdish people and Öcalan that no one can break. I believe that the line of self defence and resistance that Öcalan drew for the people is the cause of this strong bond. The people spontaneously formed a circle of protection around Öcalan. I think the ruling elites can never understand such a bond.
Of course, the ideas and theoretical arguments of Mr. Öcalan also had a vital impact on the people as well. He put forward very strong theses to ensure social peace in the Middle East.
I think there are two main factors, which caused the international conspiracy to fail. The first one is the stance of Abdullah Öcalan, the other is the attitude of the Kurdish people.
There is a line of resistance that Mr. Öcalan symbolises, the people now call this the ‘Imralı stance’. This resistance was the main factor in breaking the conspiracy.
During this process, Öcalan’s stance of common sense and his calls for peace were the main factors that the conspiracy failed. This attitude curbed the raging attacks of the state in addition to the attitude of the people. At that time, Kurdish people stood up against the imprisonment of Mr. Öcalan all around the world.. When Öcalan was in Italy, “You cannot darken our sun” campaign was arranged and spread all over the world. All campaigns organised around Mr. Öcalan formed a joint line of defence. This was not only limited to the beginning phase of the İmralı process. Over the course of the last 22 years, Kurdish people have been supporting Öcalan and they are the ones who have caused the failure of the international conspiracy against Mr. Öcalan.
What kind of ideas does Abdullah Öcalan suggest?
He tried to share his theses with the public such as Democratic Confederalism and Democratic Nation as well as freedom and democratisation against authoritarianism. He suggests an alternative social construction. The system built in Rojava today is actually the realisation of these theses. Democratic Confederalism, Democratic Nation, equal life and women’s freedom all together serve to build co-existence.
What can we say about the relationship between a democratic republic and Democratic Confederalism?
The republic is defined as the self-government of the people, but only theoretically. We are aware that many republican systems are not democratic. Öcalan proposes a system sensitive to democratic endurance.
Democratic Confederalism, on the other hand, offers direct self-governance/administration of the people, building a communal life. This system is not limited to borders.
Nation states have shaped the world until today. Differences of cultures have been ignored. The Democratic Confederalim system is a system that recognises and celebrates diversity as a priority.
What theses did Öcalan suggest for a democratic solution of the Kurdish question?
Mr. Öcalan’s solution mechanism was firstly always based on dialogue and to establish a line of peace in a legal form for the Kurds against the policies of assimilation and genocide.
The homeland of the Kurds has been torn apart, and this has been the result of denial policies. Therefore, he tried to pave the way to end the denial of the Kurdish identity. He has always insisted on dialogue. He has been open to new ideas and any steps to be taken towards peace without hesitation.
Since the ceasefire in 1993, he approached the Kurdish question with a view to solve it by peaceful methods. In the early years of the Imralı process, we can list the huge steps he took for the solution, from delaring a ceasefire (from the PKK’s side) to the appeal for the PKK forces to leave the borders of Turkey. The peace process that was launched in 2013 was also a product of Öcalan’s efforts.
How should we evaluate the actions of state regarding Abdullah Öcalan’s peace initiatives?
The state has never approached the issue in a sincere way. The state has always acted to postpone any such solution. Öcalan’s attitude was solution-oriented based on practical peaceful suggestions and solid steps to be taken. The state, on the other hand, has been imposing ever more destructive and assimilationist policies over the years. When Öcalan had to leave Syria, his choice to go to Europe was again aimed at solving the problem through peaceful, political methods.
The state’s approach has historically been, “If we attack and kill, we can solve the problem” regardless of the international experiences of conflict throughout the world. As a result, the state blocked the solution attempts and imposed isolation upon Mr. Öcalan. There is a will for a solution, however, and when you isolate the solution, you choose the war, you choose to insist on deadlock.
Is there still an exit from conflict for a peaceful solution?
I am optimistic about it. Experiences of peoples’ struggles throughout the world show that there is always a way for an exit from conflict. Here, the obvious example is of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
Despite all, Mandela insisted on peace. And his insistence brought peace.
We see the same insistence of Öcalan. I believe his insistence on peace will end the war and will bring peace in the end. A very important chance for peace in relation to the Kurdish question is that there is an influential actor like Öcalan, who insists on peace.
Therefore, I think there is always an opportunity for an exit from this conflict. It is not possible to give an exact date, of course, because our struggle for peace will determine the outcome.