Freedom for Ocalan Peace in Kurdistan
P.O. Box 100511, D-50445 Koeln
Telephone: +49 221 130 15 59
Fax: +49 221 139 30 71
Cologne, 14 February 2007
INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVE BRIEFINGS:
Intrigue and Love: Ocalan,
the Kurds and Europe
Love, like in Schiller's play, is something the Kurds in Turkey
cannot dare to hope for. The catastrophic human rights situation
speaks for itself. They also cannot hope for support from the West.
The Kurds have been victimized to many times in the game of international
interests and sacrificed on the altar of profit. However, the term
'intrigue', is always a part of class conceit and the arrogance
of power, as they know quite well. The case of Ocalan, the Kurdish
leader, serves as a synonym for intrigue.
On February 15 1999 Turkish agents abducted Abdullah Ocalan to
Turkey. Earlier weeks saw an Odyssey between Damascus, Moscow, Athens,
Rome and Amsterdam, which ended in the illegal act of international
piracy conducted in Kenya with the help of CIA, MIT and MOSSAD.
But European states were also involved in this secret service plot.
Nobody granted the Kurdish leader political asylum. None of the
respective states acted according to its own claim to bring peace
also to the Middle East, and no one grabbed the initiative. Ocalan's
call on the European Union to commit itself to a political solution
to the Kurdish question faded unheard. Europe appeared as a paper
tiger in Human rights that only does bite when it is in its own
interest. Later, when Ocalan was sentenced to death in a ridiculous
show-trial, all that Europe did was to prevent the execution of
Ever since then Abdullah Ocalan has been held under inhumane isolation
conditions as the sole inmate on the Turkish prison island of Imrali.
His health is seriously damaged. Visits of his lawyers and relatives
are frequently denied arbitrarily. His means of obtaining information
and to communicate are extremely restricted. On the one hand, the
Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe
(CPT) demands the lifting of Abdullah Ocalan's isolation, on the
other hand the Council of Europe does nothing to underscore the
demand of one of its institutions. Although the European Court for
Human Rights has demanded a retrial of the case because the original
trial had been unfair, it seems that the Committee of Ministers
has no intentions to enforce the execution of this judgement. Just
at the 8th anniversary of the abduction the Committee of Ministers
even plans to declare the retrial to be dispensable.
However, February 15 1999 was also a turning point in the Turkish-Kurdish
conflict. Ethnically motivated clashes in Turkish cities made an
uncontrolled escalation seem more likely every day. But Ocalan put
all his eggs in one basket. Despite the imminent threat of execution
he reached out his hand for peace and called on the Kurdish rebels
to unilaterally stop the bloody war. At the same time he raised
demands for the recognition of cultural and linguistic rights for
the Kurds as well as a profound democratization of Turkey. The withdrawal
of the Kurdish Guerrillas outside Turkish territory de-escalated
the situation. For a short while there was hope that a peaceful
solution to the conflict could be achieved. But this hope soon gave
way to disillusion. The government and the military regarded the
peace offer as nothing more than a sign of weakness and saw no reason
to refrain from the military option. A political solution of the
Kurdish question soon seemed as far as ever.
Instead of daring to make a new start, Turkey today is more torn
apart than ever. The enthusiasm of the EU ascension process has
waned, active reform projects are abandoned, an anachronistic nationalism
is on the rise again - the Turko-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink
became one of its latest victims. Plans for a military invasion
of Northern Iraq to overthrow the local government are being openly
discussed, and on the eve of the presidential elections the secular
camp led by the Turkish military is confronting the Islamic camp,
because Prime Minister Erdogan is heading for the presidency with
the support of his Islamic AKP.
The political Europe seems to like all this -as it stands by and
watches. For the current situation only favours the opponents of
a Turkish membership in the European Union. Europe has its own structural
problems, therefore more and more European states tend to stop or
slow down ascension talks, regardless of commitments already made.
Turkeys stubborn stance in the Cyprus question, leading to
the freezing of eight negotiation chapters, was a welcome occasion
for this. State terrorist attacks of the secret service of Turkish
military against Kurdish civilians, extralegal executions and the
growing numbers of torture cases in police detention don't seem
that important however.
The approach to the Kurdish question also reveals Europe's ambivalence
between geo-strategic thinking and its claim to represent a modern,
humanitarian system of values. The Kurds cannot count on advocacy.
A solution, if any, is meant to lie in minority rights which in
turn may be achieved during the ascension talks. An involvement
of the Kurds themselves is regarded as rather annoying. But it is
very questionable how realistic such an approach can be, because
the Kurdish question cannot be reduced to a minority question. It
has deeply rooted social, cultural and political reasons which reflect
in many ways in the resulting conflict. This conflict can only be
solved with the involvement of all relevant conflict parties - certainly
not by excluding the Kurds. But this is exactly what is happening
at the moment. All Kurdish pledges for support of their peaceful
means remain unanswered. Even as the armed conflict escalated again
in 2006, all that was heard were mere calls for an end of the violence.
The renewed unilateral ceasefire of the Kurdish side was merely
noticed. Germany and France even unilaterally sided with Turkey
by criminalizing Kurdish politicians and thus encouraging the anti-Kurdish
politics of Turkey.
But in the long run a politics of waiting does more harm than good.
Because of its geo-strategic stakes even Europe cannot afford to
tolerate that Turkey is looking for a military solution of the Kurdish
question, because the unforeseeable regional consequences of an
escalation of the conflict possibly spilling over to Northern Iraq
will repercussion in the security situation of Europe itself. Not
to speak of the human tragedies of a worsening refugee problem.
Not only Turkey, Europe also has to reshape its thinking. An international
initiative for the solution of the conflict is long overdue. It
has become clear that the "integrative dynamics of the Copenhagen
criteria" is far from being sufficient. A sustained crisis
management is necessary. The opponents of the conflict are to solve
the problem by means of dialogue. The Kurdish side has repeatedly
made clear in an impressive manner that it is ready for such a process.
It is now up to Turkey to undertake steps for reconciliation with
its own Kurdish population. The lifting of Ocalan's isolation conditions
as demanded by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
(CPT) could be a first step to lower the tension.