International Initiative
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

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 the sentence.

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. Turkey’s 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.