International Initiative
Freedom for Ocalan – Peace in Kurdistan
P.O. Box 100511, D-50445 Koeln
Telephone: +49 221 130 15 59
Fax: +49 221 790 76 10 30

Cologne, 15 February 2010

Press statement:
Dialogue now!
For a common perspective of Turks and Kurds!

Statement of the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan” on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan's abduction

Hollywood could not have written a better script. A sensational hunt, secret service intrigues, politicians without morality, conspiracy, breach of international law, treason, hypocrisy, wartime profiteers, threat of war, lucrative deals and stock exchange profits – all this featured in the illegal abduction of Abdullah Öcalan which took place on 15th February 1999 in Nairobi.

The abduction of the Kurdish leader was the preliminary peak of an intrigue which, following the USA's version of a “democratic Middle East” in which there was no room for the Kurdish effort for emancipation, lead to a blatant breach of international law.

This was preceded by a weeks-long odyssey between Damascus, Moscow, Athens, Rome and Amsterdam, which ended on 15th February 1999 with a criminal act of piracy – with significant involvement of the CIA, MIT and Mossad and with the support of Russia, Greece and other European states.

Öcalan had come to Europe to promote a political solution to the bloody Turkish-Kurdish conflict, knowing that it is not solvable with military means. The initial hopes that the deadlock in the situation could be overcome, that leading European states might take the initiative for the solution of the Kurdish issue, were quickly dashed. Under pressure from the USA the doors closed one by one; no country pronounced itself willing to accept the Kurdish leader. As has happened so often, the Kurds were sacrificed for the economic and geostrategic interests of the west.

Despite all this the Kurds continue to insist on their political and cultural rights, resisting all efforts to silence them. Turkey on the other hand is still betting on a military solution, in the slipstream of reforms on paper which don't deserve this name. The dying goes on. Lives are lost amongst the Turkish soldiers and the Kurdish guerrillas even today. The human rights situation in Turkey continues to be tense.

It is owed to Abdullah Öcalan that his abduction did not become the prelude to an ethnicisation of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Instead of triggering an escalation, he intensified his peace efforts. He called the Kurdish rebels to unilaterally end the war. At the same time he combined this with the demand for the recognition of cultural and linguistic rights for the Kurds, which seemed achievable in the framework of a democratisation of Turkey. With the pull-out of the Kurdish guerrilla units from Turkish territory the situation relaxed. But the government and the military let this opportunity for peace expire unused.

Today Kurdish rebel formations and Turkish military are once again face to face in the Kurdish regions of Turkey. A fragile cease-fire and the harsh winter are preventing an escalation of the smouldering conflict. However, the climate of Turkey's domestic politics gives rise to the fear that with the snow melting the weapons will talk again.

The ban of the pro-Kurdish party DTP and the arrest of thousands of members and operatives also of the successor party BDP have created an atmosphere in which the political articulation of their concerns have became close to impossible. While the Erdogan government talks about democratic reforms, it has elected representatives of the people arrested, mayors removed from office and even children sentenced to long prison terms. Even though the AKP is in conflict with the army command and the nationalistic opposition, regarding the Kurdish question they are in agreement. They are passing laws which are the basis for the persecution of Kurdish politicians and activists. They are doing everything to guarantee their retention of power. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and limited concessions do not solve the Kurdish question.

Such a solution is only possible through dialogue and for that, reference contacts are needed. With autocratic-style representative politics, such as that conducted by the AKP government, which denies all contacts, will just harden a situation which is already bogged down. The Kurdish question can only be resolved with the Kurds, not against them. The leaders in Ankara know this only too well, even as they feverishly try to create contacts who are agreeable to their interests. Even the apartheid regime in South Africa had to recognise the fact that it couldn’t bypass the legitimate representatives of the opposition. Freeing Mandela was only the final stage of a long process. It won’t be different in Öcalan’s case.

Even after eleven years Öcalan’s position in Kurdish society hasn’t changed. It was he who realised that the Kurdish question could only be solved within the framework of Turkey’s democratisation. We have him to thank if the momentum of armed conflict hasn’t prevailed over politics. With constructive theses and proposals he understood how to guide the Kurdish liberation movement towards the realistic perspective for a solution.

The politics of the feasible require moderate contact persons. Öcalan is such a contact person. He has shown that he is capable of far-reaching flexibility without losing track of the goal. A possible peace process needs actors with vision, without them deadlocked positions cannot be overcome. Öcalan is the visionary that the peace process in Turkey needs. Direct dialogue with the Kurdish leader is, sooner or later, inescapable. Therefore courage and constancy are necessary, also in Turkey.

A first step would be the lifting of the solitary confinement that the Kurdish leader has been kept under for eleven years on the prison island of Imrali and the transfer of Öcalan to some sort of “house arrest” where he is allowed to correspond with all the actors of the conflict. Only then can Abdullah Öcalan fulfil the role that he is able to play: as one of the architects of a peaceful solution of the conflict and a common perspective of Turks and Kurds.

The International Initiative shares this goal, this is what we strive for.

First signatories of the International Initiative:

Máiréad Maguire (Nobel Price Award, Northern Ireland), Dario Fo (Director, Writer, Actor, Nobel Literature Price Award, Italy), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Literature Price Award, Argentine), Jose Ramos-Horta (Peace Nobel Price Award, East-Timor), José Saramago (Nobel Literature Price Award, Portugal), Danielle Mitterrand (President, Donation France Liberté, France), Ramsey Clark (Lawyer, former Attorney General, USA), Uri Avnery (Former Member of Knesset, Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Israel), Prof. Dr. Noam Chomsky (Linguist, Writer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Alain Lipietz (Member of the European Parliament, France), Pedro Marset Carpos (Member of the European Parliament, Spain), Mrs. Jean Lambert (Member of the European Parliament, GB), Lord Avebury (Chairman, Parliamentary Human Rights Group, House of Lords, GB), Harry Cohen (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Cynog Dafis (Member of Parliament, Plaid Cymru, GB), Lord Raymond Hylton (House of Lords, GB), Lord Rea (House of Lords, Great Britain), Walid Jumblat (President, Socialist Progressive Party, Lebanon), Rudi Vis (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Paul Flynn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, Great Britain), Máiréad Keane (Director, International Department, Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland), Domenico Gallo (Lawyer, former senator (CI), member of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Livio Pepino (Lawyer, President of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Xabier Arzalluz (President, PNV (Basque Nationalist Party), Tony Benn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Giovanni Palombarini (Lawyer, former president of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Heidi Ambrosch (Vice-president and Women Speaker, Communist Party of Austria), Mag. Walter Baier (President, Communist Party of Austria), Giana Nanini (Artist, Italy), Geraldine Chaplin (Actress, Madrid, Spain), Dietrich Kittner, (Humorist, Writer, Cabarettist, Germany), David MacDowall, (Writer, GB), Alice Walker, (Writer, USA), Franca Rame, (Actress, Director, Writer, Italy), Prof. Dr. Jean Ziegler (Member of the Swiss National Council, Publisher, Switzerland), Dr. Diether Dehm (Vice President, PDS, Germany), Prof. Dr. Angela Davis (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), Prof. Dr. Luigi Ferraioli (Philosophy and Law Professor, Italy), Prof. Dr. Uwe Jens Heuer (Law Professor, Berlin, Germany), Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Narr (Comittee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy, Germany), Prof. Dr. Werner Ruf (International Law Professor, Kassel University, Germany), Prof. Dr. Norman Paech (International Law Professor, Hamburg School of Economy and Politics, Germany), Prof. Dr. Gerhard Stuby (International Law Professor, Bremen University, Germany), Prof. Dr. h.c. Ronald Mönch (Chair of Bremen Highschool, Germany), Prof. Dr. Elmar Altvater (President, International Lelio Basso Donation for the rights of the peoples, Germany), Prof. Dr. Helmut Dahmer (Sociology Professor, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany), Prof. Jürgen Waller (Chair of School of Arts, Bremen, Germany), Christine Blower (Former President, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Great Britain), Ken Cameron (General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU), GB), Josep Lluis Carod Rouira (President ERC, Barcelona, Spain), Michael Feeny (Adviser of Cardinal Hume in refugee affaires, GB), Gareth Peirce (Lawyer, Great Britain Frances Webber, Barrister, GB), Norbert Mattes (Information Project Near und Middle East, Germany), Yayla Mönch-Buçak (Oldenburg University, Germany), Dr. Mamoud Osman (Kurdish Politician, Great Britain), Jutta Bauer (Book Illustrator, Germany), Günther Schwarberg (Journalist, Germany), Hans Branscheidt (medico international / Appell von Hannover), Germany, Rolf Becker (Actor, IG Medien (Media Union), Germany)