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 2012

Press statement
Political Solution or Totalitarian Turkey?

Statement of the International Initiative in relation to the 13th anniversary of the illegal abduction of Abdullah Öcalan on 15 February 1999

13 years after the abduction of Abdullah Öcalan in an international illegal operation, the discussions have moved on. Kurds are still outraged about the international plot that led to his abduction from Kenya. But Öcalan managed to shift the attention more and more to the underlying problem: the Kurdish question and the need to resolve it. Today the question that imposes itself is: will there be a political solution or will Turkey become a totalitarian regime?

It is obvious which of these alternatives would serve the interests of the peoples of Turkey. After almost 30 years of armed conflict, the death of an estimated 40.000 people, most of them Kurds, the bankruptcy of large parts of the political system in Turkey and a renaissance of long-suppressed Kurdish culture the time has come to resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner.

Since 1999 we have been calling for direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan. Today we know that these were indeed conducted for at least five years. Again and again we called for his release for the sake of peace. We have received much criticism because that seemed illusory and utopian. Today we know that there has been an agreement, yet unimplemented, with state officials to move him to house arrest as a first step to freedom.

The last 12 months have seen an unprecedented amount of secret information leaked to the public. Among this was lots of sensitive details about the secret talks held between Abdullah Öcalan, representatives of the Turkish state and leaders of the illegalized Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). From those leaks it can be easily seen that the talks had proceeded quite considerably. Even a far-reaching document of mutual understanding had already been signed between the parties.

The main reason why a negotiated solution was already in reach has been Öcalan's relentless efforts to act constructively and to present realistic proposals. In 2009 he submitted his views to the state in the form of a road map of book length. After that, the talks became more intense and discussions about practical steps started. This important document has now been published in English as "The Road Map to Negotiations".

But the talks broke down in July 2011 because the government refused to implement the steps that had been agreed on. In a weird twist of things, the state officials that led the negotiations in the name of the state have now been summoned before prosecutors. Instead of praising them for their efforts for peace, they are facing prosecution. At the same time, information about the content of the talks was leaked to the press in a way that would spark outrage. The state officials are being asked: "How could you even discuss such things."

The "such things", of course, are the outlines of a negotiated, political, peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey, which has caused so much pain for everybody, but especially for the Kurds. The continuation of the conflict will inevitably cause even more pain and bloodshed.

Pain and bloodshed were already the immediate results of the breakdown of the talks. Prime minister Erdoğan opted for a military solution – that he had opposed previously – and started military operations against the guerrilla forces which had observed a long-term unilateral ceasefire. Atrocities like the death of 35 civilians who were killed by the Turkish armed forces in a bomb attack followed. This could be a sign of what is yet to come. At the moment only winter prevents an immediate further escalation of the fighting.

Ever since Erdoğan's decision for war, Öcalan and the other five inmates of Imrali island prison have been completely isolated from the outside world. Not a single visit by a lawyer has taken place since 27 July 2011. Instead, in November all lawyers who went to the island during the last few years have been arrested in the biggest attack on lawyers in the history of Turkey. Right now, Öcalan's inhumane isolation at Imrali Island, the "European Guantanamo", is more complete than ever during his 13 years in prison.

All this is well known, but the rest of the world is silent about human rights violations in Turkey. The West keeps staring at Syria and applauds Turkey for supporting the insurgents. In return, the western states keep remarkably quiet about the biggest mass arrest of members of the political opposition since the 1980 military coup. Thousands upon thousands fill the Turkish prisons and are charged with "terrorism", which after a closer look turns out to be legal political activities in favor of a solution to the Kurdish question. The charges against the state officials involved in the talks with Öcalan and the KCK follow the same logic. Whoever works for peace and conflict resolution is the enemy of the warmongers which have yet again shown that they are still immensely influential in Turkey.

Turkey faces two distinct alternatives right now: On one side stand the warmongers that wish for a continuation of the conflict with the imminent danger of a civil war in Turkey. Among them are power-hungry preachers and politicians, parts of the military and Turkish nationalists. On the other side stand the Kurdish people with more than six thousand new political prisoners since 2009 and all peace-loving people of Turkey. One alternative is the continuation of the conflict which will lead Turkey ever more onto the path of authoritarianism and totalitarianism with civil war. The other alternative is the resolution of the Kurdish question which will result in peace and a democratic future for everyone.

The Kurds are disillusioned and angry. It is not difficult to see that the situation holds a huge potential for an escalation of the armed conflict. But it holds also a huge potential for the democratization of Turkey and the solution of the Kurdish question. This potential must not be wasted. The Turkish government should immediately resume the negotiations.

But this will not happen by itself. The continuation of the negotiations needs the strong advocacy of all forces that are in favour of democracy in Turkey and the region. The Kurds have made their decision and proved their readiness for negotiations. Now everyone else needs to decide what they want: a political solution or a totalitarian Turkey? The choice should not be so difficult to make.

First signatories of the International Initiative:

Máiréad Maguire (Nobel Peace Prize, Northern Ireland), Dario Fo (Director, Writer, Actor, Nobel Prize in Literature, Italy), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize, Argentine), Jose Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace Prize, East-Timor), José Saramago (Nobel Prize in Literature, 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)

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