BDP’s visit to Öcalan takes place without Demirtaş

BDP’s visit to Öcalan takes place without Demirtaş

BDP’s visit to Öcalan takes place without Demirtaş

Peace and Democracy Party Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş was not allowed to join a delegation which departed on the morning of Oct. 14 for İmralı Island. AA photo

A Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) delegation visited the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Island prison on Oct. 14, to receive his latest opinions on the stalled peace process and the government’s recently announced democratization package.

The eleventh parliamentarian visit to Öcalan as part of the peace process was conducted by the BDP’s two deputy parliamentary group chairs Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken after the Justice Ministry did not give permission to BDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş to join the delegation. The visit was expected to take place on Oct. 13, but the government’s permission was delayed as a result of an apparent rift over the composition of the delegation.

Demirtaş, who recently made critical statements on the stalled peace process, described the delaying of permission for the visit as “infantile behavior.”

“Our visit to İmralı was delayed for the past two or three days because of the government’s infantile behavior. We base on Mr. Öcalan, not the government. Squabbling over names is not right for us. The government has an attitude in contradiction to the severity of the [Kurdish] problem. We are dealing with the biggest problem in the Middle East, but Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] approaches the issue with a capricious and hung-up manner,” Demirtaş said, speaking at a press conference in Diyarbakır.

The composition of the parliamentary delegations to visit Öcalan has often developed into a stalemate between the government and the BDP, with the government vetoing certain names for various reasons. Due to his sharp criticism of the government, Demirtaş was previously vetoed by the government for the second parliamentarian visit to Öcalan, which took place on Feb. 23, although he was allowed to join subsequent visits.

Most recently, BDP Istanbul Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder was vetoed by the government, due to his attendance at the Gezi protests. 

The past five visits to Öcalan were conducted by Buldan and Demirtaş, but in the latest visit Baluken was included in the delegation, rather than the BDP co-leader.

Demirtaş said last week the government had by de facto ended the peace process, while commenting on government’s recently announced democratization process.

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, he also said they had offered the government to draft the democratization package together, but this offer was refused.

“We are not playing a children’s game here. The BDP delegation intended to cooperate with the [democratization] package and proposed to work with other parties as well. But the government did not accept cooperation even for one single article in the package,” Demirtaş said.

Öcalan’s views on the democratization package, which was announced on Sept. 30, are highly anticipated by the BDP. After visiting the jailed PKK leader on Oct. 7, his brother announced that Öcalan would share his views on the peace process and the democratization package on Oct. 15.

After receiving Öcalan’s message, the latest delegation is set to travel to the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq to meet with figures from the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban wing of the PKK. “If the government approaches the issue sincerely, the process can proceed. But there’s a situation that worries all of us at the moment,” Demirtaş stated.

A minister previously promised “to allow Öcalan to contact the outer world if a ceasefire and a retreat [of PKK militants] takes places,” but the BDP co-head questioned why this promise “had not been kept.” “Why don’t you keep your promise? Making contact with outside world for the main actor of the negotiations will accelerate the democratization. It was said those who lay down their arms would leave the mountains and come home, why isn’t there any amendment for this?” he said.

The democratization package was seen as an opportunity to regain momentum in the peace process, which was stalled after the PKK announced it halted the withdrawal of its militants from Turkish soil in September. However, the BDP described the democratization package as “cosmetics,” and stated that it was far from meeting their expectations.