Jailed PKK leader Öcalan 'prioritizes' withdrawal of militants from Turkey

Jailed PKK leader Öcalan 'prioritizes' withdrawal of militants from Turkey

Jailed PKK leader Öcalan prioritizes withdrawal of militants from Turkey

Remzi Kartal has answered questions from journalist Ezgi Başaran.

Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has prioritized the withdrawal of the group’s militants from Turkey in an effort to solve the Kurdish issue, according to Remzi Kartal, a senior PKK member in Europe and a former deputy in the Turkish Parliament.

The PKK leader has also initialized four conferences to be held in Ankara, Diyarbakır, Arbil and Europe, to gain support for the process, said Kartal, while commenting on the content of a letter by Öcalan to him and Zübeyir Aydar, a fellow PKK leader in Brussels. Kartal recently answered questions from daily Radikal in Brussels.

As we have reached the phase in which armed units have begun to withdraw, can we say that the first phase of the process has been completed?

Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan says the process cannot begin until the armed units leave Turkey, doesn’t he? It seems that a consensus was reached with Öcalan about it since Öcalan has pulled back the date of retreat. Formerly, he said laws should be shifted before the retreat; now he has changed the order of things in his plans, mainly to assure the opposite side that steps can be taken in forming the Constitution. And he favors including the definition of equal citizenship without regard to ethnicity.

Isn’t disarmament the last phase?

The letter says, “Laying down the arms on the condition that the Kurds’ existence, freedom and security are guaranteed legally and constitutionally.” Yes, disarmament is the last phase. And the phase we are moving into is a retreat process.

What is the European dimension of the Kurdish issue? Why do you receive letters? Why are you so important?

So far, the Kurdish movement has survived thanks to willpower. If [the movement] believes a thing, it wants to know its exact meaning and be persuaded. So, Öcalan works a lot on persuasion. We saw an important example of it in the letter he sent.

Like what?

He wants us to organize conferences. One in Ankara, the other in Diyarbakır, another one in Europe, and another one in Hewler [Arbil]. In the conference in Ankara, all those people who have pondered on this subject in Turkey will attend. Armenians, Syriacs, Turks, Alevis, laborers and women’s groups, everybody. In Diyarbakır, it will be led by the HDK [People’s Democratic Congress] and all the Kurds in Turkey will participate. Moreover, Öcalan says everybody, from [former socialist politician] Kemal Burkay to [the Islamist] Hizbullah, are to come and express their opinion. He wants no opinion to be left out of this process. The conference in [Arbil] is for Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi Kurds, in other words for Kurds in the Middle East. Nongovernmental organizations except for PJAK [Party for Free Life in Kurdistan] and PYD [Democratic Union Party] will also participate. The European Conference is for Kurds and Turks of the diaspora.

With this conference proposal, we can clearly see Öcalan’s style of advancing the struggle and facilitating it so that it is adopted by the people. He is planning to provide these methods that the Turkish public genuinely adopts the process.

What will happen at these conferences?

All sorts of ideas will be discussed. The necessity of peace will be discussed. Actually, you should consider it as a constant platform rather than a conference. It will not gather just once. It will continue gathering until the normalization days, which is the disarmament of Mount Kandil. And reports will be issued at the end of each meeting. Öcalan says, “Convey these reports to me.” Now we started the preparations of the conferences. The state took its step, and formed the Wise Persons’ Commission. We shouldn’t expect everything from the state, should we?