Jailed PKK leader vows not to ‘add fuel to the fire’

Jailed PKK leader vows not to ‘add fuel to the fire’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Jailed PKK leader vows not to ‘add fuel to the fire’

People take part in a demonstration on Jan 11 in Paris to commemorate the killing of the three top Kurdish activists on Jan 9, 2013 in Paris. AFP photo

The jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has made clear his sympathies in the ongoing clash between the Turkish government and followers of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, describing the corruption allegations as a “coup” attempt targeting the government.

Abdullah Öcalan pledged not to lend any support to those “attempting to turn the country into a fire scene.”

“The recent developments show that if ‘the process’ isn’t solidified at once and a fully democratic country isn’t built, then powers that are the enemy of democracy and who want war, both inside and abroad, will accelerate their conspiracies,” Öcalan said in a message conveyed to the public on Jan. 11.

The publication of the message came after a visit to İmralı Island by two deputy parliamentary group chairs of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), İdris Baluken and Pervin Buldan, and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder. 

“The process” term used by Öcalan refers to an ongoing government-led initiative aimed at ending the long-running Kurdish issue by peacefully ending the three-decade-long conflict between security forces and the PKK. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the process in December 2012, making public that intelligence agents had been holding a series of meeting with Öcalan.

“These lands have always been broiled with a coup fever for the last two centuries. The process that we have developed is anti-coup. It aims at a democratic society,” the PKK head said. 

Since Dec. 17, 2013, Turkey has been shaken by an extensive graft probe, which has pushed Erdoğan to fire a number of Cabinet members. The prime minister’s supporters have cast the investigation as a smear campaign devised by the Gülen Movement, also known as “Cemaat” (Community) or “Hizmet” (Service). Gülen exercises broad, if covert, influence in the media and judiciary.

“I want to mention two important matters that everybody – both inside and outside of the process – should know: Those who want to turn the country into a fire scene again with a coup fever should know that we will not add fuel to this fire. Every coup attempt will find us standing against it, as has been the case until today,” Öcalan said.

However, the PKK leader also addressed a sharp message to the government.

“Those who approach the democratic resolution process unwillingly and without comprehension should also know that the sole way of putting out this fire is to make a democratic peace at once. From now on, this process is not in a situation that can tolerate the absence of seriousness or the deprivation of a legal framework. The most effective way of exposing and convicting coup-doers is putting forward a clear and courageous democratic negotiation program,” he said.

'Waiting in purgatory’

A crisis erupted in February 2012 after a specially authorized prosecutor called on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and four other MİT officials to testify in an ongoing investigation of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK, on the grounds that some MİT members who infiltrated the KCK had exceeded their authority in their duties.

Fidan had attended talks between MİT officials and representatives of the outlawed PKK at a time when he was a special adviser to Erdoğan. The talks were held abroad between 2009 and 2011 in a series of meetings publicly known as the “Oslo talks.” The talks collapsed after a PKK attack killed 13 soldiers near Diyarbakır in July 2011. 

At the time of the investigation, Erdoğan claimed that its target was in fact himself. Parliament then passed a hastily drafted bill, which required the prime minister’s permission to investigate any MİT official or any individual assigned special duties by the prime minister, in order to protect top intelligence officials from judicial probes. 

Many pundits at the time said the incident was the result of a power struggle in the bureaucracy and the judiciary between the Gülen movement and the government’s supporters. 

Following the launch of the extensive graft probe on Dec. 17, Erdoğan, speaking in late December, said one of the objectives of the current “plot” against the government was to sabotage the Kurdish resolution process. 

“On Dec. 17, an assassination was committed against our peace [process] in Diyarbakır. They covered it with a veil of corruption to influence public opinion. Preoccupying the people’s attention with these corruption claims, they set up traps to take revenge on Diyarbakır, the Mavi Marmara, Oslo, Feb. 7 and Halkbank,” Erdoğan said. 

For his part, Öcalan compared the period of waiting for peace to “purgatory.” “If war is hell, peace is paradise. We removed one of our feet from hell but we’ve been waiting in purgatory because obstacles are blocking us from taking the other foot out,” he said. 

The government formally submitted to Parliament a package of reforms aimed at boosting the rights of the country’s Kurdish community in December. Kurds say the reforms fall short of their expectations and also demand the release of Kurdish prisoners and political activists, the lifting of restrictions on Kurdish-language education in state schools and reducing the 10 percent election threshold required to secure seats in the 550-seat Parliament.