Öcalan urges PKK to convene congress to lay down arms

Öcalan urges PKK to convene congress to lay down arms

Öcalan urges PKK to convene congress to lay down arms

DHA photo

Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has called on the PKK to convene an extraordinary congress to "end the 40-year-long arms struggle" against Turkey. 

The two-page letter of Öcalan was read during Nevruz festivities in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on March 21. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Pervin Buldan read the Kurdish version of the statement while her colleague Sırrı Süreyya Önder read the Turkish one.

"I find it necessary for PKK to convene a congress to end the 40-year-long armed struggle against TC [referring to the Republic of Turkey] and to determine political and social strategies and tactics in accordance with the spirit of new era," the letter said.

In the statement, Öcalan stressed the need for a "democratic solution" to Turkey's Kurdish problem, arguing that the "meaningless and merciless identity wars" were the result of "the neoliberal crisis caused by the imperialist capitalism and its local collaborators."

He said that the new era for Kurds "would be based on free, egalitarian, constitutional citizenship within the Republic of Turkey."

Thousands at Nevruz Square

Hundreds of thousands convened at Diyarbakır's Nevruz Square to listen to the historic letter, while celebrating the arrival of spring despite pouring rain and biting cold.

More than 1,000 reporters, 200 of whom are foreign, have been accredited to follow the event, which was also attended by representatives from 24 embassies in Turkey.

Many posters for the event featured pictures of 12-year-old Nihat Kazanhan, who was killed by police fire in the southeastern town of Cizre on Jan. 14. People’s Protection Units (YPG) members killed in clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria have also been put up at the square.

In the letter, Öcalan touched upon this issue, too, and described ISIL as the "latest manifestation of tyranny." He said that ISIL's "brutal massacres" target "all the peoples and beliefs in the region."

Öcalan urges PKK to convene congress to lay down arms
AA photo

Öcalan’s statement, which is self-described as "a historic threshold," marks another important milestone for the Kurdish peace process aimed at finding a peaceful solution to a four-decade-old problem that has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in Turkey. 

During Nevruz in 2013, Öcalan issued his first call on the PKK to declare a ceasefire, underlining that it was the right time to end the armed conflict and begin a political struggle for the rights of Kurds. 

Launched in late 2012 and intensified in recent months amid negotiations between the government, the HDP, and Öcalan, the process envisages a peaceful settlement of the problem and the disarmament of the PKK. 

From ceasefire to farewell to arms

On Feb. 28, in a historic joint press conference with the government, the HDP announced a call by Öcalan for the PKK to hold a congress in spring to discuss disarmament in Turkey. Öcalan’s statement also contained a call for the PKK to consider a “reinforced ceasefire.” 

In return, Öcalan also announced a list of priorities from the government in a 10-article declaration. These articles, referred by Öcalan in his March 21 statement, included the following headings: 

- The definition and content of democratic politics; 

- The definition of national and local dimensions of a democratic solution; 

- Legal and democratic warranties of free citizenship; 

- Relations between state and society, and how these issues will be institutionalized;

- Socio-economic dimensions of the resolution process; 

- Handling democracy-security ties during the resolution process in a manner that will sustain both public order and freedoms; 

- Legal solutions and warranties for policies on women, culture and ecology;

- Developing a pluralist democracy to define the concept of identity; 

- Defining the concepts of a democratic republic, a common homeland and a nation with democratic criteria, and granting these a legal and constitutional warranty within a pluralist democratic system; 

- Writing a new constitution that aims to internalize all democratic moves and transformations.

Öcalan urges PKK to convene congress to lay down arms
AA photo

Debate on monitoring panel

The HDP and the PKK have expressed their expectations from the government for swift implementation of these articles if they want to see action from the PKK.

There has not been a major armed clash between Turkey’s security forces and PKK militants since the 2013 declaration. However, the government has harshly criticized the PKK for not fully retreating its militants while the PKK argues that the government has not taken the necessary legal action before further steps.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s criticism of the monitoring panel, which is proposed by HDP to monitor the implementation of the process, has led to further confusion over the peace bid. 

Öcalan and state officials had stated that they agreed to include names approved by both sides in the panel. According to the plan, the monitoring panel would start working after receiving the government’s approval, joining the HDP delegation in its first visit to Öcalan after Nevruz to start the “negotiation stage” of the process. 

On behalf of the government, Deputy PM Bülent Arınç disowned Erdoğan's remarks while speaking to journalists on March 21. After praising Öcalan's call, Arınç said that Erdoğan's criticism of the monitoring was "emotional and personal" as the government had reached to an agreement with the HDP on the issue.

It was the first public criticism of the government targeting Erdoğan.