Turkish PM, BDP tightlipped over Öcalan’s message

Turkish PM, BDP tightlipped over Öcalan’s message

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM, BDP tightlipped over Öcalan’s message

BDP lawmakers Pervin Buldan, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Altan Tan (L-R) get on the boat for their visit to İmralı to meet with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. DHA photo

A day after a key meeting between the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a parliamentary delegation, politicians involved in an ongoing “peace process” chose to keep silent for the sake of the process.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy parliamentary group chair Pervin Buldan, BDP Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder and BDP Diyarbakır deputy Altan Tan on Feb. 23 travelled to İmralı island, where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is serving a life sentence, following permission from the government for a visit conducted as part of a process involving talks with Öcalan to convince PKK militants to lay down their arms. This recent visit to the island was the second trip made as part of the ongoing peace process, following Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat’s visit on Jan. 3.

As of Feb. 24, both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and BDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş have refrained from making any substantial statements on details or results of the meeting, or what the promises, if any, were made during talks.

Demirtaş, speaking at a party meeting in the southeastern province of Adıyaman, said on Feb. 24 that everybody should support the recent process in order for bloodshed to be stopped.

“Supporting the peace process does not mean supporting the ruling party. We are backing peace, not the ruling party,” Demirtaş said, adding that other opposition parties should also support the process for resolution.

Erdoğan, who departed for the United Arab Emirates on Feb. 23, said he would comment on the BDP’s visit and their messages after returning to Turkey.

With such cautious approach from the leaders who are directly involved in the process, eyes have focused on the content of a message conveyed by BDP’s Buldan.

Eyes on PKK after Öcalan’s call

Öcalan signaled that captives being kept by the PKK may be released soon, which would be perceived as a positive step to move the process forward.

Öcalan’s message was conveyed by Buldan following their meeting.

“The state has [certain] captives in its hands. So does the PKK. The PKK has to treat its captives very well. I hope they will rejoin their families in the shortest amount of time,” Öcalan was cited as having said by Buldan.

“This meeting is a historic step. We are going through a historic process,” Öcalan wrote in a letter thet was read to reporters by Buldan. “All parties should be very careful and sensitive throughout this process,” Öcalan’s letter read.

Without responding to reporters’ questions, Buldan said the BDP co-chairs would make statements and share notes from the meeting “when the time [was] adequate.”

The visit lasted around eight hours in total. Two officials from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) accompanied lawmakers during their visit to İmralı island. One MİT official reportedly participated in the deputies’ meeting with Öcalan. The three lawmakers met with BDP co-chairs after they returned to Istanbul the night of Feb. 23 and reportedly conveyed Öcalan’s messages. One of the BDP co-chairs is expected to explain the details of the meeting to the public on tomorrow or Feb. 27 this week.

Öcalan’s message regarding captives kept by the PKK is an issue that has recently been publicly voiced by captives’ families. The PKK accelerated its abduction campaigns after July 2011. Between July 2011 and August 2012 it kidnapped more than 145 people, compared to 154 recorded between 1990 and 2010, according to statistics from the Human Rights Foundation (İHD). The targets were generally civil servants such as teachers, soldiers and bureaucrats. Many were released but dozens are still being held in captivity.

Families of the captives recently met with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Melda Onur and asked for the party’s help in attracting public attention to their cause. According to a list given by the families to Onur, there are 16 captives kept by the PKK, including prospective Kulp district governor Kenan Erenoğlu, police officer Nadir Özgen, specialist Sgt. Kemal Ekinci and Zihni Koç and Sgt. Abdullah Söpçeler.

Habibe Güleç, the sister of Erenoğlu, said they are following the issue via the press and do not have any further information. “We do not want to make a statement at the moment. Everything is very new and unclear now. We hope to make a statement after they [those kidnapped by the PKK] enter the country’s soil,” Güleç told the Hürriyet Daily News on Feb. 24.

While mentioning “captives kept by the state,” Öcalan is obviously referring to those detained as suspects in cases against the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban wing of the PKK. Most of the KCK detainees are expected to be released after the fourth judicial package is adopted. The package was reportedly submitted to Parliament the evening of Feb. 22 following a Cabinet meeting.