Kurdish MPs urge Turkey to free PKK leader
July 22, 2012
ANKARA, — Kurdish members of Turkey's
parliament on Saturday called for the release of
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the armed
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), saying an end to the
group's 27-year conflict with the army is impossible
while he is in prison.
Joined by human rights activists, the lawmakers also
told a news conference that Ocalan has not seen his
lawyers or family members for a full year and that
such "inhumane" conditions raised concerns about his
health and security.
"If there is going to be a negotiated peace,
Ocalan's captivity must be ended," said Emine Ayna,
a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy
Party (BDP). "A negotiating table in which one side
holds the key to the handcuffs of the other party
won't yield any results."
Ocalan has been serving a life sentence on an island
prison in the Sea of Marmara since his conviction
for treason in 1999.
Since his detention clashes have become less
frequent and most of the PKK is now based in
northern Iraq, but violence still flares up.
Fighting between the PKK and the Turkish armed
forces has claimed more than 40,0000 lives since
The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
However, Turkish officials have repeatedly ruled out
releasing Ocalan or moving him from jail to house
arrest. Nor is there much public support for
Ocalan's release outside of the mainly Kurdish
Calling for his freedom would have been unthinkable
just a few years ago. Only last year, Ayna was
convicted for remarks about the PKK that judges
ruled were "terrorist propaganda".
Until recently, even referring to the PKK leader as
"Mr Ocalan" was grounds for a prison sentence.
But Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has done away with
some taboos surrounding the Kurdish issue and has
expanded cultural rights, including ending a ban on
education in the Kurdish language. The measures are
aimed at addressing Kurds' grievances and at meeting
EU criteria for membership of the 27-nation bloc.
"Everyone must accept that Mr Ocalan represents the
Kurdish people," said Aysel Tugluk, another MP from
"Mr Ocalan has called ceasefires and for a
democratic end to the conflict. It's because of a
recognition of his effectiveness that a dialogue and
negotiations were launched with him."
The government is widely believed to have held
secret talks with Ocalan in an attempt to end the
violence. But no such talks are said to have taken
place in well over a year.
About 8,000 Kurdish politicians, lawyers, activists,
youth group members and others have been arrested in
connection with an investigation into the Union of
Kurdistan Communities (KCK),www.ekurd.net
said BDP MP Sebahat Tuncel. Prosecutors allege the
PKK set up the KCK to create its own political
system in the southeast.
The PKK has dropped its original demand for an
independent Kurdish homeland and is now seeing
greater political autonomy for Turkey's estimated to
over 20 million Kurds.
The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem,
Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.
Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state,
which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish
state in the south east of the country.
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights
for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more
than 20 million.
A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional
self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.
PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in
Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey,
reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action
against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish
politicians say the measures fall short of their
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