Jailed Kurdish PKK rebel leader Abdullah
Ocalan calls for ceasefire
Millions of Kurds are waiting to hear the
announcement by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Diyarbakir, Turkey's Kurdish region. March 21, 2013.
Photo: ANF •
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Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the BDP,
gestures during a rally to celebrate Newroz in
Istanbul, March 17, 2013. A picture of Ocalan is
seen in the background. Photo: Reuters
March 21, 2013
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey's Kurdish
region,— Jailed Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan
called Thursday for a ceasefire, telling militants
to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish
soil, raising hopes for an end to a three-decade
conflict with Turkey that has cost tens of thousands
"We are at a stage where guns should be silenced,"
Ocalan said in a letter written from his isolated
island prison cell and read out to a vast crowd in
the mainly Kurdish southern city of Diyarbakir by a
"We are at a stage where our armed elements should
withdraw from Turkey," said the leader of the
outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), adding that
it was "time for politics to prevail."
Öcalan's message in Kurdish
BDP deputy Pervin Buldan finished reading PKK leader
Abdullah Öcalan's message in Kurdish.
Now BDP deputy Sirri Sureyya Önder is reading the
same message in Turkish. First though he saluted the
crowd in Kurdish. It is almost impossible for Önder
to go on as the crowd is wildly chanting and
"Happy Newroz to all the oppressed in search of
freedom", said the Kurdish leader and added
"greetings to all those who celebrate Newroz today
on the way to democratization and liberation". The
Kurdish leader went on saying that "political
oppression and benefits have subjected the people of
Mesopotamia with the support of Western intervening
powers. The peoples of Middle East and Asia are
awakening now and saying no to the wars waged
"Millions of people taking to the Newroz areas today
demand peace and solution. This struggle which began
with my individual rising is against the oppression,
injustice, oppression and ignorance".
"A new door is being opened from the process of
armed conflict to democratization and democratic
politics. We paid a high price but none of the
sacrifices of struggles of kurds went for nothing"
The PKK leader is saying that a "new phase is now
beginning". The message begun with the Kurdish
leader saluting the people celebrating Newroz. "One
of the most ancient peoples in Mesopotamian and
Anatolian territory". Öcalan said that the western
imperialism created artificial borders between the
peoples of the Middle East in the last century and
aimed to make peoples kill each other.
“This fight is against injustice, reactionism and
exploitation, not against any society or culture. We
are waking up for a new Turkey, for a new Middle
East”, said Öcalan and underlined that “A new
process is beginning”........
The ceasefire call caps months of clandestine peace
talks between Turkey's spy agency and the state's
former nemesis Ocalan,www.ekurd.net
who has been serving a life sentence for treason on
Imrali island off Istanbul since 1999.
Abdullah Öcalan, who founded the PKK in 1974, has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ocalan, both
appear to have staked their political futures on the
renewed push to end the 29-year armed campaign for
Erdogan has said he was putting his faith in the
peace process "even if it costs me my political
career", in the face of charges by the nationalist
opposition that he was guilty of "treason."
The peace talks were launched last year after a
dramatic upsurge in attacks by Kurdish militants
against Turkish security forces.
Ocalan's announcement was timed to coincide with
Kurdish New Year, or Newroz, and hundreds of
thousands of people gathered for celebrations in the
Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in southeastern
"We will wake up to an actual New Day, the Newroz of
the new era tomorrow," prominent Kurdish lawmaker
Selehattin Demirtas said on Twitter on Wednesday.
From the early hours, people from across Turkey had
poured into the main square in Diyarbakir, adorned
with red, yellow and green Kurdish flags, to hear
Kurdish lawmakers read Ocalan's letter both in
Kurdish and Turkish.
"I believe in peace," said Ahmet Kaplan, an elderly
farmer from a village near Diyarbakir. "I have a son
in the mountains and one in the army. It has got to
stop, we need an end to mothers' tears."
A giant placard above the stage in Diyarbakir read
"Democratic solution, freedom for our leader Ocalan"
as thousands waved banners chanting "In peace as in
war, we are with you, chief!"
"The light of Newroz burning for peace," declared
the headline in the mainstream Sabah newspaper,
headline, referring to a celebratory ritual where
young men jump over flames in a sign of courage and
"Turkey will turn a new page on the historic Newroz,
the most critical junction in the peace process," it
A solution to Turkey's ingrained Kurdish problem
could etch Erdogan's name in history, in much the
same way the abolition of slavery enshrined
Lincoln's memory for Americans a century ago, wrote
Murat Yetkin, editor-in-chief of the Hurriyet Daily
News in February.
Ocalan — known as "Apo" or uncle to Kurds — has said
he wants peace for the "democratization of entire
The ceasefire call is likely to be in return for
wider constitutional rights for the up to 15 million
Kurds in Turkey, as well as the release of thousands
detained over links to the PKK, which is regarded as
terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan is likely to call for monitoring commissions
to ensure safe passage for fighters withdrawing into
northern Iraq, despite assurances by Erdogan that
"nobody will be hurt."
The ceasefire will also test Ocalan's influence over
the PKK after years of being cut off from the
outside world since his jailing in 1999.
At least four previous ceasefire attempts called by
Ocalan were rejected by Ankara or torpedoed by
hawkish rebel groups, triggering increased violence
in the country.
Asked if the new peace process would be successful,
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told reporters
"there are no guarantees."
In a sign of goodwill, the PKK last week freed eight
Turkish prisoners it had been holding hostage for
some two years.
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. By 2012, more than 45,000 people have since been
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights
for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey. A large
Turkey's Kurdish community, numbering to
openly sympathise with PKK rebels.
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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