Abdullah Öcalan (// OH-jə-lahn; Turkish: [œdʒaɫan]; born c. 1947), also known as Apo (short for both Abdullah and "uncle" in Kurdish), is a Kurdish leader, leftist political theoretician, political prisoner and one of the founding members of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Öcalan in 1997
|Education||Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science|
|Occupation||Founder and leader of militant organization PKK, political activist, writer, political theorist|
|Organization||Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK)|
|Spouse(s)||Kesire Yıldırım (24 May 1978 – ?)|
|Relatives||Dilek Öcalan (niece)|
Osman Öcalan (brother)
Öcalan was arrested in 1999 by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) with the support of the CIA in Nairobi and taken to Turkey, where he was sentenced to death under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code, which concerns the formation of armed organisations.
The sentence was commuted to aggravated life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penalty in support of its bid to be admitted to membership in the European Union. From 1999 until 2009, he was the sole prisoner on İmralı island, in the Sea of Marmara. Öcalan now argues that the period of armed warfare is past and a political solution to the Kurdish question should be developed. The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has resulted in over 40,000 deaths, including PKK members, the Turkish military, and civilians, both Kurdish and Turkish.
From prison, Öcalan has published several books, the most recent in 2015. Jineology, also known as the science of women, is a form of feminism advocated by Öcalan and subsequently a fundamental tenet of the Apoist movement.
- 1 Family
- 2 Education and early political and revolutionary activity
- 3 Kurdish–Turkish conflict
- 4 Capture and trial
- 5 Proposal for political solution
- 6 Honorary citizenships
- 7 Publications
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Öcalan was born in Ömerli, a village in Halfeti, Şanlıurfa Province in eastern Turkey. While some sources report his birthday as being 4 April 1948, no official birth records for him exist, and he himself claims not to know exactly when he was born, estimating the year to be 1946 or 1947. He is the oldest of seven children. According to some sources, Öcalan's grandmother was an ethnic Turk and (he once claimed that) his mother was also an ethnic Turk. According to Amikam Nachmani, lecturer at the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Öcalan did not know Kurdish when he met him in 1991. Nachmani: "He [Öcalan] told me that he speaks Turkish, gives orders in Turkish, and thinks in Turkish."
Öcalan's brother Osman became a PKK commander, serving until defecting with several others to establish the Patriotic and Democratic Party of Kurdistan. His other brother, Mehmet Öcalan, is a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Dilek Öcalan, a former parliamentarian of the HDP is his niece. Ömer Öcalan, current member of parliament for the HDP is his nephew.
Education and early political and revolutionary activityEdit
After graduating from a vocational high school in Ankara (Turkish: Ankara Tapu-Kadastro Meslek Lisesi), Öcalan started working at the Diyarbakir Title Deeds Office. He was relocated one month later to Bakırköy, Istanbul. Later, he entered the Istanbul Law Faculty but transferred after the first year to Ankara University to study political science. His return to Ankara (normally impossible given his situation[notes 1]) was facilitated by the state in order to divide a militant group, Dev-Genç (Revolutionary Youth Federation of Turkey), of which Öcalan at the time was a member. President Süleyman Demirel later regretted this decision, since the PKK was to become a much greater threat to the state than Dev-Genç. In 1972 he was detained due to a participation in a protest held against the killing of Mahir Çayan. For 7 months he was held at Mamak Prison. In November 1973 the Ankara Democratic Association of Higher Education, (Ankara Demokratik Yüksek Öğrenim Demeği, ADYÖD) was founded and shortly after he was elected to join its board. In December 1974 ADYÖD was closed down.
In 1978, in the midst of the right- and left-wing conflicts which culminated in the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, Öcalan founded the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which launched a war against the Turkish government in order to set up an independent Kurdish state. In July 1979 he fled to Syria, where he remained until October 1998, when the Syrian government expelled him.
In 1984, the PKK initiated a campaign of armed conflict by attacking government forces in Turkey as well as civilians in order to create an independent Kurdish state. As a result, the United States, European Union, NATO, Syria, Australia, Turkey, and many other countries have included the PKK on their lists of terrorist organizations.
Capture and trialEdit
Until 1998, Öcalan was based in Syria. On at least one occasion, in 1993, he was detained and held by Syria's General Intelligence Directorate but later released. As the situation deteriorated in Turkey, the Turkish government openly threatened Syria over its support for the PKK. As a result, the Syrian government forced Öcalan to leave the country but did not turn him over to the Turkish authorities. Öcalan went to Russia first and from there moved to various countries, including Italy and Greece. In 1998 the Turkish government requested the extradition of Öcalan from Italy.[dead link] He was at that time defended by Britta Böhler, a high-profile German attorney who argued that he fought a legitimate struggle against the oppression of ethnic Kurds.
He was captured in Kenya on 15 February 1999, while being transferred from the Greek embassy to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, in an operation by the Millî İstihbarat Teşkilâtı (Turkish National Intelligence Organization) reportedly with the help of the CIA. George Costoulas, the Greek consul who protected him, said that his own life was in danger after the operation.
Speaking to Can Dündar on NTV Turkey, the Deputy Undersecretary of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, Cevat Öneş, said that Öcalan impeded American aspirations of establishing a separate Kurdish state. The Americans transferred him to the Turkish authorities, who flew him back to Turkey for trial. His capture led thousands of Kurds to protest at Greek and Israeli embassies around the world. Kurds living in Germany were threatened with deportation if they continued to hold demonstrations in support of Öcalan. The warning came after three Kurds were killed and 16 injured during the 1999 attack on the Israeli consulate in Berlin.
After his capture, Öcalan was held in solitary confinement as the only prisoner on İmralı island in the Sea of Marmara. Although former prisoners at İmralı were transferred to other prisons, more than 1,000 Turkish military personnel were stationed on the island to guard him. A state security court consisting of three military judges was convened on the island to try him. Öcalan was charged with treason and separatism and sentenced to death on 29 June 1999. He was also banned from holding public office for life. In January 2000 the Turkish government declared the death sentence was delayed until European Court of Human Rights EU reviewed the verdict. Upon the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey in August 2002, in October of that year, the security court commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) may have aided this case's decision.
Following the commutation, Öcalan remained imprisoned on İmralı, and was the sole inmate there. In November 2009, Turkish authorities announced that Öcalan would be relocated to a new prison on the island and that they were ending his solitary confinement by transferring several other PKK prisoners to İmralı. They said that Öcalan would be allowed to see them for ten hours a week. The new prison was built after the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited the island and objected to the conditions in which he was being held.
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated articles 3, 5, and 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights by refusing to allow Öcalan to appeal his arrest and by sentencing him to death without a fair trial. Öcalan's request for a retrial was refused by Turkish courts.
From 27 July 2011 until the 2 May 2019 his lawyers have not been allowed to see Abdullah Öcalan. From July 2011 until December 2017 his lawyers filed more than 700 appeals for visits, but all were rejected. There are regular demonstrations held by the Kurdish community to raise awareness of the isolation of Öcalan. In October 2012 several hundred Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike for better detention conditions for Öcalan and the right to use the Kurdish language in education and jurisprudence. The hunger strike lasted 68 days until Öcalan demanded its end. Öcalan was banned from receiving visits almost two years from 6 October 2014 until 11 September 2016, when his brother Mehmet Öcalan visited him for Eid al-Adha. On 6 September 2018 visits from lawyers were banned for six months due to former punishments he received in the years 2005-2009, the fact that the lawyers made their conversations with Ocalan public, and the impression that Öcalan was leading the PKK through communications with his lawyers. He was again banned from receiving visits until 12 January 2019 when his brother was permitted to visit him a second time. His brother said his health was good. The ban on the visitation of his lawyers was lifted in April 2019, and Öcalan saw his lawyers on 2 May 2019.
Legal prosecution of sympathizers of Abdullah ÖcalanEdit
In 2008, the Justice Minister of Turkey, Mehmet Ali Sahin, said that between 2006 and 2007, 949 people were convicted and more than 7,000 people prosecuted for calling Öcalan "esteemed" (Sayın).
Proposal for political solutionEdit
In 1993, upon request of Turkish president Turgut Özal, Öcalan Jalal Talabani for negotiations following which Öcalan declared a unilateral cease fire which had a duration from 20 March to the 15 April. Later he prolonged it in order to enable negotiations. Soon after Özal died on 17 April 1993, the initiative was halted by Turkey on the grounds that Turkey did not negotiate with terrorists. After his capture, Öcalan called for a halt in PKK attacks, and he has advocated a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict inside the borders of Turkey. Öcalan called for the foundation of a "Truth and Justice Commission" by Kurdish institutions in order to investigate war crimes committed by both the PKK and Turkish security forces. A similar structure began functioning in May 2006. In March 2005, Öcalan issued the Declaration of Democratic confederalism in Kurdistan calling for a border-free confederation between the Kurdish regions of Southeastern Turkey (called "Northern Kurdistan" by Kurds), Northeast Syria ("Western Kurdistan"), Northern Iraq ("South Kurdistan"), and Northwestern Iran ("East Kurdistan"). In this zone, three bodies of law would be implemented: EU law, Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian law and Kurdish law. This proposal was adopted by the PKK programme following the "Refoundation Congress" in April 2005.
Öcalan had his lawyer, Ibrahim Bilmez, release a statement on 28 September 2006 calling on the PKK to declare a ceasefire and seek peace with Turkey. Öcalan's statement said, "The PKK should not use weapons unless it is attacked with the aim of annihilation," and "it is very important to build a democratic union between Turks and Kurds. With this process, the way to democratic dialogue will be also opened".
On 31 May 2010, however, Öcalan said he was abandoning the ongoing dialogue with Turkey, as "this process is no longer meaningful or useful". Öcalan stated that Turkey had ignored his three protocols for negotiation: (a) his terms of health and security, (b) his release, and (c) a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Though the Turkish government had received Öcalan's protocols, they were never released to the public. Öcalan said he would leave the top PKK commanders in charge of the conflict, but that this should not be misinterpreted as a call for the PKK to intensify its armed conflict with Turkey.
In 2013, Öcalan initiated new peace negotiations. On 21 March of that year, Öcalan declared a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state. Öcalan's statement was read to hundreds of thousands of Kurds in Diyarbakir who had gathered to celebrate the Kurdish New Year. The statement said in part, "Let guns be silenced and politics dominate... a new door is being opened from the process of armed conflict to democratization and democratic politics. It's not the end. It's the start of a new era." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the statement, and hope for a peaceful settlement was raised on both sides.
Soon after Öcalan's declaration, the functional head of the PKK, Murat Karayılan responded by promising to implement a ceasefire, stating, "Everyone should know the PKK is as ready for peace as it is for war".
Since his incarceration, Öcalan has significantly changed his ideology through exposure to Western social theorists such as Murray Bookchin (who Öcalan calls "a prophet"), Immanuel Wallerstein, Fernand Braudel, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Drawing heavily on Bookchin's libertarian socialist idea of communalism, Öcalan fashioned his ideal society called "democratic confederalism".
Democratic confederalism is a "system of popularly elected administrative councils, allowing local communities to exercise autonomous control over their assets, while linking to other communities via a network of confederal councils." Decisions are made by communes in each neighborhood, village, or city. All are welcome to partake in the communal councils, but political participation is not mandated. There is no private property, but rather “ownership by use, which grants individuals usage rights to the buildings, land, and infrastructure, but not the right to sell and buy on the market or convert them to private enterprises.” The economy is in the hands of the communal councils, and is thus (in the words of Bookchin) ‘neither collectivised nor privatised - it is common.’ Feminism, ecology, and direct democracy are essential in democratic confederalism.
With his 2005 "Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan", Öcalan advocated for a Kurdish implementation of Bookchin's The Ecology of Freedom via municipal assemblies as a democratic confederation of Kurdish communities beyond the state borders of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Öcalan promoted a platform of shared values: environmentalism, self-defense, gender equality, and a pluralistic tolerance for religion, politics, and culture. While some of his followers questioned Öcalan's conversion from Marxism-Leninism, the PKK adopted Öcalan's proposal and began to form assemblies.
In early 2004, Öcalan attempted to arrange a meeting with Murray Bookchin through Öcalan's lawyers, describing himself as Bookchin's "student" eager to adapt Bookchin's thought to Middle Eastern society. Bookchin was too ill to meet with Öcalan. In May 2004 Bookchin conveyed this message "My hope is that the Kurdish people will one day be able to establish a free, rational society that will allow their brilliance once again to flourish. They are fortunate indeed to have a leader of Mr. Öcalan's talents to guide them". When Bookchin died in 2006, the PKK hailed the American thinker as "one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century" and vowed to put his theories into practice.
Several localities have awarded him with an honorary citizenship:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abdullah Öcalan.|
Öcalan is the author of more than 40 books, four of which were written in prison. Many of the notes taken from his weekly meetings with his lawyers have been edited and published.
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The most ruthless among them was Abdullah Öcalan, known as Apo (a diminutive for Abdullah; the word also means 'uncle' in Kurdish).
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Abdullah Öcalan'ın İstanbul'dan Ankara'ya gelmesine keşke izin verilmeseydi. O zamanlar Dev-Genç'i bölmek için böyle bir yol izlendi... Kürt gençlerini Marksistler'in elinden kurtarmak ve Dev-Genç'in bölünmesi hedeflendi. Bunda başarılı olundu olunmasına ama Abdullah Öcalan yağdan kıl çeker gibi kaydı gitti. Keşke Tuzluçayır'da öldürülseydi!
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Öcalan yakalandığında ABD, bağımsız bir devlet kurma isteğindeydi. Öcalan, konumu itibariyle, araç olma işlevi bakımından buna engel bir isimdi. ABD bölgede yeni bir Kürt devleti kurabilmek için Öcalan'ı Türkiye'ye teslim etti.
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