Review by Mufid Abdulla:
13 years on and Öcalan is still in a Turkish prison on Emrali island. Öcalan’s ‘The Road Map to Negotiations’ is a collection of his writings that provided the basis for secret negotiations between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leadership from 2009 until they broke down in mid-2011. It creates a balanced picture of the leader, freedom fighter and champion of the nation who is seeking ways to end his people’s suffering. This book underlines the urgency to both sides of finding a solution to the conflict.
The mentality of the Turkish state is still dominated by chauvinist divide and rule schemes but the abduction of Öcalan on February 15, 1999 and the attempt to isolate him from the outside world have failed to prevent the man from continuing to think and strategise about the Kurdish cause.
‘The Road Map to Negotiations (Prison Writings III)’ is a genuine attempt by the PKK leader to re-define his position concerning the Turkish state and the PKK. Öcalan argues for an adjustment in concepts, theoretical framework and principles regarding the democratization of Turkey, saying this is paramount. However the state has failed to make these adjustments and has made little headway on the Kurdish issue despite the pledges of Turkish leaders such as former president Turgut Ozal and current president Abdullah Gül who once said: “It shall be resolved – there is no other way”.
The Turkish state is still in the grip of elements of the old Ataturk apparatus. ‘The Road Map to Negotiations’ is not only about ending the years of depression and repression of the Kurds but also about creating a truly democratic constitution for Turkey.
The state has been in continual denial about its war against the Kurds. “During the years 1950 to 1980 the Kurds had to try to prove their existence”, writes Öcalan.
Öcalan’s ‘Road Map’ argues that, in order to achieve a democratic constitution in Turkey, new concepts are required, including a “democratic nation”, of which he says, “ a nationhood that brings unity should not be a nation-state – rather, it should be a democratic nation”. Öcalan also argues for a “democratic homeland … made up of multi-lingual, multinational and multi-religious citizens, rather than a single ethnicity with one language and one religion”.
The PKK’s shift of direction and goals – from pursuing a Kurdish state to demanding democratic rights – is because this is how the Kurds can resolve their problems. This does not means the armed struggle from 1984 to 2009 – and continuing to this day – has achieved nothing. Öcalan says it is “identified as the fight for truth” but that the Kurdish question in Turkey must now be resolved by the two sides around a table. He admits that the PKK has abandoned its previous leftist ideas and relinquished its demand for statehood and expects in return big concessions from the Turkish state. The PKK has been the only alternative to the Turkish policy of denial and annihilation. Öcalan does not want this strife to continue and hence ‘The Road Map to Negotiations’ seeks a solution for the Kurdish and Turkish nations, bringing to an end the long conflict that has claimed thousands of lives on both sides.
‘The Road Map to Negotiations’ is published by ‘Freedom for Abdullah Ocalan-Peace in Kurdistan’, P.O .Box 100 511, D-50445 Cologne: www.Ocalan-books.com