Resolving the Middle East Crisis: the Ideas of Abdullah Ocalan

By Rebwar Rashed:

This was the title of a conference held on Friday 15th February 2019 at the House of Lords in London. There were many great friends of Kurds. It was composed of four sessions.

The first one, the alternative solution to the political, social and economic problems in the Middle East: Democratic confederalism: The Middle East Nation-state crisis through the example of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, And Syria. Lord Maurice Glassman was moderator and the speakers were Hisyar Ozsoy HDP/ Turkey, Mehri Rezai KNK member/ Iran, Rebwar Raşid Co-Chair of KNK/ Iraq and Ilham Ahmed co chair of the Syrian Democratic Council.

The second session, Intervention into the roots of power, oppression, and violence of regimes: Jineoloji as the perspective of Kurdish women’s movement, was moderated by Julie Ward MEP, Dr. Dilar Dirik, Social Anthropologist Lave Hadji and Margaret Owen a British international human rights lawyer.

The third session, The Turkish state’s policies against Kurds in Turkey and Syria: The war against Abdullah Ocalan’s Democratic Middle East project. It was moderated by Prof. David Graeber. The speakers were Chris Hazzard MP, Radha D’Souza a Reader in Law at the University of Westminster and Professor Udo Steinbach.

The fourth session was: The Imrali torture system against Abdullah Ocalan: The international coalition against Abdullah Ocalan and the political and legal realities of the Imrali system. Dr. Thomas Jeffrey Miley was the moderator and the speakers were Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, An ANC great personality, presently the Parliamentary Counselor to the Deputy President of South Africa, Ibrahim Bilmez HDP/ Lawyer/ Lawyer of Mr. Ocalan, Simon Dubbins Director of International and Research for UNITE the Union in the UK, Dr. Frederico Venturini an independent activist-researcher.

My speech at the conference:

Understanding the Democratic Confederation

 In order to understand Mr. Ocalan, we have to first understand the history of the Middle East, especially the upper Middle East and of Mesopotamia. My purpose with this paper is to advance understanding of the historical background of current political, economic and social problems, especially about Iraq, and the necessity of finding a solution for them; and thus Mr. Ocalan’s strive to contribute to a workable and sustainable solution for these problems.

Between the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and the Lausanne Treaty of July 1923, roughly 3 months before the establishment of the Turkish Republic, many wars took place, including World War I. These conflicts resulted in several new nation-states, established with artificial borders and founded on the European model that had arisen after the 30 Years’ War and the Peace of Westphalia.

In creating these political entities, colonial states did not pay much attention to the indigenous peoples of the region. They founded states based on arbitrary power and interests. They did not recognize the agony that peoples like the Kurds, Armenians, Jews, and others would face as a result. The Kurdish people suffered terrible losses at that time, and still suffer tremendously because of the borders that were drawn. These agreements divided the Kurdish people between four authoritarian ethno-states: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. These governments have proven to be racist, discriminatory, violent, aggressive, expansionist, theocratic, totalitarian, and dictatorial. All of them have committed genocides and atrocities against both their own people and the oppressed nations within their borders. Under these four regimes, racism, discrimination, exclusion and exploitation are been institutionalized, implemented systematically through police state tactics. These states have build up Goebbels-like propaganda machinery in order to oppress various groups and legalize the deprivation of human rights.

There is a long history of struggle against this oppression. Many individuals, political parties, and NGOs have tried to contribute to a solution, often risking their own lives. These states have answered with the policy of extermination of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, enforcing poverty, destruction, unemployment and human agony. These nation-states often build on very limited narrow identities; have caused bitterness, tension, feuds and hostility among the diverse peoples of the region.

After toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 the Iraqi’s had a chance to build a democracy or at least pave the way for a democratic system. Instead, Iraq became grew ground for sectarian war and conflict of interest between different politicians and political parties. From founding Iraq as a state until 2003 a Sunni minority was controlling Iraq. After 2003 the Shiia’s took control and unfortunately started a revenge-process. From been a dysfunctional state since the Gulf War, Iraq today is near a catastrophic failure as it’s socioeconomic situation, and it´s security and stability continue to deteriorate.

The state of Iraq is a theocracy run by Al Sharia and Al marja’iyyah” (Shia clerical authorities) albeit undeclared. The sectarianism is institutionalized and it has deepened so much as there is even a Shiia and a Sunni demography.

The executive, judicial and legislative powers are corrupted. Theft, fraud and plunder of Iraqi national wealth are the characteristics of the state. The Iraqi’s suffers of economic deprivation, and ineffective governance and public service delivery. The Iraqi central government is ruled by Iran and invaded by Turkey in the north of KRG areas. Thus the government today, as the ones before, doesn’t have any will or interest to bring about a real federal system. So the conflict with Kurdish people is still there, the implementation of Article 140, hasn’t started yet, after more than 15 years.

Turkey and Iran have succeeded to destroy Iraqi economic potential; there are no infrastructures, water, electricity etc.  The situation of the working class, of women, the seculars and the left in general is on alarming level. It says that there are almost 150 tribes in Iraq. After 2003, the tribalism is flourishing, especially in the Sunni areas, but also in Kurdistan and in Shiia dominated places. This destructive political, social economic environment has negative impact on average citizens. It is not surprising that Iraq suffers of community cleavages.

The political deterioration and the economic decline in KRG continue as KRG has glides from a quasi independent entity into a non-independent limited local administration.

 A New Perspective: The Perspective of peace!

From a solution-focused thinking and perspective, Kurdistan can be used as solution factor. It is the home of not only Abrahamic religions, but also many ancient religions, cultures and ethnicities. These diversities have made Kurdistan a culturally very colorful place. In addition to Kurds, there are others as Armenians, Assyri-Kildans and Arabs.

In Kurdistan, despite this history of oppression, the accumulated political economic and social problems of four different nation-states, we can find the enduring political and social solutions that they need. After all, the division of Kurdistan has created advantages and disadvantages. We already know about the disadvantages.

The advantage is that as Kurdistan geographically lies between four states, it gives a great opportunity to the Kurdish national liberation movement as it can be the solution to the crises that all of these states face, even those not connected on the surface to the situation of the Kurdish people.

The Kurdistan liberation movement has therefore genuine potential to be a solution factor.

From a “weak-link” Kurdistan can be the strong link which bring together all the people surrounding us, even the Balouches and the Arabs of Al Ahwaz. Therefore a strong Kurdish unity can serve as a better stronger link. A national unity of Kurdish people can bring together a vast area of the region. Iran and Turkey already know about the positivity and the impact of Kurdish unity, therefore they are doing everything to separate Kurdish people from each other. Turkey has even built physical walls between the parts of Kurdistan. Turkey and Iran are controlling the border line with an iron feast and have mobilized many terrorist proxy groups. Iran and Turkey doing everything to keep the Kurdish question as isolated, as marginalized and as localized as possible.

We know that there exists bitter enmity and great disparities in interests between these states. Kurdistan’s model of progressive, pluralistic, inclusive democratic federation, based on Mr. Ocalan’s thesis, can bring about a historical reconciliation between all the peoples of the area. Recognizing historic wrongs, like the Armenian genocide, the Helebce and Anfal genocide, the crimes of ISIS, and the many committed atrocities against Kurdish people, will be the responsibility of all peoples, political parties, NGOs and governments that have the will to walk the path towards peace.

Iraq is already a federal state, so taking Mr. Ocalan’s theory of Democratic Confederation as starting point; we should be a step ahead in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan to implement great achievements.

If since 2003 we could have built an inclusive democracy, we probably didn’t have to witness emerging of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups, we could have protected the Yazidis; they could have a self-defense force. With a minimum of corruption and theft the Iraqis could have build gigantic power plants of solar, fuel or water.

Even with a limited liberal democracy where inclusiveness, secularism, pluralism can have a meaning, we could have won a lot in Iraq and Southern part of Kurdistan. Therefore Mr. Ocalan’s Democratic Confederation could work as an exceptional-solution model. Together we can take steps from a centralized, very limited identity, to more decentralized self-administrated entities which can combine the principle of self-rule and a shared rule.

The project of Democratic Confederalism is not an easy task, but it is not an impossible mission either, as the majority of people across the region support peace and tranquility, togetherness and sisterhood, solidarity and empathy.

The women of all nations, in particular, can play a constructive role. Right now, there are thousands of Kurdish women struggling against the patriarchal system, religious radicalism, terrorism, militarism and fascistic state oppression. Women across the Middle East can further this struggle as their nations work together to build peace.

This ‘mega-project’ of peace and of self-administrated confederacies can start with a peace process that lets people build mutual trust, a spirit of cooperation and a vision of common future. After many years of struggle, I dare to claim that the majority of people in the region would voluntarily involve in this mega process as its primary a peace process based on mutual interests and a better future for all of us.

Today, looking at the world’s map, we can see that many great nations are enjoying having a federation or a federal system, a system which have proven capacities to bring people together, not separating them as in the case of national-statehood, especially the authoritarian ethno-traditional models.

The strength of Mr. Ocalan´s theory of peace lies not in attempting to solve all of these problems at the same time, but rather in stopping hostilities, hatred, enmity and disbelief between the region’s peoples as the first step.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Mr. Ocalan has been in prison for the last 20 years, solely for his firm and determined call to stop human rights abuses, killings, arbitrary persecution, intimidation and systematic oppression.

Mr. Ocalan is not just an intellectual asset, but also a great source for positive thinking. He reminds us to think as human beings, and encourages individuals and communities everywhere to understand each other and cooperate for a better future.

Mr. Ocalan is been under solitary confinement and torture while must be with his people. He can contribute greatly to the cause of peace and democracy in Turkey and Kurdistan— but only as a free man.

Mr. Ocalan’s freedom and well-being must be everyone´s concern, as he has no personal dispute with the Turkish state— or with Iran, Iraq or Syria. Thus, Mr. Ocalan should be seen not only as a national leader, but also as a symbol of the struggle for freedom.

Therefore, keeping him in prison is ridiculing all those who believes in peace, sisterhood and togetherness in the Middle East— whether they are Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Assyri-Kldanians or Baloches.

I call upon this conference to ask the democratically elected officials of the UK, EU, and the US to take their share of responsibility. France and the UK are signatories of the Sykes-Picot treaty, and many EU members are signatories of Lausanne Treaty— which totally deprived the national and democratic rights of the Kurdish people.

The countries that created these crises a century ago must now mediate between Turkey and the PKK and be a part of a sustainable solution.

It is now time to call for the freedom of Mr. Ocalan, and to talk about the models for a new future in the Middle East proposed by the Kurdish movement— including democratic Confederalism.

Thank you all,

Rebwar Rashed

Co-Chair of Kurdistan National Congress/ KNK


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