THE KURDS’ MANDELA

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
~ Nelson Mandela.

Newroz celebrations continue in North Kurdistan. And as DTP is pressing more and more for Öcalan’s freedom in their Newroz speeches, and since DTP is making its position on the upcoming Kurdish summit well known, I thought it would be appropriate to include a translation of a recent piece by Ahmet Altan.

Apo and Mandela

The other day Hürriyet’s general publication manager Ertuğrul Özkök wrote an interesting article. He mentioned that Apo could take a place in the peace process.

I don’t know if I am doing an injustice to Özkök but I see such writings came out in Hürriyet as the state’s forerunner for its preparations. I think they are written to prepare the public for what is planned or the plans are in the process of preparation.

If this is Özkök’s own idea or if it’s written by the order of the state, the result doesn’t change. This is, I think, a positive step.

A couple of days before this article was published, I encountered another piece of news just as interesting.

It was mentioning that 12 more cells would be built on İmralı Island. I mean twelve more people would be taken to reside with Apo. When these two things are evaluated together the idea that something is changing gets stronger.

The name of Apo is like the god Janus, which has two different appearances. Most of the Turks hate this name. Furthermore some of the newspapers add descriptions like “terrorist leader” or “baby killer”.

For the Kurds, however, this name has almost a holy meaning. For them, Apo is the leader who enabled the Kurdish Question to be discussed concretely in this country. He is an indivisible part of the Kurdish identity. Moreover, PKK members call him “the leadership”, not Apo or Ocalan. His description has almost a mystical influence.

A couple of months ago I had watched a movie about South Africa’s black leader, Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s name was the same as Apo’s in South Africa. A “murder” for the whites; a “holy” leader for the blacks. The movie was telling Mandela’s imprisonment adventure through a white guard’s perspective. Mandela first was kept in a cell. Then some of his friends from his own organization were put beside him. Then altogether they resided in a more comfortable “place”. Later on, Mandela was provided a farmhouse with protection. Then he was released and joined the elections.

This was a “horrible” period for several whites. For the blacks, however, it was a period to be celebrated. The feeling of hatred or revenge is not sufficient to solve this kind of social problem, an ethnic clash. Even if you presume the non-existence of millions of people, their identity, language, and traditions, life imposes its reality.

There is a Kurdish reality in Turkey. Because this “reality” was not admitted it first turned into a problem then into a war. Thousands of people died. Hundreds of billions of dollars that were supposed to be spent for the welfare of this country’s people, were spent on weapons. The problem has not been solved yet.

Today even the retired generals admit some mistakes were made in the Kurdish Question. Turkey is tired of the war. The world wants Turkey and the Middle East to arrive at peace.

A great Kurdish conference is being prepared. Apo, in Imrali, stated that he sees this initiative as positive. Although the Turks become uncomfortable by hearing this idea, still Apo is an important one for “peace”.

Like Alev Er always says “Whoever you are fighting with, he is the one you make peace with”. Apo started the war. Today he has the power to start peace. A peace without Apo and PKK is not possible.

Turks, being very angry at Apo or PKK, even hating them, does not change this reality. Today keeping Apo aside from the peace process, pretending the non-existence of PKK, does not fit reality. I know how several Turkish readers will be angry when they read this article. But how far can we disregard realities by being afraid of anger and reactions?

Today Apo is the Kurds’ Mandela; he is their national hero. Now I want to ask my Turkish readers: Is taking revenge on Apo, or punishing him, important, or is it important for Turkey to arrive at a decent level of welfare; kids are not being killed anymore, and living in this country where everyone lives in peace together?

Revenge is not such a feeling that results in a positive outcome.

The two parties suffered in this war, the two parties were hurt, and the two parties cried for their children. What good is it going to do to maintain this?

Is it possible not to see the great profits that will be gained by including Apo in the peace process? Turkey is on the brink of peace. With a little bit of determination, we can pass over this line. Even a country like South Africa, which went through hatred and blood, succeeded in this. Why shouldn’t we succeed?

Okay, you got it, we are good at fighting, however . . .

Doesn’t being able to have peace have as much value as fighting?

From Taraf.

Note that I do not know what statement of Öcalan’s that Altan is referring to when he says that Öcalan “sees this initiative as positive”. It may be a statement that Öcalan made in reference to PKK’s suggestion of a summit or it may be a statement referring to a more general suggestion of a summit. However, given DTP’s current stance on the summit, as expressed by Talabanî during his visit to Turkey last week, it’s highly unlikely that Öcalan sees as positive the hidden agendas that will be brought to the table when that summit occurs.

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