Osman Ocalan. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Osman Ocalan, the brother of the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) -- and a onetime head of the group -- believes that the chaos in Syria favors the Kurds there, granting them “an opportunity for achieving freedom for the Kurds.”
But he warns that Kurdish parties in Syria must deal with the situation cautiously and without excluding one another from the political process.
“The Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the strongest group and it unilaterally controls most of the affairs in west (Syrian) Kurdistan, leaving the other Kurdish groups with no power,” Ocalan said in an interview with Rudaw. “This behavior weakens the Kurdish front and it encouraged radical groups such as the al-Nusrah Front to attack the Kurds.”
Ocalan, who briefly led the PKK after his brother Abdullah Ocalan was captured in 1999, said that the PYD is carrying out the PKK’s policies in Syria.
“There is unilateralism and exclusion in the old socialist ideology of the PKK, which means one party, one leader, and one authority,” he said. “For this reason they do not want to share power. But they should realize that strength is in power sharing.”
Referring to how he was voted out by the party’s senior leaders after only briefly leading the group, Ocalan lamented that he himself had fallen victim to the PKK’s unbending policies.
“I spent many years serving the PKK. I continued with selfless devotion in order to protect our movement, but it took them only one moment to exclude me from the party,” he complained.
According to Ocalan, the PYD is receiving direct instructions from Cemil Bayik, who was recently elected as the leader of the PKK in the party’s ninth convention in the Qandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Bayik comes second after (Abdullah) Ocalan in terms of influence and I can say that he -- who adopts a radical socialist Stalinist ideology -- orchestrates 90 percent of what is happening in Syrian Kurdistan.”
Ocalan says that after years of marginalization and suppression of Kurds in Syria, they now have a chance for a strong and democratic society, warning that the PKK and PYD’s wrong policies might abort that opportunity.
“Democracy for us means creating some kind of power to support the weak society and solve the various social issues,” he said. “But what the PKK does through the PYD in west Kurdistan has weakened the Kurds and robbed the revolution of its collective sense. The PKK and the PYD must change their policies,” Ocalan said.
Ocalan’s thoughts resonate with several Kurdish groups in Syria who complain that the PYD -- despite having signed the power-sharing Erbil Agreement -- is still using its strong military force to shut all other groups out of the scene.
“The PYD should share power with the other Kurdish groups in west Kurdistan,” said Ocalan. “The region must be ruled collectively and not unilaterally.”
Ocalan thinks it unlikely that the PKK and PYD would allow other Kurdish groups to gain a foothold in Syria’s Kurdish areas.
“The PKK and the PYD are not democratic enough to accept power sharing,” he said. “Their democracy is only superficial and not real. I would not have left them if they knew what democracy was.”
The PYD, which has been fighting radical Islamist groups across Syrian Kurdistan, has managed to rally a large proportion of Kurds behind itself. Its leaders boast that their fighters can tackle the threat without need for outside assistance. But Ocalan still believes the group does not have the support of the majority of Kurds.