Abdulla Ocalan (L), Sellahettin Demirtas (C) and Sırrı Süreyya Önder. Photo: HDP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The pro-Kurdish printing house Mesopotamia published a selection of recorded meetings at the Imrali prison in Turkey where the Kurdish leader Abdulla Ocalan is serving a life sentence.
The 470-page book entitled “Notes from Imrali” came to the bookstores in Germany in October 2015. It reveals details of some of the crucial meetings that took place between Kurdish and Turkish mediators who came to Ocalan’s negotiation table inside the notorious prison on Imrali Island, at the Marmara Sea.
Although in jail since 1999, Ocalan has maintained an influence over Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which regards him as their unrivalled leader.
The Turkish government under then Prime Minister Receb Teyyib Erdogan launched extensive, and often successful, peace talks with Ocalan in late 2012 that finally led to the two-year ceasefire which was broken last year.
As the ceasefire was put in place in March 2013, news broke out that the jailed leader would leave Imrali and possibly take part in PKK’s coming congress in which the party would disarm and join the political process in the country.
The book confirms the news citing Ocalan’s conversation with HDP co-leader Sellahettin Demirtas about his intention.
“They might relocate me to a better place this summer where I could receive and meet my guests. They may have started building the place by now. If so, may be those from Qandil (PKK leadership) would come and meet me there. And maybe the disarmament will be on the agenda for the coming congress. I need to take part at the congress,” Ocalan says speaking to Demirtas in March 2013.
The question about how influential Ocalan is on the PKK decision-making, the book offers a rare hint, which shows Ocalan’s impact.
In one of the meetings, a Turkish government mediator asks Ocalan to prevent PKK from “inciting” young people in the town of Cizire who were clashing with police at the time.
“Qandil (PKK leaders) must stop this game of walkie-talkies. We are not children. We hear what they tell the young people in Cizire,” the unnamed Turkish mediator is quoted as saying.
“For this matter I need a channel of communication with the PKK,” Ocalan replies.
“Now you are being unfair. You are running the PKK from here. We have allowed you to do so,” the mediator says.
According to the conversations in the book, Turkish President Erdogan has said his main disagreement with Ocalan remains on the question of Kurdish enclave in Syria.
The Prime Minister (Erdogan) said he would come to an agreement with Apo (Ocalan’s nickname). But there is only one red line, and that is Syria. He said he would not allow a Kurdish entity be established like the one in northern Iraq,” Kurdish mediator Sırrı Süreyya Önder tells Ocalan quoting Erdogan.
“And you tell him that we will not allow Kurds to remain in a centralized Syria, and that is our red line,” Ocalan has said.