Statement, 15 August 2019

For Kurdish people the 15 August is celebrated as the Day of Resurgence and Resistance. On 15 August 1984, Liberation Units of Kurdistan, led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with its guerrilla commander Mahsum Korkmaz, launched the armed struggle for freedom.  This was six years after the founding of the PKK.

In the circumstances there was no option for the PKK but to resort to armed struggle if any manifestation of the Kurdish desire for identity and recognition was to be maintained and fulfilled. On 12 September 1980, the Turkish armed forces, led by General Kenan Evren, seized power in Turkey in a military coup. One of the chief aims of the coup was to crush the Kurdish movement. The constitution was suspended, parliament was abolished, all political parties and trade unions were banned and martial law was imposed throughout Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, thousands disappeared, up to 650,000 people were arrested, films were banned, journalists imprisoned and killed and newspapers prevented from publishing. Many death sentences were passed; the PKK had 122 death sentences passed against its members. The PKK withdrew some of its members from Turkey to Lebanon and Syria and began political and military preparations, which culminated in the 15 August actions. Kurdish resistance has gathered and spread since.

The PKK declared its first unilateral ceasefire on 20 March 1993. Initially, the Turkish government responded positively. At the time Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, reflected: ‘We never took up arms for the sake of it. All we did was open a road for our nation to freely develop. But we had no other means to adopt: that is why we had to take up arms and have brought the struggle to this stage. The Kurdish situation is, at heart, a Turkish-Kurdish situation. Our struggle has come to the point of the Turkish public accepting the Kurdish identity; it has seen it necessary to recognise Kurdish existence and solve the problem…’ Within a month of the ceasefire Turkish President Turgat Ozal died under suspicious circumstances and the dialogue with the PKK was ended. In keeping with Abdullah Ocalan’s policies and in the search for a peaceful solution to Turkish-Kurdish relations, the PKK declared eight unilateral ceasefires: in 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. Each time the Turkish state responded with provocations and conspiracies. The 2013 PKK ceasefire resulted in negotiations and the 10-point Dolmabahce agreement for the resolution of the Kurdish issue with Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan then denounced the agreement and resorted to all-out war on the Kurds.

Again, this month, from the prison on Imrali Island, Abdullah Ocalan has proposed a peaceful solution to Turkish-Kurdish relations and has asked Turkey’s authorities for dialogue. Until Turkey acknowledges the identity and rights of the Kurds it will remain in a state of war. There can be no progress towards peace and democracy in Turkey or in the Middle East without a just solution to the Kurdish question.

The US, British and European governments have backed the Turkish state because of Turkey’s geo-strategic significance and the country’s membership of NATO. However, these powers are coming to realise that the Turkish government, under Erdogan, now threatens the entire Middle East, and that Turkey is pursuing a course that inevitably means war, with the uncertainty this brings. The Turkish state is an increasingly unreliable ally for the West. The more that the US, Britain and Europe back Erdogan, the greater the potential challenge to their regional position and influence will tend to become.

Neither the PKK nor the Kurdish people will be crushed; these last 35 years are testimony to that. The Kurdish resistance has won supporters around the world. Its people are building a new model of how to live in the Middle East, a model with lessons for us all: for women and equality and against patriarchy; for democracy and unity and against centralised dictatorship and sectarianism.


Peace in Kurdistan

Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question


Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: John Austin, Christine Blower, NEU International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Dr Cynthia Cockburn, Jeremy Corbyn MP,  Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director,  Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Stephen Smellie, Jonathan Steele, Steve Sweeney, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP.