Revolutionary Worker #996, February 28, 1999
Following the February 15 kidnapping of the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) by Turkish commandos, an outpouring of Kurdish protest hit the streets across Europe and elsewhere around the world. The protests have turned the eyes of the world on the oppression of the Kurdish nation and the just struggle of the Kurdish people.
Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees and immigrant workers live in Germany and other European countries. Their homeland, Kurdistan, stretches across the mountain areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
The PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was taken by force from the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya where he was seeking diplomatic shelter. The Turkish regime--infamous for torturing political prisoners--is now holding Ocalan incommunicado on an island prison and plans to try him on charges of "treason." The PKK has waged armed struggle against the fascist Turkish state since the mid-1980s.
The details of how Ocalan was taken captive are still unclear. Many of the protests have targeted Greek and Kenyan diplomatic missions. The protesters accuse the Greek and Kenyan governments of complicity in the Turkish commando operation. Actions also took place at various other locations, such as a United Nations headquarters in Vienna, the office of the German Social Democratic Party in Hamburg, the Turkish embassy in Ottawa, Canada and the Israeli consulate in Berlin. Demonstrations were reported in Australia, Russia, Iran and Lebanon.
At the Israeli consulate in Berlin, the security forces acted with deadly brutality. They fired their weapons at the protesters, killing three and injuring 16.
Protests also took place within Turkey--where just talking about Kurdish independence is a "crime" punishable by many years in prison. There were reports of marches and cars being burned on the streets of Istanbul.
Many people suspected--with good reason--that the U.S. and Israel played key roles in the international kidnapping of Ocalan. After several days of denials, Clinton administration officials told the media that U.S. agents gave information on surveillance of the Greek embassy in Kenya to the Turkish commandos. In fact, the U.S. has been hounding Ocala for months. After he was forced out of Syria last year, Ocalan was denied asylum in Italy and Russia before ending up in Kenya--and U.S. pressure was instrumental in these developments. The U.S., like their lackeys in Turkey, labels PKK as a "terrorist" organization. When the Turkish government got their hands on Ocalan, a Clinton spokesman said that the U.S. was "obviously very pleased."
Turkey is a member of the NATO war alliance, and the air base at Incirlik is vital to U.S. bombing attacks on Iraq and other military moves in the region. Turkey is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid around the world. The U.S. imperialists are intent on keeping the reactionary order in Turkey "stable." And the Turkish rulers depend on backing from the U.S. and other major powers to maintain their army and police forces and clamp down on the people.
Zionist Israel and the Turkish regime serve as twin attack dogs for U.S. imperialism in the region. The two have forged a very close relationship in recent years--they have a military cooperation agreement, carry out joint military exercises, exchange visits by military officers, and share intelligence information. So it would not be surprising if Mossad, the Israeli spy agency, also had a big hand in helping Turkey capture Ocalan.
The commando operation against the PKK leader is a part of a larger offensive by the Turkish government against the Kurdish resistance movement. In Turkey, police raided the offices of legal Kurdish groups in cities around the country and arrested hundreds of people.
At the same time, thousands of Turkish troops, backed by air power, drove about 10 miles into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK guerrillas. Turkey has carried out many such raids into Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. The U.S. government has unilaterally declared this area of Iraq a "no flight" zone. The U.S. claims that the zone was set up to "protect" the Kurdish people there--meanwhile the U.S. has repeatedly used the Iraqi Kurds as pawns in the big power attacks against Iraq. But when Turkey sends a large military force over international borders into Iraq to attack Kurdish guerrillas from Turkey--the U.S. remains silent.
U.S. Secretary of State Albright said that Turkey had a good "opportunity" to show its "democracy" through the trial of Ocalan. In the imperialist language of those like Albright, any pro-U.S. regime--no matter how murderous--is "democratic" if they have some semblance of an electoral setup. On the other hand, anybody daring to take up arms against such regimes--or directly against the U.S.--are "terrorists."
The Turkish rulers maintain their power through fascist repression of the people. The jails are filled with revolutionaries, Kurdish activists and others who simply spoke out against the regime. Death squads carry out assassinations of government opponents.
There are over 10 million Kurdish people in Turkey--about one fifth of the country as a whole--and they are concentrated in the poor regions of the southeast. The brutal oppression of the Kurdish nation is a major pillar of reactionary rule in Turkey. And the Turkish rulers have been carrying out a genocidal war against the Kurdish people.
A 1996 fact sheet from the International Association on Human Rights in Kurdistan described what has been happening in eastern Anatolia, the Kurdish region of Turkey: "In August 1984 the systematic forced eviction of the rural population and the destruction of villages began at the same time as the Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK) took up its armed struggle. Within the framework of its military strategy of counterinsurgency, the government troops fell back on a traditional policy of the Turkish state--the destruction of villages and the forced eviction of Kurdish civilians.
"Through this strategy, more than 2,700 villages and hamlets have been destroyed and more than two million people have been evicted from their traditional homeland within twelve years. The government does not deny that it has destroyed these villages and evicted their inhabitants. For example, in an interview with the Turkish Daily News on 24 June 1995 the former State Minister for Human Rights Hacaloglu admitted to 980 destroyed villages and 2,270 destroyed hamlets. Hacaloglu stated unambiguously that the state has the right to burn down Kurdish villages: `The state may burn villages...because there is terrorism."'
Yasar Kemal, who has been persecuted for writings against the government, noted: "Having exiled 2.5 million people, now they [the Turkish government] have put an embargo on food in eastern Anatolia. No one who does not get a certificate from the police station can buy food, because villagers give food to the guerrillas. The crops, nut and fruit trees of villagers who prefer exile to taking up arms to protect their village from guerrilla attack are burned along with the forests. Their animals are slaughtered. Why are the villages being burned and razed? So that they may not harbor guerrillas and be a source of food for them."
The bloody handprints of the U.S. imperialists are on this genocidal war. A February 18 joint statement from Kurdish organizations in North America pointed out: "The U.S. State Department, in its report U.S. Military Equipment and Human Rights Violations, acknowledged that U.S.-origin equipment, which accounts for most items of the Turkish military inventory, has been used in operations against the PKK during which human rights abuses have occurred. This report also cited a study by Amnesty International which found that helicopters of U.S. origin were used in raids against villages which resulted in mystery disappearances. A range of other human rights groups have documented Turkish military assaults on Kurdish civilians involving aerial attacks by Lockheed fighter-bombers and U.S. Cobra helicopters which resulted in the tragic deaths of children."
Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, the founder of the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP/ML), made clear that Kurdish liberation was a dividing line question for the whole revolutionary movement in Turkey. (Kaypakkaya was assassinated by the Turkish regime in 1973, at the age of 24.) He took a strong stand for Kurdish self-determination, including the right to set up an independent state. And he exposed the U.S. hand in the oppression of the Kurdish nation: "In our country, the real champions of national oppression are the big Turkish bourgeoisie, that is, of comprador nature, and the landlords. The U.S. imperialists support and instigate their policy of national oppression and racism."
The U.S. support for the capture of Abdullah Ocalan by the Turkish fascists is the latest episode in the long history of imperialist power plays and betrayals that have victimized the people of Kurdistan. But over decades, the native territory of the Kurdish people have also provided favorable terrain for movements of resistance and struggle against the reactionary states whose borders divide Kurdistan. And Kurdish immigrants and refugees have brought their experiences of fighting against oppression and their hatred of imperialism to people in Europe and elsewhere.
The wave of protest that swept through Europe was a powerful outcry from the Kurdish people--telling the world that their struggle for liberation is continuing in the face of intense repression by the imperialists and reactionaries.
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