As the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled the trial of Abdulla Ocalan had been unfair, some of the former PKK leaders closest lieutenants were establishing a new political organisation, the Party Patriotic and Democratic of Kurdistan (PPDK) and voicing serious criticism of their former leader.
They accuse Ocalan of being a "despot comparable to Stalin or Hitler", who, they claim, ordered the murder of a number of dissidents.
These accusers are no small fish : among them stand old PKK cadres lile Nizamettin Tas, Shahnaz Altun and Osman Ocalan, a brother of Apo (Ocalans nickname).
Born in 1961 in Varto, in the eastern part of Turkish Kurdistan, Nizamettin Tas, known by the nickname of "Botan", is one of the oldest and most prestigious military commanders of the PKK. He became a member of its central committee in 1986, and was commander of all PKK guerillas in the 1990s.
Shahnaz Altun, born in Batman in 1969, joined the PKK when she was just 20, and after spending several months at the PKK "military academy" in the Bekaa valley, Syria, she became a guerilla in the mountains of Kurdistan. This impressive smart young woman, who acquired some celebrity under the name of "Sekine", finished her career as a military commander at the head of a battalion of 150 women fighters.
Osman Ocalan, nine years younger than his brother Abdullah, was born in 1958 in the small village of Omerli, in Ourfa province. After studying at teachers training college, he became a member of the PKK in 1978 and spent two years in Libya. He joined the central committee in 1986, and the executive committee in the 1990s but suffered disgrace in 1992, after signing a truce with the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties, KDP and PUK.
With 14 other cadres and about 30 fighters, the three left the PKK headquarters at Qandil, in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border, and found asylum and protection in the area controlled by Jalal Talabanis PUK. And on 21 October 2004, they founded the new party, at Said Sadik, near Suleimania.
Alll three savagely condemn Abdullah Ocalan, who they accuse of having given up the historical goal of his party after his capture in February 1999 -- the independence of Kurdistan.
"Abdullah Ocalan now says the Kurds are members of the Turkish nation. He openly claims he is a Kemalist, and that the Turkish state can rely on him", says an angry Nizamettin Tas. "Before he blamed the Kurds of Turkey for being "assimilated", for suffering of an "illness of personality".
These dissidents also blame Abdullah Ocalan for his policy of confrontation with the Iraqi Kurdish political parties, Massoud Barzanis KDP and Jalal Talabanis PUK. "He calls South Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) a second Israel", says Nizamettin Tas, "but he wants to make the Kurds servants of the Turkish policy".
"I went to the mountains to liberate my country and for the independence of Kurdistan, but realised that it was not possible to fight against Turkish colonialism in this organisation", says Shahnaz Altun. "One man decides everything, nobody else can say what they think".
Osman Ocalan, the brother of Apo, was a member of the executive committee of the party, and virtually second in command of the PKK in the early 1990s. He was also arrested, jailed and tried!
"In June 1993, they removed all my powers", Osman Ocalan told The Middle East during an exclusive interview. "I was isolated in a cell for three months and interrogated for 52 days before being tried in February 1995. The trial lasted only one day.I was warned that if I continued to defend my ideas, I would be executed. If not, I would be pardoned. A lawyer ? Out of the question. The trial was conducted under the law of the mountain" !
One wonders why all these cadres who have been victims of Ocalans despotism for more than 10 or 15 years did not leave the PKK earlier ? The pursuit of patriotism is their answer. "PKK was an undemocratic marxist-leninist organisation", admits "Botan", but it was waging a war of liberation of Kurdistan. For this reason we did not want to criticize the party, we did not want to impede the war effort. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had to find an alternative to armed struggle, and we began to criticize, in secret, the despotic way Apo was running the war. Some of us were punished for that. It was not until after Apos capture, we started organizing ourselves openly. In 2003, the leadership of the party split and, since it was impossible to reform the party from inside, we quit with 18 former members of the central committee of the PKK.
Shahnaz Altun and Nizamettin Tas explain why many members of the PKK dare not leave the party : "When we are in the mountain, we have no relations with the outside world. And since the PKK decided to kill those who want to go, fear prevents people from leaving", says Botan. "To become a member of the PKK is like joining a religion", adds Sekine, "if feeds an ideological dependence, and even in Turrkey, some people still consider Apo a prophet. It is easy to join PKK, it is difficult to leave it".
It is all the more difficult for PKK members to quit the party and come down from the mountains if they are also leaving friends they have fought alongside for years. And it is a struggle for them to re-adapt to civil life: most of them took to the mountains when they were aged 18-20, they have no training, no job skills, nothing to equip them for any other form of life.
"I was myself in this situation... I could see no way of leaving the mountain. I ignored developments in the world outside", says Sekine, who spent the "best years of her life", from 23 to 35, with the guerilla. "If we could create an organisation to help the people who want to quit, maybe open camps in Iraqi Kurdistan where they could leave their weapons and take up alternarive political activity, it would be much easier for them.
In spite of all these difficulties, Nizamettin Tas, Osman Ocalan, Shahnaz Altun, Kani Yilmaz and their frriends who defected ftom the PKK have created a new party, the PPDK, which elected a commitee of 21 members, with Nizamettin Tas as secretary general, and an executive committee of 3 members :Botan, Kani Yilmaz, and Serhat. (Apparently, Osman Ocalan, who has a "genetic tendency to consider himself as the leader", has been marginalised). Having given up armed struggle, the PPDK now wants to become a structured political party and seize the opportunity of the EU-imposed reforms to force the Turks to accept them. "If there is a degree of democracy in Turkey, if the Kurds choose new leaders, they can organise themselves within the civil society and the Kurds will reach their aims through democratic means", says Nizamettin Tas.
"We want to set up a federal system in Turkey, coordinating our efforts with other parts of Kurdistan and preserving the unity of all Kurds. Maybe in the future we will have an OLK -- an Organisation of Liberation of Kurdistan", Nizamettin Tas observed.
"My fundamental aim is still the independence of Kurdistan", explains Shahnaz Altun, "but through a process of federalism. Independence will come later".
(The Middle East Magazine, July 2005)
Droits de Reproduction strictement réservés © Chris Kutschera 2012