Öcalan’s National Pact and Future of the Region
Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned PKK-leader’s Newroz message has been received with mixed feelings among the Kurds. For some Kurds it is the prelude of a new era; an era of peace and as Öcalan himself coins it the era of “Democratic Modernity”. It is up to Turkey to comply with Öcalan’s paradigm shift in Kurdish aspirations in that part of Kurdistan.
The intellectual Kurdish elites in Turkey are probably aware that what Öcalan aspires in his Newroz message holds under the new Turkish strategy concerning Middle East after the spark of the so-called Arab Spring. A new kind of historical denial made itself felt in his message. He points out that the current boundaries between Arab, Turkish, Persian and Kurdish societies are artificial and the reason behind the clashes between them is the introduction of nation-state paradigm by imperialist powers.
Öcalan rightly attacks the nation-state paradigm as a project of modernity that aim at cultural monism and suppression of different ethnic identities. So far, his criticism of the modern nation-state project in Middle East is correct, but his post-modernist criticism of nation-state contradicts his euphemistic description of Turkish National Pact, which aims at a return to Turkish aspirations of border-changes where Vilayet of Mosul and Northern Syria (including all Kurdish areas there) are included.
Commitment to the National Pact cannot portend good omen; it is hardly the start of a new peaceful co-existence between peoples of Middle East; on the contrary, the revival of National Pact implies new complications and conflict escalations for indefinite future. Such a conflict will be essentially disastrous for the hard won Kurdish sovereignty (Kurdistan Region); after all the Kurdish sovereignty here is a project of nationstate building implemented through “capitalist modernity” that Öcalan so eagerly opposes. It seems that Öcalan’s criticism of nation-state as the agent of capitalist modernity concerns only the Kurdish quests for sovereignty; he never touches upon the notion of sovereignty in Turkey, where it is concentrated in the ultimate sovereign, the state. He does not mention any devolutionary process in Turkey, whereby the sovereignty should be decentralized in order to empower the Kurdish minority of the country. Instead, he uses a similar terminology applied by neo-ottoman thinkers in Turkey, emphasizing the thousand year’s fraternity between Kurds and Turks, aggrandizing the Kurdish participation in the Battle of Gallipoli and the Turkish-Greek conflict that in Turkey is generally held as the War of Independence.
If Öcalan succeeds in actualizing a new “national pact” between the Turks and Kurds in Turkey in a similar manner that was applied by Idris Bedlisi to ally Kurdish principalities with the Porte is something for the people to decide. However, it is quite alarming that Öcalan is extending the boundaries of National pact to include Kurdistan Region by saying “I call upon the Kurds, the Turkmens, the Assyrians and Arabs - who against the principals of National pact have been divided under the Syrian and Iraqi Arab republic - to discuss, to gain awareness and to decide their reality in a National Solidarity and Peace Conference”. What exactly does Öcalan mean by National Solidarity? Öcalan gives a clue by an ending phrase; “we shall unite against those who divide us and initiate conflicts between us. We shall make common cause against those who aim at separation between us.” And exactly whom does he aim at when talks about those who “divide” and “separate”?
As for the Kurdistan Region, Öcalan’s initiative for an enduring peace in Turkey is a welcome event. But maybe the decision-makers in Kurdistan region should read between lines when Öcalan emphasizes the National pact, particularly when we read what Öcalan tells the BDP delegation visiting him at Imrali Prison Island: “We shall further enlarge the guerilla-forces in the withdrawn areas. I do not share the viewpoint that the withdrawing means the end of guerilla [movement]. There is Syria and Iran. Right now there are 50 thousand of them in Syria, 10 thousand in Qandil [Kurdistan Region] and 40 thousand in Iran.” One may ask what these forces will aim to do in Syria, Iran and Kurdistan Region. Whom will they fight in Kurdistan Region? And why should they have their base in Kurdistan Region? For the Region’s concern it is important that the northern neighbor reaches a peaceful solution with its Kurdish minority, but it is also crucial that its problems do not spill over to the region and jeopardize the security and stability of the Region. If PKK and Öcalan aim at reviving the National Pact, they should do it within the confines of the Turkish Republic and keep their aspirations outside the region.
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), lights a traditional Newroz fire during a rally to celebrate the spring festival of Newroz.