Abdullah Öcalan: The humble leader of the downtrodden Kurdish people

The other Nelson Mandela in prison

"I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Albert Einstein Berlin, 1929

What we know and what we dream. Our imagination is a recombination of past experiences – but not only. This perhaps is what allows us to have intuition, anticipate arising problems and conceive alternatives to them. “Humanity in its quest to understand and live a meaningful life has tried to obtain and interpret knowledge or the 'truth'” says Öcalan and always aspired to be free. This is unique to human beings: the ability to imagine. Imagine: Another world is possible.

This is exactly what Abdullah Öcalan and his close circle of friends such as Haki Karer, Kemal Pir, M. Hayri Durmus, Mazlum Dogan, Sakine Cansiz, Mahsum Korkmaz who are no longer alive and others such as Cemil Bayik, Duran Kalkan, Mustafa Karasu, A. Haydar Kaytan who are still beside him, began doing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Imagining and expanding their knowledge. No one could escape the revolutionary power and the after effects of 1968. It just completely transformed how people, including these people, viewed the world. And those that continued to pour in contributed to the dream that another world was and is possible.

Öcalan is not only the founder of the PKK but also the person responsible for ideological and organizational transformation since 1973. The background to these transformations is remarkable and diverse. During the life-span of the PKK not only did real socialism collapse, national liberation movements became state actors and failed miserably to alleviate the problems complained about previously, feminism made the exploitation of women visible but came to a standstill, there was a rise of ecological awareness, and the world entered a structural crisis and a chaotic situation.

The Kurdish question, however, had several peculiarities: The Kurdish nation and the land they traditionally lived on were physically divided into four. None of the states occupying Kurdistan officially accepted their existence and none allowed for Kurdish language education. Turkey went the farthest and completely prohibited the Kurdish language and denied there ever were such a people. In return these colonial states, too, were trapped. The world powers, on the other hand, were consenting. The great tragedy of Anatolian Greeks, the Armenians of Eastern Anatolia and Cilicia, the Syriacs of Mesopotamia, the Caucasian peoples, and most vividly the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as well as the situation of women and religion prompted Öcalan to search deeper than to just pursue a national uprising. There was no easy way out for the Kurdish question if true freedom was sought. The Kurdish question and women’s enslavement were indeed a Gordian knot.

From the depths of his quest and Kurdish heritage, the turbulent history of Kurdistan and the Middle East, as well as thirty years of his own experiences as the leader of one of the most difficult struggles and finally from the serenity of the enforced isolation of Imrali Island, Öcalan emerged a man with a new and complete vision. Instead of coming out with anger and violence because of the way he was abducted Öcalan rose above his own imprisonment.


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