Indication of Peace Talks Following End of Hunger Strike in Turkey

“Meanwhile, the Turkish newspaper Radikal reported on Sunday that in the past few weeks, Turkish intelligence officials met with Ocalan three times.”

19/11/2012 RUDAW By HEMIN KHOSHNAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Kurdish prisoners ended their 67-day hunger strike on Sunday. Deniz Kaya, a spokesperson for the strikers, said that the prisoners received a call from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan who asked them from his prison on Imrali Island to end their strike.

A Turkish newspaper attributed the end of the hunger strike to the possible resumption of negotiations between Turkish Intelligence (MIT) and Ocalan. Meanwhile, Ocalan’s brother, Mehmet Ocalan, said that realizing that only Ocalan could end the hunger strike, the Turkish government has been holding talks with him for several days.

The Turkish government only deemed the demand to use Kurdish in court as legitimate. The other demands, including the right to education in Kurdish, were brushed aside as political. The call for the end of the hunger strike came when Mehmet Ocalan said on Saturday that his brother wanted the prisoners to “end the hunger strike immediately and without hesitation.” Mehmet Ocalan quoted his brother as saying, “Although I do not believe a hunger strike is the right form of resistance, if there is going to be a hunger strike people outside of prison should undergo it, not captives who are already under difficult conditions.”

For his part, Osman Ocalan, former head of the PKK, said that his brother’s position on the hunger strike was clear from the very beginning. Osman Ocalan told Rudaw, “Even for his own freedom, Ocalan does not see a hunger strike as the right means. He does not want anyone to face death for freedom.” Osman Ocalan added that the hunger strike managed to stir Turkey. “Once again, it made the Kurdish issue the central topic in Turkey and it is being discussed inside and outside the country now,” he said. Though most of the prisoners on strike were in jail for alleged PKK membership, many Kurdish politicians, artists, journalists and civilians across Turkey and internationally joined their plight and staged protests in different world capitals.

“This hunger strike created a united Kurdish front,” said Osman Ocalan. “Thanks to this strike, the differences between Kurdish political parties were put aside. And that was a political achievement.” Over the past two months, leaders of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Turkish authorities met several times to find a solution to the crisis, but the talks did not yield any results. BDP leaders always stressed that only Ocalan could persuade the prisoners to end their strike.

Meanwhile, the Turkish newspaper Radikal reported on Sunday that in the past few weeks, Turkish intelligence officials met with Ocalan three times.

“The latest talks were not to solve the Kurdish or PKK question, but to end the hunger strike,” according to Radikal. Serdar Yilmaz, the head of the organization Ozguder in Diyarbakir, believes that talks have been taking place between Ocalan and Turkish officials for a long time, but that they lasted longer this time. “Ocalan had already agreed to ask the prisoners to end their strike, but the PKK was not giving his family the green light to go and visit him in prison,” Yilmaz said. “So I don’t think persuading Ocalan was such a difficult task.”

Yilmaz says that Ocalan’s role does not end there. “He would rather remain a main pillar in finding a solution for the Kurdish question and sidelining him would not be wise, and I think the Turkish government knows that now.”

Siri Sakik, a BDP MP, believes that Ocalan’s request to end the hunger strike did not have any political implications. “We all know that Ocalan is sensitive about that issue. He has never wanted anyone to lose his life.” Zever Ozdemir, an MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), says that Ocalan’s calling for an end to the hunger strikes was “responsible.” “I don’t think there was any bargaining necessary to persuade Ocalan to end the hunger strike,” Ozdemir said. “Ocalan acted more responsibly than all other hunger strike leaders and what he did is praiseworthy.”