Nevruz celebrations begin as PKK head due to declare ‘peace plan’

18 March 2013 /HÜSEYİN AYDIN, İSTANBUL – Hurriyet – Events to celebrate the arrival of Nevruz, or the spring festival, began in İstanbul and several other provinces on Sunday in a peaceful atmosphere amid expectations of the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, to declare details of his “peace plan” before March 21.

Nevruz, which heralds the arrival of spring, is celebrated across Central Asia, some parts of the Caucasus and the Middle East, but in Turkey it has symbolic importance for Kurds. Nevruz is not an official holiday in Turkey but has been celebrated officially over the past few years.

This year’s Nevruz celebrations were organized by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) with the slogan “Freedom for Öcalan, status for Kurds.” The celebrations started in 18 provinces, including İstanbul, Adana and Mersin — which all have a large Kurdish population — on Sunday. The BDP will then hold celebrations in 45 other provinces across Turkey before March 21. However, the only Nevruz event that will take place on the specific day will be in Diyarbakır. Despite the rain, tens of thousands of Kurds flocked to Kazlıçeşme Square in İstanbul in the early morning hours to join the celebrations. Police officers frisked each participant before allowing them to enter the square. The Interior Ministry had sent notifications to police departments in all 81 provinces last week, asking them to step up security measures prior to and on March 21 so as to ensure that Nevruz celebrations are held in a festive atmosphere.

Participants unfurled banners that displayed the photos of Öcalan and carried flags of the terrorist PKK. They also sang Kurdish songs and danced the halay, a folk dance. BDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş spoke at the event, saying the peaceful crowd boosted his hopes for peace to be achieved. “I advise those who keep asking how peace will come to this country to come and see this Nevruz event. Here is the picture of peace and solution. Peace will be achieved here, thanks to the solidarity of all Kurds, Turks and all others,” he said, and expressed his grief that peace was not achieved much earlier, and that thousands of people have been killed in clashes between security forces and PKK terrorists.

BDP deputy Sebahat Tuncel also said Turkey is going through hard times, but it will achieve peace in the end. “This is not a process we will follow as a stranger. This is a process we need to be involved in. Peace cannot be achieved by looking in from outside. Our slogan for today is ‘Freedom for Öcalan and status for Kurds’,” she stated.

Some roads and streets in Ankara were blocked off to traffic so that Nevruz could be celebrated. Nevruz was also celebrated in İzmir, Sakarya, Kocaeli, Erzurum, Şanlıurfa and some other provinces.Also on Sunday, a Turkish newspaper claimed that the Öcalan is working on a “peace plan” and he will declare it through a new delegation of Kurdish lawmakers to visit him in the coming days before March 21.

According to the Taraf daily, Öcalan’s peace plan has four main articles and is aimed at ending the terror problem in Turkey. The terrorist head, as Öcalan is commonly referred to in Turkey, will ask the Turkish state to take required steps for the democratic solution of the Kurdish question, according to Öcalan’s plan. This means that Turkey should stop seeking a solution to the question through military methods and, instead, grant broader cultural and political rights to Kurdish citizens. As a second article in his peace plan, Öcalan will ask the PKK and Turkish military to declare a cease-fire against each other.

The PKK has so far declared seven cease-fires against the Turkish security forces, but the military refuses to do the same. Sources say the eighth cease-fire declared by the PKK will come on March 21.

The third article in Öcalan’s plan envisages that the PKK declares an “indefinite state of inaction,” which will eventually lead to the laying down of arms by the terrorist group. And the fourth and last article will state that PKK terrorists should withdraw from Turkey.Taraf said Öcalan will speak about the details of his peace plan to a delegation of deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) that plans to visit the terrorist head at his prison on İmralı Island in the coming days. The deputies will then convey Öcalan’s messages to the people.

According to earlier news reports, the BDP delegation will include party Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş and deputies Pervin Buldan and Sırrı Süreyya Önder. This will be the third BDP delegation to travel to İmralı since the government launched talks with Öcalan to end the terror problem in the country. Turkish state authorities have been holding peace talks with Öcalan since last October, with the aim of achieving a timetable for the disarmament of PKK terrorists. Three BDP deputies traveled to İmralı Island on Feb. 23 to meet with the PKK leader as part of the talks. The delegation included Önder, Buldan and Altan Tan.

Öcalan, imprisoned on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara south of İstanbul, has significant influence among PKK members and supporters. The Turkish state believes that talks with the terrorist leader may result in a schedule for the withdrawal of PKK terrorists from Turkey and their eventual laying down of weapons.

Demirtaş spoke to reporters on Saturday and said the responses of PKK commanders and leaders based in Europe and the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq to Öcalan’s proposed plan for ending PKK terror and restoring peace in Turkey were delivered to Turkish state officials to be forwarded to Öcalan. According to Demirtaş, the responses will help Öcalan give a final shape to his peace plan.

In late February, Öcalan sent separate letters to the PKK wings in Europe and Kandil, defining his roadmap in the ongoing peace efforts. On Friday, a top PKK commander said the terrorist group endorses its imprisoned leader Öcalan’s peace efforts with the Turkish government. “In all the meetings we have convened, we decided very clearly that the strategic perspective put forward by our leader is correct and that we will adhere to this,” Murat Karayılan said in a statement published on the website of the PKK-affiliated Fırat news agency (ANF). On Saturday, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Party Council (PM) convened for an extraordinary meeting to discuss ongoing talks between the state and Öcalan. The CHP has been receiving criticism for failing to reveal its stance with regards to the talks. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, which lasted four hours, CHP spokesperson Haluk Koç said the party calls on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “to be sincere and honest, to eradicate the public perception that he has personal ambitions and that he is engaged in activities he cannot explain to the public, to keep the country within the limits of law and to be transparent.”