For nearly 18 years, the man who could bring peace between Turkey and the Kurds has been locked up in solitary confinement— 6,420 days in prison, and counting. His followers call him “Apo” or uncle, but to the rest of the world he is Abdullah Ocalan.
Turkey has slapped the label “terrorist”’ on him, a charge Apo shares with Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years as a “terrorist” before being released.
There are no Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia. They are the world’s largest nationality or ethnic group without a state. Close to 35 million desire their own country— Kurdistan — but four Islamic countries, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, occupy their land. The most famous Kurd is Saladin, who defeated the crusaders.
When the Anglo-French allies in World War I defeated Ottoman Turkey, the Kurds were promised a state by the victors. That promise was never kept and the new Turkish state ruthlessly crushed all Kurdish attempts to establish a free nation of their own.
On one side are the Kurds, who follow Ocalan, and are fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
ISIS is entrenched not only in Iraq and Syria, but is accused of having the backing of Turkey. The main players in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, are trying to pit ISIS against the Kurds, but have been attacked by her surrogates.
Turkey is also involved in viciously stamping out the country’s opposition parties under the guise of crushing the remnants of the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August.
With the Turkish army now entering both Syria and Iraq, and facing a war with Ocalan’s PKK (the Kurdish Workers’ Party), inside Turkey, we could very well see the region blow up when this fuse hits the powder keg.
Turkey’s self-righteous arrogance and historically belligerent behavior resulted in the tragic Armenian genocide. History may repeat itself if conflict between Turks and Kurds erupts into all out war. If that happens the region will become a terror factory, pitting Turkey against revolutionary Kurds, hungry for a homeland.
Recently, the Turkish authorities permitted Ocalan’s brother, Mehmet, to have a face-to-face meeting him. In a gesture of peace and goodwill, Apo Ocalan issued a statement that said: “If the (Turkish) State was sincere, this many people would not have to die. If the State gives a signal (of peace), this problem will not persist.” But is anyone listening in Ankara?
Meanwhile, Canada and the United States should delist the PKK as a terrorist organization. They are our only trustworthy allies against ISIS in the region. Ottawa’s policies must not be dictated by Ankara. It should pay attention to Kurdish Canadians demanding their “Apo” be released from solitary confinement.