Interview with brother of Abdullah Ocalan: From Kurdish shepherds to fervent rebels

The legendary imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, was a “tough person who banned himself from loving women 100 percent,” said Ocalan’s brother, Osman Ocalan recently.


“Apo’s marriage was political,” said Osman Ocalan, using the PKK leader’s popular nickname. “In the beginning [of the Kurdish rebels’ struggle for independence from Turkey], they were a group of 20 people that included one woman named Kesire. He married her.”


Osman Ocalan, who is now living with his wife and two children in Koya, a town near Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil, left the PKK in 2004 and says he no longer agrees with the party’s ideology.


In an exclusive interview with Rudaw, Osman Ocalan, said rebel leader Ocalan and he had originally been shepherds in the Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey and only later began their lives as fervent rebels.


“Although my father argued with him [Ocalan] to pressure him to stop studying because of our bad financial situation, his teacher came to see my father and told him that [Ocalan] ‘was very smart’ and had to complete his studies,” said Osman Ocalan.


Osman Ocalan said the PKK leader was provided with a Turkish state scholarship to study political science at Ankara University.


But in 1984, soon after his graduation, Ocalan established the PKK, a Marxist-Leninist organization aiming to rebel against the modern secular Turkish nation-state, which had denied ethnic Kurds, such as Ocalan, most political and cultural rights.


Since the establishment of the movement, whose initial demands were the establishment of a separate Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey, many bloody battles have been fought between the Kurdish group and the Turkish government, resulting in the deaths of more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds.


The PKK has recently softened its demands, and is now struggling for autonomy in Turkey rather than statehood.


Ocalan was arrested in Kenya in 1999, after he was forced to leave Syria in 1998 as a result of the Turkish government pressuring Syria to cease its alleged support of the PKK.


Since his capture, Ocalan has been in a Turkish maximum-security prison on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara, where he was until recently the sole inmate. Osman Ocalan said that he had been allowed contact with other prisoners for the last six months.


“Apo is very important for Kurdistan,” said Osman Ocalan. “He has given new life to the Kurds and has spent all his life in political struggle.”



Sarkhel Hashim

Koya, Iraqi Kurdistan:


December 21, 2010


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