Today will mark the 55th day of the Hunger Strike in Turkey being carried out by imprisoned members and supporters of the KCK (Union of Communities in Kurdistan). The KCK includes members of the armed resistance groups the PKK and PJAK, alongside Kurdish politicians, trade unionists, journalists, students, lawyers and human rights activists.
Despite there being roughly 776 prisoners currently refusing food, civil disobedience in all areas of Kurdistan and demonstrations across Europe, there has been little, if any, coverage in the western media.
This hunger strike has arisen amidst the context of the ongoing state repression against the KCK since the mass trials of October 2010, where 152 members and supporters were tried in Turkish courts. 7748 people have been imprisoned and over 3800 people have been arrested during operations against the KCK in the past nine months.
Hunger striker Mazlum Tekdag explains here his motivations,
”The freedom struggle of the Kurdish people is still suppressed by means of unfair and unlawful practices. The Kurdish people’s language, culture, identity is disregarded; its political will is totally isolated and is tried to be eliminated and liquidated via military and political operations. We have to resist these practices and this concept in every sense. Each and every field forms a ground for intense struggle.”
Kurds are the most significant ethnic minority in Turkey, numbering around 26 million people, with the complete Kurdish population combined between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia totalling over 60 million, not counting the Kurdish diaspora. To this day neither country, except Iraq, constitutionally recognise the ethnic, linguistic and cultural distinctiveness of Kurds. All these countries, including Britain, The USA and EU, also regard the vanguard of the Kurdish resistance movement: the PKK as a terrorist organisation, despite commanding the overwhelming support and active participation of the majority of Kurdish people.
Since 1984, the PKK have been engaged in an armed struggle to determine a sovereign national territory that would establish political security for Kurds. This struggle was pursued alongside a socialist programme for the transformation of Kurdish social and economic relations, particularly the brutal oppression of women that had hitherto existed within the patriarchal society that prevailed.
In 1999, the PKK’s Leader Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped in Kenya after a period of travelling around Europe seeking political asylum. Turkish intelligence aided by Greece and the CIA eventually managed to capture Ocalan and bring him before a Turkish court, insultingly charging him with treason and death by hanging. Turkey was eventually forced by the European union to overturn this decision as a precondition for its admittance to the EU. Ocalan remains in solitary confinement to this day and has been denied access to his lawyers for over a year now.
Ocalan further developed his political philosophy during this time in prison and has since had three volumes of his prison writings published, alongside various documents outlining potential solutions to the Kurdish question. The most significant policy change Ocalan argued for during this time was to amend the aim of securing a defined national territory as a strategic objective.
The PKK has since renounced the demand for an independent national state and have instead adopted as a solution a model they term ‘Democratic Confederalism’.
Ocalan outlines here the case against the foundation of a Kurdish nation state:
”Over the last decades the Kurds have not only struggled against repression by the dominant powers and for the recognition of their existence but also for the liberation of their society from the grip of feudalism. Hence it does not make sense to replace the old chains by new ones or even enhance the repression. This is what the foundation of a nation-state would mean in the context of the capitalist modernity. Without opposition against the capitalist modernity there will be no place for the liberation of the peoples. This is why the founding of a Kurdish nation-state is not an option for me.” (A. Ocalan ‘Democratic Confederalism, 2011)
The democratic confederalist model aims instead towards being,
”Open towards other political groups and factions. It is flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented. Ecology and feminism are central pillars. In the frame of this kind of self-administration an alternative economy will become necessary, which increases the resources of the society instead of exploiting them and thus does justice to the manifold needs of the society.” (A. Ocalan ‘Democratic Confederalism, 2011)
The PKK as the vanguard of the Kurdish struggle has in turn reorganised itself in light of new political realities confronting them in the 21st century. They developed the position that the idea of a nation-state was a specific necessity for the European bourgeoisie to manage their affairs as capitalism eventually replaced feudalism as a form of civilisation.
Therefore, for socialism in the 21st century to become an alternative and realisable form of civilisation for Kurds, the nation state must be transcended; new chains must not replace the old ones. The KCK was thus envisaged and is currently being organised as the embryonic form of the democratic confederalist society.
Kurdistan is a vital strategic territory for western imperialism, itself carrying several oil and gas pipelines through Turkey to supply European and American energy needs, with Iraqi Kurdistan also harbouring the largest reserves of Oil in Iraq. As a result the Kurds are under extreme pressures given their strategic geopolitical positioning; any gains for the Kurds would be a massive blow against imperialism in the middle east.
The Arab uprisings have posed serious challenges to the hegemony of western imperialism in the Middle East. The Kurds are organising to take advantage of any shifts in the balance of power there and the Kurdish question is subsequently becoming a central issue in determining the future of the region.
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera news, Murat Karayilan, acting leader of the KCK’s armed forces, significantly called for a ‘Kurdish Spring’. This Hunger strike therefore has to be seen amidst the context of the recent and growing mass resistance since the 2010 trials against the KCK, a subsequent political and military offensive by the Turkish state and the intensification of the class struggle across the Middle East more generally.
The Kurdish armed resistance under the direction of Karayilan has also switched its strategy from guerilla warfare, to capturing and holding territory. Kurds in Syria (Western Kurdistan) have also managed to establish de facto regional autonomy in a strategically important area along Turkey’s southern border, prompting Turkey to call for a NATO intervention in the Syrian conflict for fear of any Kurdish held territory expanding. The Kurdish ‘Popular Protection Units’ (YPG) claim also to have over 1,500 members organised into four brigades protecting their newly liberated territory in Syria.
The extent to which western imperialism can exert influence within this rapidly changing political landscape, will be determined by the extent to which the Kurds and the KCK are able to hold and expand liberated territories within such a strategically important geographical area. Revolutionary forces in the core and semi-periphal capitalist territories must as a result, intensify the class struggle on the economic and political front here, and mobilise against any further imperialist interventions in the Middle East.
Internal crises within the imperialist core territories tend to become externalised and exported to peripheral regions with the threat of a wider conflagration of conflict as a potential resolution to capitalism’s latest internal crisis. Hence greater amounts of research and spending on arms, warplanes, ammunition and the increasing militarisation of high technology. This could be termed ‘productive destruction’ as the internal contradictions of a capitalist crisis of overproduction, particularly within the arms industry are potentially resolved within this situation. This state of permanent militarisation reflects also a more general trend within western capitalism since the end of the cold war right up to the most recent crisis, as the US/NATO military-industrial complex has retained a monopoly of techno-military force over all other rival imperialist blocs. The militarisation of the periphery, also necessarily entails greater securitisation and repression in the core as has been witnessed over the past decade, and which must be opposed and confronted.
Republican Congress would like to take this opportunity to express it’s solidarity with the heroic hunger strikers and fully support their three main demands: the release of the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abduallah Ocalan, full language rights and regional self governance for Kurds in Turkey.
We also send our solidarity to the roughly 100 students of Pamukkale University in Turkey, who were attacked and arrested by police during a demonstration in support of the hunger strikers last Friday, 2nd November.
We have recently established also, links with Kurdish revolutionaries based here in Ireland. As Che Guevara understood, there are no borders in the struggle for freedom. Capitalist imperialism does not recognise any borders, neither should we as revolutionaries.
VICTORY TO THE HUNGER STRIKERS!
FREEDOM FOR ABDULLAH OCALAN!