How does Öcalan think? What does he want?
One of the figures about whom Turkish people talk most is Abdullah Öcalan, but no comprehensive analysis of him has so far appeared in the media. The books written about him are generally penned with psychological warfare in mind, so they either sanctify or villainize him. An impartial book must be written about him. Today, I would like to explain Öcalan's position within the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), what he wants and what he can do as follows.
1) Since the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) was established, Öcalan has not been the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK); he is now a spokesperson for the PKK.

2) The PKK is steered by the KCK's executive board, and the most influential member of this board is the PKK's European wing.

3) Öcalan's clout with the PKK leadership in Kandil and the People's Defense Forces (HPG), a militant wing of the PKK, is minimal, but his influence over PKK militants in jail is considerably high. Sending private letters to these hailed militants in particular has enabled him to reinforce his authority in their eyes. Without awareness of this relationship, it is impossible to make sense of the recent hunger strikes in prisons. In this context, the following question is important: What sort of contact did Öcalan establish with PKK inmates ahead of the hunger strikes via letters sent from İmralı -- the island on which Öcalan is currently imprisoned -- or through other means?

4) Öcalan aims to maintain his position by leveraging his influence over the pro-Kurdish public, taking into consideration and adapting himself to the varying balances of power within the PKK.

5) After the PKK began to impose agenda items on Öcalan with the Silvan attack last year and the hawks, a faction inside the PKK, started to dominate the PKK leadership, Öcalan felt compelled to reposition himself.

6) For a while in 2010, Öcalan believed that the era of the deep state had ended with the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) dominance of the state apparatus. For this reason, he began to send letters to the prime minister and president. However, with the Uludere tragedy in December of 2011, in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists due to false intelligence and killed by military airstrikes in Şırnak's Uludere district, he realized that the old deep state was still alive and kicking and, believing that he had acted too hastily in determining his stance, chose to lend support to the hawks within the power balances of the PKK instead.

7) An examination of Öcalan's meetings with his lawyers in 2004 proves that there was really such a process, and Öcalan had said that he would make Duran Kalkan and Cemil Bayık pay for imposing agenda items on him. However, when Bayık and Kalkan waged the war and won it, he steered towards them and tried to save his skin by establishing the KCK's executive board. In the ensuring process, Öcalan became the PKK's spokesperson. The PKK's Silvan attack further undermined his position as spokesperson. Any analysis done in complete disregard of this background will be false and misleading.

8) Öcalan has been persistent in telling the state that he is unable to do anything under the current circumstances. "I cannot do anything if I am not provided with the means through which I can contact the organization," he says. The state tends to see such wishes as tactical demands Öcalan makes in an effort to save himself from İmralı. It construes them as Öcalan's wish to be transferred to house arrest. For long, I, too, believed this to be the case. However, in wanting the state to allow him to strengthen his position, Öcalan is actually acting strategically. He is I trying to say "I am not the PKK's leader, but if I can get something from the state and if I can prove that the state is taking me seriously, then I can leverage my authority over the public along with the 'concession' I snatched from the state to send to the powers that be within the PKK the message that Öcalan is coming back, and I can take back the PKK leadership." This is the main reason he wants the state to give him the means with which he could become the PKK leader again.

9) As Öcalan is only a spokesperson for the PKK, he cannot have any serious effect on or influence over the negotiations process, contrary to widely held belief. Öcalan can only be perceived and treated as an agent through which to soften possible negotiations in this process. Only the KCK's executives can determine what attitude the PKK will take with regards to negotiations.

10) Therefore, it is wrong to send high-level delegations to Öcalan as if he is recognized politically. Meetings with Öcalan and PKK leaders should be conducted by low-level intelligence officers. Only when the PKK agrees to go outside Turkish borders may seniority be upgraded.

EMRE USLU (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-10 14:00:01
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