Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings – Volume I

After the betrayal of friendship by the Greek nation-state and her relationship with the Republic of Turkey being added to the equation of interests, I was handed over to the USA (thus, the CIA). When I was first taken to the Imrali Prison, I was met by the then president of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), Silvia Casale. She said, “You will stay in this prison and we shall try to find some kind of solution under the supervision of the Council of Europe.” I was thus chained to the rocks of Imrali; doomed to live a destiny more severe than that of the mythological Prometheus.

It is important to discuss how and why I left Syria, as this started the chain of events that eventually led to my abduction. My departure from Syria resulted from the contradiction that arose yet again from the value I put on friendship and Israel’s Kurdish policies. After its founding, shortly after World Word II, Israel tried to patronage the Kurdish issue but was so sensitive that she had no tolerance for the alternative solution to the Kurdish issue proposed by our movement that became more influential. Our proposed alternative did not serve the interest of Israel. I should not, however, deny their efforts; MOSSAD did indirectly invite me to work with them on their own solution. But I was not open to, nor desired, this—neither politically nor morally.

On the other hand, the Syrian-Arab government never wished to surpass their tactical alliance with the PKK leadership. An alliance with the PKK had been part of Syria’s answer to the threats that had been coming from Turkey since 1958 and Turkey’s extreme pro-Israel tendencies.1 The PKK did not object to such a tactical relationship. (No one wanted to see that this relationship could lead to an alternative Kurdish policy; thus, the efforts of the Turkish administrations were ineffective.) But, seeing that Hafez al-Assad obtained the Syrian leadership due to the power struggle between the USA and the USSR, Syria was in no position to maintain any of its tactical alliances after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Even this short reminder shows that, although political pressure by the USA and military pressure by Turkey undoubtedly played a role, the real power that forced me out of Syria was Israel. It should not be forgotten that Israel and Turkey already had clandestine agreements in the 1950s, and with the second “anti-terror” agreement of 1996 the anti-PKK alliance between the USA, Israel and the Turkish Republic was complete.2

Another critical factor was the anti-PKK coalition which the Turkish Republic had entered into with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), both of whom already had relations with the USA and Israel; in other words, with the Kurdish Federal Assembly and its administration established in 1992.

The combination of all these adverse factors led me to leave Syria in 1998. Besides, I knew that it was time to leave. I had already been in Syria too long, lured by the political developments around Kurdistan and the friendship that I had hoped would result in strategic cooperation. I have to admit that high-ranking officials in the Syrian government had warned me about its disadvantages. Yet, I did not want to give up my belief in the power of friendship and cooperation between peoples. For the same reason I left Syria for Greece. I wanted to develop ties of friendship with the Greek people, to learn from its classical culture and its tragic history.

My only alternative was to go off into the mountains of Kurdistan. Two factors made me decide to not do this. First, my presence would attract massive military force. This would lead to serious damage to the civilians in the area and my comrades; it could also lead to the armed struggle becoming the exclusive means of obtaining a solution for the Kurdish question. Second, it was a pressing need to educate the youth joining our organization.

In short, the official and unofficial claims in Turkey of “we have him cornered” and “see the results we have obtained” do not altogether reflect reality. Notwithstanding this, Turkey is still trying to ensnare Iran and Iraq in the same way it did Syria. The outcome of Turkey’s alliance with Syria and Iran can also not be predicted. If the antagonisms between the USA, EU, Israel, Iran, Russia and China intensify, will the Turkish Republic be ready for the consequences?

My three-month peregrination between Athens, Moscow and Rome was not without value, though. This adventure led me to understand the essence of capitalist modernity—the basis on which this defense is built—despite its many masks and disguises. If not for this insight, I would either have been a primitive nationalist aspiring for a nation-state, or I would have ended up in a classical left-wing movement. Thus, my change in thought and policy can be ascribed to this forced adventure.

It has now become clear to me: The real power of capitalist modernity is not its money or its weapons; its real power lies in its ability to suffocate all utopias—including the socialist utopia which is the last and the most powerful of all—with its liberalism. Unless this power of liberalism is analyzed thoroughly, no ideology will escape being the humble servant of capitalism. There is hardly anyone who analyzed capitalism as comprehensively as Marx did, or focused on the state and revolution as much as Lenin did. However, it has become much clearer today that, despite claiming to be its negation, the Marxist-Leninist tradition’s contribution to capitalism in terms of material and meaning was significant.

To help channel humanity into its natural stream, we need to understand the individual and the society brought about by liberalism. (I shall explain this in full detail later.) Moreover, for me to understand my own fate, I need to understand the capitalist modernity behind the representative of the Council of Europe who welcomed me to the Imrali Prison. The whole odyssey was planned by Israel, the USA, EU, and a disintegrated Soviet Russia. The Syrian, Greek and Turkish governments had a secondary role; they only lent a helping, bureaucratic hand.3 The way I was captured demonstrated that the capitalist modernity, of which the USA is the world leader, is a system with no inhibition to oppress and abuse.

It is not as if I did not understand the way the Turkish state operated. On the contrary. At the time, there existed a death decree for Kurdishness. I had a choice: I was either going to resist—to not give up my honor, my humanness, my Kurdishness—or I was going to deny who I am and vanish into obscure captivity. In the beginning I was alone and very weak, but I resisted. I am not about to enter into a discourse on this; those who have witnessed it will attest that I have struggled well. I do not feel any anger either.

But I am angry that I could not transcend the concepts and the ideology underlying the Western capitalist system. The system we are confronted with is supposedly based on human rights. In reality though, it is an elite group manipulating and exploiting the rest of humanity and nature, unleashing war whenever that is in their interest. They are the ones dictating the roles the rest of humanity must play.

Although the society I was born into has not really progressed beyond Neolithic culture, it has readily integrated the negative effects of the different stages of civilization. Capitalist modernity combined with the strictest and most conservative traditions of the Middle East resulted in our society being besieged by the ideal of ethnic nationalism and nation-statehood. This is in fact the dominant ideology in our society and the most difficult to disentangle ourselves from. Combined with the ever-present possibility for violence, this ideal enslaves us all in an opportunity-less life before even being born. Nevertheless, I did not leave Turkey in the cause of “glorious resistance.” I was in fact looking for some breathing space for the resolution of the national question to which we were devoted through some dogmatic left-wing analysis. The PKK stood no chance of surviving in the Middle East if it did not take advantage of the vacuums in the system. Still, the fact that the PKK has been able to wage an armed struggle was important because of the implications thereof. For the Kurds it has meant an increased politicization. The fact that the Kurds were able to progressively free themselves from the classic collaborators meant that, for the first time, the alternative of freedom had been felt and understood.

This is exactly why this movement has never been embraced by the so-called “modern” nation-states (states that in reality resemble the despotic regimes of medieval times); why the Kurdish collaborators, the nation-states of the region, and the imperialist world leaders colluded in branding the PKK a “terrorist organization.” The fallacy that the conquering ideology of Islam and the nationalist ideology of liberalism had wiped out and excluded the Kurds from history was destroyed by the free Kurd—a free Kurdish individual and a free Kurdish society. In fact, it is not me but this free Kurdishness that serves the sentence of solitary confinement in this single-inmate island prison. That this sentence is not about the individual Abdullah Öcalan is clear from the imprisonment policies implemented daily during the nine years I have been in isolation on Imrali—they are not the policies that are applied in the average Turkish prison.

I came to understand that Turkey cannot decide to either fight or to make peace in its own name. The role that has been assigned to Turkey is to be the vulgar gendarme, the watchdog and the prison guard of all Middle Eastern peoples in order to make them more susceptible to the oppression and exploitation of the capitalist system. Hence, stable Turkish and Anatolian societies—both in and outside Europe—are of critical importance to the system. Turkey’s relations with NATO and the EU should be understood in terms of these policies.

The above should suffice to illustrate the impossibility of a meaningful defense before the court without a deep understanding of capitalist modernity. It should also be clear that a meaningful defense couldn’t be constructed solely on the basis of law. A superficial political and strategic approach will not expose why the “retrial” judgment of the court was not implemented.4 Such a retrial would also have had important implications for clarifying what a free Kurdishness-solution would entail.

The Imrali trials were nothing but pretense. I responded to it with my defense speech titled “Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question” and then later with the comprehensive submissions I made to the European Court of Human Rights titled Roots of Civilisation.5 My work In Defense of a People was in essence an attempt to make true democracy and justice understandable.6 These defenses, however, aim not only to problematize capitalist modernity and the need to surpass this modernity; they also aim to determine the political system of democratization and its link to freedom as an alternative solution.

Everything about the Imrali trial was a showcase and, to the finest detail, was planned in advance—the date on which the judgment would be announced, the choice of the judge, the duration of the trial and how the media would be used. I was not given the opportunity to defend myself properly. The whole plan was to use me as best as possible in relation to the Kurdish question and all else had to serve this end. The Kenya ordeal was nothing but a violation of European, Kenyan and Turkish law, and the threat of the death penalty was held over me to attain political results. The plan was to scare me. Under these circumstances the only thing I could do was to make as big a political contribution as possible. For this reason my defense rested on political argumentation. Besides, there was a need to search for deep-rooted answers to the mistakes that led to this outcome. This is what I tried to do. This was the only way to have a minimal role in the game of the conspirators and to contribute to the freedom struggle.

I must admit that I expected that the European Court of Human Rights would find my arrest to be unlawful. Only this verdict would have led to a fair trial. But it was not made. The court later had no choice but to determine that it was an unfair trial. After a prolonged wait for a fair trial the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe scandalously agreed to close the case, probably in return for important political concessions from the Turkish government. No one questioned the Turkish government’s handling of the judgment of the court; in the name of a retrial, Ankara 11th Assize Court and Istanbul 14th Assize Court unilaterally upheld the previous judgment.7 My defense lawyers have taken this situation back before the European Court of Human Rights. It will be interesting to see the Court’s stance towards its own judgment. I had begun to prepare a proper defense for the retrial only to discover that the trial would be nothing but a showcase.

I also came to a better understanding about the degree of communication and cooperation between the USA, EU and Turkish Republic in relation to the PKK, me, and the Kurdish question in general. Turkey, in return for comprehensive economic concessions, was allowed to eliminate the Kurdish question in Turkey and it seems that Turkey will conditionally support the construction of the Kurdish Federal state in Iraq. It is clear that there was much discussion to this end. In fact, concessions and cooperation with the USA were conducted openly in the case of my arrest, the elimination of the Kurdish question in Turkey and the declaration of the PKK as a “terrorist organization.” The IMF and the EU’s Copenhagen Criteria are nothing more than a pretext for disguising clandestine cooperation.

Frankly, I was not expecting such foul play and questionable attitude on the part of the EU institutions. This outcome led me to deeply question the human rights and democratic norms of the EU. I reached the conclusion that the problems we face are very deeply rooted and thus require equally deep solutions. Undoubtedly, the EU has a progressive approach to human rights and democracy and offers hope to the rest of the world. However, the capitalist modernity at its roots has tied it down so firmly that one becomes pessimistic about its future.

The Russian revolutionaries believed that the victory of their revolution was guaranteed if there would be revolution in at least a part of Europe. But their expectations were not realized. On the contrary, the European liberal counterrevolution caused the disintegration of not only Soviet Russia but of the entire system it led. Europe takes the same approach to the democratic revolutions of today. If we want to prevent a similar fate for them, the European ideal of what constitutes democracy could not be our sole model. In an age where global capital is so highly developed, to pursue global democratization would be more realistic. In a paradigm of global democratization, the democracy, human rights and freedom of Europe would make a more meaningful contribution.

I realized that, without a thorough and detailed analysis of capitalist modernity as a basis for concepts like democratic republic, society and nation, I would simply end up being superficial. However, I am confident that my subsequent writings will contain the necessary depth. I plan to develop these ideas in several books.

I have broadly outlined why my “re-trial” did not take place, but there is a need for a detailed analysis. In my previous defense, I took great care to uncover the origins of the main issues. Although excessive reductionism can result in serious misinterpretation in our analysis of modernity, we have to run the risks. I have tried to minimize the dangers presented by reductionism by handling main sections in full.

Following on this foreword, is a discourse on method and the regime of truth. Since method is the accepted way of analyzing and investigating a specific issue, it should be beneficial to first define the modus operandi employed in the past and the present. Disclosing the underlying reasons for the positive and negative aspects of the various approaches to method can only benefit our analysis. For any serious discourse the issues of “what is truth” and “how can we arrive at truth” need to be resolved. Therefore, I will deal with the issue of “how to best reach the meaning of life” under the regime of truth. Here I will try to expose objectivism and subjectivism together with some of the main theorems that have captivated the human mentality.

Later on in the book I will make it clear that the questions involved with the construction of fundamental categories cannot be detached from time and location. The characteristics and formation of society are either envisioned to be a chain of mere “historical events” or some abstract storytelling as if these events have no location. As a result these social perceptions lead to much deceitful rhetoric and demagogy. “Human life” will be more meaningful if we base social realities on the time and space of what is really important. We will also see that many of the notions and theorems are nothing but speculation and deception. More concretely, I will consider the historical and locational development of today’s civilization.

In the second volume, Capitalist Civilization: The Age of Unmasked Gods and Naked Kings, I will try to display the birth of capitalism and its detrimental impact on society. Although capitalism may look very transparent, I will show how capitalism has used political power and science to construct itself and how it has later subjugated them. I will also show how a hegemonic vicious circle has been established over our mentalities through the creation of ongoing conflict and the employment of the scientism method, notions and theorems. I will try to analyze its capacity to transform a vast variety of opposing movements like social democracy, anarchism, national liberation, and even Marxism into a tool that can be used for its own benefit. How was it possible that commodification and exchange value that were scorned by all societies became the new gods that later commanded society? How was it possible that the limited number of kings who were disguised in colorful clothes and had separate lives later multiplied themselves and could no longer be differentiated from their subjects? If it proclaims that it is a very scientific, powerful and material system then why are societies at the brink of environmental and internal exhaustion? I will try to answer these questions. I will also question the true role of scientific categorization as it relates to nation-states in terms of its economic, social structure and political institutions and how they add meaning to life or make life meaningless. I will also attempt to clarify the role of liberalism, nationalism and individualism.

In volume three, The Sociology of Freedom, I will examine how we can achieve a utopian and free lifestyle. I will concentrate on the new mentality necessary to arrive at the much talked about “free life.” The capitalist modern forms have made the antagonistic dualism of death and life meaningless and so doing it detaches life from all its magical and poetic aspects and creates an era of perpetual death, similar to judgment day. The alternative of utopian free life is neither a form of production nor a society but a life that can be constructed daily by communities.

In the fourth volume I will concentrate solely on the Middle East in the Age of Capitalism. I will not only evaluate what the fundamental aspects are that make it possible for the Middle East to stay on its two feet despite the two World Wars engineered by capitalism, but also question why it has become one of the most problematic regions in the world. As the location of what could be called the Third World War, what will its probable future be? How can we interpret its resistance against capitalist modernity? Can this region, which was once the cradle of civilization but is now a cemetery, become the region that can make the transition to free utopias? Could this region re-construct its sublime values in order to deliver meaningful, enthralling and poetic “free lifestyles”? Will it at the same time be able to break the material and scientific forms and idols of the capitalist modernity in order to make free life possible? Will the constitution of democratic administration methods, environmentally friendly production groups and meaningful assemblies of wisdom be attained? I will attempt to answer these fundamental questions.8

The plight of the Kurds remains tragic. The Kurds can be called a nation that is not a nation. Nowhere will one find another nation, another distinct human community, that has run away from—been made to flee from—its own essential values. One cannot call them a weak nation, a nation lacking the ability to fight: the nature of their land and their hereditary characteristics have made them fierce fighters, and the potential courage of the women and youth is very high. However, they have been turned into such cowards that they have come to fear their own shadows.

The overall situation in the Middle East might one day demand that the USA will have to choose the Kurds as its new strategic ally in the Middle East. Israel has a completely separate Kurdish project of its own.

However, it would be a mistake to see the role of the Kurds in this new period of chaos as one of mere collaboration. The vast majority, who are yearning to live a life of freedom, will find the champions to fulfill this expectation. It has the potential to both leave behind its medieval way of life and to escape the ideal of the nation-state of capitalist modernity—a system that has not given any nation the possibility to live a life of freedom. Given the historical, geographical and hereditary features of Kurdistan and the Kurds, democratic confederalism is the most suitable political format. This form of governance also offers the best possibility for attaining the ideals of freedom and equality. Besides, it will be spared the problems that establishing a new nation-state will bring.

Hence, the Kurdistan Communities Union (Koma Civakên Kurdistan, KCK) will be the entity with the role of resolving the problems with the rigid nation-states that surround it. KCK can be the leading model for a Middle Eastern democratic confederalism that will reunite those whose free lives were destroyed by the nation-state wars imposed on the former mosaic of the Middle Eastern peoples—the Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Caucasians and all the others who dream of a free life and material comfort.

But should the present situation give rise to a democratic federal republic from the chaos in Iraq, such a form of government can play a leading role too. The “Third World War” of the capitalist modernity is open-ended. The outcome will be determined by the efforts and initiatives of the leading groups, of which the PKK is only one.

We can only surpass this system that feeds on a continuous state of warfare within and outside the society by constituting meaningful centers of resistance and justice against exploitation and power, and by evermore embracing our utopia of freedom. All other paths seem to be nothing but vicious circles.

I am writing under the conditions of total isolation on the island of Imrali. Under these conditions, I was not able to do the research necessary for the customary acknowledgement. But the works of the leaders of humanity, who have contributed to the whole of human society, have been a source of knowledge to me. It is not possible to list them all. I dedicate this defense to those who have been and will be good friends and comrades.

1 “The main dimension of Turkish-Israeli relations is military. Landmark agreements on military cooperation in February 1996 and on military industrial cooperation in April 1996 have produced unprecedented military exercises and training, arms sales, and strategic talks.” Carol Migdalovitz, Israeli-Turkish Relations (1998).

2 In September 1958 Syria accused Turkey of massing troops on the Syrian-Turkish border with the intent of executing a U.S.-backed attack on Syria.

3 As I said during my interrogation to the representatives of the four main institutions of Turkey (the Intelligence Service of the Chief of Staff, the National Intelligence Service, the Security General Directorate, and the Intelligenceof the gendarmerie) they had no reason to celebrate my capture. I told them they did not take part in a brave fight but in a conspiracy.

4 The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had deemed the 1999 trial on Imrali unfair and recommended a retrial.

5 All these titles are available at

6 In Defense of the People has not yet been published in English.

7 Assize Courts are the remnant of the former State Security Courts.

8 Öcalan completed the work with a fifth volume, dealing broadly with the practical implementation of these concepts, especially that of democratic nation. The five volumes were published in Turkish between 2009 and 2012.

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