Who is Abdullah Öcalan? Exchange between internationalists

On this day, 15 February, which marks 24 years since the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan, with the complicity of a multitude of Western countries, we wanted to share some thoughts among internationalists about him.

Like many internationalists who struggle together with the revolutionary movement in Kurdistan, we have had and continue to have different approaches to Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK. Most of us discovered Serok Apo at demonstrations or in the living room of a Kurdish family without understanding who he is or what he stands for.

For non-Kurds, this has often resulted in a pure rejection of what the portrait of a man with a mustache on a flag represents. Our reactions stem from the historical experiences of the West and from our liberal and deeply counter-revolutionary ideological background, causing us to have a kind of ideological reflex. We vacillate between the arrogance of the western left and the anti-authoritarian dogma of the type: “You have to be very backward to need a leader and devote a cult of personality”. The kind of reflections that we have been careful not to express verbally to preserve our image of militant “good in every way”. It is incomprehensible for western leftists to understand the role, the function or even the utility of this man. And for some of us it took a long time to finally reconsider the role of Abdullah Ocalan in a different light.

When one is involved in the struggle for Kurdistan and/or the Kurdistan revolutionary movement, after a while it is impossible to deny the importance of Serokati. And even if in some countries it is simply forbidden to talk about him or to show his picture (as for example in Turkey or Germany), the reality of his contribution to the revolution is undeniable. The place he occupies in the hearts of the Kurds and the revolutionaries of Kurdistan forces respect and even arouses a certain curiosity. Beyond simply accepting the reality of the unifying role he plays as a leader for the Kurdish people, we have sought to discuss together what Abdullah Ocalan has given to the revolutionary movements and to humanity as a whole.

Abdullah Ocalan is now increasingly recognized as one of the great philosophers of the beginning of the century. With the translation of some of his books (still very few at the moment) more and more people around the world can study his thought and analysis. What stands out most often is the quality of his synthesis. As a man of theory he brings new reflections for revolutionary movements and also concrete ways to overcome the old revolutionary fractures (like anarchists vs. communists etc.). His analysis attracts attention because he addresses the great contemporary issues, such as the question of identity, women’s freedom, ecology, capitalism, the state etc. And in this sense Abdullah Ocalan’s work is not limited to Kurdistan or the Kurdish people. The scope of his revolutionary theories extends far beyond the Middle East. Capitalist modernity is an issue that concerns the vast majority of living beings on our planet, colonialism is a burning issue for billions of people etc. But it is especially in practice that his work gives the most concrete examples of his political genius. His organizational work gives new meaning to the term “revolutionary party”, which for many of us was limited to the parliamentary parties of the so-called democracies of the West.

The organization of the Kurdish revolutionary movement, (which has been resisting NATO and the dictatorial powers of the Middle East for more than 40 years) is an example for all movements, parties and guerrillas around the world. A necessary example after the collapse of the great utopias of the 20th century. An example that proves that it is still possible to resist globalized capitalism, to hold the great imperialist powers in check, and even that it is possible to defeat the Leviathan, to build a better world.

But also, and this is often forgotten, in defining and implementing what is a just, dignified and democratic life. His lifelong efforts to educate and rid himself of the liberal, patriarchal, etc. mentality are today one of the only concrete examples of what a just and free life looks like. He has trained thousands of people and given the tools to thousands more to live free. His redefinition of the revolutionary vanguard, and the application of his revolutionary energy, yields results that may seem impossible for Western activists accustomed to the chronic defeatism of the revolutionary left. By insisting on the revolutionary personality, he has allowed the emergence of a whole generation of activists who can live in accordance with their principles while being able to overcome obstacles. As a comrade mentioned in the discussion prior to writing this text: “Today, thanks to Ocalan, my personal goals in my life are in line with the good of my people (Kurds), the goals of our movement and by extension the progress of our world”.

Ocalan who reconciled us with the idea of loving our land, loving our cultures and in short loving life. And this is the reason why imperialists, exploiters and fascists have conspired to silence the voice of hope. Kurdistan is today in the center of the imperialist game, to fight for freedom in Kurdistan is to fight for the freedom of humanity. The physical liberation of Abdullah Ocalan is the freedom of humanity. Because through his history he represents the reality of the Kurdish people but also of all colonized people. Because he represents all those who have struggled, who struggle and who will struggle. For all of us who are in Rojava today, it is necessary to take a serious look at the life of Abdullah Ocalan to begin to understand who he is and what he symbolizes.

Getting to know Reber Apo in his successes and failures, studying his thinking and drawing inspiration from his practice is undeniably the best tribute we can pay him. It is also our responsibility to make the connection between the world and the Middle East, to create bridges between Kurdistan and all the revolutionary futures. It is upon us to criticize our political practices in the West, and to redefine our approach to the struggle and sacrifices involved in building a better world and a life of dignity.

It is up to us to affirm to the world that the revolution in Rojava and Kurdistan cannot be separated from the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK. It is up to us to say: “Abdullah Ocalan is a revolutionary leader for all humanity.”

It is the responsibility of all of us to fight for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan, from Rojava, from Asia, from Abya Yala, from Europe and from all over the world:

we demand his release now !

Internationalist Commune Rojava

15 February 2023

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