Abdullah Ocalan's writings in "il manifesto"
The Revolution is Female
by Abdullah Ocalan
Thinking and writing about the issue of women, means calling into question all of history and society. The reason for this is the unprecedented scale of the systematic exploitation of women.
From this viewpoint, the history of civilisation can be defined as the history of women’s losses. During the course of this history – the history of God and his servants, of Lords and serfs, of Industry, Science and Art – man’s patriarchal personality established itself. This was a loss to society as a whole; the outcome was a sexist society.
Sexism is both an instrument of power and at the same time a weapon, that throughout history came to be employed permanently in all systems of civilisation. Actually no social group has ever been exploited physically and psychologically to the same extent as women. The variety of forms of the exploitation of women is conspicuous. A women produces descendants. She serves as free labour. The jobs nobody wants to do fall upon her. She is an obedient slave. She is the permanent object of sexual desire. She is an advertising device. She is valuable merchandise, indeed she is the queen of all wares. She builds the foundations upon which a man can produce and reproduce his power as a continuous instrument of violence. We can accurately describe the 5000-year history of civilisation as a “culture of rape”.
In the Age of Capitalism, sexism was employed particularly perfidiously as an ideological instrument. Capitalism, which took over from sexist society, wasn’t satisfied with using women simply as free labour in the home. It transformed her into a sex object, turned her into merchandise to be offered up for sale on the market. Whilst a man can only sell his labour, a woman is physically and psychologically entirely for sale. In this fashion the most dangerous form of slavery comes into being. The system assigns a strategic role to the dominance over women in connection with the spread of exploitation and power. As the traditional repression of women expands, every man becomes a partner in power. Thus society is overwhelmed by the syndrome of total power expansion. Women’s status bestows on patriarchal society both the feeling and the concept of boundless domination.
To consider woman as the biologically incomplete sex, is pure ideology and a product of the patriarchal mentality. This doctrine is an integral part of the whole scientific, ethical and political effort to present this status as normal. It is sad that women themselves have become used to taking this paradigm for granted. The naturalness and sacred inviolability of this supposed inferior status, which various peoples have subscribed to for millennia, is just as valid for women and moulds their thought and behaviour. Thus we must always bear in mind that no ethnic group, no class, no nation has ever been as systematically subjected to slavery as have women. The history of women’s slavery has yet to be written and the history of freedom is still awaiting its authoresses.
Through the fact that women grew used to slavery, a hierarchy was established and the way was opened for the enslavement of other sections of society. Slavery of men came subsequent to the slavery of women. The difference between slavery based on gender and the slavery of a class or a nation is that as well as far-reaching, subtle repression it is guaranteed through emotionally-loaded lies. It was slavery of women throughout society that paved the way for all other forms of hierarchy and state structures. This was disastrous not only for women but also for society as a whole, apart from a small group of hierarchical, statist powers.
That is why any path leading to a profound criticism of the patriarchal ideology and its dependent institutions was passed over. One of the most important building-blocks of this system is the family as an institution. The family is a small state conceived by men. The meaning of the family throughout the whole history of civilisation lies in the strength bestowed on it by the rulers and the state apparatus. The orientation of the family towards male dominance and, through that, its successfully-attained function as nucleus for statist society guarantee that women carry out limitless, unpaid work. At the same time they raise children, meeting the state requirement for a sufficient population and serve as role models for the spread of slavery right across society.
If we don’t recognise the fact that the family is a micro-model of the state, a competent analysis of middle-eastern society is impossible. Man in the middle east, having lost all along the line, takes it out on the woman. The more he is publicly humiliated, the more the resulting aggression will be focused against the woman. The man, helpless and enraged because he can’t defend himself from his society, behaves like a tyrant in the family and turns violently against wife and children. With the so-called “honour killing”, the man who allows his values to be trampled in society, tries to take out his rage on the woman.
Regarding middle-eastern society, I must add that the traditional influences of the patriarchal, statist society have in no way melded with the influences of more modern forms of western civilisation, but rather form a conglomeration that can be compared to a Gordian knot.
Analysing the concepts of power and domination with reference to man, turns out to be extremely difficult. It is less the woman who refuses any change, than the man. Abandoning the role of dominant male would leave the man feeling like a ruler who has lost his kingdom. So we must show him that it is precisely this hollow form of domination, that keeps him from freedom and makes him a reactionary.
Such analyses are more than just theoretical observations, because they possess existential meaning for the Kurdish struggle for liberation. The freedom of the Kurdish people can be viewed as inseparably bound to women’s freedom, which is why we organised ourselves accordingly. If our aspiration to freedom has not been defeated despite the attacks by imperial powers and local reactionary forces, a large, invaluable share of the credit is due to the Free Women's Movement and the awareness that it brought about. In our opinion there can be no free Kurdistan without free women.
This philosophical and social viewpoint is by no means a tactical political manoeuvre to draw women into the struggle. Our aim is to construct a democratic society, during which process men will undergo a change. I believe that in the analysis of our experience of struggle to date we have come to comprehend spoiled, dominating, oppressive, exploitive man in the patriarchal society. This was the most adequate answer that I could find regarding woman’s striving for liberation: get hold of patriarchal man, analyse him and “kill” him. I would like to go a step further. I will dare to redesign man with a peace-loving personality. Classical man will be analysed and “killed” to smooth the way for love and peace. In this sense I consider myself to be a worker in the struggle for women’s liberation.
Contradiction between the sexes has a 5000-year history and constitutes the fundamental struggle of the 21st century. Women are putting up vehement resistance. It is thanks to this struggle that the problem is apparent today. There have been some outstanding female personalities in history who left a mark through their lives, their thoughts and their actions. This opposition by women shows us something: without the struggle against the patriarchal ideology and morals, against their influence on society and against patriarchal individuals, we cannot achieve freedom in our lives, nor construct a true democratic society – so socialism cannot be put into effect. People aren’t just longing for democracy, they want a democratic society without sexism. Without equality of the sexes, any call for freedom and equality is pointless and illusory. Just as peoples have the right to self-determination, women should determine their own destiny. This is not a matter that can be put aside or postponed. On the contrary, in the setting up of a new civilisation, women’s liberty will be essential in establishing equality. In contrast with the experiences with real socialism and in national struggles for freedom, I believe that women’s liberation is more significant than the liberation of classes or nations.
From the experience of our struggle I know that women’s fight for liberation has to face extremely strong opposition as soon as it enters the political sphere. However, without victory in the political arena, there can be no lasting achievement. A victory in the political arena doesn’t mean that women will seize power. Quite the opposite, the fight against statist and hierarchical structures means creating such structures that are not state-oriented but lead to a democratic and ecological society where the sexes will be free. Thus not only women but humanity as a whole will win.
Translation: David Macdonald
↑ contents → to the English main page
A conspiracy against peace
by Abdullah Ocalan
Throughout history mankind has often been witness to political conspiracies and intrigues. Since time immemorial the ruling powers have used plots as a means to maintain that power. Hence numerous examples can be found, whether amongst the Sumerians or the Roman Empire. This is the historical background of conspiracies and the Kurdish people have often found themselves the victims of such.
I believe that the international conspiracy that led to my extradition to Turkey on the 15th of February 1999 is a most important episode in the scheming tradition of the ruling powers. My Odyssey through Europe began on the 9th of October 1998 with my departure from Syria. It would take me to Athens, Russia and Italy. From there I was forced to return to Russia and once again to Greece. Its end came with my kidnapping from Kenya. I talk of an international conspiracy because the whole course of events, in which a coalition of powers from four continents took part, as well as political intrigues and economic interests, also contained a complex mix of betrayal, violence and deception.
Although 11 years have gone by, I believe that this international conspiracy against the Kurdish people that focused on me personally, is still of interest today. Understanding its causes and effects can help elucidate the present political circumstances.
The prime objective of the leading player – the USA – was undoubtedly to liquidate our liberation movement. With their Greater Middle East project the US planned to fan the flames of nationalism and create new, small nation-states in order to maintain control of the Middle East for decades to come. Of course in a project of this nature there is no room for liberation movements. This is the direct link between the Greater Middle East project and my being handed over to Turkey. Events since 2003 bear me out in this respect. Confronted with a balance that offers a choice only between the international ruling powers or regional reactionary forces, the fact that we embody a third, true alternative makes us a target for ideological and political attacks.
Along side this main theme, there were two further goals of relevance. On one hand it was hoped that my death or my reaction to abduction would push the situation into an ethnic conflict, that is to say war between Turks and Kurds. What we can observe in Iraq today is what was actually planned for Turkey. By weakening it at all levels – political and economic – Turkey should have become bound to the USA. My level-headed behaviour and speaking out for a peaceful solution thwarted this plan. An “iraqification” of Turkey could be avoided. I put all my energy into supporting a peaceful solution. I did this willingly because I was convinced that only this was in the interest of the people. But also because I have always maintained an independent, liberal stance. This was exactly why we were a thorn in their side. The Kurdish freedom movement had always interpreted its 20-year struggle as a defence of the brotherhood of the Turkish, Kurdish and all middle-eastern peoples. It always pursued the aim of creating a democratic union. During that time we have counted on our own strength and our own free will. We always carefully endeavoured to preserve our own sovereignty. For this reason, despite the extremely critical situation, I maintained the political line for a peaceful, democratic solution we had been developing since 1993. This was in accordance with our policy; it was our response to the conspiracy. So if the conspiracy failed to completely fulfil its aims, this is to a great extent due to our strategy for peace and a democratic solution.
On the other hand there was also an economic dimension to this political conspiracy. I have always emphasised that the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline project must be regarded as being a part of this network of connections. Blue Stream is a huge pipeline that carries Russian natural gas right under the Black Sea and into Turkey. Recently I heard through my lawyers of an article in a Turkish newspaper containing the confessions of a Turkish bureaucrat who had been in service at the time. This project had been vetoed by Turkey due to unfavourable conditions. Following my expulsion from Russia on the 12th of November 1998, orders from the Turkish government suddenly reversed this situation. This changed the fate of the project. This bureaucrat also revealed that after my expulsion from Italy, the Italian firm Eni was allowed into the project. This example alone shows how, connected to me personally, business deals are closed at the expense of the Kurdish people. These sordid relationships certainly extend considerably further than it had been possible to expose up to now.
The European States claim over and over that they stand for democracy and human rights. However they barred all their doors against me and didn’t undertake any real attempt to play a constructive role in solving the Kurdish question. On the contrary, they simply submitted to the will of the US and NATO and as an arena for the conspiracy took on an unhappy, dramatic part. That fact gives yet another demonstration of the true face of the European system.
The role played by the Greek government in this context was quite particular. When I went there, invited by some friends, and was kidnapped and taken to Kenya – breaching national and international law – it turned out that Greece had been assigned the most sordid role of all. Here was the clearest display of the lies, treachery and hypocrisy that make up the concept of a conspiracy.
Italy’s behaviour however, compared to the other countries, was slightly more positive. There too I was isolated and every attempt was made to get rid of me. I believe that during my stay in Rome a decisive role was played by a cell of the Gladio organisation, against which the Italian government was powerless. The Italian government just didn’t possess the necessary self-confidence and strength to make its own decisions. Despite this I must stress that in contrast with the Greek leadership, the whole affair following my arrival was handled within the limits of the law.
I would like to emphasise once again that I want to do everything I can to counter these wheelings and dealings with peace and a democratic solution. As in the past Turkey isn’t responding to our peace efforts but is following a strategy based on eliminating the liberation movement and this can also be interpreted as a continuation of the international conspiracy. In this respect the strategy of peace and democracy is important not only for Kurds but for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Those who were the conspirators, the national and international reactionary forces, still hold the reins. In the same way, the powers that are leading the struggle for democracy and freedom will continue this struggle and march on their way resolute and convinced exactly as the Kurdish people will. The scale of this conspiracy has shown how important it is that the oppressed and the peoples of the World counteract capitalism’s global offensive with their own global democracy, and strengthen this position. This is what I believe, today as I did then.
Translation: David Macdonald
↑ contents → to the English main page
il manifesto editorial staff
Il Manifesto has published an article by PKK President Abdullah Ocalan, on January 9. We are asked how we received it, by this questioning is authenticity, given the condition of detention of Ocalan. As journalists we have the duty to protect our sources, but it is clear that the writings by Ocalan are not arriving in Italy by ordinary mail, nor by mail.
Somebody accuses us to have given voice to a terrorist. Everybody is free to thing what he/she wants about Ocalan, as about anyone else. Il Manifesto has traditionally given voice to people considered by some ‘uneasy’, labelled as ‘terrorists’. In a recent past the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, have written on the pages of our paper to talk about peace, to explain their proposal for reaching a just and lasting peace in the North of Ireland. Gerry Adams was considered by many nothing short than the devil. Martin McGuinness (for his being the Ira commander) even worse. Today Martin McGuinness is the deputy first minister of a unionist-lead government. Clearly peace is not only absence of war and in the North of Ireland there are many difficulties. But today these difficulties are addressed, discussed in an attempt to solve them, around a table and not with arms. Nelson Mandela too was considered a terrorist. But peace in South Africa has been built only by starting from the dialogue with those who were considered as ‘enemies’.
The kurdish question has landed on Italy in 1998. When Ocalan himself arrived in Rome with one idea in mind: to bring the problem of the kurdish-turkish conflict right in the heart of Europe. At that time, we have written it many times, Europe lost an opportunity to contribute to the search for a peaceful solution to that conflict.
It is because of all this that we have published the article written by Abdullah Ocalan, on 9 January last, and we will continue to publish his writings, sure that this could be a contribution, however small, to the difficult road towards peace.
A just peace for the Kurds
by Abdullah Ocalan
I respectfully greet all the readers of il manifesto and my friends in Italy. My particular thanks go to your newspaper for giving me this opportunity to express my opinions.
Italy is a country that holds a most particular meaning for me. Not only because in November 1998 my quest for a democratic solution to the Kurdish question led me to Rome, but also because of the high opinion I hold of Italian history and the struggles for liberation that have taken place there. In my most recent book, “The Democratisation of Middle-Eastern Culture”, I devoted several pages to Italy and its role. I hope to be able to share it with my readers soon, although direct communication may not always be possible due to my being in solitary confinement.
On another occasion I would like to discuss the international conspiracy that brought me from Rome to the island of Imrali. To discuss not only the historical significance of this event for the Kurds, but also the power structures of the global system and the nature of international relations. I think this could be of interest to the progressive side of European public opinion.
I personally learnt historical lessons from the 3-month odyssey that took me to Athens, Moscow and Rome. The central concept of my most recent books is that of the “capitalist modernity” which, with its 1000 masks and weapons, I was able to witness close-up during my adventure. If this hadn’t happened I would never have drawn the conclusions that I did. Perhaps I would have remained attached to a simple, statist-type nationalism, or would have become part of a classic left-wing movement like so many before me. As a socio-scientifically thinking individual I don’t want to draw any definitive conclusions, but I assume that I would never have been able to arrive at my current analyses.
I would like to underline a fundamental conclusion. The true strength of the capitalist modernity lies neither in its money nor in its arms. Its true strength is represented by its almost magical ability to suffocate in its own liberalism all utopias, including the strongest and most recent utopia – socialism. Until we are able to understand how the whole of humanity can be trapped in the vortex of liberalism, even the most self-confident school of thought will be incapable of being anything but a lackey to capitalism, let alone the possibility of fighting it.
I am fighting with the Kurdish people, not only for our identity and our existence. Our battle is also against the dominant ideology of the capitalist modernity and is an attempt from Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, to contribute towards the creation of an alternative which we call “democratic modernity”.
In the context of global terrorism paranoia, we see the attempts by the Turkish government to label our democratic struggle as “terrorist” as just the same old propaganda game. The Turkish State’s mentality to date of denying the Kurdish people their fundamental human rights, is not so different from the uniformising fascist, authoritarian mentality that in the twentieth century established itself in Germany and Italy.
To this day the Turkish State perpetrates political, economic and cultural genocide against the Kurdish population. The Kurdish people opposes this with obstinate, organised resistance. I continue my quest for a peaceful, democratic solution against the chauvinist, fascistic nationalism which has, in the meantime, advanced its lynch-mob culture wherever Kurds live. From 1993 onwards I have made a number of proposals and tangible steps. The unilateral ceasefire in 1999 – the year of crisis – was respected despite various attacks, the withdrawal of guerrillas from Turkish territory and the symbolic peace delegations from Europe and from the Kandil mountains, are only a small part of the peace efforts. The fact that in 2009 the guns have been unilaterally silent and a delegation of guerrillas arrived in Turkey from the Kandil mountains should serve as proof of the continuity and perseverance of my efforts for peace.
Despite everything the stance of the Turkish State has not changed. Our efforts in the direction of peace continue to be underestimated and are taken as a sign of weakness. Military operations and attacks on the population continue. All the state organs continue to shout in unison: “eliminate them!” The current AKP government is carrying out the most insidious diversionary manoeuvre of all in trying to make the European states believe that they are working towards democratisation and a solution to the Kurdish question.
It is this government that has passed laws, thanks to which Turkish prisons are full of Kurdish children and thanks to which in Sirnak a prosecutor could demand 305 years of imprisonment for five children. Thanks to this government it was possible to outlaw the Party for a Democratic Society (DTP). And it is this government that continues to humiliate Kurds, taking Kurdish mayors away from their electorate in handcuffs, something that recalls images of the deportations to concentration camps.
The Kurdish people will never stop fighting for their fundamental rights. They will continue to organise themselves with the aim of regaining their dignity and a life of freedom. The will gain that freedom fighting with democratic means, but also reserving their right to self-defence. I have not the slightest doubt of this.
In concluding this article, written at the beginning of a new year, I would like to wish the Italian people a happy 2010. That this year may bring liberation to oppressed peoples, classes and sexes.
Translation by David Macdonald. This text first appeared on 9 January 2010 in the Italian daily newspaper "il manifesto"
→ back to the English main page