Days in Rome and forced exodus - IX

The Kurdish people joined hands with Öcalan in Rome against the conspiracy that took 66 days. There were martyrs  who gave their lives with the motto "You cannot darken our sun!"

In the days when Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan was in Italy, all Kurds focused on this country. Kurds and their friends from all over Europe flocked to Celio Square in the dooryard of the first hospital he went to, in order not to leave him alone. In this yard, which would later be renamed "Piazza Kurdistan", the Kurds used to wake up every morning chanting "Roj baş serokê min", (Good morning our leader) assuming Öcalan was in that hospital.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy that started on October 9 caused outrage among patriotics and revolutionaries who were setting their bodies on fire especially in prisons in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan and in the big cities of the world by shouting "You cannot darken our sun!". M. Halit Oral, who was a prisoner in Maraş, started the first action by setting himself on fire for Öcalan on the night of October 9. Born in 1971 in Mardin's Ömerli district and spent his childhood in Çukurova, this Kurdish revolutionary was taken prisoner by Turkish state forces while preparing to join the guerrilla ranks at a young age.

In his letter addressed to Öcalan, M.Halit Oral said the following: "Undoubtedly, my action will not make Turkey to take a step back, but they will see very well that even in the face of slightest harm done to you, all of our people will make life miserable for them. Because if we are recognized in this world today, it is entirely because of your great labours and efforts. "

Murat Kaya in Bartın on 18 October 1998 and Mehmet Gül in Amasya on 19 October 1998 set themselves on fire in prisons followed not only by PKK cadres but also Kurdish patriots, young and old, during Öcalan’s stay in Rome.


During the days when Kurdish People's Leader was under open arrest in Rome, the PKK revolutionaries named Remzi Akkuş (Jêhat) and Ahmet Yıldırım (Tayhan) set their bodies on fire by chanting “Serok Apo” (Chairman Apo) in front of the parliament in Moscow-Russia, on 17 November 1998, under freezing cold of the night. The Kurdish People's Leader intervened in the increasing of number of self-immolation actions encountered every day. Öcalan would make the following statement on November 19: The great commitment and support dedicated to us will undoubtedly continue until the current situation becomes clear. Because what is at stake is our free future, our destiny as a nation, not me as a person. While we continue our struggle without interruption, we will stand against terrorism as a people exposed to terror. However, we will not engage in actions that seriously jeopardizes us.

Self-immolation actions have been continuing in recent days. Most recently our dear friends, 8 persons in prisons, two in Russia, one in Germany, and today a friend of ours carried out self-immolation. Particularly because of these actions in Rome, a country which genuinely welcomes our people, I am calling on again and I want the actions in which self-immolation is performed to be ceased absolutely and immediately.

I cherish devotion and valor, but I instruct that those who truly rely on us should not resort to such self-immolation from now on, and that these actions should be stopped immediately. I am doing good in every way, your determination makes us even more enthusiastic and heralds the coming of freedom. On this basis, I sincerely greet and send my love to all of you, desiring that these self-immolations that upset us will come to an end. "


Despite this call of Öcalan, self-immolations that are remembered as  "You cannot darken our sun!" motto in the history of the Kurdistan Freedom Struggle was to continue over a long period of time. The Kurds were also on the streets to ensure the safety of their leaders and to make him to be accepted in Italy. Demonstrations and hunger strikes were taking place in all capitals and cities across a wide geography from Rome to London, Amsterdam to Athens, Berlin to Stockholm, Suleymaniye to Tehran.


Meanwhile, the Kurdish People's Leader remarked the followings in his first statement right after he landed in Italy, “We want to engage in a peaceful process and the political solution of this problem is very urgent.” Öcalan would also make historical calls and statements on the solution of the Kurdish problem in the days following November 12, 1998. Those speeches, which were made into a book titled as "Rome Talks" in the following years, were not only featured in Kurdish media such as MED TV and Özgür Politika newspaper, but also long interviews were given to the world's leading media organizations, making headlines everywhere.

The Kurdish People's Leader made headlines in Europe through his interview with the Reuters news agency in the last days of 1998: “I am ready to be tried in a fair, neutral country. It could be in any European country including Austria. Some say Netherlands, some say Spain; These are irrelevant to me."

In those days when the preparations were being made for a conference or an international court that would address to the war crimes in Kurdistan, pave the way for a solution of the Kurdish problem and clarify Öcalan's situation in European capitals, the US administration appeared once again to "direct" the course of the conspiracy.


US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sent her envoy, Strobe Talbott, to Rome on 21 November 1998 so that the Kurdish People's Leader would not be granted asylum in any country and be tried for his alleged crimes. In the face of US pressure, the Roman administration suggested Öcalan be sent to Libya, its former colony. The Americans was considering Gaddafi’s Libya, " out of control," hinting at Germany and Turkey. However, on November 27, the then Chancellor of Germany Schröder would say "We do not want Öcalan", and Italy's options would gradually decrease.

In an interview in 2003, D'Alema was to talk about White House’s direct intervention: "Turkey was constantly sending diplomatic notes, and we were looking for a solution. US President Bill Clinton stepped in. He phoned me. “Öcalan is a terrorist”. He requested us to return him to Turkey. I reminded him that this would not be possible, and that we did not return a person wanted by the USA because of the death penalty in the past. I guess he wasn't satisfied. "


The Kurdish People's Leader, realizing that the conspiratorial forces are increasing the pressure on the D'Alema government and considering what happened as a continuation of October 9, made the following statement on December 25, 1998: “MED TV was closed during the 9 October conspiracy. I was just on the plane, but the channel was censured. This censure incident also shows how planned this plot is. Interpol issued arrest warrant for me  all over the world on October 9th. The fact that they circulated the arrest warrant  in the whole world in one day shows how world reactionarism is working against us. I think these facts are sufficient to understand the current situation.

Primakov's and Simitis' attitude are enough to show how monocentering the plot is. Perhaps, Mr. D'Alema wanted to take a step or two as a requirement of democracy, but it is now clear that he was being forced to silence. It is about my attitude towards stopping a terrorist process that is intended to be developed at least as a world war. It has attracted the attention of many newspapers. Why did it cause such great repercussions? They say to me "You are falling like a peace bomb". This is  about the terror behind it.

Now they are fighting in the dark, their plans are secret and they want to continue persistently. I will continue this peace movement further. In fact, this may be appropriate for Europe. I said Europe’s interest is in peace, I wanted to explain it clearly, but they are trying to manipulate the issue in the wrong direction. They seem to do something after New Year's Eve, but it is not certain what will happen. Mrs. Mitterand is making a great fuss; "My husband is turning over in his grave for the sake of the EU, for his political will." Who listens to her! There are strange situations like this.

On the other hand, missiles and bombs are being dropped, they will be dropped even more. Our peace step was an appropriate step. At least we need to show it to Europe, it is necessary to show it persistently. Germany says "I will organize it after the New Year". Missiles kill people, what does this have to do with Christmas? This needs to be done with an honorable decision. It is necessary not to make things fall apart. Maybe it would be a contribution to peace if I stayed. I wanted to stay in Europe for this reason and some friends want it, too.

I will insist on peace. Peace makes sense. In fact, everyone has the determination to make an effort, knowing the concrete meaning of this. Chauvinism has escalated in Turkey, even a cannibalistic philosophy was implemented. The reason for this is the fear of those who decided on this war. Chauvinism is fueled in Turkey in a strange way. The reason is the fear of the hell created in Turkey. Some like to do business in the dark. The familiar war gang  in Turkey is carrying out these things very plainly and there is nothing else to do for them. The people of Turkey needs to know it very well. On this occasion, I want to say this to the Kurdish people: Even if I lose, you will win. But in order to realize it, you have to be a little smart and know how to act properly. ”


Despite Öcalan's historic breakthroughs, the global powers plotting the conspiracy did not want to turn away from the goal they had set before them. In those days, Öcalan was under the strict protection of Italian private security units in a detached house named "Villettta Color Ocro" (Tile Colored Villa) on Via Del Male Street, located between Ostia and Casaltalocco, 20 km away from downtown Rome. Those entering and leaving the house were checked one by one, while the street was blocked by police barricades, snipers were constantly on guard on the rooftops. Even Öcalan himself often had to wear a steel vest in the house. After all, Italy was once the center of Gladio.

On the one hand, the pressure over the D'Alema government, left alone by the European countries, and on the other hand, this psychological pressure forced Öcalan to make a new start in the first days of the new year. Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan would later express the approach of the Roman government as follows: “The attitude of the then Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema was honest but inadequate. He could not give a full political guarantee. He left our situation to the judiciary. I was angry with this. I was determined to leave Italy at the first opportunity. In his last statement, D'Alema stated that I could stay in Italy for as long as I wish, but that seemed like a forced attitude to me. "

The attempts of both Italy and the Kurdish diplomacy  for another country  remained inconclusive. France, Finland, Austria, Greece, Czechia, South Africa and Norway revealed that they did not want Öcalan. However, while Finnish officials said, "If Germany and France approve, Öcalan can come to our country", South Africa left the door open after the letters of the Kurdish People's Leader sent to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Yet, South Africa dropped the invitaiton at the last minute because he did not want to annoy the global powers before the visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to this country.

Öcalan, who saw the border gates and airspaces being closed one by one and his application for asylum rejected, would say the following in his interview published in Özgür Politika newspaper on December 7, 1998: “My patriotic-democratic human rights struggle is known. Kurds who come to Europe are given political asylum, when it comes to me, political concerns are raised. I am the one who caused these developments, that is, the recognition of the Kurds’ political status. Here I would like to draw attention to an interesting paradox. All other Kurdish leaders have passports, but I do not. Because I am not defeated and being not defeated is considered a crime. I hope that judicial system realizes this and makes its decision soon based on these considerations. An approach like let's go and share your body is a barbaric approach. Italy will not resort to extrajudicial execution - it should not resort to this."