The short story of Kurdistan Revolution – I

Pushing aside the pervading curse all over it, Kurdistan has hosted new births. The revolution of Kurdistan began with Öcalan opening his eyes to the world in the village of Amara.

The revolution architected by Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan would entirely change the Kurdish people who were meant to be eradicated from history, and make great achievements. Possessed by fear in the face of the change in the Kurds, the colonialist Turkish state and international forces would therefore target the Kurdish People’s Leader in the late 20th century.

Despite the fact that the history of Kurdistan has faced extinction lots of times, without a doubt, it harbours breakthroughs that have changed the history. Having witnessed critical edges, Kurdistan territory has pushed aside the pervading curse all over it and also hosted new births, one of which is the birth of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan. The process that began with the Kurdish People’s Leader opening his eyes to the world in the village of Amara expresses a new period for the Kurdish people. In the person of Abdullah Öcalan, there have since been significant developments that would turn the history of Kurdistan upside down, including in the present time. As time went by, this change would get beyond the Kurdistan geography and open a new page and expand to the world.

The period before Öcalan’s birth corresponded to the darkest times of Kurdistan and the Kurdish people. With its founding, the Turkish Republic put a concept of annihilation and denial against the Kurds into effect. The Kurds have always been suppressed bloodily; Koçgirî, Şêx Seîd, Agirî and Dersim in the first place. It must be for this very reason that the Turkish state would declare the revolution to start in the last quarter of the 20th century under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan as the “29th Kurdish rebellion”. The history and the world would witness that this was more of a usual rebellion, which Abdullah Öcalan shaped in flesh and bones.

Well, how was the childhood of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan? The Kurdish leader, who came into the world on 4 April 1949 in the village of Amara, in the Halfeti district of Urfa province, was already on a quest during his childhood. With his rebellious stance, he was able to attract the attention at early ages. Despite his small age, he always strived to draw conclusions from life and nature and to acquaint himself with life. His first rebellion was directed against his family; in fact against the existing order and reactionist aspects of society.

His distinctive stance during childhood years led him to draw distinctive conclusions and he concretized in his mind the idea that Kurdistan was under occupation. The second phase in Abdullah Öcalan’s life begins with him starting to study at the Faculty of Law in Istanbul in 1971. During those years when his quests of life continued, he talks about his thesis “Kurdistan is a colony” at a meeting of the Revolutionary Culture Clubs of the East (DDKO).


The years Öcalan spent in Ankara open the door to other adventures. The capital city of the colonialist state would in some way have a part in putting up the cornerstones of the freedom struggle of Kurdistan. His times as a student at the Faculty of Political Sciences provide significant contributions to his ideas to free the Kurdish society, to stop the downward course of events in Kurdistan and to develop a struggle in the light of socialism. These years are also the times when Turkey’s revolutionary movement led by Deniz Gezmiş and Mahir Çayan developed and expanded.

At this time, Mahir Çayan and his companions would be massacred in Kızıldere. With the circulation of this news, classes at the university would be boycotted at the proposal of the Kurdish People’s Leader. Following this action on 7 April 1972, a large number of students get detained. One of these students, Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned and sent to Mamak Prison. The six-month period of time he spent in prison at the age of 23 would open the door to a new phase in his life.

His years in Mamak Prison would contribute to a further concretization of his ideas. He now knew very well the enemy that he would challenge. Focusing on what needed to be done and how the attacks of the state would be confronted, Öcalan had found answers to many questions by the time he got out of prison. The path of Abdullah Öcalan, who shared with his friends his ideas on the Kurdish people’s freedom and was able to convince them, crosses with two Turkish revolutionaries; Kemal Pir and Haki Karer. These two would become their first comrades.

Embraced by his comrades in a short period of time, Öcalan begins to come to the forefront as the leader of the group after some time. Although some observers and historians define this process as “self-progressing”, Öcalan literally becomes the playmaker from the first moment on. Gathering for the first time at the Ankara-Çubuk dam and deciding to form a group with its meetings in Tuzluçayır and Dikmen in 1971, the movement under his leadership had now completed the most important verge.


The Democratic Higher Education Association of Ankara (ADYÖD), the first democratic organization formed at the university after 12 March 1971 military memorandum, would be founded under Öcalan’s leadership in 1975. Actually, the establishment of ADYÖD is the most important verge of the period that is cited as the “group term” in the Kurdish Freedom Movement. The group organized through ADYÖD grows in number every day.

This group, who would later make name as “Apoists” -stemming from Apo, short form of the name "Abdullah" for Öcalan- did the first task sharing. The first outstanding work of the group was, undoubtedly, to create the ideology of the movement to be launched. To this end, a group of students led by Mazlum Doğan undertook the task of researching the history of Kurdistan in archives and books in state libraries. A founding member of the group, Ali Haydar Kaytan, would tell that period as follows in an interview he made years later: “Mazlum Doğan and some other friends were conveying to the group the information they had found in books after hours of research. From time to time we gathered home and discussed that information, which was mostly synthesized by Leader Apo, determining the ideology of the movement. Leader Apo was kind of building honeycombs like a bee.”


With the group taking shape and preparing the first road map, the Apoists then gravitated towards Kurdistan. The arrow was already off the bow and it was time to touch Kurdistan. Actually, the departure for Kurdistan bore many objectives and all these were one within the other. The time of book research was over, and it was time to get to the ground. In this sense, the departure to Kurdistan was an “exploration” to see the Kurdish society on the ground, to meet them face to face, and to take the first step for the party to be founded and for the revolution to get underway. On the other hand, it was the first engagement to organize the youth, peasants, workers and most importantly women – an entire people as a whole.

A handful of members of the group led by Abdullah Öcalan splintered in Kurdistan from 1974 to 1976. For instance, Haki Karer was first sent to Batman then to Antep; Cemil Bayık to Urfa; Ali Haydar Kaytan to Dersim; Duran Kalkan to Amed; Mehmet Hayri Durmuş to Bingöl. Abdullah Öcalan, on the other hand, commuted on the route extending from Antep to Dersim, from Elazığ to Mardin. Apoist youth were both organizing against the colonialist state and giving a struggle against the fractions that did not give them room and did even try to strangle them, saying “No room for you in Kurdistan”. Still, Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan and his companions were making no concessions on the road map they had and were ingeniously weaving a revolution that would mark a new epoch in Kurdistan.


In the meantime, they were getting well known on a wide territory. Everyone knew the Apoists now. Abdullah Öcalan and his friends come into prominence this much did trigger counter moves from the Turkish state and collaborating agent groups. One of the leading figures of the group, Haki Karer, was murdered by members of a group called “Stêrka Sor” in Antep on 18 May 1977.

The murder of Haki Karer had an enormous influence on Öcalan and was treated as an attack that came in response to the group’s first initiative in Kurdistan. It is at this point that one of Öcalan’s main characteristics would be seen clearly for the first time; to find a way out and to create light out of darkness at the most difficult moment when all the doors were closed. To reclaim the memory of Haki Karer, Öcalan prepared a party program in Antep. While he was dealing with these preparations, discussions began to focus on the organization of armed resistance against the state’s attacks. The Apoists were calling the murderers of Haki Karer to account. Their stance was the messenger of the tradition vowing to “avenge the fallen comrades at any cost”.


Following the decision of the Apoists to become a party, a meeting attended by 22 delegates took place in the village of Fis, in Lice district of Amed province on 27 November 1978. During this meeting, the party was founded by the name of Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. This was at the same time the first congress of the party. The establishment of the party was announced to the public some six months later, with the resistance initiated against collaborators in Siverek in mid 1979.

With the founding of the PKK, a new process was beginning for the Kurdish people. After numerous uprisings suppressed in Kurdistan and the years from late 1930’s to early 1960’s, a period called “dead silence”, the colonialist state assumed that the Kurdistan cause had been buried under concrete and the Kurdish people had been eradicated from the stage of history. The PKK getting on the stage rendered the colonialists unable to satisfy their desire.

The initiation of revolution under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan at a time when language, customs and even dresses were banned and despised, meant the Kurdish people’s rise from the ashes. This must be why the Turkish state officials vowed to “suppress the 29th rebellion like the former ones”. However, Abdullah Öcalan and his companions would reverse this downward course of events, change the fate of a folk step by step and history wouldn’t repeat itself this time.


The Turkish state conducted any plan and attack possible in order to minimize the blooming Kurdistan Freedom Struggle at the time. The massacre perpetrated in Maraş in the last days of 1978, not even a month after the establishment of the party, went down in history as the most striking example of how unrestrained the tendencies of the state and fascist forces would get.

With the declaration of the founding of the PKK, a relentless resistance was mounted in several central locations, mainly on the Hilvan-Siverek line. A handful of PKK members called “Kurdistan revolutionaries” were sowing the seeds of revolution in the territory of Kurdistan that had been lying fallow, as the phrase goes. The Turkish state, on the other hand, did not stand idle by as it launched a wave of arrests and placed many Kurdish cities under martial rule.

Anticipating this process which would lead to the 12 September 1980 junta, the Kurdish People’s Leader made a critical decision and chose to emigrate like many other leaders had done in history. A curtain was drawn in the struggle as he crossed from Suruç into Kobanê, on the other side of the border dividing Kurdistan, on 2 July 1979.  That a few hours long journey would open the door to a 20-year period of time in the Middle East on the Rojava-Syria-Lebanon line. During the following years, the Kurdish People’s Leader would tell the following about how he decided to head for the Middle East: “At that time I was in Urfa, trying to make my final decision there. I was saying that there were two ways; either the one leading into the Middle East from the south, or the northernmost one, i.e. another mountain route stretching from Dersim to Botan. I thought less of the mountain route; the second choice. We even promoted a one-page instruction to comrade Mehmet Karasungur whom we remember with respect today. We said there was a need for a guerrilla trial in the mountainous terrain as it would be very difficult for the movement to remain standing in the contrary case. Efforts were made to have the movement take some steps on this basis. The Siverek Resistance was followed by short-term resistances in some other regions. After a long decision-making process that focused on what the next destination would be, we headed for the Middle East southwards. Our main mission in the Middle East meant to ensure that the struggle is not eliminated and extinguished, also to get the national issue in Kurdistan heard by humanity and to develop an effortful armed revolutionary struggle that required more sacrifice to have it acknowledged. We never hesitated for a second on doing what was necessary to achieve this objective because a decision would be made with the 12 September fascism to bury us as a nation in the darkness of history.”

The Kurdish People’s Leader heading for the Middle East meant both securing the safety of PKK cadres and getting the chance and opportunity to develop the party further by creating a space abroad. Indeed, one year after this decision, Turkey and North Kurdistan woke up to a military junta regime on 12 September 1980. While the entire geography became a hell, Öcalan’s anticipation became true and a handful of PKK cadres were protected from this fire thanks to him opening the door into the Middle East.


The military coup d'état that ignored the Kurds descended over Kurdistan like a nightmare, wreaking havoc on everywhere. The biggest savagery was taking place in the prison of Amed. It is worth noting that two third of the PKK cadres were taken prisoner during this period. With the military coup, PKK executives, cadres and sympathizers were subjected to unprecedented atrocities, torture and attempts to make them surrender. The Turkish state wanted to make the PKK surrender over their leading cadres in prison, thus to shatter the emerging hopes among the people. Aware of this reality, the leading PKK cadres challenged fascism in an uncommon manner and succeeded in remaining standing and defeating this mindset of colonialism under the most challenging circumstances.

During these days when a life-or-death struggle was being given in Amed prison, Abdullah Öcalan engaged in efforts to create opportunities for the movement in the Syria and Lebanon area with pitifully inadequate means. His intense efforts led to the initiation of military training and ideological studies in the camps of Palestinian revolutionaries in Lebanon.  


During the period from 1980 to 1982, Öcalan succeeded in consolidating the PKK in both military and ideological aspects thanks to his anticipations and despite all the challenges. During the second PKK congress held in 1982, decision was made to return to homeland and works to this end followed. Till 1984, a large part of the PKK cadres moved to Kurdistan gradually. The decision to return to homeland marked the beginning of a new long-term period in Kurdistan.

On 15 August 1984, the bullets fired by PKK fighters in Eruh and Şemdinli opened a new page in Kurdistan Revolution. The “14 July Armed Propaganda Units” that got its name from the great death fast resistance initiated by the PKK’s leading cadres against savagery in prison, was renamed as Hêzên Rizgariya Kurdistan [Kurdistan Freedom Forces-HRK] with the firing of bullets on 15 August. The PKK under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan thus announced to the whole world its launch of Kurdistan National Liberation Struggle with the first bullet.

Without a doubt, this struggle would change the Kurdish society most, and the Kurdish people would make great achievements in political, military and social terms with its perspective based on women’s liberation. In very deed, Abdullah Öcalan said yet from the first day on that “society cannot be free unless women are free”. History would prove him to be right once again, since the Kurdish society was becoming free as Kurdish women eluded the male-dominant mindset and became free. Possessed by fear in the face of the change in the Kurds, the colonialist Turkish state and the collaborating global forces targeted the Kurdish People’s Leader for this very reason in the last quarter of the 20th century. Kurds, on the other hand, built a wall of fire under the motto “You cannot darken our Sun” as they united around Abdullah Öcalan. After all, he was the Kurdish people’s sun rising from Amara and a folk could not be left without sun…

Tomorrow: Based on an organized and active living