People's Assemblies Network

Importance of Kurdish Struggle – a personal view


Received from a London comrade via Facebook:
I am trying to explain the importance of the Kurdish struggle to UK Left activists and one of the things that most interests people is Ocalans support of peoples assemblies etc. [See below].
But i am struggling to find examples of this ‘direct democracy’ to show to people. There appear to be many similarities with the Zapatista movement, where communities, not just engaging in the political fight, started to take power immediately. There was a massive global solidarity camapign with the Zapatistas which to an extent can be credited with e.g. the Occupy movement today
Ocalan wrote in 2004 ““Our first task,” he wrote, “is to push for democratization, for non-state structures, and communal organization.” Instead of focusing solely on changing the Turkish constitution, he advocated that Kurds create organizations at the local level:  local town councils, municipal administrations, down to urban districts, townships, and villages. They should form new local political parties and economic cooperatives, civil society organizations, and those that address human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, animal rights, and all other issues to be addressed.
“Regional associations of municipal administrations” are needed, so these local organizations and institutions would form a network. At the topmost level, they are to be represented in a “General Congress of the People,” which will address issues of “politics, self-defense, law, morality, economy, science, arts, and welfare by means of institutionalization, rules and control mechanisms.”
Gradually, as the democratic institutions spread, all of Turkey would undergo a democratization.  They would network across existing national borders, to accelerate the advent of democratic civilization in the whole region and produce not only freedom for the Kurds but a geopolitical and cultural renewal. Ultimately a democratic confederal union would embrace the whole of the Middle East. He named this Kurdish version of libertarian municipalism “democratic confederalism.”
In March 2005, Öcalan issued a Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan. It called for “a grass-roots democracy … based on the democratic communal structure of natural society.” It “will establish village, towns and city assemblies and their delegates will be entrusted with the real decision-making, which in effect means that the people and the community will decide.”  Öcalan’s democratic confederalism preserves his brilliant move of linking the liberation of Kurds to the liberation of humanity. It affirms individual rights and freedom of expression for everyone, regardless of religious, ethnic, and class differences.  It “promotes an ecological model of society” and supports women’s liberation. He urged this program upon his people:  “I am calling upon all sectors of society, in particular all women and the youth, to set up their own democratic organisations and to govern themselves.”
When I visited Diyarbakir in the fall of 2011, I discovered that Kurds in southeastern Anatolia were indeed putting this program into practice.[30]


  1. 700 Kurdish political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Turkey, with some of them now having refused food for 49 days. The situation is reaching a crisis point, and now around the world people are beginning to show their support for the strikers and their demands.

    A petition has been initiated by a group of social scientists at which calls for more supporters for the hunger strikers. The petition can be reached online here:

    Please sign your name and show your support! You can see a list of first signatories below.



    An international group of social scientists with research interests in the Kurdish issue launched a petition campaign calling on the Turkish government to address the demands of the Kurdish political prisoners whose hunger strike protests have entered a critical phase.

    Over 700 Kurdish prisoners are on the 49th day of a hunger strike as of October 30, 2012, for the right to defense in their mother tongue and the ending of solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s imprisoned leader. Medical experts confirm that the 40th day is a threshold in hunger strikes where physical and mental dysfunctions commence, as well as cases of death begin to occur.

    Petitioners declare their full support to the Kurdish political prisoners’ demands, which, they believe, are among fundamental human rights. The petition emphasizes that the international community’s opinion on Turkey will be strongly shaped by the way the present hunger strikes are handled and reminds the addressees, including the President, Prime Minister and Justice Minister of Turkey, that they will be personally responsible should this protest end in a human tragedy. Recalling the devastating cost of the prison operations of the year 2000, the petitioners warn the Turkish government that any attempt at forceful intervention would cause irreparable harm and destroy the already dim democratic ground for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue.

    The petition has received great interest and support from academic circles around the world, reaching over one thousand signatures on its first day. Some internationally renowned social scientists sent support messages to the campaign. Professor Michael Taussig of Columbia University, an international authority in anthropology, signed the petition with the following note: ‘To the Turkish State: please attend immediately to the welfare of these courageous prisoners’. The preeminent feminist theorist Professor Judith Butler of University of California, Berkeley, wrote: “Turkish government must enter into serious dialogue with these prisoners, who now risk their lives to expose the injustice under which they live.” And Noam Chomsky stated: “Elementary humanity requires that the just and desperate plea of these prisoners for dialogue should be answered quickly and appropriately, without delay.”

    The campaign initiators state that they were inspired by Turkey’s great novelist Yasar Kemal’s recent statement on hunger strikes: ‘Watching death is ill-suited to humanity’.

    The list of Initiators
    Can Ağar, Translator, İstanbul, Turkey
    Ahmet Hamdi Akkaya, Ghent University, Belgium
    Emek Alici, University of London, UK
    Ahmet Alış, Bogaziçi University, Turkey
    Seda Altug, Bogazici University, Turkey
    Shiler Amini, University of Exeter, UK
    Mizgin Müjde Arslan, Bahçeşehir University, Turkey
    Dr Mehmet Asutay, Durham University, UK
    Ebru Avci, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
    Dr. Bilgin Ayata, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
    U. Rezan Azizoğlu, Ankara University, Turkey
    Hanifi Barış, University of Aberdeen, UK
    Luqman Barwari, president, Kurdish National Congress-North America (KNC-NA)
    Oyman Basaran, The University of Massachusetts, USA
    Dr. Bahar Başer, University of Warwick, UK
    Dr. Derya Bayır, University of London , UK
    Fırat Bozçalı, Stanford University, USA
    Dr. Katharina Brizić, Linguist, Austria
    Adnan Çelik, EHESS, Paris, France
    Umit Cetin, University of Essex, UK
    Cuma Cicek, Paris Institute of Political Studies, France
    Ozgur Cicek, Binghamton University, NY, USA
    Ayca Ciftci, University of London, UK
    Deniz Cifci, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey
    Dr Barzoo Eliassi, Lund University, Sweden
    Secil Dagtas, University of Toronto, Canada
    Engin Emre Değer, Istanbul Şehir University, Turkey
    Esin Düzel, UCSD, USA
    Burcu Ege, Independent Researcher, Turkey
    Delal Aydin Elhuseyni, Binghamton University, NY, USA
    Muhammed Mesud Fırat, Bilgi University. Turkey
    Bahar Şahin Fırat, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
    Özlem Galip, University of Exeter, UK
    Başak Gemici, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey
    Frangis Ghaderi, University of Exeter, UK
    Onur Gunay, Princeton University, USA
    Azat Z. Gundogan, Binghamton University, NY, USA
    Saed Kakei, Nova Southeastern University, USA
    Fethi Karakecili, York University, Canada
    Maryam Kashani, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
    Dr Janroj Keles , London Metropolitan University, UK
    Yeşim Mutlu, METU, Turkey
    Dr. Nilay Ozok-Gundogan, Denison University, USA
    Dr. Cengiz Güneş, The Open University, UK
    Serra Hakyemez, Johns Hopkins University, USA
    Wendy Hamelink, Leiden University, Netherlands
    Murat Issı, University of Panteion, Greece
    Mithat Ishakoglu, University of Exeter, UK
    Erkan Karaçay, University of Exeter, UK
    Elif İnal, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey
    Dr. Iclal Ayşe Küçükkırca, Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey
    Dr. Kamran Matin, Sussex University, UK
    Caroline McKusick, University of California Davis, USA
    Dilan Okçuoğlu, Queens University, Canada
    Ergin Opengin, Paris 3, Paris, France
    Omer Ozcan, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
    Dr. Hisyar Ozsoy, University of Michigan-Flint, USA
    Prof. Dr. H.Neşe Özgen, Ege University, Turkey
    Erlend Paashe, Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway
    Berivan Sarikaya, York University, UK
    Dr. Besime Şen, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Turkey
    Dr. Birgül Açıkyıldız-Şengül, Harvard University, USA
    Ruken Sengul, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
    Dr. Serdar Şengül, Harvard University, USA
    Dr. Prakash Shah, University of London, UK
    Christian Sinclair, University of Arizona, USA
    Prof. Dr. Nükhet Sirman, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
    Ülker Sözen, Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Turkey
    Marcin Starzewski, Sabanci University, Turkey
    Kelly Stuart, Columbia University, USA
    Dr. Engin Sustam, EHESS, Paris, france
    Dr. Raja Swamy, The University of Arkansas, USA
    Mohammedali Yaseen Taha, University of Lisbon, Portugal
    Dr. Latif Tas, Humbolt University, Berlin, Germany
    Salima Tasdemir, University of Exeter, UK
    Omer Tekdemir, Durham University, UK
    Dr. Sebahattin Topçuoğlu, Hamburg, Germany
    Dr. Nazan Üstündağ, Bogazici University, Turkey
    Dr. Kamala Visweswaran, The University of Texas At Austin, USA
    Muge Yamanyilmaz, Bilgi University, Turkey
    Serkan Yaralı, EHESS, Paris, France
    Güllistan Yarkın, Binghamton University, USA
    Prof. Dr. Mesut Yeğen, Istanbul Şehir University, Turkey
    İsmail Hakkı Yiğit, Fatih University, Turkey
    Dilan Yildirim, Harvard University, USA
    Emrah Yıldız, Harvard University, USA
    Cagri Yoltar, Duke University, USA
    Dr. Zafer Yörük, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey
    Ayse Seda Yuksel, Central European University, Hungary
    Dr Welat Zeydanlioglu, Kurdish Studies Network, Sweden
    Max Zirngast, University of Vienna, Austria

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