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Rekindling the Fire? The Kurdish National Liberation Movement On 21 March the Kurds will celebrate Newroz - the Kurdish New Year - and perhaps the most important date in the Kurdish calendar. As in past years, the fire of Newroz will burn not only in the Kurdish regions of southeast Turkey, but also in every city from London to Yerevan. Symbolising revolution, there will of course be one dramatic difference in the Newroz festivities this year. Abdullah Ocalan, President of the Kurdistan Workers Party languishes - and is undoubtedly being tortured - in a Turkish jail. Rather than dampen the spirit that defines Newroz, Ocalan's very incarceration may instead rekindle the fire that Turkey has been so desperate to extinguish. Despite analysis from western journalists implying that with Ocalan in Turkish custody the PKK is ineffective, the PKK may actually be far removed from the idea of a national liberation movement dealt a severe and fatal blow. The reality is that in every capital city of every country with even the smallest of Kurdish populations, the Kurds have in recent days proven to be at their most active. Even in Yerevan - where the government has been slow to acknowledge the existence of a Kurdish minority, the country's Yezidi proudly marched down Abovian Street - past Sil Plaza and Pizza di'Roma - on their way to show solidarity with those Yezidi on hunger strike outside the United Nations building. Even after five years with the Kurds in Turkey, Armenia, Belgium and London, to see so many PKK and ERNK flags, - along with portraits of Apo, - on open display in Armenia was a shock. As elsewhere in the world, the climate is now one of open defiance and resistance. Armenian television carries report after report on Ocalan's situation, and the voices of prominent Yezidi such as Karlene Chachani and Amarik Sardar(ian) are finally given exposure through the Armenian media. Not as Yezidi, but as Kurd. Whatever the split in the Yezidi community in Armenia, with the media interest in Ocalan reaching the home of every individual of Kurdish origin, the lines are now being drawn. Last week I spoke to Chachani about the situation Ocalan and the PKK now found themselves in. I remarked that I had a feeling that rather than the struggle being over, it had only just begun. Questions to Sabri Tash, the official PKK representative to the Caucasus, on the viability of a weakened PKK command structure were answered simply. The Central Committee of the PKK remains intact. Indeed, given that the Kurds have been uncertain regarding the fate of Ocalan since he first arrived in Rome, it is likely that measures were taken long ago to ensure the existence of the movement in his absence. Watching MED-TV [Kurdish Satellite Television] in the office of the Kurdistan Committee in Yerevan only reinforced this view. There was no feeling of despondency - in fact it appeared to be just the opposite. As the Yezidi in the room were mesmerized by the constant stream of images of PKK "fedayi" in the mountains, one could only detect a feeling of renewed struggle. As revolutionary PKK songs played on the station, image after image of the front page of every major European newspaper defined the significance of the Kurdish Question to the entire world, and the full importance of MED-TV to the national liberation struggle. For Armenia, Ocalan's capture may also prove to be of particular importance. As Ocalan is tortured and interrogated, confessions may well implicate the republic in the support of the Kurdish movement against their commong historical enemy - Turkey. In 1997 while interviewing Necati Bilican, head of Turkish Police and Governor of the state of emergency region,- I remember well his five-minute lecture - after hearing my [Armenian] surname - on the question of countries on Turkey's borders provoking the republic's Kurdish problem. In recent days, a few journalists here have even suggested that in all probability Ocalan did appear in either Armenia or Karabagh for a short period. However the trial goes, a number of things are certain. Ocalan may well prove to be a significant martyr for the Kurdish national liberation movement, and with Newroz less than a month away, March may prove to be the most significant month for Kurds throughout the world. With those pro-PKK Kurds more dedicated to the struggle than ever - and the Turkish military more arrogant - it may also prove to be the most significant month in Turkey's recent history. If the Kurds engage in fighting on the streets of Diyarbakir and elsewhere in the Kurdish regions, the movement is far from defeated. If all is quiet this year, the movement may very well be in trouble. March 21 - Kurdish Newroz - could prove to be the date that will define not only the future of the Kurdish national liberation movement, but also of Turkey and every country in the region. As Newroz and Ocalan's trial draws closer, it will be interesting to see if any concessions from the Turkish republic are forthcoming for its large Kurdish minority in order to extinguish the new fire that now burns in the hearts and souls of the Kurds in Turkey. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Onnik Krikorian is a journalist specialising in Kurdish affairs. His photographs and analysis of the Kurdish situation in Turkey and Armenia can be found online at: http://www.freespeech.org/oneworld/photo/