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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:

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