Pretty Amazing, Again

Garen Yegparian

No doubt you read recently that Abdullah “Apo” Öcalan has called on the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. You might not have thought much of it, but here’s why it’s so amazing.
Apo is serving a life sentence in the prison on İmralı island. Flyovers or fishing in the vicinity of the island is prohibited. This is the same island prison in which Billy Hayes, the American whose story became the film “Midnight Express,” was kept. (*)
Apo just barely got away with his life due to European pressures after he was captured by Turkey and sentenced to death for his role as the main leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
He and the Turkish government are in negotiations now over the rights and future of Kurds in Turkey. Why would he want to irritate the government with something that is not directly beneficial to the Kurds?
Impressed yet?
Of course, you could argue that this is just a ploy, a tactical move to strengthen his hand in the negotiations. Possibly. But, there’s more context.
Öcalan also marked the anniversary of Hrant Dink’s murder, saying, “I greet the memory and the struggle of the precious child of the Armenian people, our brother Hrant.”
He’s also in touch with Kurdish members of Turkey’s parliament, and probably other Kurdish leaders. No doubt they coordinate their activities and public statements. They have been very forthcoming on issues of concern to Armenians and relationship-building with us.
If you are inclined to see conspiracy and intrigue around every corner, then you will probably be dismissive of this little snippet of progress, but I see one more drop contributing to the ocean that we must fill to achieve our national goals.
Once again, as with anything regarding the evolving and chaotic politics of Turkey, we should watch, push, and support anything in any way that enables the 76-ish million people living in that country to acknowledge the horrible reality of our shared past. Once they get over the genocide hurdle, then the emotional barriers will be gone, and it will become a matter of diplomacy, politics, and negotiations to get our reparations and lands.

"Asbarez," January 31, 2014

(*) Hayes, who had been in Turkish prisons since 1970, spent only three months at İmralı (July-October 1975), from where he escaped in a rowboat ("Armeniaca").

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