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On the ‘Democratic Civilisation’
A Critical Reading of Abdullah Ocalan’s Work

By Ismet Chériff Vanly

Lausanne , 30 March 2004

Editions ORIENT-REALITES, Genève



a) Abdullah Ocalan , PKK , and Kurdistan National Congress
b) The National Congress cannot be a PKK’s façade for Ocalan’s ideas

1) A general presentation of Ocalan’s book
2) Criteria for criticism of the book
3) Why did Ocalan not join the guerrilla ?
4) A book written for the good understanding of Turkey
5) A federalist solution acceptable for the Kurds in Iran and Iraq
6) No autonomy,nothing but individual rights for the Kurds in Turkey:
7) Misunderstanding by Ocalan as to language and national issues in some countries
(USA –Spain-Belgium-Switzerland- USSR and Russia)
8) Ocalan, Kemalism and Kurdistan
9) A federation of Mideastern states ?
10) Undue hopes put in the European Union
11) Undue hopes put in the European Court of Human Rights
12) To offend Kurdish history and other political parties
13) Ocalan’s party : a democratic or pyramidal structure ?
14) On Ocalan’s strategy of legitimate self-defence
15) On PKK/KGK’s “national leader”, cult of Ocalan, and other topics
16) A Leader in a prophet cloth, in a mission for humanity good
17) The modern type of states :
Multinational Democracies
18) About self-determination of the Kurdish people
19) Turkey’s Turks and Kurds are Eastern peoples, not European
20) The Kurds , a flock of sheep or an adult people ?
21) An unjust peace means injustice and subjection
22) A strategy of self-defence or an offensive strategy ?
23) Side remarks about Ocalan’s
‘neolithic society’
24) Conclusion ?
25) Appendice : Estimate of Kurdistan area and Kurdish population (in 2000)


a) Abdullah Ocalan , PKK , and Kurdistan National Congress

The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK after the Kurdish initials) was founded in May 1999 , in Amsterdam, in difficult circumstances , when Abdullah Ocalan , leader of PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), had been asked to leave Syria under Turkish menace , arrested and delivered over to Turkey, thanks to an international conspiracy . He had the possibility to join the guerrilla of his party fighting in Kurdistan (ARGK= People’s Liberation Army of Kurdistan), but he preferred to seek refuge in Europe, that he did not obtain. Mr. Ocalan was elected Honorary President of KNK when he was already prisoner of the Turkish state , while I have had the honour to be elected its President , from the beginning until now.

We owe Abdullah Ocalan to have created the PKK and educated its members in the spirit of patriotism, discipline , and sacrifice ; to have transformed the leftist utopia of the Kurdish (and some Turkish) youth in Turkey , about an “international proletarian revolution” , into the liberation of Kurdistan, on one hand, and the democratisation of Turkey, on the other hand ; to have proclaimed the armed struggle for these aims against the racist and corrupt, military and political , establishment of this repressive and ultra-nationalistic Turkish Republic ; and to have associated the Kurdish woman, for the first time in an Islamic country, in this struggle. As a result of the armed struggle, from August 1984 to August 1999 , the Kurdish people in Turkey resisted better ethnic alienation and the state policy of forceful assimilation ; they recovered their national and human dignity , and partially their courage before the state terror, to demand some of their legitimate rights . All this is due to Abdullah Ocalan and his party , it makes an important part of the Kurdish current history , that cannot be forgotten.

Before the Turkish State Security Court , at Imrali , Mr. Ocalan reduced his national demands for the resolution of the Kurdish question to nothing, next to zero , asking for the transformation of Turkey into a
‘Democratic Republic’ where all Turkish citizens, Kurds included, should enjoy their individual freedoms. He was however condemned to a death penalty , on 29 June 1999, convicted of ‘terrorism’ and ‘treason’ by the Turkish Republic. That was an unfair and political trial, for him and the Kurdish people.

According to KNK’s Charter , the Kurdish people are one people , and Kurdistan, their homeland, is one homeland , in spite of its partition between four repressive nation-states in the aftermath of WW1, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria - without any prior consultation of the Kurds . The Charter proclaims the right of self-determination of the people of Kurdistan , including the non Kurdish elements, such as the Assyro-Chaldeans, Turkomans and others , who historically live in Kurdistan, consider it as their homeland and participate , with their Kurdish countrymen, in the struggle for national liberation . The Charter says KNK will be the paramount Kurdish organisation , grouping representatives of the four parts of divided Kurdistan and their political parties , will help these parties to attain their objectives by peaceful means, on the basis of the right of self-determination ; it also says KNK will represent the Kurdish nation and its interest on the international field .

KNK in fact has had difficulties , was far from being that paramount national congress, because of the different political situation prevailing in each part of Kurdistan and , whence, the divergent interest of the political parties struggling at home , with phases of tension or armed fighting between them. The election of brother Abdullah Ocalan as Honorary President of KNK was a political mistake , since it was perceived by the other Kurdish parties as if the Congress had sided with PKK against them.

Yet the KNK’s different organs ( Executive Council, Commissions , a Bureau for each part of Kurdistan, Offices in several Western capitals, a Consultative Assembly=
Civata Herdemi in Kurdish), did their best according to the Charter. The proposals of these organs to the Executive Council of KNK often expressed wishes difficult to implement , the Congress being seated in Europe and far from representing all of the disunited and often quarrelling Kurdish parties at home.

As independent President of KNK belonging to no party, I have made over five years no distinction between the four parts of Kurdistan , or between the parties struggling at home. I criticised publicly the reduction of the Kurdish national demands in Turkey into the practice of individual freedoms within a
‘Democratic Republic’ , as this was presented by Abdullah Ocalan in his defence before the Turkish court. I did not follow the directives by brother Abdullah Ocalan to the PKK , but the principles enshrined in the KNK’s Charter. As a matter of fact, in all my activity in the name of KNK , my correspondence to the European institutions, the United Nations, and to national states , I promoted a democratic and federalist solution to the Kurdish question within each of the states dividing Kurdistan . For a later stage , when the Kurds will have obtained not only a theoretical recognition of their national identity, but a true federalist solution within these states , or at least an autonomy status in a geographical area , then the unification of the four parts of the Kurdish homeland into one federal state of Kurdistan , can be envisaged , while keeping at the same time the federalist ties between the Kurds and the neighbouring peoples . In other words, the ultimate objective in a farther future is to work for a federal or confederal union between the nations of the area , somehow as Europe is trying to do nowadays. This schema , a global perception of the future, has been mine over nearly five decades , and it is fully conform to the KNK’s aims. Federalism is one of the options furthered by the right of self-determination. I submitted the federalist solution to the consideration of the European Union, to the Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer, as well as to the Presidential Council of PKK , explaining that individual freedoms and the Copenhagen criteria , as important as they could be, are inadequate by themselves to constitute a solution to such an important issue as the Kurdish national question in Turkey. The European Copenhagen criteria, if really implemented in Turkey, could possibly be just a first step toward a real solution to the question.

I should add that my colleagues in KNK who are members or close partisans of PKK/KADEK did not try to contest my ideas as expressed in the name of KNK. On the contrary , they were helpful. The letters, memorandums , speeches , articles where I expressed the federalist solution as President of KNK, were published in the KNK’s magazines and circulated by its organs . I much appreciate this spirit of camaraderie.

The political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan have adopted the federalist solution since 1992 and, happily enough – not only for them, but for all the Kurds - , they enjoy esteem and respect in post-Saddam Iraq as well as on the international field .

b) The National Congress cannot be a PKK’s façade for Ocalan’s ideas

On the demand of its president, Mr. Abdullah Ocalan, PKK changed its name into KADEK (Kurdish initials for : Congress For Liberty and Democracy in Kurdistan) , at its 8th congress , held in the Qandil mountain , in April 2002 . The Qandil mountain , close to the Iranian border , with tens of inhabited villages, was unfortunately seized by force by the PKK over Jalal Talabani’s PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) . In the spring 2003 , Mr. Ocalan asked KADEK to change again, in order to espouse more clearly his concept for the solution of the Kurdish question , as he had lengthily explained it in a book on the
Democratic Civilisation , written in jail, at Imrali, in the spring and summer 2001. We shall have below a reading of this work . The aim of this paper is a critical reading of Ocalan’s book .

On 7 August 2003 , the Qandil-based headquarters of KADEK issued a declaration in which it is said KADEK has decided to abandon
Leninism and the hierarchical structure , and to work “to realise the Democratic Civilisation , according to the ideas of our President Abdullah Ocalan”. In the same declaration, a ‘primitive nationalism’was said to characterise the KDP of Messud Barzani , and denounced . KADEK published several other documents , one rejecting the Turkish Repentance Law , which indeed meant surrender without conditions. In another document called ‘Roadmap’ , Turkey was invited to conclude a bilateral ceasefire with KADEK, instead of the unilateral one observed by the latter . Beside, KADEK hails ‘the new era’ beginning with the fall of Saddam’s regime thanks to the US-British military coalition . As it could be expected, Turkey did not care about these documents. Unfortunately , KADEK was on the Turkish list of “terrorism”, and on the American list as well.

On 29-08-2003 the Presidential Council of KADEK sent a letter to KNK , suggesting that both congresses dissolve themselves and unite together into one new congress. The proposal shows that the brothers at Qandil do not understand the nature and the aims of KNK. The Kurdistan National Congress cannot merge itself together with PKK/KADEK into one organisation without betraying its Charter . At that time a delegation from KNK was visiting Iraqi Kurdistan . When they met with the brothers at Qandil, they advised them to forget the proposal . That was our opinion in Brussels.

Yet KADEK had to comply more clearly with Abdullah Ocalan’s directives, to change again its name , to repeat what he says in the “Book” about a
‘scientific democracy’ , to obey orders . To fulfil this a congress was decided, which took place from 27-10-2003 to 2-11-2003 , at Qandil . It was the last congress of PKK under the name of KADEK, and the founding one of the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (KGK, for Kurdish initials) . To the political and military commanders of former PKK other persons were added, for a large part from the KNK’s Executive Council, to give birth to KGK . As a matter of fact , a delegation from KNK ‘s Executive Council was invited as a guest delegation, but once at Qandil , these guests accepted to melt with KADEK to constitute KGK . That was done without consulting me as the KNK’s President and without a prior consultation of the Council. As a result of this irregular operation , on the 16 members of the KNK’s Council, beside the President , nine are henceforth invested at the same time with responsibilities within KGK. They represent an arithmetic majority in the leading body of KNK .

KNK’s members can be either political parties or independent persons , but all are bound by its Charter . According to the Charter , the Kurdistan National Congress must be a
nationwide organisation , distinct from - and above any political party . Its strategic aim tends to bring together the political forces quarrelling in Kurdistan , and not to be the follower of one of them , a window for Abdullah Ocalan’s ideas. I therefore cannot assume to remain the President of a national congress which was put in a position contrary to its Charter and thus lost the reason of its very existence . That was in substance what I told the KNK’s Executive Council of 29 November 2003 . I demanded that an Extraordinary General Assembly of KNK be convened to decide about the future of the Congress, according to its Charter. On the proposal of the Council, I accepted to postpone the discussion to its next meeting, which took place on 24-01-2004 . It was then decided to convene an Extraordinary General Assembly of KNK for May 2004 .. Because of technical reasons , this meeting was postponed for June 2004 . I prepared for this meeting a “General Report” on KNK’s activity over five years , as this was agreed upon by the Executive Council on 24-01-2004. It was also decided that I write my criticism about brother Abdullah Ocalan’s book for a Democratic Civilisation .

Beyond this internal problem about the nature and role of KNK , its relationship with Kurdish political parties , the real question is the future of the Kurdish national movement , and true democracy in the area. I do not agree with the ideas of brother Abdullah Ocalan , especially about the “solution” he wants to impose for the Kurdish question in Turkey . He says “Turkey is the common mother-homeland of the Kurds and the Turks” , while Kurdistan is the common mother-homeland of all the Kurds . He rejects any solution based on federalism and the right of self-determination for the 22 million or so Kurds in Turkey ; he is against a simple geographical autonomy , any status liable to preserve the Kurds in Turkey from assimilation, to keep their language and their cultural heritage , to assure them a future as a non-Turkish nation . He ignores or misunderstands so many examples in the world of modern
multinational democracies, where two or more nations can coexist and prosper side by side , for the benefit of each and the whole .

Whence the following critical reading , an appraisal , of his work. This appraisal is written for the knowledge of all , the colleagues members of KNK , the partisans of Mr. Ocalan , the public opinion in Kurdistan , the Kurdish people and their friends . The partisans of Abdullah Ocalan within KNK have been my brothers and sisters , my colleagues over five years . The PKK guerrilla in the mountains are my brothers and sisters ; I have for them high esteem , and much concern for their future . My guide in the following critical reading of Mr. Ocalan’s work is the higher interest of the Kurdish people, true democracy in the area and, if possible , peace and union , with real collective equality , between the Kurdish nation and the neighbouring nations. The following should therefore be understood as a democratic debate between men and women who may have different opinions , but believe in common basic values, and are doomed to have a common national future .

1) - A general presentation of Ocalan’s book

A critical reading of a work does not mean to be against, but rather appraisal, positive or negative. It is supposed to be neutral , if not objective . It can hardly be objective , it is necessarily subjective , but it should be fair , honest on the intellectual ground .

Let me begin by presenting some positive aspects . Abdullah Ocalan is one of the rare intellectuals among the leaders of Kurdish political parties . He has an extensive background of Turkish and oriental culture . He should have read a lot of Turkish authors, and Turkish translation from foreign works written in Western languages . He is a clever man , a subtle spirit , and has an intimate knowledge of the Kurdish mentality, that he would use for political purpose . He does not have a high opinion of the “ignorant” Kurdish people “who would kill each other for a hen” ; he assumes the role of a severe educator to redress the Kurds , that of a rigid father who would not tolerate any deviation in the family from the rules he himself has decided or in which he believes . He wants them to be better, and modern. He might have himself some departure from those rules , given the personal upper rank where he established himself and which is recognised by his followers . He is perhaps the sole Kurdish party leader worrying about the fate of all of the Kurds, as inhabited by a mission for the search of a global solution to the question, but how, and for what a future, that is another matter , we shall see it . He would seem to have a propensity for mysticism , but he has a too pragmatic and materialist spirit to be a mystic. Knowing the traditional pious spirit of the simple Kurdish masses, the veneration they have for holy men , he does compare himself , with a subtle art of wording , with Abraham, Jesus , Muhammad and other prophets , so that he may appear in the position of a man invested with a somehow supernatural , a divine mission to save the people from oppression. The good people cannot fail to be impressed. He knows how to say things with a calculated nicety. I know even a few educated Kurds who did the same comparison between him and prophets, and would take him for a saviour. I do not know if they have changed opinion since . The average Kurd cannot fail to fell in admiration before a leader endowed with such a ‘science’ of history and such a ‘metaphysical’ power.

Abdullah Ocalan is indeed fond of history , but he is not a historian (and does not pretend it) ; he ignores any methodology in the matter and his work is void of reference . It is a personal perception of the past . The book is wearisome to read and difficult, if not impossible, to present because of repetitions, constant comings and goings between the Kurds of today , his personal case, his imprisonment at Imrali , and the most ancient times – prehistory, including a neolithic society present everywhere, to which we do owe the beginning of the agricultural technology , that he identifies with the ancient Kurds and makes poetically an ideal for peace and harmony, beyond what is established by science .

Mr. Ocalan’s understanding of history is based on the ideas of Karl Marx and Engels. He denounces what he calls “the established socialism” , meaning the USSR , but remains prisoner of the Marxist thought about dialectic and historic materialism, and the struggle between social classes. However , he presents this work and the solutions he advocates for the Kurdish question as the sole “scientific” (all what was written before him being good to be thrown away) , somehow as Marxism was said to be “the scientific socialism”. The aim is a “scientific democracy”, based on individual human rights , not only for the Kurds, Turkey and the Middle East , but for all humanity. Is he dreaming in his cell at Imrali ? This is dramatic .

Mr. Ocalan wrote this work in Turkish , at the prison of Imrali , from 11 April 2001 to 28 August 2001. It was published in Turkish and a few other languages, thanks to PKK . I have the Arabic edition, entitled – as the other editions -
‘From the Clerical State of Sumer to the Democratic Civilisation’ . It is in two volumes making together nine successive chapters , as follow : Volume I contains : a preface, chap. I (on The Slavery Society and the Evolution of Civilisation) ; chap. 2 (on The Time of the Feudal Society) ; chap. 3 (on The Time of the Capitalist Society) ; chap. 4 (on The Place ,the Time and the Ideological Identity of the New Civilisation) ; chap. 5 (Can the Cultural Heritage of the Middle East be a Component of the New Civilisation ?). Volume 2 contains : a preface ; chap. 6 (The Kurdish Question in the Middle East and the Possible Ways for its Resolution) ; chap. 7 (about the international conspiracy against Mr. Ocalan and the PKK which led to his abduction) ; chap. 8 (Can the European Law System Find a Way to Resolve the Kurdish Question ?) ; chap. 9 (The Identity of Apo : an autobiography) ; a Conclusion 1 and a Conclusion 2.

Volume I of the Arabic edition is 493 pages, and volume 2 , 387 pages. I read the preface of volume 1 and practically all of the second volume . Between the two , and in each volume, there is plenty of repetition. We find in the Arabic edition grammatical mistakes (this is not important) , and a few sentences are rather ambivalent as to the meaning.

The defence by Abdullah Ocalan before the Turkish State Security Court, which, sitting exceptionally at the Imrali island (in the sea of Marmara , not far from Istanbul) , condemned him to a death sentence, on 29 June 1999, was also published thanks to PKK , in Turkish, and in some other languages, under the title
‘Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question’ . I read its introduction, in the English edition, and hardly leafed through the rest. Many of the themes are common to both publications, there is again some repetition.

For the trial of the illustrious prisoner of the Turkish Republic, the Imrali island was evacuated of its inhabitants, who were replaced by an army of guardians to watch and keep him . He is the sole prisoner in the island, but was given a tiny cell to live, no doubt stuffed with hidden cameras and microphones to spy him. The maritime air of Imrali is harmful to his health ; he suffers from respiration problems , and probably more from loneliness, moral but not physical cruelty. The only link between him and the outside world is through his lawyers , whose visits are limited by the state.

Mr. Ocalan was apparently not satisfied with his own defence before the Turkish Court at Imrali . His European lawyers lodged an appeal against the sentence passed by the latter Court at the European Court of Human Rights . The
case Ocalan v. Turkey is still pending before the Court at Strasbourg. Mr. Ocalan also lodged complaint at Strasbourg against Italy, Russia and Greece for not having granted him asylum , or for having betrayed him and let him be captured . The Italian Appeal Court said Italy was wrong in not granting him asylum, but that was said when Mr. Ocalan had been kidnapped . It was too late .

It is curious that Abdullah Ocalan wrote his work on the
Democratic Civilisation as his defence to be presented by his lawyers to the European Court of Human Right. He says in chapter 6 of the book , under subtitle 4 entitled “The PKK, its birth, its evolution and future” , that he wrote the book as his “defence before the European Court of Human Rights”, and that volume 2 of the work, beside a general presentation of the Kurdish question, includes a “scientific and juridical analysis” of his own case . Does he really think the European judges have the time to read about 900 pages making a muddle of prehistoric and historic times , of themes pertaining to the Kurdish, Turkish and Mid-Eastern societies , a mixture of the case of the Kurdish people and his own , all having nothing to do with the competence or the procedure of the European Court ? He obviously wrote this work for the knowledge of the Turkish state , as a better and more developed defence than that he had presented before the Turkish Court at Imrali , and to convince the Kurdish people in Turkey that there cannot be a solution to their national question other than his own , which is not a solution , but basically an acceptance , with an epidermic “make up” , of the present Turkish state order , as we are going to see under the following subtitles .

2) Criteria for criticism of the book

Owing to the large number of recurrent themes constantly repeated in Ocalan’s work in different ways , not without contradiction in his own ideas , we have to make a choice – not necessarily by order of importance - among those which are the most liable to produce confusion in the mind of the Kurdish people and are thus open to criticism in my opinion. The general presentation above of the book gives already a key about it . Yet by his repetitions, his contradictions, his constant comings and goings across ages , and his art of wording , Abdullah Ocalan puts his reader in the fog . Nothing is clear and limpid . All is ambiguous . One idea is however clear and constant : the solution to the Kurdish question is to be found through the rights of individuals , according to his Democratic Civilisation , his Scientific Democracy , and under his guidance, with his followers . For him , all the other Kurdish political parties are either feudal and tribal , or bourgeois , adept of a primitive nationalism , and agent of foreign or regional powers.

Let me repeat that my criticism changes nothing as to the historical role performed in my opinion by Abdullah Ocalan in creating, educating and commanding the PKK, a struggle resulting in a rebirth of the Kurdish people in Turkey, for the liberation of Kurdistan , for democracy , for the rights of women, against fascism and racism in this Turkish republic pretending itself to be democratic. Abdullah Ocalan is no doubt an exceptional person to have achieved this . He changed after his arrest , when he had become prisoner of the Turkish state. He did not give up ; he should have consecrated a tremendous energy to write this work, suffering alone in his cell , but what for ? During the years of armed fighting , he was the enemy number one of racist Turkey, the hero of most of the Kurdish people in Turkey , a hero and a guide in the eyes of some idealist youth across Kurdistan . Since his abduction, he became a problem for Turkey, a problem for Europe, a problem and a burden for his party and ‘his people’ (he says sometimes “my people”).

This does not mean indifference , nor hostility toward Abdullah Ocalan and his fate. But the higher interest of the Kurdish people requires the criticism below . The future of a nation is more important than the case of a leader . My duty is to try to open the eyes of the Kurdish people , and why not possibly to make the Turks understand the mistake of their rulers ? I wish the Kurds could do something for the safety of Abdullah Ocalan , and if possible for his liberty. I wish success for his followers, in as much as this can be done on the basis of real – and not a verbal and void – democracy , in the interest of this nation .

I am obliged to translate from Arabic the themes below , chosen according to the criteria mentioned above, that is among those which I see most open to criticism . I shall do it the most faithfully to Mr. Ocalan’s ideas, often by literal quotations , and as concisely as it may be possible, owing to time and space limitation. For reference , owing to the variety of editions , I would give the numeration of chapters, titles or perhaps subtitles. The themes presented will be appraised and commented one by one .

3) Why did Ocalan not join the guerrilla ?

This is not one of Mr. Ocalan’s themes , but a question . If he had joined the guerrilla when he was obliged to leave the comfortable space he was given amid the orchards surrounding Damascus , he would have spared himself the humiliation he was to know in Europe, the martyrdom of being the prisoner of the Turkish Republic, the desperate search of a “solution”, be it the most exceedingly “moderate”, consisting in fact of the negation of Kurdistan as the homeland of the Kurdish nation, just what the ultra-nationalistic Turkish establishment could possibly accept. He would have responded to the image of a hero and spared ‘his people’ sorrow and confusion . He would probably not have written this muddling book on the
Democratic Civilisation , more than ambiguous, curiously presented as a defence before a court . Reportedly, Mr. Ocalan did not join the guerrilla because he thought he would be killed , not in action , but by some infiltrated agent of Turkey . That was reported to me by a Kurdish intellectual who had put him the question when he was free to stay in Syria . This is reported for consideration, with no further comment than what is an evidence : Mr Ocalan had placed himself above the guerrilla, that is above the people. In a way, he still places himself at the summit of the hierarchical structure of the Kurdish society, denounced by himself.

4) A book written for the good understanding of Turkey

The themes the most open to criticism in Ocalan’s work are those in which he ignores completely the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people , dismisses any solution based on federalism or autonomy , which require by definition the recognition of a Kurdish-inhabited geographical area . All these themes are meant to the good understanding of the sole Turkish government. All the book was written for this purpose. He does not make a mystery of the purpose, but says it . The paragraphs concerning Kurdish “history” or “society” , repeated everywhere in the book , often mixing together prehistory and the present time , can be considered as pertaining to all the Kurdish people . But Abdullah Ocalan does not dismiss a federalist solution for the Kurds in Iran and Iraq , on the contrary , this solution is for him acceptable, sometimes under peculiar and strange conditions, as we shall see . Any solution on the basis of federalism or autonomy , any special status , is excluded for the sole Kurds of Turkey, who represent a little bit more than one half of the Kurdish nation.

5) A federalist solution acceptable for the Kurds in Iran and Iraq

The attitude of Abdullah Ocalan , and consequently of his followers, toward the Kurdish political parties in the other parts of Kurdistan , is generally a condescending and rather contemptuous attitude , not exempt of jealousy toward the Iraqi Kurds . This is particularly true regarding the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) of Messud Barzani and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) of Jalal Talabani .

This condescension may be explained by different reasons . Firsty , Turkish Kurdistan is the largest part of the Kurdish homeland , making alone a good half of the Kurdish nation as to the area and population . Turkish Kurdistan is somehow the elder brother , to whom precedence or preeminence is due . Secondly , the PKK , or its successor , formerly Marxist-Leninist , today adept of a “scientific democracy” , considers itself as a better leader , a more advanced vanguard , for the solution of the Kurdish question , than KDP , PUK , or any other party , all said to be feudal, tribal , or adept of primitive nationalism . Thirdly , Barzani or Talabany could perhaps represent a challenge for Ocalan’s leadership , knowing especially the fact that they enjoy consideration on the international field , while, unhappily , he is considered as a “terrorist” . Fourthly , all things being balanced , Turkish Kurdistan is , unfortunately , more seriously hit in its identity than the other parts of the Kurdish homeland . About 40 % of the Kurdish people in Turkey live outside Turkish Kurdistan, if not more, because of the Turkish state policy , while the ratio is far much lower in Iraqi or Iranian Kurdistan – let alone the question of language , Kurdish being endangered only in Turkey.

In chapter 6 of the book
(The Kurdish Question in the Middle East and the Possible Ways for its Resolution), constituted of five main subtitles , Abdullah Ocalan , in the fifth subtitle, “Toward the Resolution of the Kurdish question” , begins again with a kind of general introduction , long enough to be a mixture of historical times , social issues , and political ideas , then he consecrates a special paragraph for the resolution of the question in the four states dividing Kurdistan , Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. A six paragraph of the same subtitle concerns “the problem of unity of all the Kurds”.

About the Kurdish question in Iran : After reference to ancient Media and Persia , Ocalan remarks correctly that , contrary to the Turkish Republic , the Iranian state , according to a long tradition , has never practised a policy of denial as to the existence of different peoples and nationalities within its borders . Mr. Ocalan knows about the existence of an Iranian province (ostan in Persian) officially called Kurdistan . An ostan in the Iranian imperial tradition correspond to Land in Germany , or state in the USA, whence the name of countries such as Pak-istan , Afghan-istan , Kurd-.istan meaning the country (istan, ostan) of the Pak , the Afghans, or the Kurds . The ostans in the extensive Iran , with a kind of hierarchy between them , are few in number (22 in 1966) , but large in area.

ostan of Kurdistan , or rather Kordestan , according to the Persian phonetic , with the city of Sanendaj as capital , was originally created by the Saljukid sultan Sinjar of Iran , in the 12th century . It was to be partitioned more than once across centuries , the last time under shah Riza Pahlavi , in the early 1920s . Eastern or Iranian Kurdistan, , as the geographically continued homeland of the Kurds in Iran , schematically corresponding to a large part of ancient Media , does not include the sole ostan presently called Kordestan , but four other , more exactly the following provinces geographically continued in the Zagros ridges , from north to south : Western-Azerbaijan , Kordestan, Kirmanshah , the northeastern half of Hamadan, Ilam , and a northern part of Luristan . Mr. Ocalan seems to confuse Iranian Kurdistan , as a linguistic entity and the homeland of the eastern Kurds , with the present ostan of Kordestan .

Ocalan blames late Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou , secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iran (KDPI) , murdered in Vienna by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on 13 July 1989 , not to have understood , according to him , the good tradition of Iran in matter of nationalities . He makes abstraction of the fact that Iran has constantly been opposed to any Kurdish autonomy and to the administrative unification of the five or so provinces inhabited by the Kurds in western Iran . He blames the KDPI to be adept of a
primitive Kurdish nationalism . He finally suggests that Iran becomes a kind of an Islamist , yet democratic , and federal state , as a solution to the Kurdish question and some other national questions . This acceptance by Ocalan of the idea of a federal Iran means statehood and administrative unity for Iranian Kurdistan , as a federate entity within the framework of the federation . But could the Islamist Republic of Iran , a dogmatic theocracy, become a federal and democratic state , respectful of human rights ?

About the Kurdish question in Iraq : Mr. Ocalan says the KDP of late Mustafa Barzani was a “feudal” and “tribal” party, adept of a “primitive nationalism” . He adds that since the creation of PUK , in 1975 , by Jalal Talabani , as a separate party from KDP , and a challenge to it , “the Kurdish movement in Iraq has been more and more used as an instrument in the hands of foreigners….” .

Ocalan notes that “the Kurds in Iraq began , after 1990 , a period of federalism , under the protection of the USA” , but they were to be separated into two administrations , one governed by KDP, and the other by PUK , “under Turkish watch”. He blames both parties “to have been used , at that period , against the PKK, on the political, military, and diplomatic ground” .

Ocalan is not against a federalist solution to the Kurdish question in Iraqi Kurdistan , but he blames the two main Kurdish parties “not to have achieved the establishment of a true federate government, by democratic means, because of the selfish and materialist interests of their respective presidential house” .

Yet he suggests as an alternative , a possible “solution” consisting of “a democratic Iraq , together with the regime of Saddam Hussein” . That is indeed a curious , and astonishing suggestion . How could a dictatorial regime , perpetrator of genocide against the Kurds and the Shi’a Arabs , be their partner for building up of a democratic Iraq ? Ocalan wrote this in the summer 2001 , when Saddam Hussein was still on his throne . He does not mention that the resolution about a federate state of Iraqi Kurdistan , within a federal , democratic, and post-Saddam Iraq , was taken together by PUK , KDP, and other Kurdish parties in Iraq , in 1992 , and immediately admitted by the Iraqi Arab opposition to Saddam.

Before putting an end to the paragraph on Iraqi Kurdistan, Ocalan resumes again the topic of federalism , and insists that the three parties, KDP , PUK, and PKK , should unite their forces to form together a Kurdish federate government in the area . He does not consider PKK as a non-Iraqi party , “as a reactionary propaganda tends to show it”, since “many Iraqi Kurds, among the members of PKK , were killed in action.”

Conclusion ? It would be this : “yes for a federalist solution to the Kurdish question in Iraqi Kurdistan – provided the PKK, or its successor, be one of the founding parties in this nation-building undertaking” . Why not ? This would be positive , should mean Kurdish union on the ground of political parties. But this would require the acceptance of the Iraqi Arabs , who are the partners of the Iraqi Kurds.

Other questions could be put . I do not say KDP, PUK and other Iraqi Kurdish parties, who have been fighting the Iraqi government for the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan since 1945 , (from 1975 for PUK) , are free from any criticism . But how could such a union as suggested by Ocalan could be attained when he and many of his unconditional followers had so aggressively addressed the leaders of the Iraqi Kurds , when so much blood had been shed between them ? Do the Iraqi Kurds have interest to get united with Ocalan’s partisans when they are still placed under the US military protection , while the PKK , or its successor , is still said “terrorist” by the USA ? Objectively speaking , the PKK was born in Turkish Kurdistan ; they entered into Iraqi Kurdistan coming from Turkey ; they publish their papers first in Turkish , which has become as their “official language” , while Turkish is a foreign language , not understandable , and is unwelcome by the other Kurds – unless it is spoken by the Turcomans of Iraqi Kurdistan . If the general strategy of the Kurdish movement is to seek solution within the framework of the existing states dividing Kurdistan , then it is primarily up the Kurds in each of these states to say what they want for themselves and to struggle for . Yet it is imperative that the Kurds should forget the past , and unite their forces . On the political field, everything may happen .

About the Kurdish question in Syria - Ocalan not incorrectly writes that “as there are Arab extensions into the bulk of the Kurds, there are Kurdish extensions into the bulk of the Arabs, and the Syrian Kurds are the best example of it” .

Syrian Kurdistan is actually constituted of three regions with a Kurdish majority in northern Syria , close to the border of Turkey , which are the northern half of the province of Jazira , on the east , the district of Ain-al-Arab (Arab Pinar), close to the Euphrates on the east where the river penetrates into Syrian territory , and the district of Kurd-Dagh (also said Afrin) , close to the sanjak of Alexandretta , north-west of Aleppo. All three are adjacent to Turkish Kurdistan, but separated one from other within Syria . They were part of Ottoman Kurdistan , but the French-Turkish London agreement of 9 March 1921 , on the border line between Turkey and Syria (Syria was under French mandate) , left these districts on the Syrian side of the border, somehow as enclaves. In a way , the Kurds in Syria , about 1,8 million people, are “the younger brother” in the Kurdish family.

Abdullah Ocalan , who is native of a village to the north of the city of Urfa (Edessa in the past,
Ruha in Kurdish) , in Turkish Kurdistan ,to the north of the Syrian border , takes the opportunity of speaking about the Kurds in Syria to grace the reader , once more, with a comparison between himself and the archaic and Biblical, perhaps legendary, prophet Abraham of Urfa : both started their (divine) mission similarly , said he , at Urfa .

To speak more seriously , and come back to reality , the Kurds are an oppressed people in Syria, especially in Jazira . They are not recognised as a non-Arab nationality , but yet discriminated as such . In Jazira , in the early 1960s , about 120’000 Kurds were arbitrarily stripped of their Syrian citizenship and their land properties , which were given to Arabs brought by the Syrian Baath from elsewhere . Syria is requested to cancel these measures and stop discrimination against the Kurds , to render their citizenship and their land property to those who were stripped of , or to their descendants, and to recognise the Kurdish language and democratic freedoms . Mr. Ocalan demands the same rights for “the younger brother” in the Kurdish family.

Unfortunately , since the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Baath regime , thanks to the US-British coalition , with the help of the Iraqi democratic opposition , including the Kurds , the Syrian Baath dictatorship began a harsher policy of oppression against the Kurds in Syria . By the beginning of March 2004 , Kurdish towns and villages were attacked by bands of mobs and police. For the first time the Syrian Kurds tried to protect themselves face to tyranny . They organised mass demonstrations , but fire was open to repress them . Tens of unarmed civilian Kurds were killed . The Kurdish communities in Europe demonstrated in solidarity with the Syrian Kurds . The affair has had echo in the international community.

6) No autonomy,nothing but individual rights for the Kurds in Turkey:

In chapter 6 , subtitle “Towards the Resolution of the Kurdish Question”, speaking about the Kurdish question in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan says : “To consider the Kurds as Turks by force will not mean grandeur for the Turkish nation ; but to consider them as a social phenomenon belonging to the Turkish nation (…), to the state of Turkey , will be in its interest (…). So is the situation in America, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Russia, where there is one American people, one Belgian, Spanish or Russian people , in spite of the presence of a variety of nationalities and languages (…) . In Turkey there should be one nationality , the nationality of Turkey. (He avoids cunningly speaking here of a Turkish nationality : his wording is willingly ambivalent .)

He continues in the same chapter : “In the democratic solution , based on the observance of modern human rights , it is no question of changing state borders, no question of recognising an autonomy to any group , or any particular status in matter of economics, society , or culture …” .

In the same chapter , and the same subtitle , he writes : “Experience shows the Kurdish question cannot be resolved with the spirit of bourgeois nationalism or by a feudal autonomy (.…) . Besides, the neighbouring states would not allow such a solution (…) . We should therefore seek with insistence and perseverance a reasonable and realistic solution (…) . If you seek autonomy , independence and self-determination, and you do not see what is reasonable and feasible, then you will lose a lot of possibilities to find a solution.” All this is meant only for the Kurds in Turkey.

He says again : “Some Kurdish nationalist centres will dislike such a modest solution (…) ; they want a Kurdish autonomy because of their class interests , but they lack support among the Kurdish people.”

Finally Abdullah Ocalan explains how his ‘modern and scientific’ solution will be beneficial to Turkey : “This modest solution will reinforce the power and the unity of Turkey (…) , will consolidate its relations with many other states , to begin by its accession to the European Union.”

Comment on 6) and further themes from Ocalan :

Here we are . Mr. Ocalan wrote the book not exactly for the resolution of the Kurdish question, but with the hope to help Turkey becoming member of the European Union , by inciting Ankara to comply with the criteria of Copenhagen, be it formally , with no effect, if by bits. The Kurds , in such a case, could possibly obtain a few bits of their legitimate rights , the liberty , for instance, for individuals and civil society associations to open classes teaching in Kurdish – if the goodwill of the Turkish bureaucracy would allow it . The accession of Turkey to the membership of the European Union , as we shall see , is clearly mentioned in the programme of KGK.

Besides, in the preface to volume I on the
Democratic Civilisation , Abdullah Ocalan writes : “Turkey is the sole member of the Council of Europe who does not comply with the criteria of Copenhagen , which find their source in the European Convention of Human Rights , to which Turkey is committed (….) , yet I am open to an amiable solution.”

Abdullah Ocalan is “
open” to discuss with Turkey about an “amiable solution” to the Kurdish question in which there will be no Kurdistan , no Kurdish autonomy, no federalism , no right of self-determination, no special status for the dying Kurdish language , no special fund to reconstruct the four thousand Kurdish villages levelled to earth , not even a Kurdish people , but a Kurdish social phenomenon within the Turkish nation , “Turkish citizens from Kurdish origin” who should enjoy their individual democratic freedoms , for the glory of Turkey and its accession to the European Union.

In such a Turkey having supposedly become democratic, thanks to a formal compliance with the criteria of Copenhagen – but not necessarily applied, if not by bits -, how could the Kurdish question be resolved ? Mr. Ocalan has an answer : this would be attained through individual initiatives by
the civil society. He wrote with this respect, in the introduction to chapter six: “The civil society, expression of the bourgeoisie, (…) may progress outside the state structures , even against the state will , provided the rule of law is respected , and can thus represent the interest of all organised and free-minded social groups having a sound social programme, beyond the state policy.” Yet the civil society activity should obey to two rules that Abdullah Ocalan lays down : on one hand , “it should represent , horizontally and vertically, the greatest majority of the population” , and, on the hand , “it should respond to the popular adhesion of the people to the experience I am living at the prison of Imrali” . In other words , Abdullah Ocalan himself should be , while he is the prisoner of the Turkish state , the leader and the guide of the civil society.

In the same introduction to chapter 6 , he wrote : “The Kurds know difficulties to become a national state (…) , but we have an alternative … , this alternative is the way of a democratic solution, which is better ; the democratic solution allows people belonging to a national group to live freely within a democratic state, without needing to become a national state…”

Then he adds : “Many national states get united to form together a federation of states . The USA itself, the world’s greatest power, is a federation ; the national states in Europe have recently begun the process to get united within a European federation . This world’s trend toward federalism between states will further the possibility to resolve the Kurdish question on the basis of a democratic unity between the Kurds and the state within which they live (…) . The Kurds could , if they adopt a sound organisation of their civil society , so find the way to the resolution of their question by peaceful means, without recourse to violence or separatism.”

Abdullah Ocalan seeks to let the Kurds in Turkey believe they could find a solution to their national question thanks to the accession of Turkey to the membership of the European Union, without any prior solution to the question in Turkey itself , autonomy , or federalism . He has no plan, no project for the Kurds in Turkey , beside individual rights as Turkish citizens , and a flight into Europe . I have always been advocating the contrary : without a prior solution to the Kurdish question within the states dividing Kurdistan , there can be no solution within a federation of these states . Furthermore , Ocalan does not mean a federation between the states dividing Kurdistan , bet between Turkey and Europe. He is dreaming.

To leave no doubt as to the kind of ‘democratic unity’ between the Kurds and the state within which they live , Ocalan writes , in the same introduction (its subtitle 8) to chapter 6 : “The Kurds who live under the roof of a state (…) have this state as homeland , even if it has banned their language (…) . The idea of
the state being the common homeland of its citizens , and not the narrow and tribal understanding of homeland , is going on in the world of today…”

This is addressed to the good understanding of Turkey , since it is the sole state that “banned the Kurdish language” . Nevertheless , this Turkey is “the common homeland” of the Kurds , the Turks and all the other groups living under its roof. This means , of course , the negation o f a Kurdish homeland . Kurdistan is not the homeland of the Kurds , it is only “the narrow and tribal understanding of homeland” . The homeland is Turkey . To make it clear , Ocalan gives the example of a Kurd from Iran , who could say : “I am Iranian and a Kurd at the same time.” That would be accepted , and even welcome everywhere in Iran . Besides , Kurdish belongs to the Iranic branch of the Indo-European languages, but is independent from Persian . When Mr. Ocalan came to the example of a Kurd from Turkey , he did not write he could say similarly “I am a Turk and a Kurd at the same time” , knowing this would be unacceptable by the Kurdish people in Turkey ; instead , he put it in this way : “I belong to the people of Turkey, and to the Kurds” .

The very name of
Turkey and Turk is not only ethnic , but stuffed , in the Kurdish conscience , with an ultra-nationalistic ideology and the denial of the Kurd, while the name of Iran, Iraq , or Syria , is purely geographic and free from any nationalist connotation . A Kurd from Trukey cannot be called a Turk, or ridiculously “a Turk from Kurdish origin” . The national name of the Kurdish people in Turkey is just “Kurd” , and their homeland is Kurdistan : this should be recognised , or there cannot be a solution.

I am sorry that Abdullah Ocalan wrote all that . It is hardly believable he wrote it in full liberty and in the possession of all of his intellectual gift . Was he submitted to a any special “therapy” ? He is anyway the prisoner of the Turks .

During decades in the history of the Turkish Republic, because of the state terror policy of colonisation , deportation, and forced assimilation in Kurdistan , especially in the peripheral areas , the Kurds by millions became ashamed of being Kurds, hid their origin , abandoned their language for Turkish, and sought assimilation . That is a classical phenomenon of colonisation. To be a Kurd, was not only anticonstitutional and sanctioned by the penal law , but looked at , in the eyes of the Turkish establishment , with contempt as the mark of an underdeveloped society , with no culture, as a backward
social phenomenon within the Turkish nation (Ocalan’s expression) . As a result , Kurdish became a endangered language in Turkey . The Kurdish families had and still have no other alternative but to let their children be educated in Turkish , at the state schools and colleges.

The British academic David Crystal , a known specialist in matter of languages , presents his book entitled
‘Language Death’ (Cambridge, 2002), in these terms : “The rapid endangerment and death of many minority languages across the world is a matter of widespread concern, among all concerned with issues of cultural identity in an increasingly globalized culture”. The author says that “only 600 of the 6000 or so languages in the world are safe from the threat of extinction”.

The Kurdish language is endangered in Turkey in this sense , because of the Turkish state policy, but it is not endangered in Iranian or Iraqi Kurdistan , not in the Kurdish-speaking areas in northern Syria , not even among the small Kurdish communities scattered across the Federation of Russia , who marry among themselves and speak Kurdish at home. Turkish has become “the official language” of the Kurds in Turkey and , for almost a majority of them , the language of daily life , even for those who established in Western Europe , especially among workers . These struggle against the Turkish state policy while using Turkish for the most. Happily enough there are many exception . This phenomenon of
linguistic alienation led to an almost complete extinction of the Irish, Scotch and Welsh languages in Great-Britain. The process , among the Kurds in Turkey , is already achieved in the proportion perhaps of 50 % . In Turkey , Kurdish intellectuals write in Turkish , seldom in Kurdish . They write better in Turkish than Kurdish , even when they speak it , but most of them do not know to write in Kurdish . The few who write in Kurdish have corrupted the Kurdish syntax because of the influence of Turkish . A Kurdish publisher from Istanbul told me in the early 1990s that he would sell easily several thousands copies of a book , on the Kurds, if it is written in Turkish, but only a few hundreds if it is published in Kurdish . There are more than three million Kurds in the city of Istanbul, for the most workers.

The Kurdish language can be preserved from fading away in Turkey only if it is made by law and Constitution an official and compulsory language in a well defined geographical area , within the state territory , and this area can be only geographical Kurdistan . This aim cannot be realised through individual initiatives or civil society groups (private institutes, foundations, clubs , etc). Education in Kurdish , in state and private institutions, should further the same opportunities as Turkish for the future of the new generation . The Kurds in Turkey number more than 21 millions, nearly one third of the total population . In Turkish Kurdistan, an area of about 220’000 sq, km, they number more than 13 millions, representing about 85 % of the regional population. This area is much larger than England (131'760 sq.km) , within the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is a democratic state ; it recognises Scotland as a well-defined geographical area within which the Scots govern themselves by themselves , with an elected parliament of their own and a regional government ; similarly the UK recognises Wales as another geographical and national area within which the Welsh enjoy self-government , with an elected
National Assembly and a regional government . Why should the Kurds in Turkey not be allowed to demand a similar status for themselves , and why should Turkey not be required to recognise such a status for the Kurds ?

If the Kurds of Turkey do not enjoy a federate status similar to that of the Flemish and the Walloon nationalities in Belgium , or at least an autonomy status similar to that of the Basque and the Catalan nationalities in Spain, there cannot be a solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey. This is what I have beenrepeating for so long , and wrote to the Presidential Council of PKK and to the European institutions.

7) Misunderstanding by Ocalan
as to language and national issues in some countries :

We have seen above that Mr. Ocalan mentioned some Western states , namely the USA , Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain , as well as Russia , to show that different nationalities , speaking different languages , may coexist without problem within one state . He just mentioned the name of these countries, without saying what about their constitution and the reality in the matter . The examples were apparently meant for the Kurds in Turkey . Either Mr. Ocalan does not know the real situation in the states he mentioned , as to the issue of languages and nationalities , or he did not further the right examples to illustrate his ideas about the “solution” to the Kurdish question in Turkey .

I am going to present , as concisely as this can be possible , the reality as to the problems of nationalities and languages in the countries Mr. Ocalan gave as example , if necessary in their historic evolution . The aim is not exactly to criticise Mr. Ocalan, but, more importantly , to further a global image , sometimes with significant details , as to the questions of democracy, languages and nationalities in these countries . This image could possibly contribute to a better understanding of these issues in Turkey, and globally in the Middle East , and be perhaps helpful for a solution of the Kurdish national question by peaceful means . The following information are based on publications and archive found in my private library, and on an experience I have personally lived , at several moments , repeatedly inside these countries . No bibliographical references will be furthered, this paper being not a scholarly study , but written with the purpose to try to be helpful to clarify important issues , by the example . More particularly , the aim is to help the Kurdish people to see clearer across the fog which was put around them , to find the way for a better future.

USA , a particular case :

It is true, there is one American people , one American nation . The case is a special case . The citizens of the USA were individual immigrants who came from elsewhere . The first immigrants were English, then Irish, Scots or Welsh , who came from Britain. There were afterwards different waves of immigrants , black Africans brought as slaves , more and more British , French coming from French Canada , France, or already established in Louisiana (a French name) , Vermont (a French name, meaning Green Mount), and other states and places , Latin Americans , Germans, Italians, Arabs, Greeks, Chinese , Japanese , and other Asiatic , etc. All these elements intermingled together from the Atlantic to the Pacific , to form the American nation. There are no nationalities in the USA presenting a majority in a geographical area and having a history as such on the American continent , to the exception perhaps of the French of Louisiana for a short period . The only native ‘nation’ of the USA were the different Indian tribes , who were almost exterminated by the first white immigrants , save “reservations” in some wild places. But all American citizens are free to keep alive the traditions, including language and culture , of the countries from which they or their fathers had emigrated . They may constitute communities of origin without having a territorial basis ; they speak English , perhaps together with another language , for about two or three generations. So are found more and more Spanish-speaking Americans in Florida and California, speaking equally English . Chinese Americans eat Chinese, not porridge, and Italian Americans , pasta . It is to be afraid this is roughly what Mr. Ocalan is proposing for the solution of the Kurdish question in Turkey, that the Kurds be intermingled with the Turks as a kind of social and cultural phenomenon amongst the Turkish nation. He forgets that the Kurds are losing their language and culture amongst the Turks , and even in Kurdistan , because they have acquired a complex of inferiority before what they believe to be the “superiority” of the Turkish culture, thanks to the Turkish state policy , since it is anticonstitutional for the Kurds to pretend having a culture other than Turkish , and to be what they are , another people . To absorb the Kurds, to kill in their heart the feeling of their dignity , of being and having been across history another nation , this is the Turkish state policy. It is to be afraid that the “solution” suggested by Ocalan would not have a different result.

Spain :

The situation in old Europe is quite different from the American case , and this is what Abdullah Ocalan does not see, or does not say , confusing cases together . To begin with Spain , it should be underlined that if there is one Spanish state , there is not one Spanish language , but several regional languages , each having its own territorial basis. None of them is called “Spanish”. There is not a “Spanish” language as it is commonly believed outside Spain . However , one of these regional languages , Castilian , the largest of them , derived from Latin and originally spoken in central Spain and in the capital Madrid , has been used across centuries as the official state language and its administration , and extended into some other areas , whence a confusion between Castilian and ‘Spanish” . Other living regional languages , also derived from Latin , are the Catalan (perhaps nearer to French than to Castilian), spoken in Catalonia, with Barcelona as capital ; Galician , to the north of Portugal , with Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle as capital; Asturian , between Galicia and the Basque country . The Basque language , Vasco , is pre-Indo-European and the oldest language in Europe . It has nothing to do with Castilian, French , or Latin, and was spoken in a much larger area in the past , on both sides - the Spanish and the French - of the western mountain range of Pyrenees. Several Basque provinces lost their language with time, including their largest city and economic centre in Spain, Bilbao , to the benefit of Castilian , and their largest city in France , Bayonne, on the Atlantic coast, to the benefit of French.

Under the Spanish republican government , before World War 2, a kind of autonomy was recognised to both Catalonia and the Basque country . This autonomy was abolished by the dictatorial and pro-nazi regime of General Franco , who seized power after a military success in the Spanish civil war, against the republican camp . Yet Franco did not dare abolish the name of
‘Bank of Catalonia’ , which was one of the largest and wealthiest in Spain . The Catalans are one of the nationalities the most gifted in matter of commerce, finance , as well as arts , painting and sculpture, while Madrid has accumulated wealth , for a large part, thanks to the looting of Spanish colonies, especially in the Americas . Because Barcelona was a large and prosperous city , many people speaking Castilian emigrated there as workers, from southern and central Spain, under Franco.

After the death of the dictator (in 1975) and the advent of a constitutional and democratic monarchy , aiming at reconciliation between the different nationalities, regions, and citizens of Spain , a new constitution , adopted on 29 December 1978 by the
Cortes (Spanish parliament, constituted of the National Assembly plus the Senate), granted autonomy , on a geographical basis , to all the “nationalities” and “regions” of Spain , “within the unity of the Spanish nation”(Art. 2 of the Constitution). An autonomous status was thus recognised to both Catalonia and the Basque Country , which are the two nationalities the most typed and the most attached to their national characteristics . Galicia , Asturias had their status, as well as Andalusia , in the south, with Seville as capital . Castilian is nowadays spoken in Seville , but the area , once the centre of the Arab-Muslim state in medieval Spain , has its own cultural identity, marked by history . Autonomy was in fact granted to all of the regions of Spain (seventeen) , including regions that had never demanded any autonomy or did not need it , such as the capital region of Madrid . It is a system of large autonomy, that can be acquired according to different procedure , each autonomous government , called Generalitat , being endowed , within the unity of Spain , with a parliament , an elected government , a president appointed by the regional parliament , a higher court of justice, power in matter of budget , taxes , culture , education , language, commerce, police and public order , transport , communication, mass media , health, sport , etc. The autonomy attributes are negociated between the nationality or the region and Madrid and may differ from one Generalitat to another. These attributes are the most extensive in the Basque country , Euskadi .

Catalonia (about 6 millions on 39,5 million inhabitants for all Spain ) seems , however , to be rather satisfied with its autonomy . Some Catalans would complain that their
Generalitat does not include all the Catalan-speaking areas in Spain, or those whose language was Catalan before becoming partially Castilian , or a mixture of both . A small part of Catalonia is within France (district centred on the city of Perpignan, to the north of the eastern mountain ridge of Pyrennees), but it is no question in France to recognise any regional autonomy, beside individual democratic rights and a limited decentralisation . Post-Franco Spain is thus more democratic than the French Republic , the archetype which gave birth to the juridical concept of, and established , the nation-state under the French Revolution . That was in fact already done under the monarchy , but differently and without a sociojuridical doctrine . Kemalist Turkey was to take the French ‘revolutionary’ and secular (laïc) republican concept as a model. The word laïc was borrowed from French into Turkish (layik) – as thousands of other words . Madrid would complain that the Catalan Generalitat favours the Catalan language to the detriment of the Castilian workers who established in Barcelona under Franco . Catalonia is complaining that many international societies are leaving Barcelona to Madrid, thanks to the policy of the central government as member of the European Union.

The autonomous
Basque country ( Euskadi in the Vasco or Basque language, perhaps about 3 million people in Spain, if not less , beside about one million in France), whose political capital is Vitoria , is presently governed by the National Basque Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco = PNV), with more autonomous attributes than Catalonia . Its largest city and economic capital, Bilbao , is slowly recovering, year after year, its old national language, but the use of Castilian is free . The Euskadi Generalitat in Spain has official relationship with the Spanish central government ; yet there are problems between them in matter of budget, and , more seriously , there is suspicion as to the ultimate aim of the Basque people . The Generalitat does not include all of the ancient Basque provinces in Spain, such as the province of Navarre (formerly divided between France and Spain), once a kingdom of its own speaking Vasco , but today Castilian. Many Basque people have aspirations for full independence and for the unification of their homeland on both sides of the Pyrenees . There was a legal Basque party for independence , Batasuna, and there is a Basque separatist underground organisation , ETA , which began from 1968 committing acts of terrorism against agents of the central government . However , the relations between the Spanish government and the Basque Generalitat were safe , because the PNV was officially against ETA , and independent of Batasuna. Generally speaking , there was a degree of equilibrium , not indeed perfect , between the Spanish central government and the regional autonomous governments . This unstable equilibrium was to be upset by the policy of José Maria Aznar , chief of the conservative Popular Party (the PP) who won the Spanish parliamentary polls of 1996 and became the president of the Spanish central government (Prime Minister) . It happened that I am writing this paragraph on Spain at the same time as the Spanish parliamentary election of 14 March 2004 , which was preceded by the tragic railway bombing of 11 March , whence comment on these events .

The PP had won the Spanish general elections of 1996 , against the Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain, the PSOE of Felipe Gonzalez , thanks to a tactical electoral alliance with the PNV and the CIU (=
Convergence i Unio) , which is the nationalist governing party in Catalonia . As chief of the central government, Aznar’s policy in matter of economy was rather successful . The PP won therefore the general elections of 2000, obtaining alone an absolute majority at the Cortes . Mr. Aznar was no longer in need of a tactical alliance with the CIU and the PNV . He adopted as a consequence, since 2000, an aggressive and provocative policy not only toward the PNV and the CIU , but against all the autonomous regional governments , that he used to call ‘peripheral’ . He banned the Basque independence party Batasuna , in 2003, but not the Catalan party for independence , called Esquerra Republicana Catalunia (ERC ) of Josep Luis Carol Rovira , possibly because of its popularity in Catalonia . He ordered , without being correctly counselled , that the damaged oil tanker Prestige be sunk , thus causing extensive damage to see life at the Atlantic coast of Galicia and France. Furthermore , José Maria Aznar involved Spain in the war policy of the US president Bush in Iraq , against the will of a large majority of the Spanish people. Finally , while Spain is traditionally very European and has much profited from the economic policy of the European Union , especially in matter of agriculture and exchange , the PP leader was the main responsible for the failure of the draft European Constitution , prepared by the European Convention under the authority of Valerie Giscard d’Estaing , the former French president.

The sharp policy of Mr. Aznar toward the “peripheral” autonomous governments resulted in sharp centrifugal reactions , not only in Catalonia and Euskadi , against the central government. Everywhere more regional attributes , a remake of the Spanish autonomy system, a kind of real federalism , is requested . In November 2003 , Don Juan José Ibarrexte , the elected president of the autonomous Basque government, made public a PNV plan aiming at the transformation of the Basque country into
‘a state having partnership with Spain’. At Barcelona , the chief of the independence Catalan party (ERC), Rovira , said ‘there is nothing to do with Spain, it is a bad affair for the Catalans’ . At Seville , the regional president , Manuel Chavez , demands an “Andalusian power’. In Galicia , the regional president Manuel Fraga , although belonging to the PP , formerly a minister under Franco (who was himself a native of Galicia) , demands the transformation of Spain into a kind of federal state, with a Senate similar to the German Bundesrat .

Yet all the opinion polls pointed that the PP should win again the Spanish general elections of 14 March 2004 , over the PSOE , the rival socialist party . José Maria Aznar had announced his political retreat for 14 March , just after the polls, and designated in advance his successor as the future PP Prime Minister of Spain , in the person of one of his ministers, Mr. Mariano Rajoy. Four days before the polls, the PP was expected to be the winner by about 5 % or 6 % more votes than the PSOE . The question in discussion was whether the PP would have an absolute majority at the
Cortes , as in 2000 , or a relative majority, as in 1996 . It was no question of PSOE winning the elections , the socialist party having been in a way discredited already under Gonzalez.

On Thursday morning 11 March , an open day , by 7.35 a.m. , four commuter trains , full with suburban people in their way to work or study in Madrid , exploded almost simultaneously upon arrival into three stations in the capital , one of them the central station . There were ten explosions commanded at distance and it was a carnage , 200 people killed , nearly 1500 injured . The electoral campaign was stopped by common agreement, but the elections were maintained for Sunday 14 March . Contrary to evidence , the PP government accused formally the Basque ETA organisation to be the butcher . The ETA had always warned before committing any terrorist action and had always targeted either military or civil agents of the central government , never the Spanish people. ETA denied twice to be the killer . An Islamist organisation claimed from London the responsibility for the Spanish “11 March” , in the style of Ben Laden’s
al-Qaida . In all Spain, the two following days were days of mourning and union . The Basque people were probably the most unhappy , being those who know the best that ETA could not do it . On Saturday evening 13 March , two million people demonstrated silently and orderly at the centre of Madrid , under the rain . Many had already doubt whether the PP was telling the truth in pointing its accusation finger against the ETA . At the same evening , other demonstrators , before the PP headquarters , accused the central government to be a liar . The ETA trail was more profitable to the PP, while an Islamist trail was harmful to it. That was to be an expensive miscalculation. On Sunday evening, the elections results were proclaimed : the PP lost the elections and, of course, the central government , the winner being the PSOE and its secretary-general, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero , the future president of the central government . The Islamist trail had become an evidence . The people sanctioned the PP .

That makes a difference on the international field . With the ETA said to be the responsible for 11 March, the affair would have remained a Spanish-Spanish affair. With the Islamist trail having become an evidence , the Spanish “11 March” is henceforth the equivalent to the US “11 September”. Between the two “11” there is however a difference . The American “11” allowed the US President to go twice at war against terrorism , in Afghanistan , then Iraq . The political upset resulting from the Spanish “11” means imminent withdrawal from Iraq of the Spanish military contingent , 1300 soldiers . This withdrawal figures in the programme of PSOE and was announced by Mr. Zapatero .

There are other consequences , which should be positive for Spain. The Spanish people, or peoples , gave the proof of their wisdom . They did not entrust to the PSOE an absolute majority at the
Cortes , but a relative majority of 164 seats on a total of 350 seats (148 for PP) . The socialist had never had as many seats at the Cortes . The Catalan independence party (ERC), a leftist , had 8 seats instead of one , and the former communist party (now said IU) , had 5 seats instead of 9 . To be able to govern ,Mr. Zapatero, who had taught constitutional law , should have recourse to the support of some regional parties. He said the transition should be kind and smooth, civil , and problems should be resolved by dialogue .

In the PSOE programme there is more : it is question that the nationalities of Spain be represented, in a way or another, within the organs of the European Union and the Council of Europe . The leader of PSOE might put Spain on the rail towards perhaps a Spanish kind of federalism , and why not possibly to try to make the European institutions more representative of
real Europe ? .

Anyway, we are , in Spain , very far from the Jacobinistic and unitary structures of the French Republic , which refuses any particular identity to the small people of Corsica , whose original language is other than French , and is still spoken . We are very far as well from the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan . Can the Kurds in Ocalan’s
“democratic Turkey” have a legal party called “Kurdish National Party” that would govern a geographical area officially called “Kurdistan“ and enjoying autonomy , as the NPV does it legally in the Spanish part of the Basque country ? Can an official “Kurdish independence party” exist in such a Turkey and be able to elect its own MPs at the parliament of Turkey, as is the case , at the Cortes of Spain , with the Catalan independence party ERC ?

There is a similarity between the Basque situation and that of the Kurds, with this difference that the Kurds are about ten times as numerous as the Basques and that their situation is still more complex , and much worse than that of the Basques . As a result of the open struggle of the Basque people , these were given an autonomous status, on a geographical basis , be it geographically incomplete , while Turkey is denying the existence of the Kurdish people and has banned the name of Kurdistan . Another difference is this : the
National Basque Party , PNV ,as this was said , representing the majority in the democratically elected Basque parliament , is governing the Basque country in Spain , while the “Kurdish National Leader” , Abdullah Ocalan , is rejecting in advance any Kurdish autonomy as something “feodal” and not true to modern human rights (sic).

Belgium :

I shall try to be concise as to the situation in Belgium, but it needs some explanation. Belgium includes three nationalities or linguistic groups , all having their own geographical area , the Flemish in the northern half, speaking Flemish , which is Dutch or a kind of Dutch ; the Walloons in the southern half , speaking Walloon , which is French or a kind of French ; and a German-speaking group , far the smallest, within the Walloon area , on the east, close to the German border . The Walloon area , la Wallonie in French, was prosperous thanks to its cool and steel industry . During all of the 19th century the Flemish commercial and political bourgeoisie used to speak French , even in Flanders , and French was the language of the state administration in Brussels . Flemish was considered somehow as the language of peasants in the northern part of the country . Belgium , although a kingdom , was established as a state after the model of the French unitary and centralised republic in matter of administration – as Kemalist Turkey was to copy it . The only link between the Belgian state and the people , in their municipal communes (counties) , was represented by the provinces , whose governors were appointed by the central government . The Flemish nationalist movement (Flaamsblok , Volksunie, etc) began as a reaction against the predominance of French . The linguistic Flemish-French quarrel , which never degenerated into an armed struggle - as in the ideologically backward Republic of Turkey - , continued in the 20th century . A series of constitutional reforms begun in 1970 and ended in 1993 transformed the state into a federation . Meanwhile , the Walloon area, representing 55,2 % of the Belgian territory (in all 30'510 sq.km), has become less populated and less prosperous than Flanders (44,3 % of the Belgian territory), probably because of the decay of the mining industries.

The Belgian federal system is rather a complex system of internal equilibrium . To be short , the Federal state , with a parliament called Chamber of Representatives coupled with a Senate, and an elected federal government , is the upper level covering three
linguistic Communities , Flemish, French , and German , and three federate geographical Regions , Flanders , Wallonie , and Brussels-Capital (Bruxelles-Capitale) . The partition of competence between the federal state, on one hand, and Communities or Regions , on the other hand , is regulated – as in the European Union – according to the principle called that of subsidiarity , meaning what can be decided at a lower level (Communities, Regions , in Belgium ; member states in the EU ) should be decided at the lower level, not the upper level . Each of the linguistic Communities has its own elected Council. The federal state is member of the European Union and its capital , Brussels, is , with Strasbourg, the capital of the Union. The linguistic Community system , grouping individuals speaking the same language and having the same culture , was a concession made to the Flemish , and the geographic Region system a concession to the Walloons , because of economic reasons . There is no a German-speaking federate Region , these being included within la Wallonie , to the east of the city of Liège . The Belgian federal structures are said asymmetric , in this meaning that while the Flemish language Community and the Flemish Region , Flanders , were unified under one Flemish legal entity , with one Flemish parliament and one Flemish government , the French Community and the Walloon Region continue to be two different legal entities , each with a parliament and a government . On juridical ground that appears complex , but practically it is not so important. On the total of 10’5 million inhabitants for Belgium , in 2000 , the population of the Flemish Community is about 5,9 million people , the French , 3,7 million , the German, some 0,7 million, others , 0,2 million, the population of Brussels-Capital ( about one million ) being included.

The federate
Region of Brussels-Capital , covering 0.5 % of the Belgian state territory, is like a tiny island within Flanders , hardly a few km far from Wallonie , but geographically isolated from it . The former Brabant province was divided into two , in 1993 , one left within the Wallonie , and the other becoming the Region of Brussels-Capital. The city is officially bilingual , French/Flemish , as it is shown in the name of its streets , written in both languages , but this does not mean its inhabitants speak and are educated indifferently in both languages . The French-speaking inhabitants of Brussels belong to the French Community , and the Flemish–speaking to the Flemish Community . There is no territorial segregation in Brussels between the two Communities , by streets or quarters for each , but each community has its own schools , mass media , etc . The problem lies in the fact that Brussels is constituted of a large majority of French-speaking, about 80 % of its inhabitants , who belong to the French Community , and 20 % belonging to the Flemish Community . Thanks to the powers recognised by the Belgian Constitution to the federate Regions and to Communities , the Flemish authorities have transformed the Region of Brussels-Capital into a kind of besieged citadel : the city cannot extend territorially, with its French-speaking majority, at the expense of the Flemish Region, itself being already a smaller area than Wallonie . The Capital-Region is at the limit of suffocation within its boundaries . It is surrounded by what one may call an iron curtail , the Flemish , who had suffered from the predominance of French , being obliged to defend and preserve their territory.

We are very far from Abdullah Ocalan’s idea about Belgium , that he possibly imagined a country where nationalities and languages are freely mixed together, in a kind of twisted magma. Each language, each nationality in federal Belgium has its own geographical area , beyond which it cannot extend. The Flemish would not much appreciate anybody . be he/she a foreign tourist , speaking French in Flanders , but they would welcome anybody speaking English . I know this by experience. But things are getting easier with time.

The Flemish have the secret ambition to acquire one day a majority within Brussels, to recover the Region of Brussels-Capital on the long run . That would mean the end of Belgium , and this could well be the aim of the most radical among the Flemish . Brussels is not only the federal capital , an island within geographical Flanders , but it was also made the capital of Flanders . In the federal administration at Brussels , civil servants must be bilingual, knowing both French and Flemish . Almost all the Flemish know French , but hardly any speaker of French would care about learning Flemish – once considered a “peasant language” . The result is that almost all of the federal civil servants, and naturally all of those working in the administration of Brussels being the Flemish capital, are Flemish . There are some centrifugal forces in Belgium dreaming about dividing the country into two states , or contesting something . Many Flemish think they are not obliged to pay taxes in favour of Wallonie, through the federal institutions, while some Walloon intellectuals dream about a Wallonie joining France . But I don’t think such dreams or ambitions can come true . The Belgian federal system is more and more accepted by the majority of citizens. The Belgian monarchy is playing a role to preserve the federal union between the two main nations of Belgium.

To some it up , the Belgian federal system , newly established after a very long, but civil , linguistic-national confrontation between the Flemish and the Walloons nationalities, is based on two pillars , on one hand the division of the state territory into federate
geographical Regions , that is homelands , according to their predominant nationality , and , on the hand , the recognition of linguistic Communities grouping all the individuals who speak , or are attached to , one language and culture . This system would further a good solution to the national and language questions in Turkey . Turkey would become a federal state with two federate republics (Region) , northern Kurdistan and Turkish Turkey , and two main linguistic communities , one Turkish and the other Kurdish . The Kurds scattered across Turkish Turkey , living even en masse in Istanbul and some other areas, would belong to the Kurdish linguistic community and, as such, they should be empowered to have their own educational institutions in Kurdish, public and private, while Kurdish would become the first official language in Northern Kurdistan . Other linguistic communities could be recognised in such a federal state, to preserve the cultural rights of the scattered groups having no territorial basis (Arabs, Laz , Assyro-Chaldeans, Armenians , etc). Similarly, the non-Kurds living in Kurdistan would belong to their respective linguistic communities and enjoy rights accordingly .

Abdullah Ocalan is, in a way, suggesting to Turkey a “lame solution” to the Kurdish question, somehow based on one pillar , one leg , that is the sole concept of a Kurdish linguistic and cultural
community, without a region called Kurdistan . He is in fact suggesting much less , nothing , since there is nothing , in his Democratic Civilisation , saying that such a Kurdish linguistic community must be an official institution , constitutionally compulsory for Turkey . This is not only the negation of Kurdistan , as the mother homeland of the Kurds , but the way straight open toward the extinction of the Kurdish language .

Switzerland :

Mr. Ocalan misunderstands the situation in Switzerland as well , for the same reasons and in the same way. I have been living the Swiss federalism from inside over more than one half of a century, to have come as a young man to study a the universities of Lausanne and Geneva, and to be a Swiss citizen from several decades. I achieved in the summer 2003 a small book in Arabic on the principles of federalism, explaining especially the Swiss case, among other cases, to help the Arabs and Kurds in Iraq , the two main nationalities in this state , building up a new, democratic, and federal post-Saddam Iraq .

Switzerland ( Schweiz in German, Suisse in French , Svizzera in Italian , 41'288'000 sq.km , 7,25 million inhabitants in January 2002) is geographically constituted of two complex of mountains. On one hand the great , massive , rugged, and higher Alps , shared between Switzerland , France, Austria, Germany, and Italy , culminated at its central and Swiss part at more than 4600 m . On the other hand , the Jura softer and much lower parallel ridges, culminating at 1600 to 1700 m , shared between Switzerland and France on the west . The two mountainous areas , covered with forest and pasture land , with isolated farms and villages , constitute , with the Swiss lakes , about 66 % of the Swiss territory , and are scarcely populated . The grand mass of population , with the urban centres, cultivated land and prosperous villages, is concentrated in the
Plateau , Mittelland in German , between the Alps and the Jura , representing one third of the national territory. The Plateau stretches from Geneva and lake Léman , on the south-west , to lake Constance , on the north-east , with an average altitude between 500 m and 600 m .

Switzerland is often presented as the oldest democracy in Europe. There are four
national languages in Switzerland , each having its own territorial area, which are , by order of numerical importance , German , French , Italian, and Romanch . Because of its central geographical position in western Europe, a higher standard of living, and higher wages, the natural beauty of the country, and because of an orderly, discreet, and courteous society , many foreigners have established in Switzerland . The Swiss population includes about 19 % of permanent residents of foreign origins, not equally distributed between the linguistic areas. Geneva, an international city , and Lausanne , number relatively more foreign residents, fortunate families, or permanent workers, than other places . If we count these elements , who may become Swiss , within the population of their respective linguistic area, and knowing that a language is said national in Switzerland because it is, in its own area , the language of daily life , of administration and commerce , and the first in matter of education and mass media , then we can have the following ratio for each of the national languages :

German is used (in 2002), in the understanding mentioned above, by about 69 % of the Swiss population, in the central, northern and eastern parts of the country ; French, by about 23 % of them , in the western and south-western part of the country , an area commonly called
la Romandie . Italian is spoken by about 7,4 % of the population , in the canton of Ticino , to the south of the great Alpine ridge (area of Bellinzona, Lugano , Locarno and their Alpine hinterland) , close to Lombardia in Italy (area of Milano). The fourth national language , Romanch , an old Rheto-Roman idiom, a mixture of Latin and German , is used by less than 1 % of the population , inhabiting a few valleys in the Grison canton , in the southeast of the country , close to Austria and Italy , amidst the Alps. Because of immigration into larger Swiss cities, especially Zurich , the number of the Romanch speakers has been shrinking into perhaps some 60 or 70 thousand people . Romanch , which is, besides, divided into local dialects, was made national language in 1938, by the will of the other Swiss citizens , with the purpose to preserve it . The Swiss citizens, whether they speak German, French or Italian, do their best to safeguard Romanch , not to kill it. Three out of the four national languages are, beside, official languages , German, French and Italian , in this meaning that all Swiss federal bills and documents must be published in the three languages . But inscriptions on the Swiss federal paper-money figure in the four national languages.

The German spoken in Switzerland is not the
Hochdeutsch , used in Germany as the standard national language, it is not understandable in Germany . The Bayerisch German, spoken as a provincial dialect in the large German Land of Bayern (area of Munich) , is understandable neither in the rest of Germany , nor in Switzerland . The French spoken in Switzerland is , nowadays, the same as France , Wallonie , and Brussels . The Italian spoken in Ticino is not the standard Italian , but the same as the provincial Lombard dialect of the area of Milano . Ticino was militarily conquered by the Swiss on the lord of Milano , in 1403 . But nobody among the Swiss , because of language , would call himself/herself a German, a French, or an Italian . The Swiss have good relationship , commercial and cultural , with the neighbouring states , but they are all Swiss . To be a Swiss is not to belong to a nation in the general acceptance of the word . It is rather to belong to a political entity willingly accepted, cherished , and ideally embellished by writers and artists across centuries, as in other countries . This ensemble was historically constituted of Alpine or Jurassic valleys, plateau, oligarchic cities and urban districts, speaking one or another of today’s national languages . These areas joined the Swiss historical nucleus one after another , all united by common interests , and remarkably respectful of their diversity and local identity . No wonder that the basic condition for obtaining the Swiss citizenship is to be admitted as such first by one of the local and lowest administrative unit , the popular commune , a county , be it a town or a small village , not by the federal state or a canton . This comes later, as an approval of the decision by the lower unit . Democracy in Switzerland is above all local, almost direct . People are first citizens of a county, then a canton, and then the Swiss Confederation , also called Confederatio Helvetica .

The Swiss nucleus was constituted on August 1 , 1291 , by a pact of ‘Perpetual Union’ , known as the Grütli Oath , between three independent forest Alpine valleys , Uri , Schwytz, and Unterwald , called
Waldstätten (the Forest States), German-speaking in central Switzerland . That was a defensive pact against the Habsburg , who were originally a Swiss dynasty from Aargau (Argovie), before being elected emperors of the Holy German Roman Empire , then ruled over Austria , some Swiss valleys , and some time later on Hungary , Bohemia, Slovakia, Croatia , and Slovenia . The Confederation between the three Waldstätten, tiny , local states, poorly populated by free mountaineers , vanquished Emperor Leopold I von Habsburg at the battle of Morgarten , in 1315 . Then more Swiss areas, principalities , oligarchic cities were to join the Swiss Confederation, one after another . Beaten again by the Swiss at the battle of Sempach, in 1368, and again at Basel, in 1499 , the Habsburg recognised the independence of the Swiss Confederation. Yet because of the Habsburg ambitions , a kind of alliance between the Swiss and the kings of France, was concluded , or rather a tacit and soft French trusteeship was accepted by the Swiss . The professional mercenary units to defend the French kings were Swiss , la Garde suisse , who , numbering 6000 soldiers, defended to death King Louis XVI under the French Revolution. The Swiss Guard for the defence of the Roman Pope and the Vatican state is recruited in the Swiss catholic cantons, especially Luzern.

Napoleon had a special interest in Switzerland. In January 1798 , approached by Swiss intellectuals from Lausanne living in Paris, the French
Directoire (revolutionary government), ordered French troops to liberate the Swiss city from occupation by Bern . Lausanne was made capital of the agricultural area centred on it , which was called by the French République lémanique for a while, future canton of Vaud . The French troops conquered Bern itself, capital of the Confederation . After consultation between Swiss delegates , at Paris, and the French Directoire, the name of Swiss Confederation was changed into République helvétique . That was followed by a revolt in central Switzerland , against the change, which was crushed by French troops . In June 1800 , Napoleon , not yet proclaimed Emperor , but already First Consul of France and a prominent general , crossed the Swiss Alps at the path of Saint-Gothard , and defeated the Austrian army at Marengo , in Italy . In 1801 , Austria resigned to recognise the independence of the Helvetic Republic . That was followed by a civil war in Switzerland , between partisans of the former order of Confederation and those of the new and unitary republic. In 1803 , after consultation with Swiss delegates , at Paris , Napoleon restored the Swiss unity by l’Acte de médiation , signed by himself . The ideas of the French Revolution spread over Europe, Switzerland included, thanks to Napoleon I. After his fall, the Helvetic Republic was to become again a Confederation in 1815 , and its neutrality internationally recognised, at the Vienna Congress.

The Swiss Confederation became a federation only in 1848 , according to a Constitution in which the cantons , formerly allied independent states , transferred part of their sovereignty to the federal state . The name of
Confederatio Helvetica was however kept for historical reasons . Before 1848, decisions by the Confederation were taken unanimously by the cantons , but in the federal state , they are taken by a majority of citizens, on one hand, and a majority of cantons, on the other hand . There is , in Switzerland , a federal government , a federal bicameral parliament , constituted of a National Council , elected by the citizens , and a Council of States (somehow a senate) , where the cantons are represented, beside a Federal Court of Justice . Each canton has its own constitution , parliament, government , and a higher court of justice.

Today’s Switzerland is constituted of 23 cantons , or federate states , three of which (Unterwalden, Appenzell, and Basel) being divided into two half-cantons , for historical reasons. The last and 23rd canton, that of Jura, French-speaking , was separated from the canton of Bern only in 1978 , after a long political (and not linguistic) quarrel, and a referendum by the local people . With 23 cantons and 3 main national languages , each spoken in its own geographical area , it is evident that the cantons were not established on a linguistic basis , but differently, according to historical circumstances. This is the case of Switzerland itself . Geographically speaking , there is, however , a demarcation line between the three linguistic areas. Yet Switzerland is not constituted of three federate “national states”, one for each linguistic area. There are six contiguous cantons where French is spoken, of which four using only French as official language : Geneva, Vaud-Lausanne, Neuchâtel , and Jura , while in two other cantons , Fribourg, and Valais , French is the official language in the largest part of their area. There is one canton speaking Italian , Ticino , and 16 adjoining cantons in which German is the official language . The few cantons which are at horseback on the linguistic demarcation line , do not speak any peculiar mixture of French and German , but have areas for each language , a peaceful and tolerant geographical and linguistic neighbourhood . That is the distinctive mark of today’s Switzerland.

Three cantons are at horseback on the linguistic demarcation line : Fribourg , Valais , and still Bern , the second largest in the country. The largest part of the canton of Fribourg, and the capital-city itself, speak French , while in about one third of the canton , close to Bern on the East , German is spoken . There is no problem at all between the two linguistic areas of the canton . The university of Fribourg, belonging to the canton, has two parallel sections, one teaching in French and the other in German . Students are free to choose the language they prefer . Actually the professors’ body and most of the students know both languages , while the city inhabitants speak French in daily life .

In the western part of Valais , including the canton’s capital, Sion, French is used , while in the eastern part , called Upper Valais , German is spoken . Here too , there is no problem between the two linguistic communities to live side by side , each in its own area , and to run together the canton . There is no a
‘Community’ system as we have seen it in federal Belgium . German-speaking highlanders from Upper Valais can come and settle in Sion , as some do it ; their descendants would become French speakers , but this does not much matter in Switzerland . If we open the phone book of Lausanne , a city whose official and daily life language is French , and is the geographical centre of Romandie , we shall see that about 25 % of its inhabitants bear Germanic family names (if not Italian , Spanish, Portuguese, Arab, and others): their fathers had no doubt established there coming from Bern and other German-speaking places . To live in Lausanne , overlooking lake Léman (called Geneva lake in English) and having in sight the Alps of Savoie (Savoy), at the French coast of the lake, has been attractive over centuries for people from Bern and other linguistically Germanic places .

‘Their Excellency’
the Zähringen lords of Bern were warlike people in the Middle Age . Already prior to the Grütli Oath of 1291 , they extended their domination on French-speaking districts and counties in the Jura mountain range, between the Burgond duchy (Bourgogne) of France and what was to become Switzerland . Apparently German-speaking people from Bern established in some Jurassic counties , to the north of Neuchâtel, thus creating a small Germanic speaking island making a rupture within the French-speaking Jurassic area in Switzerland, which runs from Geneva to the south of Basel. In the referendum which led to the creation of the French-speaking canton of Jura , in 1978 , separated from Bern , with Delemont as capital, some Jurassic French-speaking counties preferred to stay within the canton of Bern , because of historical reasons . These counties have their own administration, municipalities , education and mass media in the French language . Their representatives at the parliament and in the government of canton of Bern , speak French, not German . They have no problem with the overwhelming Germanic majority of the canton . Their long political quarrel with their linguistic brethern who created the separate canton of Jura , was brought to an end , and replaced by co-operation.

The city of Bienne , a French name , called Biel in German , at the foothill of Jura , to the north of Neuchâtel , still belongs to the canton of Bern . It is perhaps a remnant of the old settlement by Germanic elements from Bern , a heritage of the medieval Zähringen. It has , nowadays , a mixed population, one French-speaking group and another German-speaking, two linguistic
communities , but not exactly in the Belgian federal understanding of the term . There is no an urban topographic segregation between them, but each group has its own mass media and educational institutions , in its own language. They however run together their city . There is one municipal council , at which both languages are used, and understood by all . There is not only tolerance , but mutual acceptance and union , and this makes some difference with the Belgian Community institution.

The case of Bienne/Biel is a special one , it is different from the case of the French-speaking Jurassic counties to the north, between the district of Bienne and the German-speaking canton of Basel , which in the referendum of 1978 did not want to join the canton of Jura, but preferred to remain within the canton of Bern . These , as said above , continue to use only French as official language in their counties , within an overwhelmingly German-speaking canton, while Bienne , within the same canton, is a mixed city , with two linguistic communities.

The example of Bienne/Biel could be perhaps a model to be adopted by such a multicultural city as Istanbul. Could we imagine the 3,5 million Kurds or so of the Bosphorus metropolis having their own municipal , or private, educational institutions teaching officially in Kurdish , and being elected as Kurds using their own language at the city municipality ? Could we imagine Kurdish made the first official language in Turkish Kurdistan , and officially used by Kurdish MPs at the parliament of Turkey ?

There is of course democracy , mutual acceptance and tolerance in federal Switzerland , but Abdullah Ocalan completely misunderstands the Swiss example . To conclude , we have in Switzerland four
national languages , three of which being the official languages of the state , each of the four languages having its own territorial area . Politically speaking , federal Switzerland is constituted of 23 cantons or federate states, twenty of which being unilingual , using either German or French as the official language , while in three other cantons we have a territorial juxtaposition of the two main languages, French being the official language in one part of the canton, and German in the other part. In Switzerland, beside the Swiss state flag , each canton, each town, each village , each county , has its own flag and emblem , without the least opposition between the national , cantonal , local , or village flags and emblems . In Ocalan’s Democratic Turkey , can there be , beside the state emblem, a national flag of Kurdistan ? Can there be a Kurdish football or rugby national team , as there are , in the United Kingdom, English, Scotch, Welsh and North-Irish national teams , competing between themselves or with teams representing other countries ? Can there be a Bank of Kurdistan , as each Swiss Canton has its own Cantonal Bank , beside the Swiss National (Federal) Bank ?

USSR and Russia :

At perhaps a hundred places in his book , Ocalan repeats severe and undue criticism against the “established socialism” , meaning the USSR , to have endowed the countless nationalities of the Union with political and territorial entities - Soviet Socialist Republics, Autonomous Regions, or National Districts, according to their size . In some cases the Communist Party of the USSR endowed with such entities nomadic populations having no written language and helped them to create a ‘national culture’ as to the form and language , said ‘internationalist’ on the ideological ground.

Globally speaking , that was one of the few positive achievements of the USSR . Ocalan’s criticism with this respect is obviously meant to the good understanding of the Turkish government. Turkey does not have to worry about the issue. He himself , the undisputed leader of the Kurdish people , not only does not care about endowing the 21 or 22-million Kurds in Turkey with a national political entity, a federate state or a regional autonomy, but he openly says the vanity of such an aim . Is it to win the favour of the Turkish government ? He says to be
‘open’ to discuss with Turkey , in the name of the Kurdish people, but contrary to their aspirations, about a “moderate and feasible solution” , based on what he calls a “scientific democracy , and modern human rights of individuals . We know however that individual freedoms , as important as they could be , are inadequate to further a solution to the Kurdish national question in Turkey.

To come back to the Kurdish situation in the USSR , Kurdish was recognised as one of the 130
national languages of the Soviet Union . In 1923 , under Lenin and according to his will , a Kurdish Autonomous Region was created in Transcaucasia, in the area centred on the city of Lachin, 5'000 sq.km inhabited by a Kurdish majority. This area was one of the regions of Transcaucasia where a Kurdish dynasty , the Shaddadids , were ruling in full sovereignty in the Middle Age (10th –13th cent.). An autonomous region must be placed within the framework of a state . The Kurdish Autonomous Region of Lachin was disputed between the SSR of Armenia and Azerbaijan . After the death of Lenin, in 1924 , Stalin placed it within Azerbaijan .

The Soviet Kurds called their autonomous region Kurdistana Sor , meaning “Red Kurdistan” in Kurdish . The regional government opened Kurdish schools and published a paper called Soviet Kurdistan . In 1929 , under Stalin, the government of Soviet Azerbaijan abolished the Kurdish regional autonomy and began a policy of forced assimilation against the Kurds , in the same way as Turkey was doing it at the same time . Besides, the Azeris used Islam as means of assimilation . In 1937 , and in 1944, when at this year Hitler’s German armies still represented a danger for Ukraine, Stalin deported thousands of hundreds people belonging to different nationalities , including Tatars of Crimea , Kurds of Transcaucasia , Chechens , and othes , into Central Asia – many Kurds into Siberia . One of them was a known Kurdish and communist writer, Ereb Shemo , who had published books for the glory of the “Soviet homeland”. After the death of Stalin in 1953 , many of the deportees returned home , but many others remained in their exile land . So have we , nowadays, scattered Kurdish communities , of villages or city dwellers, in eight former Soviet Republics , Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan , Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan , Kirghizia and Tajikstan , beside the Russian Federation (including Siberia) . Nobody can tell exactly how many they are , possibly about 600 thousand people altogether , perhaps more , without counting those who have been assimilated in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan . According to the Russian census of population of 1899 , the first carried out on the basis of mother tongue , the Kurds of Transcaucasia numbered 99'900 people (Turkmenistan , with an older Kurdish settlement already partially assimilated, being excluded) . According to this census, the Kurds in Transcaucasia were more numerous than the Kabardin, the Abkhaz, the Tates, the Circassians, etc. , coming just after the Ossetians . Since 1899, the population in the area has been multiplied by more than ten, perhaps fifteen , to the exception of those who were to suffer under Stalin .

The most important number of Kurds living today in what was the USSR, are those of the Russian Federation (estimated at nearly 300'000 people, for the most coming from other republics) , and those of Kazakhstan (reportedly some 100'000 people) . Their problem is to be scattered everywhere across a continent , not to have a land where they could enjoy self-government, keep their culture , and for many, to suffer unemployment .

The implosion process of the USSR , because of the
glasnost (transparency) and perestroika (reform) policy of Gorbachev , presented a potential danger for the safety of these scattered Kurdish communities . The Soviet central power represented for them a kind of guarantee face to ascending, nationalist, peripheral, and centrifugal forces. In July 1990 a conference was held at the Marxist-Leninist Institute of Moscow , on “The Kurds of the Soviet Union : Past and Present” , attended by 600 or so Kurdish delegates from different Soviet republics , representatives of the Communist Party of the USSR and the Soviet government , as well as invited Kurdish guests from Kurdistan and Western Europe. I was one of these guests .

The final resolution of the conference was not submitted to discussion by the steering committee , probably for approval by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the USSR . The English text, as prepared by the steering committee after consultation , was sent to me by Russian Kurds at Moscow who had participated in the conference and were working as a liaison centre between the different Soviet Kurdish communities . It is an important resolution . Here are the most significant paragraphs . The resolution mentions “the flagrant perversion of the national policy under Stalin in the period of stagnation with reference to the Kurdish people, namely , the dissolution in 1929 of the autonomous region of Kurdistan , the forced assimilation of the Kurds, the deportations of 1937 and 1944 , the closing of Kurdish schools and publishing houses and the falsification of population figures.” It stressed the needs to develop publishing and broadcasting in Kurdish , to overcome the obstacles to the teaching of the Kurdish language and literature . It pointed to a de facto deterioration of the position of the Soviet Kurds , and to “the almost complete absence of cultural relations between Kurds in the USSR and those resident in other countries.” The steering committee therefore urged that Kurdish publications, using the Roman-based alphabet of non-Soviet Kurds , should be established in the USSR , to facilitate inter-Kurdish cultural communication.

“The conference steering committee also noted the growing interest of the Soviet Kurds in the Kurdish people abroad and their struggle for self-determination, and asked the USSR to bring the Kurdish question on the agenda of the United Nations.”

Concretely , in conclusion , “the resolution urged the setting up of a Kurdish Federal Association to include representatives from all the Soviet republics concerned , together with a Kurdish Cultural Centre in Moscow , to include a publishing house , as a prelude to the establishment of an
Autonomous Kurdistan in a suitable area within the USSR.” (end of the resolution .)

The SSR of Azerbaijan proposed that an “Autonomous Kurdistan” be recreated on its territory but at another place ; the Kurds refused, being attached to their old territory of Lachin (this was reported to me during the conference) . After the disintegration of the USSR , under Gorbachev , and the independence of the formerly Soviet Republics in Central Asia and Transcaucasia , thanks to regional nationalism and regional interests, the previously autonomous region of “Red Kurdistan” was conquered , in 1992, by Armeni
a on Azerbaijan . The Kurds who were still there fled away to Russia and Azerbaijan.

In 2000 the Russian Federation granted its own Kurds the official status of
Federal Cultural Autonomy , usually recognised to national groups representing nowhere a territorial majority . Beside the Kurds , this status was recognised to the Ukrainian community, the Germans of the Volga, the Jews, and some other nationalities . The original homeland of all the Kurds is Kurdistan , but not Russia or what the Russians call Transcaucasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) . The Russian Federation cannot do more for its Kurds than granting them such a status . But while the Germans of the Volga obtained money from the German Federal Republic to return back home (many did it , but they did not succeed integration in the German society), there is no an independent Kurdistan to be financially helpful for the Russian Kurds ,

or where these could be repatriated. NEXT PAGE

On the ‘Democratic Civilisation’--1