Abdullah Öcalan and the Spirit of Newroz

Newroz is an ancient festival celebrated by many different peoples in the Middle East and different parts of Asia. For the Kurdish people, the first day of spring has important political meaning, as it symbolizes the day on which Kawa the Blacksmith is said to have defeated the tyrant kind Dehak (or Zehak). The heirs of Kawa are creating a revolution of peoples against the contemporary Dehaks today. The Diyarbakir prison uprising was launched on Newroz day in 1982, when Mazlum Dogan, one of the founding members of the PKK, set his cell on fire and hanged himself in protest, with the words: ‘Resistance is life!

On Newroz 2013, in front of 1 million people, Abdullah Öcalan’s words from his prison cell on Imrali Island were read out during the festival in Amed (Diyarbakir). The historic peace process brought upon a period of hope for peace and liberation. Reconciliation and truth were on the agenda in Northern Kurdistan and Turkey for two and a half years before the Turkish state re-escalated the war with the Kurdish freedom movement, partly in response to the increasing popular power of the movement and its victories in Rojava and beyond. In all of his Newroz greetings, he placed particular emphasis on the struggles of women and youth for democracy and freedom in the Middle East. Below are two Newroz messages of Öcalan, one published at the beginning and one right before the collapse of the peace proces, both translated from Turkish by International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan”. The escalation of war meant that the Turkish state systematically silenced and isolated Öcalan, the undisputable leader of the Kurdish freedom movement and negotiator on behalf of the Kurds vis-à-vis the Turkish state. Since 2011, he had been unable to meet his lawyers and for many years after the collapse of the process, he was denied visits from his family members and political delegations.

Following the hunger strike resistance, started by Kurdish politician, women’s activist and former political prisoner Leyla Güven MP, Abdullah Öcalan’s isolation was broken to an extent. However, visits by his lawyers and family members continue to be arbitrarily undermined and banned. This, as many have pointed out, is a violation of his human rights and an obstacle to the possibility of peace.

In his latest statement, he pointed out the need to increase the struggle for justice and democracy. In his words, everything will depend on struggle. This is a clear call to not surrender our fate to the systems of oppression. The universal appeal of these words becomes clearer when we take a look at the rise of social movements, liberation struggles and climate justice activities around the world, which are above all lead by women and youth. 

In the spirit of Newroz, we encourage all freedom-loving peoples in Kurdistan, the Middle East and beyond, to join forces to demand the liberation of one of the most important revolutionaries of our time.

Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan!



I salute the people of the Middle East and Central Asia celebrating this awakening, revival and resurgence day of Newroz with extraordinary participation and unity…

I salute all the peoples celebrating Newroz, which is the daylight and turning point of a new era, with great enthusiasm and democratic tolerance…

I salute all the travellers on this grand path toward democratic rights, freedom and equality…

I salute you, the Kurdish people, living at the Zagros and Taurus mountain skirts and in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. I salute the Kurdish people, an ancient people, dwellers in the sacred lands of Mesopotamia and Anatolia, mother to all agricultural, village and urban civilizations….

Kurds have taken part in this several-thousand-year-old civilization in friendship and accord with diverse races, religions, creeds – we have all built it together. For Kurds, the Euphrates and Tigris are the siblings of Sakarya and Maritsa. Ararat and Judi are the friends of Kaçkars and Erciyes. Halay1 and Delilo2 are in the family of Horon3 and Zeybek4.

These grand civilizations, these coexisting communities have more recently been pitted against each other by political pressure, external interventions and group interests. The result has been the construction of systems that are not based upon rights, law, equality and freedom.

For the last two hundred years military conquests, western imperialist interventions, as well as repression and policies of denial have tried to submerge the Arabian, Turkic, Persian and Kurdish communities to the rule of nation states, its imaginary borders and artificial problems.

The era of exploitative regimes, repression and denial is over. The peoples of the Middle East and those of Central Asia are awakening. They are returning to their roots. They demand a halt to the blinding and seditious wars and conflicts against one another.

Those thousands, millions of people who are pouring into these arenas are burning with the passion of Newroz. They cry for peace and amity, and they are demanding a solution.

This struggle, which began as my own individual rebellion against the despair, ignorance and slavery into which I was born, has sought to create a new consciousness, a new understanding and a new spirit. Today I see that our efforts have reached a new level.

Our fight has not been and can never against any specific race, religion, sect, or group. Our fight has been against repression, ignorance and injustice, against enforced underdevelopment as well as against all forms of oppression.

Today we are awakening to a new Turkey and a new Middle East.

The youth who have welcomed my call, the eminent women who heeded my call, friends who have accepted my discourse and all people who can hear my voice:

Today a new era is beginning.

The period of armed struggle is ending, and the door is opening to democratic politics.
We are beginning a process focused on political, social and economic aspects; an understanding based on democratic rights, freedoms, and equality is growing.

We have sacrificed much of our lives for the Kurdish people, we paid a high price. None of these sacrifices, none of our struggles, were in vain. For as a consequence of them, the Kurdish people have attained once again their identity and their roots.

We have now reached the point of “silence the weapons and let the ideas and politics speak.” The modernist paradigm that has disregarded, excluded and denied us has been razed to the ground. Regardless of whether it be Turkish, Kurdish, Laz or Circassian – the blood spilled is flowing from a human being and from the bosom of this land.

Witnessed by the millions of people who heed my call, I say a new era is beginning; an era where politics gain prominence over weapons. We have now arrived at the stage of withdrawing our armed forces outside the borders.

I believe that all those who have believed in this cause and me are sensitive to the possible dangers of the process.

This is not an end, but a new beginning. This is not abandoning the struggle – we are initiating a different struggle.

The creation of geographies based on ethnicity and a single nation is an inhuman fabrication of modernity that denies our roots and our origins.

A great responsibility falls on all of us to create an equal, free and democratic country of all peoples and cultures, befitting the history of Kurdistan and Anatolia. On this occasion of Newroz, I call on the Armenians, Turkomans, Assyrians, Arabs and all other peoples just as much as on the Kurds to behold the flame of freedom and equality – the fire that is lit here today – and embrace it as their own.

Distinguished people of Turkey;

The Turkish people who live in what is called Turkey today – the ancient Anatolia – should recognise that their common life with the Kurds, under the flag of Islam, rests on the principles of amity and solidarity. The rules of amity has and should have no room for conquest, denial, rejection, forced assimilation, or annihilation.

The last century’s repressive, annihilationist, and assimilationist policies, based on capitalist modernity, represent the efforts of a ruling elite to deny a long history of amity. They do not represent the will of the people. It is now very clear that this grip of tyranny contradicts both history and rules of amity. In order to be able to leave that lamentable past behind, I call on the two strategic powers of the Middle East to build a democratic modernity befitting our culture and civilization.

The time has come for dispute, conflict, and enmity to yield to alliance, unity, blessings, and a mutual embrace.

The Turks and Kurds who fell as martyrs together at Çanakkale also went through the War of Independence together, and together they opened the 1920 assembly.

Our common past is a reality that requires us to create a common future. Today the spirit that established the Turkish Grand Assembly leads the way to the new era.

I call on all oppressed peoples; on women, who are the most long-standing colonized and subjugated class; on all marginalized and excluded creeds, cults, and cultures; on the working class and all subordinated classes; on everyone who has been excluded from the system to take their rightful position in Democratic Modernity and to attain its mentality.

The Middle East and Central Asia are searching for a contemporary modernity and a democratic order that befits their own history. A new model in which all can coexist peacefully and amicably has become an objective need like the need for bread and water. Inevitably, again, the geography and culture of Anatolia and Mesopotamia are guiding it to build such a model.

We are experiencing a more current, more complicated, and more profound version of the War of Independence that developed in the framework of the [1920] National Pact.

Despite all the mistakes, setbacks, and failures of the past ninety years, we are once again trying to build a model with all the peoples, classes, and cultures who have been victims and have suffered through terrible disasters. I call on all of you to step forward and help achieve an egalitarian, free, and democratic social organization.

I call on the Kurds, Turkoman, Assyrians and Arabs who were separated despite the National Pact and today have been condemned to live under grave problems and in conflict with one another within the Syrian and Iraqi Arab Republic to begin discussions, and re-asses as well as to take decisions on their present reality in a “National Solidarity and Peace Conference”.

The breadth and comprehensiveness of the “WE” concept has an important place within the history of this land. But in the hands of the narrow and ruling elitists, “WE” has been reduced to “ONE.” It is time to give the “WE” concept its old spirit and to implement it.

We shall unite against those who want to divide and make us fight one another. We shall join together against those who want to separate us.

Those who cannot understand the spirit of the age will end up in the dustbin of history. Those who resist the current will fall into the abyss.

The peoples of the region are witnessing a new dawn. The peoples of the Middle East are weary of enmity, conflict, and war. They want to be reborn from their own roots and to stand shoulder to shoulder.

This Newroz is a beacon to us all.

The truths in the messages of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed are being implemented in our lives today with new tidings. People are trying to regain what they have lost.

We do not deny the values of the contemporary civilisation of the West in whole. We indeed take the values of enlightenment, equality, freedom and democracy, and in order to implement them we synthesise them with our own existential values and lifeways.

The basis of the new struggle is thoughts, ideology and democratic politics, and to be able to start a great democratic leap forward.

Greetings to all those who have contributed to this process and strengthened it, and to all to those who have supported the peaceful democratic solution!

I salute all those who take responsibility for the amicable, equal and democratic freedom of peoples!

Long live Newroz, long live the amity of peoples!

Imrali Prison 21 March 2013

Abdullah ÖCALAN


[1] Anatolian folk dance

[2] Kurdish folk dance

[3] Black Sea folk dance

[4] Central and Southern Anatolian folk dance


I am greeting the Newroz of all our people and friends who take the side of peace, equality, freedom, and democracy.

The crisis which is caused by neoliberal policies imposed on the whole world by imperialist capitalism and its despotic local collaborator takes effect on our region and country. In this crisis environment, the ethnic and religious differences of our people and cultures are being eliminated by meaningless and brutal identity wars. Neither our historical and modern values, nor our conscientious and our political values can remain silent or be indifferent to this political landscape. On the contrary, [making] an urgent intervention is in line with our religious, political and moral responsibility.

Our struggle for democracy, freedom, fraternity and honorable peace of our country’s people is now at an historical point. This struggle of our painful forty-year-long movement did not amount to nothing, but is now at the stage where it cannot be maintained in the same manner. History and our people demand a democratic solution and peace which is proper for the soul of our time. From this position, we are faced with a mission to start a new process on the basis of ten articles which were officially declared in the historical Dolmabahçe Palace.

With the declared agreement on principles, I see it as an historical necessity to hold a congress to stop the armed struggle that has been waged by the PKK against the Turkish Republic for nearly 40 years, and to establish the societal strategies and tactics that are suitable for the new period. I hope that we reach the agreement of principles in the shortest possible time, and after passing through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, composed of members of parliament and the Monitoring Delegation, we will successfully realise this congress. With this congress of ours, the new period starts. In this new period, we enter into a new process in the Turkish Republic, based on free and equal constitutional citizenship of a democratic society, with a democratic identity, living in peace and fraternity. In this way, to overcome the 90-year history of the Republic, which is full of conflicts, we walk into the future sewn with real peace and universal democratic criteria. The real history of Newroz is to greet this process in the presence of you all. However, the facts that are true for our country and our people, also need to be valid for our region full of sacredness. The reality of capitalist imperialism in general over the past two hundred, and especially the last one hundred years, is this: on the basis of nation-state nationalism ethnic and religious identities are introverted contrary to their essence and set against one another, that is, in accordance with the policy of divide and conquer to maintain its existence mercilessly until the present!

We should know that the last brutality of imperialist powers who do not give up their ambitions for the Middle East has emerged in the form of ISIS. This organisation that has pushed the meaning of barbarism to its limits, carried out massacres making no distinction between women and children; especially slaughtering Kurdish, Turcoman, Arabs, Ezidies, Assyrian/Syriac and all the peoples and beliefs of the region.

Today is the day of ending this brutal and destructive history and transitioning to peace, fraternity and democracy that is in accordance with our real past. In accordance with my belief and what I know to be true; that is, we need to overcome the nation-states that are born out of confrontational, consumptive and destructive nationalism through democratic politics and the imperative to make the transition to a partnership with open democratic identities. To this end, I call on the nation-states to realize a new type of democratic co-operation through democratic politics and to build the democratic common house of the Middle East among themselves.

Furthermore, today I call on the women and the youth, who beat their wings for freedom, and who constitute the overwhelming majority of this tremendous community gathered here, to take an active part and be successful in the economic, social, political and security spheres as well as in the struggle for freedom and equality. Additionally, I greet the resistance of and victory in Kobane, which has great meaning for our region and also for the international world. I greet the “Spirit of Eşme” that emerged on this basis and as the symbol of the new history between our peoples. These determinations that I have tried to identify above are a valuable call for the revision, restoration and rebuilding of our society in terms of its history and contemporary existence.

Again, I would like to greet this historic Newroz in your person with the hope that it will be instrumental for great deeds for all of humanity.

Long live Newroz.

Long live the fraternity of People.

Abdullah Öcalan, Newroz 2015