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Turkey Feature: PKK Leader Ocalan, Moving Towards Peace, Calls on Fighters to Leave Country (Hurriyet)

PM Erdogan & PKK head OcalanThree days after EA's Ali Yenidunya wrote of the growing possibility of a deal between insurgent PKK leader Abdollah Ocalan and the Erdogan Government, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reports:

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has called on armed militants to leave Turkish soil in a historic message read out by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Pervin Buldan and Sırrı Süreyya Önder in Kurdish and Turkish.

“We are at a point today that guns will be silenced and thoughts will speak. It is time for armed elements to move outside [Turkey’s] borders. This is not an ending but a new beginning,” said Öcalan’s message.

The jailed PKK leader's message came amid an ongoing peace process initiated by the Turkish government to end a three-decade-old conflict with the outlawed group.

 “Our fight has not been against any race, religion or groups. Our fight has been against all kinds of pressure and oppression. Today we are waking up to a new Middle East, new Turkey and a new future,” he said.

“Today a new era is beginning. A door has been opened from armed struggle to democratic struggle,” he said in his message that was addressed to more than a million people gathered in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır to celebrate Nevruz [Turkish New Year].

“The Middle East and Middle Asia are looking for a new order. A new model is a necessity, like bread and water,” the message said.

“It is time for unity. Turks and Kurds fought together in Çanakkale [during World War I], and launched the Turkish Parliament together in 1920,” said the message.

“Despite all the mistakes done in the past 90 years, we are trying to build a model that embraces all oppressed people, classes and cultures,” the message continued, saying that the people of the Middle East are trying to be reborn through their roots, as they are tired of all the wars and conflicts.

“The basis of the new struggle is ideas, ideology and democratic politics,” said Öcalan’s message.

"I call on everyone to build democratic modernism to escape these pressures which are clearly against history and brotherhood," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Diyarbakır’s Nevruz Park in the early hours of the morning to celebrate Nevruz in the heightened anticipation of a historic message from Öcalan over the continuing peace process.

The park was decked out with posters of Öcalan; flags of the PKK; flags of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban wing of the PKK; and the flag of the first ever independent Kurdish state --- the Republic of Mahabad --- which is also used by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

Free transportation was provided to those who wished to reach Nevruz Park, while all accommodation in the southeastern province was filled up, prompting BDP officials to call on local residents to open their homes to incoming guests.

Over 500 reporters, including 100 foreign correspondents, are currently present at the site. Photos of PKK leaders Ethem Karabulut and Şirin Cebe, both killed in recent operations, have been hung onto the walls of main platform for the event, as well as photos of inmates at the infamous Diyarbakır Military Prison No. 5 who set themselves on fire in protest at systematic prison torture during the early 1980s.

Organizers also hung photos of Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez, three female Kurdish activists who were murdered in Paris on Jan. 9, in the square. Also present are banners with the slogans in Kurdish “We are ready both for a resolution and resistance” and “We are ready to fight and to negotiate,” as well as the multilingual “For a democratic solution; freedom for Mr. Öcalan, official status for the Kurds.”

People wearing dresses in the traditional Kurdish colors of yellow, red and green poured onto streets beginning from the early hours in the morning to celebrate Nevruz. The main celebration area was totally full around 9 a.m. in the morning. Many people from neighboring provinces flocked to Diyarbakır for the celebrations. Unlike previous years, Nevruz is being celebrated only in Diyarbakır today. Celebrations in other cities were held over the past week.

Diyarbakır Police Chief Recep Güven called on police forces to conduct their duties within the bounds of the law with the aim of maintaining the peace of citizens. Around 5,000 private security officers assigned by the organizing committee – the Kurdish umbrella organization Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and the BDP – are providing security along with around 3,000 police officers. The number of police forces is less than previous years, observers have said, while police are not approaching the main area of the celebrations. No additional police forces were brought from outside Diyarbakır unlike previous years.

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