News You Really Need To See: “Ocalan Niece’s Swearing-In Ceremony Marks Milestone for Kurds”

“Ocalan Niece’s Swearing-In Ceremony Marks Milestone for Kurds”

Al Monitor, July 1, 2015

In 1991, iconic Kurdish activist Leyla Zana became the first Kurdish woman elected to Turkey’s parliament.  While taking the oath, she uttered a few Kurdish words that were to alter her life.  In the ensuing chain of events, Zana and several fellow Kurdish lawmakers were expelled from the legislature.  She had her parliamentary immunity revoked and found herself in prison for a decade.  The nationalistic uproar Zana caused in parliament was frequently evoked last week, when another remarkable Kurdish woman took her parliamentary oath. Dilek Ocalan — the niece of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — was among 80 members of the Kurdish-dominated Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who assumed their seats in the new parliament.  Ocalan’s sheer presence in the legislature comes as a striking illustration of how far the Kurdish struggle has progressed and transformed Turkey since the days Zana was booed for simply speaking in Kurdish.  Dilek Ocalan is the daughter of Fatma Ocalan, the sister of the PKK leader who’s serving a life sentence on the prison island of Imrali. … Dilek Ocalan’s election to parliament is a striking illustration of how Turkey’s Kurds are able to integrate into parliamentary politics after decades of denial, assimilation policies and political banishment.  The HDP’s breakthrough means that a major psychological threshold has been passed on the way to the PKK laying down arms and ultimate peace. The HDP demands freedom and a political role for Abdullah Ocalan.  It believes he could make a bigger contribution to peace between Ankara and the PKK with direct participation in politics rather than exerting influence via relatives, deputies or representatives.  The possibility of Ocalan making it to parliament one day seems highly unlikely.  Still, one should not forget that the possibility of an Ocalan niece in parliament seemed equally unlikely a decade ago.”

Quickie analysis:  Nice to see Turkey making progress on domestic inclusiveness.

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