In A Long And Bloody War, A Potential Breakthrough | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

In A Long And Bloody War, A Potential Breakthrough

Kurdish rebels have been fighting for nearly three decades against Turkish forces in the southeast corner of that nation. But the most prominent rebel leader said from prison Thursday that it was time for a "new era" that includes an immediate cease-fire.

Abdullah Ocalan heads the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK. He was captured by Turkey in 1999 and has been imprisoned on an island off Istanbul.

"We have reached the point where the guns are not at the forefront," Ocalan said in a message relayed by his supporters in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's southeast, The Associated Press reported.

"A door is opening from the armed struggle toward the democratic struggle," he added. "This is not the end. This is a new start."

The rebel leader also said that the PKK fighters, estimated at around 4,000, should retreat and leave Turkey. The rebels often go back and forth across the border between southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

In the past, cease-fires have collapsed, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed a note of skepticism.

"I see [the call] as a positive development, but it is its implementation that is important," Erdogan said while on a visit to the Netherlands. "We need to see to what extent [the rebels] respond to it."

The PKK was originally seeking independence, but later called for autonomy and greater rights.

Tens of thousands of Turks have died in the fighting since the uprising began in 1984, with most of the casualties in the southeast, where the Kurds are concentrated. They make up about 15 million of Turkey's 75 million people and have long complained of discrimination.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Hollywood Pros Fear A Chilling Effect After Sony Bows To Hackers

Some in the entertainment industry are wondering if they'll have to be careful now about the stories they tell or the jokes they make in the wake of Sony's withdrawal of The Interview.
NPR

Antarctic Holiday: A Christmas Feast In The Loneliest Spot On Earth

For Dr. Gavin Francis, Christmas Eve marked the start of a year-long stay in an icy research base 8,700 miles from home. In this "empire of ice and isolation," he says, food is essential to morale.
NPR

North Korea Has An Interesting Offer. And Another Threat

The secretive regime denies any involvement with the Sony Pictures hack and says the U.S. must allow it to help find the real culprit. Or else.
NPR

Hollywood Pros Fear A Chilling Effect After Sony Bows To Hackers

Some in the entertainment industry are wondering if they'll have to be careful now about the stories they tell or the jokes they make in the wake of Sony's withdrawal of The Interview.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.