Thousands listened to Öcalan's message Thursday in Diyarbakir waving PKK flags and portraits of Öcalan. The Turkish prime minister Erdoğan and president Gül criticized the absence of Turkish flags. (Photo AP)
The leader of the the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, Murat Karayılan, has ordered the group's militants to halt their actions, Doğan news agency has reported. However, he did not mention any "withdrawal" in a message he broadcast to militants via walkie-talkie.
The jailed leader of PKK Abdullah Öcalan declared a ceasefire on Thursday and called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish soil, indicating that these moves would mark a milestone for “a new era” and herald the building of a “new Turkey.”
“Today a new era is beginning. A door has been opened from armed struggle to democratic struggle,” he said in the message, which was read out by a Kurdisdh parlementariran to more than a million people who had gathered in Diyarbakır to celebrate Newruz, the Kurdish New Year .
On Friday also president Abdullah Gül and other politicans criticized the absence of Turkish flags. and said this 'sent the wrong message'. Gül called it a big mistake. Kurdish politicians said that at Newruz celebrations like this one never before Turkish flags had been flown. They said that it was more important to pa attention to tye contant of Öcalan's message.
Öcalan's announcement follows months of talks with Turkish intelligence officers and Kurdish politicians on a prison on İmrali Island in the Marmara Sea where he has been held since his capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya in 1999. It is expected to cement peace talks with the Turkish government that have been edging forward since October. The PKK launched its campaign in 1984, demanding an independent Kurdish state in the Southeast of Turkey. In recent years it has moderated its demands and now asks political autonomy and broader cultural rights in an area where the Kurdish language has long been formally banned.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict with the PKK so far. Over the past years, Turkey has taken steps to expand the cultural and political rights of the Kurds, who have suffered much from the Turkish state's harsh policies.