PKK leader's brother supports Kurdistan Region referendum

"What the South [Kurdistan] is doing is good, right and democratic. I wholeheartedly support the referendum."

SANLIURFA, Turkey (Kurdistan24) - PKK leader's brother expressed his support for Kurdistan Region independence referendum in an interview with Kurdistan 24.

"There must be a place on the world map for the 50 million Kurds in the Middle East," Mehmet Ocalan, brother of the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, told Kurdistan 24.

He expressed his support for an upcoming referendum the Kurdistan Region announced to hold on independence from Iraq.

Speaking in his village of Amara in the Kurdish province of Sanliurfa in Turkey, Mehmet Ocalan said every Kurd should vote 'yes' in the referendum set to take place on September 25.

"What the South [Kurdistan] is doing is good, right and democratic. I wholeheartedly support the referendum," Ocalan said.

Although sometimes acting as an unofficial spokesperson for the PKK leader due to his access to the Imrali prison as his brother, Mehmet stated he could not speak on behalf of Abdullah Ocalan.

The PKK founder nicknamed 'Apo' is serving a life sentence in a Turkish island prison in the inland Sea of Marmara in northwestern Turkey since his capture in Kenya by the US-backed Turkish Intelligence in 1999.

He said there were obstacles facing the Kurdistan Region in term of its domestic politics, but what mattered in his opinion was the Kurdish unity in moments of decision.

"The Kurdish question in the Middle East cannot be solved without the Kurdish people's will," Ocalan further said.

He praised President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani's diplomatic efforts for the recognition of the referendum at an international level.

"I think [Barzani] is even late in acting for independence," Ocalan added.

He called on the Turkish government to respect any decision the people of the Kurdistan Region make, arguing Kurds did not pose a threat to Turkey.

Ankara declared its opposition to the decision by the Kurdish authorities, calling it a "grave mistake" and reiterating its stance of "one Iraq" policy.

Ocalan said the existence of a pre-state structure in the Kurdistan Region and its comparatively good relations with Turkey were the reasons Turks should not oppose any move toward independence.

All prominent Kurdish factions in Turkey, including the country's second largest opposition bloc Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), have announced that they back Kurdistan Region in any step it takes toward secession from Iraq.

The PKK, labeled a "terror group" by Turkey and its Western allies for fighting the Turkish troops over government repression of Kurdish rights, also has expressed support for the move.


Editing by Ava Homa

(Hesen Kako of Kurdistan 24's Diyarbakir Bureau interviewed Mehmet Ocalan in the village of Amara, Sanliurfa.)