The Life Of The Leader

Abdullah Öcalan

Short Story Of The Life Of The Leader

Amara is one of the old villages of the Xelefti region of Riha. It is built on a plateau that slopes down towards the ruins of Hemurkesan and the Turkmen village of Aynoye. Some of their houses are made from mud-bricks, and some are made from natural stones; those who are well-off built their guestrooms out of white stones known as “hewar” brought from Riha. In recent times they have been made from cement. In the past those stone-workers were Armenians. The wide yards of every house were full of mulberry, walnut, pomegranate and fig trees and flowers. The roofs were covered by thick columns of poplar, and large logs called “stun” are placed under them to hold their weight. The mud-brick and stone houses are connected to teach other in a wide circle which forms the village of Amara.

During World War One, the grandfather of Abdullah Ocalan’s mother Uveysh, known as “Ali of Derika Hemko” emigrated from the city of Derika Hemko in Rojava; after living temporarily in different places he finally settled in the village of Amara. When Ali’s son Hamid grew up, he was married to Hewa. Leyla was Hewa’s mother, and the daughter of Ahmed Keya. Ahmed was a Turkmen from the village of Ereh.  Because he was a village chief, he took the name “Keya”. He had two homes. One of his wives was Armenian and the other Kurdish. Leyla’s mother was Armenian. In this region, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Armenians intermarried and became one. All of them became relatives of each other.

Leyla was famous for her beauty. She married a Kurd by the name of Hajji Ali who lived in Amara. They had a baby girl named Hewa. Hewa’s beauty was as famous as her mother’s. Hewa married with the man who came from Derika Hemko, and they had a girl named Uveysh who inherited Hewa and Leyla’s beauty.

Emer’s first marriage ended in divorce. They eight sons who all died, and their ninth child was a daughter. They named her “Gulsum”, which means “Let her always smile”. Unlike her brothers, she lived.

Uveysh’s first marriage ended after only a month, when her husband died after a short time in prison.



Emer and Uveysh were legally married before the start of World War One. There were almost twenty years between them. Emer was a simple and trustworthy person. The family depended on a son to keep the family going. He begged the patience of the prophet Job to give him a son. Then his father Abdullah Jendirme grew old and was alone. In order to forget his loneliness, he would go to the mountains and scream and cry out; in this way he mastered his anger.

Emer and Uveysh’s first four children were daughters. Two of them died, and Hewa and Eyne lived.

On the spring night of April 4th, 1949, amid thunder and lightning, rain and hail, Uveysh suffered in a small stone house with two windows. Her fifth child was a son. The morning sunrise which broke through the storm colored the spring day and warmed the earth of Amara. Emer, to fulfill the promise he made to God for giving him a son, sacrificed an animal. He fired three bullets into the endless blue sky with his father’s pistol. He whispered three times into the ears of his newborn child. They named him Abdullah, which means “servant of God”.

Emer’s father, after the birth of Abdullah, gave his first order to the members of the household. They said, “Abdullah’s back must never touch the earth”. This saying had two meanings. The first was that Emer’s father saw the future of the family in Abdullah, and for this they must take care of this child. The second was that because Emer’s father was weak and lived alone, he wanted a strong son, i.e. strong enough that no one could ever knock him to the ground.

Until the age of eight, Abdullah lived with children his same age in the village. The villagers called him “dine cole”, because, like Dionysus, he took the village children with him into the wilderness. He gathered the fruits of the wild and shared them with his friends. He killed every dangerous snake he saw. Every day he took the children to play games, and took them to the Ayno spring to go swimming.

Though he had still not started school, he suddenly had a thirst for knowledge. He brought a group of children with him to be educated by the mullah of the mosque named Muslim. Muslim read and explained the war story of the prophet Ali. He taught them to memorize the parts of the Quran. These children of seven or eight years memorized 33 chapters of the Quran. He became the mullah of the children and sat with the mullah on his mattress. The mullah said to him, “if you continue in this way, you will fly”. Abdullah began to help Emer in the fields and gardens and understood hard work from his childhood. In order to protect his labor, he fought with his brother. When his brother hid behind his father, he made a decision to start his first uprising. He took ten lira from his father’s pocket and left the village. He went to stay with his sister in Belkis. There, for a daily wage of five lira, he worked for two days sewing sacks for lentils. After this he returned home and returned the money he took from his father.



Jibin (Cibîn) was an old Armenian village five kilometers south of Amara. In the genocide of 1915, all the people of the village were murdered and their bodies were thrown in the Euphrates River. 35 girls in the village were given to Muslim families and were saved from the massacre. These Armenian girls were assimilated and made into Muslims, and grew up and were married in the village. These girls were all that remained of the Armenian village. Churches were turned into mosques. Cibîn was the first village in the region to have an elementary school. In accordance with Abdullah’s wishes, in 1958 his father took him and his friend to Cibîn to register at the elementary school. He was the first child in Amara to go to school. His childhood was surrounded by the evidence of the Armenian Genocide. Cisterns, tanks and houses that had been built into the rocks and Armenian built-churches turned into mosques still stood. 

In about 5 years, ignoring the winter, snow, hail and rain, under harsh conditions they walked 5 kilometers to the school in Cibîn. In the second year, some other students joined them, and from then on they came and went to school as a group. Abdullah simultaneously helped his father at home and went to school. He studied by candlelight. When he was in third grade, his teacher respectfully asked him, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Abdullah immediately stood and replied, “I am going to be a pilot.” He successfully finished elementary school.



He finished elementary school. There were no middle schools he could attend in the surrounding villages. His family debated and evaluated the situation amongst themselves and made a decision. He would go to Belkîs with his sister and study there. For three years, he studied in Belkîs with the same friends he went to elementary school with. During summer breaks, he would help his father in the fields. For two years, he went to Adana to pick cotton with his family. Then he finished middle school. The thought of being a pilot was still on his mind. He took an entrance exam for military school. He passed the exam, but the school denied him because he was too old.


1966 – The school at Tapu Kadastro

His family’s economic situation was bad. Abdullah thought of working for a short time so he would not be a burden on his family. He graduated from the Tapu Kadastro school in Ankara with the same friends he attended elementary and middle school with. He was searching for something in this time. Ankara was the capital of colonialist politics. He was deeply angry when he first saw the statue of Ataturk in Ulus Square. For the first time, he saw the political reality of the Kurds. He deepened his relationship with religion. He attended the panels and seminars of Nejip Fazil Kisakurek. However, socialism stood in front of him as an option. After he read the book The Socialist Alphabet, he said “Muhammed lost, Marx won”.

He passed school with flying colored and found work as a clerk in Amed. Amed was the capital of the Kurdish people, and was important in Abdullah’s life in terms of showing him the reality of the Kurds. Thereafter, he reflected on the reality of Kurds and Kurdistan. He entered a dialogue with Kurdish students studying at the Erxeni Teacher’s school. He always supported them, and they were an appealing political center from then on. During his work as a clerk in Tapu Kadastro, he took some money as bribes, but never touched this money. He hid it away for an organization he was planning to create. The reality of Kurds and Kurdistan was always a blueprint in his mind.

After a year working as a clerk, He took an entrance exam for university. In 1971 he was accepted to the Law Department in Istanbul and registered there. But his search continued. In 1972 he entered the Political Science Department in Ankara. There, the militant actions and executions of Mahîr Çayan and Denîz Gezmîş affected him. He increased his political work and pioneered an protest against their hangings. He was arrested the same year and imprisoned for nine months in Mamak military prison. When he got out, he had nowhere to stay. On the suggestion and wishes of his friends from prison, he went to the house of Kemal Pir and Haki Karer, two young men from the Black Sea region who were studying in Ankara. The friendship that began in this home quickly turned to thoughts of politics and a collective organization. In the style of children of Mesopotamia and Anatolia, they formed the collective base for the people’s revolution.

In 1973, under a tree near the Çubuk dam in Ankara, they held their first meeting to build a Kurdish organization. But unfortunately, this experiment to build a group was not very successful. Except Ali Haydar Kaytan, the other people who joined the meeting were still estranged from the group initially.

In 1974, Abdullah Ocalan founded the student group “Ankara Democratic Higher Education Student Association” (ADYÖD) and led it for a period of time. However, as the result of much debate, many different inclinations arose and the group, which had been an umbrella group for all the leftist youth, fragmented.

This was a time of research and ideological investigation. Abdullah Ocalan says, “I became anxious when I first spoke about the colonizers”. The state was watching him, but did not really know that he was up to. For this, they sent the pilot Nejati to the group as a spy. In 1976, they held a meeting with the new group Dikmen in Ankara. Hayrî Dûrmûş wrote down their initial political program. Ocalan’s comrades Haki Karer, Kemal Pir, Cemil Bayik, Mehmet Hayrî Dûrmûş, Mazlum Dogan, Duran Kalkan, and Ali Haydar Kaytan were in this group.

After much discussion, the “Return to the Homeland” decision was made. This decision was huge and historic according to the conditions of the time. In this way, the members of the group that had been organized in Ankara quit school and began to work under the name “Kurdistan Revolutionaries” in order to begin the Kurdistan revolution. This group began as a new leftist group, but it did not publish magazines or form an association. It was an illegal group; however, it did not use weapons in its work. It organized itself among the youth all over the homeland. It built youth centers in many cities.

In April 1977, Abdullah Ocalan began to hold many meetings he called “Journey to Kurdistan”. The meeting began in Bazid in Serhed and ended on May 12th, 1977 in Dilok. Many attended the meeting in Dilok. Haki Karer ran the work there. After finishing “Journey to Kurdistan”, Abdullah Ocalan returned to Ankara.

The government took notice, and organized an agency called “Red Star” in order to create provocations. MİT (Turkish National Intelligence Organization) member and manager of security forces in Adana Aladdin Kapan, who had entered leftist organizations as a spy, killed Haki Karer as the result of an argument in a coffeehouse.

Abdullah Ocalan said, “I was in Ankara. When I heard that Heqi was martyred, I was drinking tea. My hands shook and I spilled the tea on myself.” Blood had been spilled, and the group’s most important vanguard had been killed. “Haki was my hidden soul. When he was killed, I lost half of myself.”

He quickly went from Ankara to Dilok. Haki’s body was in the state hospital of Dilok. Because they did not surrender his body, Kemal Pir and many other members of the group immediately gathered and prepared to steal the body. Abdullah Ocalan intervened. He called Haki his brother and took his body from the hospital. They buried Haki in a funeral in the Ulubay neighborhood of Ordu; tens of thousands of people attended. Abdullah Ocalan said, “If his body was stolen, the group would have been finished. For this reason I intervened.”

First, Aladdin Kapan, who murdered Haki, was punished. Then, in memory of Haki, they made the decision to establish a party, and in this way, Hakki continued and enlarged the struggle.

On the 18th of May, 1978, the anniversary of Haki’s martyrdom, they remembered him across the homeland and made posters of him. In the poorest region of Kurdistan, Curnê Reş, around twenty youths under the leadership of Halîl Çavgûn gathered in Mustafa Kemal Elementary School outside the city and made a plan. Around midnight, a team of police officers and members of the Suleyman tribe attacked the meeting. During the fighting, Halîl Çavgûn cried out the slogan “Death to colonialists, long live independent Kurdistan” with his last breath. Because of this attack, the group made the decision to struggle militarily against feudalists and collaborators in Kurdistan. Heavy blows were dealt to the feudal tribalist gangs of Suleyman in Curnê Reş, to the Bucaks in Sêwiregê, to the Raman in Êlihê, and to the Oztopan in Wêranşarê.

On November 27th, 1978, in the village of Fis in the Lîcê district of Amed, as a result of complete and productive dialogues in the house of Aladdin Zogurlu, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) was established.

CHP was the authority in the country. After the events of Sewaz and Çorûmê, the Mereş massacre happened on December 24th. CHP used this as a pretext to declare its authority in many places.

            In May of 1979, the KRN-PKK member Şahîn Donmez was arrested and confessed everything under police interrogation. He informed police of Abdullah Ocalan’s location. On July 2nd, 1979, Abdullah Ocalan was saved from the police operation. From the roads of the Pirsus neighborhood of Riha, he was smuggled secretly into Kobane, in Syrian territory, with the guidance of Ethem Akçam. There, he entered relations with the Palestinian movement, made preparations, advanced diplomatic connections and opened a new field of work.

The struggle against feudal gangs and collaborators continued and expanded everywhere. With the aim of announcing the party to the world, on July 30th, 1979, under the supervision of Mehmet Karasungur, an action was organized against Turkish parliament member and Bucak tribal leader Mehmet Jalal Bucak in the village of Kirbaşi in Curnê Reş. However, this was not a successful action, and heroic revolutionary Salih Kandal was martyred in the fighting.

Under the harsh management of the government, the movement suffered many losses and arrests in 1979. When the state advanced propaganda claiming, “We finished them”, PKK began actions against police torturers everywhere, known as “the Red Week of April”. In the course of a week, dozens of these police were punished. In 1979, because of their excessive losses, PKK made the tactical decision to stop is activities temporarily. Abdullah Ocalan called the first group under the authority of Kemal Pir to Palestine in order for their cadre to receive ideological, political and military training. After they were trained there they were sent back to the homeland.

In the resulting pressure and relentless government operations, many leadership cadre like Mazlum Dogan, Kemal Pir, Mehmet Hayrî Dûrmûş, and Ferhat Kurtay were arrested and imprisoned, along with thousands of other PKK cadre, supporters and sympathizers.

After this, on September 12th, the fascist junta generals who were under the supervision of Kenan Evren attacked them. As a result of this, Abdullah Ocalan called all of the party’s cadre to Palestine.

And the rest of the story is the unceasing fight for freedom and justice that continues until today…