Osman Öcalan

Kurdish military commander (1958–2021)

Osman Öcalan
Osman Öcalan (cropped).jpg
Born14 August 1958 (1958-08-14)
Ömerli, Şanlıurfa, Turkey
Died15 November 2021 (Aged 63)
in The Province Arbil, Iraq
  • Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (until 2004)
  • Patriotic Democratic Party (PWD)
Years of service1978–2004
RankMilitary commander in Iraqi Kurdistan
Battles/warsKurdish–Turkish conflict

Osman Öcalan (14 August 1958[1] - 15 November 2021) was a Turkish-Kurdish militant, politician, and ex-commander of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.


The younger brother of Abdullah Öcalan, Osman studied at teachers' training college before joining the PKK when it was founded in 1978 and spent two years in Libya.

Career with the PKK

He joined the central committee in 1986, and the executive committee in the 1990s, becoming virtually second in command of the PKK. But in 1992, after signing a truce with the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK,[2] he suffered disgrace and was jailed by the PKK.

"In June 1993, they removed all my powers", he told The Middle East in an interview. "I was isolated in a cell for three months and interrogated for 52 days before being tried in February 1995. The trial lasted only one day. I was warned that if I continued to defend my ideas, I would be executed. If not, I would be pardoned. A lawyer? Out of the question. The trial was conducted under the law of the mountain".[3]

In 1994, he left the PKK in order to marry a fellow PKK fighter. The PKK forbids relationships between its guerillas. He later rejoined the PKK. At the seventh congress of the PKK, he advocated for the PKK to lay down arms and change the PKK's name into People's Legitimate Defense Force.[4] Later he also suggested the PKK to lay down their arms in order to enable Turkey and the European Union to begin negotiations with the group.[5] In 2000 The Independent referred to him as a "senior commander" of the PKK when Medya TV, the underground Kurdish satellite television channel reported him as claiming that the Turkish authorities wanted his brother to die.[6]

In March 2003, in an interview with western journalists from his refuge in the Qandil mountains, he asserted "We will never allow ourselves to be disarmed as long as the Kurdish issue is not settled".[7]

Split from the PKK

He split away from the PKK again in August 2004 to form the Patriotic Democratic Party (Kurdish: Partîya Welatparêzên Demokratên; PWD) with Hikmet Fidan, after a lost power struggle with Murat Karayılan and Cemal Bayık.[8] But the PWD was short-lived, did not become an important party,[9] and after Fidan was assassinated in Diyarbakir in July 2005,[8] the PWD merged with the Democratic People's Party (DEHAP).

In November 2007, in an interview in Erbil, he claimed that the PKK were retreating from Iraq into Iran. He estimated the total strength of the PKK guerrillas at just under 7,000. "There are 2,750 fighters in Turkey", he said. "A further 2,500 are in the border areas of Iraq and 1,500 are in Iran ... In the last six months the PKK has started a war against Iran".[10] Speaking from his home in Koya in Iraqi Kurdistan, he claimed that Turkey was denying medical treatment to his brother Abdullah Ocalan and warned that suicide bombers would strike Turkish cities if he died in prison.[11][12] Today's Zaman, referring to him as a "former PKK leader", quoted him as saying "For 20 years I was part of the struggle; but because of ideological differences, I pulled out of it. Now I am with armed fighters who defend themselves, but am against the PKK".[13]

Ergenekon allegations

In August 2009, Hurriyet reported that Abdullah Öcalan had produced a 125-page petition in which he suggested that his brother Osman be investigated for his links to Ergenekon.[14]

TRT Kurdî interview

While evaluating the 2019 Istanbul mayoral elections for TRT Kurdî, Öcalan said, "Ekrem İmamoğlu did not give a serious message for the Kurds. He fled from the Kurds as much as he could and tried to keep himself independent from them. The CHP has no project for the Kurds" and "The CHP is not close to the Kurds... ...They did not take the Kurds seriously and did not even take them into account". With his statements, he implied that the Kurds would support Abdullah Öcalan.[15]

It was thought by the public and some news organizations that Öcalan was wanted with a red notice at the time of the TRT Kurdî's interview. However, it was later revealed that Öcalan was not officially wanted by Turkey nor Interpol.[16] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey, made a statement regarding the interview as "I don't know that Osman Öcalan is wanted with a red notice."[17]


Öcalan died from COVID-19 on 15 November 2021, in Erbil during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq. He was 63 years old.[18]


  1. ^ "Brother of PKK founder Osman Ocalan dies of coronavirus". www.rudaw.net. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Černy, Hannes (28 July 2017). Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK and International Relations: Theory and Ethnic Conflict. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 9781138676176.
  3. ^ "Kurdistan Turkey: PKK dissidents accuse Abdullah Ocalan". Middle East Magazine. July 2005. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  4. ^ Maddy-Weitzman, Bruce (2002). Middle East Contemporary Survey, Vol. 24, 2000. The Moshe Dayan Center. pp. 597–598. ISBN 978-965-224-054-5.
  5. ^ Maddy-Weitzman, Bruce (2002), p.598
  6. ^ Huggler, Justin (23 May 2000). "Turkey is accused of 'ignoring ill' Ocalan". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 August 2009.[dead link]
  7. ^ Strauss, Julius (8 March 2003). "Kurdish rebels ready to fight to the death for their cause". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  8. ^ a b Černy, Hannes (28 July 2017). Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK and International Relations: Theory and Ethnic Conflict. Routledge. p. 210. ISBN 9781138676176.
  9. ^ Jongerden, Joost (1 October 2017). "Gender equality and radical democracy: Contractions and conflicts in relation to the "new paradigm" within the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)". Anatoli. De l'Adriatique à la Caspienne. Territoires, Politique, Sociétés (8): 233–256. doi:10.4000/anatoli.618. ISSN 2111-4064.
  10. ^ "Former leader of Kurd rebels reveals retreat into Iran". The Independent. London. 5 November 2007. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  11. ^ "Osman Ocalan: Turk cities will pay if PKK leader dies in jail". Kurd Net. 11 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  12. ^ "Ex-leader: rebel Kurds have left Iraq". AP News. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  13. ^ "Osman Öcalan says PKK camps in N. Iraq taken over by PJAK". Today's Zaman. 1 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 December 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  14. ^ "Öcalan's unofficial Ergenekon testimony". Hurriyet. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  15. ^ "TRT, teröristbaşı Öcalan'ın kardeşi ile röportaj yaptı" (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Osman Öcalan, Emniyet'in 'arananlar listesi'nde yok, kırmızı bülten ise muğlak". Diken. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  17. ^ ""Erdoğan'dan TRT'de konuşan Osman Öcalan'a ilişkin açıklama: Kırmızı bültenle arandığını bilmiyorum"". T24. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Abdullah Öcalan'ın kardeşi Osman Öcalan hayatını kaybetti". dw.com. Retrieved 15 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)(in Turkish)
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