Murat Karayilan, PKK Commander / Unknown
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Executive Committee Member and People’s Defence Central Headquarters Commander Murat Karayılan recently spoke to Kurdsat News Channel. The in-depth interview touches on important issues such as the Mosul operation, future developments regarding Kurds and the Turkish state's policies against the Kurdish nation.
The interview was translated by ANF English Service.
The Turkish state has launched a total 'genocide operation' against the Kurds, especially following the 15 July coup attempt. When we look at the events following the coup, a social, cultural, political and geographical genocide operation was launched. What do you think the plan behind these post-coup actions are? How long can this situation against the Kurds continue?
Today there is an extensive war. At the same time, the Turkish state’s attacks aren’t just military, there is an aggravated isolation, psychological war and torture imposed upon our Leader and the gains of all the peoples of Kurdistan. There is an extensive attack on Kurdish politicians. There is a major attack on the Kurdish press. All the moral values of the Kurdish people are under attack by the Turkish state and the governing AKP's fascism. There is no doubt that the AKP and [President] Erdoğan are responsible for the developments, the actions and the lives lost in the conditions of war. We really wanted to resolve the Kurdish issue through dialogue. The discussions for a solution continued for 2 years and they were almost at the point of agreements being signed. This agreement was devised in the Dolmabahçe Palace and was supposed to be signed by the Turkish state side and the Kurdish side in front of the whole world. But Erdoğan didn’t sign the Dolmabahçe Protocol. On the contrary, he knocked over the table for peace and a solution. Then the war started and continued. They started this war, they executed it.
Erdoğan previously thought he would strengthen his hold on power with a soft approach towards Kurds. Now they want to solidify their power by playing up nationalist sentiment, fighting the Kurds and implementing anti-Kurdish politics.
So, how will they achieve this by killing Kurds?
They think, 'Those with the nationalistic sentiment will follow us more if we are more anti-Kurdish,' and assume they will get stronger this way. It’s a whole other issue just to get results as well. Anti-Kurdish sentiment has become the main goal and axis in Turkish politics. This needs to be underlined, this is the way it is. Some circles and some Kurdish politicians approach Erdoğan like he was 3, 4 years ago. No, he isn’t so anymore. They changed politics. They think the more anti-Kurdish they are, the better it will be for them, and that they will gain in strength in this way.
Erdogan aimed to paralyse and marginalise the Freedom Movement [PKK] by fighting against the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan [southeast Turkey]. He also wanted to delegitimise the Rojava Revolution and suffocate it by adding the organisations [YPG-PYD] there to his terror list, going a step further he settled the [Turkish military] in Mosul and is trying to join the Mosul operation to surround Southern Kurdistan [Northern Iraq] to dissolve the gains of the Kurdish people. To this end, Erdoğan’s agreement with the Ergenekon [Turkish deep state] is over animosity towards Kurds. What is it? It is to prevent all the dangers they believe they face from the Kurdish people and the Freedom Movement. Their strategy is based on this.
Can we consider the attacks following the coup attempt as attempts to prevent Rojava gaining a status?
Yes. Now, this is what they are saying. The Kurdish people have formed an agenda in Middle Eastern politics, in a positive sense. There are gains in the Southern Kurdistan region. Rojava Kurdistan will gain status through the declaration of a federation. The North poses a danger for them because it is at a certain military and political level. They say, “They want to create the Great Kurdistan”. Great Kurdistan means Small Turkey for them. So we need to take precautions against this danger. And to prevent it, they say it’s impossible to have it inside Turkey’s borders.
With the Neo-Ottomanism of the AKP, Turkey has goals like taking the remaining parts of Kurdistan under its control in Syria and Iraq too turn. This is why they are in Jarablus. They are attacking Rojava Kurdistan. The reason for them insisting on the forces in Bashiqa to stay and demanding they be increased is Neo-Ottomanism. 'To stop Kurds, I need to defeat not just the ones in Turkey, but the dangers in other parts as well,' they say. In this sense, all the gains of Kurds are under threat today. The attacks developed by the Turkish state with Erdoğan’s and Ergenekon’s leadership pose a great threat to the gains of the Kurds. To this end, they are implementing violent politics in Northern Kurdistan. There is no law left.
They tell the whole world, 'These people are PKK,' in Rojava. Now the whole world thinks “PKK is there, PYD is there” in Rojava. However make no mistake, if it was Syria’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) instead of the PYD, Turkey would do the same thing. They would act the same if it was the KDP. They are not just against the PKK, PYD, KDP, PUK or any other Kurdish party; they are against all things Kurdish. They don’t want Kurds to have a status, recognition. They are against Rojava achieving a status. Ultimately, they are also targeting the status of Southern Kurdistan as well. What they call “extending Turkey” is dissolving the status of the South.
The policies Turkey is implementing now are the policies of politicide [political genocide] against the Kurds. There is an ongoing political, cultural and social genocide. Erdoğan doesn’t want the Kurds to become a power, to have a status; he wants them to remain slaves forever. He wants Kurds to stay under the invasion of the Turkish nation state.
Some trustees appointed to Kurdish municipalities by the Turkish state have been killed. The HPG claimed responsibility for this. Will actions like these continue? Do you have any warnings on this matter?
The guerrilla is in a legitimate struggle. The guerrilla doesn’t attack politicians in Kurdistan. But the AKP uses people like a counter-guerrilla organisation. The guerrilla targets these people engaged in counter-guerrilla activity. These are not politicians. They are people who actively partake in the Kurdish genocide, the destruction of cities and the murdering of people. They are following the orders of the Turkish state. The guerrilla won’t show mercy to such people anymore. Our people should know this. The guerrilla has only fought against the invading Turkish forces up to date. Who are these? They are the police and the army. But there is more, behind the curtains there are more. The problem is not just the police and the army. Some civilian police and soldiers commit more massacres than those in uniform. For this, the guerrilla will develop actions for the hidden ones as well. The guerrilla will have actions against the counter-guerrilla units posing as politicians under the AKP’s wing.
The Mosul Operation is on the world’s agenda. What will the Kurds’ strategy be after the liberation of Mosul? Many people wonder if the PKK will participate in the operation. The Turkish state also wants to participate, which has created a crisis between Iraq and Turkey. What are your thoughts?
It is not certain who is against ISIS and who is not. ISIS attacked Rojava, Shengal [Sinjar], Makhmour and Kirkuk when Turkey and similar states clearly said that they were not against ISIS. Back then, there was no talk of these states participating in the Mosul Operation. Everyone stood back and watched as ISIS slaughtered the Ezidi [Yazidi] people. Despite the dangers, we [PKK guerrillas] went to Shengal and said ‘Stop!’ to the ISIS onslaught. The PKK was the first force to react. Today, they debate if the PKK should participate in the Mosul operation. Let me say this first; the PKK did not defend the Kurdish people after getting anyone’s approval, and does not need such approval now either.
On another note Turkey constitutes a problem and has dirty designs in Mosul with its Neo-Ottomanism. This is why they want to participate in the Mosul Operation from Bashiqa. Our opinion is that Turkey's participation and the participation of groups it trained will be dangerous for South Kurdistan. Turkey’s new concept is crippling North Kurdistan, suffocating West Kurdistan and occupying Mosul.
South Kurdistan is already under their control. As you know, Turkish soldiers are based across different parts of South Kurdistan. They have soldiers even in Diyana and Xelifan. Shortly, they want to settle in South Kurdistan. We know the Turkish state well, we grew up there and went to their schools. We know their psychology well. The Turkish state’s mentality is based on enmity towards Kurds, this includes South Kurdistan; however the KDP does not see this and allows their activities. We think that it is wrong for the KDP to allow the Turkish state to settle in South Kurdistan.
So you are saying that Turkey was placed in South Kurdistan by the KDP?
This is the case in some places, but we don’t know about Bashiqa. The debate about who invited them there is ongoing. But KDP officials try to normalise Turkish presence there and fail to condemn it. This is not right. This is dangerous for the future of the Kurdish people and for the gains of South Kurdistan. They debate “whether Turkey will expand or reduce in size?” They want Turkey to expand, this is why they want Mosul. They try to increase their allies so that they can settle in Mosul. Turkey has not been able to leave wherever it has entered. If the South Kurdistan regional administration was to decide that the Turkish state forces need to leave the region, would Turkey comply? No. Turkey has plans for this region. Kurdish politicians should see their mistake. It is dangerous for Turkey to participate in the Mosul Operation. This is particularly dangerous for the gains of the Kurdish people.
Do you think the Turkish state will participate in the Mosul operation? Secondly, will the PKK participate in the operation?
The Turkish state has illegally occupied Iraq and South Kurdistan. Their presence in Bashiqa is a crime according to international agreements. Turkey insists on its position. It applied to be a part of the international coalition several times, but has not been and will not be accepted. The Iraqi Prime Minister rightfully took a stance against Turkey’s presence, and the international coalition led by the US said 'whoever participates in the operation will have to get the approval of the Iraqi government.' In response, Turkey says 'no, you will include us. If not, we have plans B and C.' Turkey wants to continue its occupation. I do not believe that the US and international powers will include Turkey in the operation. They may include the forces Turkey has trained, but not Turkey itself.
The PKK is professional and an expert in the fight against ISIS. The PKK wants to participate in the Mosul Operation. The PKK wants to fight ISIS until the end. If ISIS resists in Mosul, they will need us. We are ready to join the operation. We won’t be the side to cause problems. We speak on behalf of the HPG. There is also the Shengal Resistance Forces YBŞ. They are not the PKK, they are forces made up of Shengal’s youth. They want to avenge their sisters and mothers. They want to expand the fight against ISIS. They fought against ISIS without anyone’s help. I believe that they will be unstoppable.
Speaking of Shengal, there has been a lot of talk on that subject lately. Some say the PKK should leave Shengal. But the PKK have declared that they are not leaving. The PKK and KDP are at odds. What do you say about this?
The demand for the PKK to leave Shengal is Turkey’s demand. The PKK is there for the interests of the people of Shengal and all Kurdish people. The statements on this issue are political. They are not the demands of people of Shengal, nor the desire of the Southern Kurdistan people. We have heard of these, but the KDP hasn’t said anything to us directly.
Are you saying there isn’t such a big conflict?
I don’t believe so. The guerrilla is there, so is the peshmerga. They are there side by side. Such a problem is not visible there. Sometimes these things happen. There are disturbing developments like the killing of two people, and pressuring those who speak. But this is a non-issue. Kurds can solve this among themselves. We can get past this with internal dialogue. When the PKK went there, there was a need. They played a huge role. And they will stay there until they see fit.
Can the PKK retreat if they want?
The PKK is not the side to create problems in these matters. The PKK wants to further the unity of Kurdistan and the Kurds. The unity of Kurds is a vital issue. Let me tell you, at the time of the Shengal massacre our forces intervened and entered Shengal. 4 days later, Mr. Massoud Barzani sent us his greetings and asked us if we had forces in Shengal, to which we answered positively. Later they told us they wanted to send a group of peshmerga to where our fighters were, and asked us to create the conditions for this, and we did. Thus we sent them to our fighters. Actually, the people living there didn’t consent to this, but we approached the subject in a positive and inclusive manner for the national army and national unity. We didn’t have any other agenda. Our intention was national and social. This should be known.
You speak of 'national unity' and there is talk of a golden opportunity for the Middle East. What can the Kurds do to take advantage of this opportunity?
The denial of Kurds began with World War I and led to the commencement of the Kurdish genocide. The Kurds achieved no gains, on the contrary, they lost much. Their country was divided into four parts, and they suffered massacres in each part. During World War II Kurds lost once again with the execution of Qazi Muhammed [leader of Mahabad Kurdish Republic].
Now we are in the throes of World War III, the Kurds have become a political and military power in the last 40 years. Colonialism is the weakest it’s ever been in history. Erdoğan thinks he will win if he does whatever it takes to break the Kurdish Freedom Movement [PKK/KCK]. Erdoğan wants to be the leader who defeats us, who achieves many victories, who expands Turkey’s borders, the new Ottoman sultan. He wants to achieve this through oppression. Why did he say, 'The Lausanne treaty wasn’t a victory, we lost?' Because he means the loss of territory. Now he wants to enter Mosul and Rojava and gain territory. All our people and all our allies should know this.
Despite their deep conflicts, anti-Kurdish forces can come together very quickly, but the Kurdish organisations still lack unity. Syria and Turkey are at each other’s throats, but they can come together when it comes to Kurds. So why can’t Kurdish politics come together? National unity is as necessary as bread and water. Especially in this situation, we have to irrevocably build our national unity and achieve victory. The lack of unity is a shame for Kurdish politics. This is truly unacceptable. It is a great contradiction and a paradox. We take this issue very seriously.
In each part [of Kurdistan], the Kurdish people tell us their demand for national unity. The fascist invading states always want us to remain fragmented, separate. We need to create an internal national agenda and develop a joint national stance. History doesn’t always offer such golden opportunities. As a principle, we say the correct politics of the times is national unity. All our people should insist on national unity. We are open to all criticism and suggestions in this matter. These problems are present in Southern Kurdistan as well. National unity is vital there too. We need a national congress and conference. But a congress or a conference aren’t the only ways to come together. If our enemies can come together, why can’t we? Kurdish organisations like PDK, PUK, GORAN and YEKGİRTU İSLAMİ should analyse Erdoğan's anti-Kurdish stance and decide on a correct national opposition. There should be a joint stance against this anti-Kurdish situation. We as a movement are prepared to do whatever it takes for national unity.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We salute and send our regards to the viewers of KurdSat. The situation is a golden opportunity for Kurds, as you said, before this historic ship sails. If we miss this golden opportunity, history will judge us. All Kurdish organisations should have an evaluation in this framework. National unity should be present in all areas. It’s time for national unity. We as a movement are open to this and we express our insistence on national unity. We will resist against the invading, colonialist enemy and develop our national unity. They see our fragmentation as their own 'national' problem. But we must see national unity as a vital, historic move.
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