Zubeyir Aydar, KCK member in Europe
"The biggest show of solidarity after the Kobane resistance was seen across Europe among the Kurds after HDP leaders and MPs were arrested in Turkey," said Zubeyir Aydar, a high ranking member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Committee, the umbrella organisation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Zubeyir Aydar answered Figen Gunes’ questions about the lack of street protests in Turkey, as well as the support that has come from parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government and the possibilities of turning this into an opportunity for solidifying national relations amongst Kurds.
Figen Gunes: The people of southeast Turkey have experienced a sustained large scale destruction at every level since the collapse of the peace process. After almost 200 civilians were burned alive in three basements in Cizre, Sirnak, one would expect strong public protests. However, there were no big rallies. But when we look at the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, especially in Germany, we see strong condemnation of the Turkish government in large protests of thousands of people to send through support messages to those in southeast Turkey. Can you tell us about this dichotomy?
Zubeyir Aydar: When the state is killing people on the streets it is hard to get people out. There are millions of people in Bakur (North Kurdistan-southeast Turkey) who would otherwise be out on the streets protesting the oppression of Kurds. Under the emergency rule, there are blanket orders. Moreover, the leaders who would organise these demos are all in custody or imprisoned.
Up until 1992, large masses were protesting out on the streets. However, when I went to Sirnak in the summer of 1992 as the MP of the city, the public watched us from a distance. They were fearful of approaching me due to the atmosphere at the time. This did not mean that they were against me as I was chosen by them. It is because the state is very experienced on how to silence people.
The crowds we have seen in Europe in public protests are the same in political leanings with those in Kurdistan. Here in Europe, there are neither curfews nor limits on protests. This is the only reason we don't see protests in Diyarbakir, as people know that they would pay with their lives. Having said that in Adana and Mersin for example there is less pressure so people were out criticising the decisions of the governing AK party.
Colonialist Eastern Reform Plan still in effect
F.G: Historically, Turkish governments, which had created space for bilateral talks with the leaders of the PKK, labeled these talks as acts of treason later. Can you tell us if the current government in Turkey had a policy to treat its Kurds in a certain way right from the beginning or have we been facing a volatile leadership with no concrete plans under the rule of AK Party?
Z.A: The Eastern Reform Plan (Sark Islahat Plani), which we call a genocidal plan, has been used against Kurds since 1925. This was the theoretical document detailing how the Kurds would be eradicated. In recent years, Turkey has tried to address the Kurdish issue without resorting to war but this address lacked the recognition of Kurdish identity. The Turkish government once again in recent years saw the PKK solely as a bearer of weapons; they thought that if the PKK would give up its weapons, the Kurdish issue would be resolved. This was mentioned in all talks including Oslo (2009) and Imrali [2013-2015] with the Turkish government.
The government has not put forward a political plan to address the issue. Emre Taner, a former Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) official recently repeated this when he gave evidence to the coup investigation committee. Taner was the architect of the Oslo talks and he admitted that the Turkish government did not offer a road map to Kurds during the Oslo talks to resolve the issue.
Furthermore, the first objective stated in the Eastern Reform Plan was the assimilation of those Kurds residing on the west of the Euphrates. Therefore, when the current Turkish government says the west of the Euphrates is their red line, this should not be seen as a coincidence. This de facto border comes from this historic document. The government thinks if Kurds cross to the west of the Euphrates in Rojava, they would also do so in Iraq.
F.G: The Kurds were able to negotiate a deal with the current government back in February 2015. Why then was the Dolmabahce Declaration scrapped?
Z.A: The current period of war came subsequently after the deep state in Turkey: Ergenekon and Gulenists stuck out their heads and questioned the Dolmabahce Declaration. This declaration held the potential of resolving the Kurdish issue through ten practical points. However, these forces in the deep state said to Erdogan, ‘You sit in your palace but this declaration should be blocked’. This was inherently a war decision. You either seek a resolution in peace talks, or fight. In the summer, just after the Dolmabahce Declaration was scrapped by Erdogan, the conflict resumed. Now, even Kurdish associations are being closed. Not only that, local councils elected and administered by Kurds are being seized and replaced with government appointed custodians. The arrest of the 10 HDP MPs is also a part of this conflict period. We will not recognise the appointed custodians. However declarations for Kurdish self-rule are not on our agenda for the near future because the public is not even able to breathe and move freely.
Kneel or die
F.G: Have you been approached by the Turkish government to start a new phase of talks after the negotiation’s table was knocked over.
Z.A: No. We as the Kurdistan Liberation Movement are faced with total destruction because the government says this: you either kneel or die. We will not bow down therefore we are being attacked. First, Turkey supported Daesh (Islamic State) to block Kurds’ gains in Syria then itself entered with the same aim. Our strategy will be to defend ourselves in Rojava and Turkey with arms. The president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a dictator and for this reason we will be working towards building a democracy front alongside other oppositional voices in Turkey.
Another priority for us is to focus on diplomacy at this particular time. We will expose Turkey's wrongdoings, specifically in NATO and EU. We will not kneel but resist as we are right and this needs to be explained to the whole world.
Kurds a target in new alliance
F.G: Turkey is going through an extraordinary period. How will the ruling party fill positions vacated by the mind-blowing purges? Who are the new partners of the state?
Z.A: Erdogan has formed a new alliance with the Ergenekon. Ironically, Gulenists and Erdogan had fought together against this force in the last decade and imprisoned them. However now, Erdogan has a reverse alliance in force. The first objective of this alliance is consolidation of Erdogan's rule. The second is total elimination of Gulenists in government positions. Under this new alliance the common target to fight is still Kurds though.
Erdogan will not come down from his palace ordinarily; he will either be imprisoned or die, following in the footsteps of Hitler or Saddam, who he has tried to emulate with his expansionist and oppressive policies in Turkey and the Middle East at large. The EU and America are unhappy with this direction. They don't want an unstable Turkey. Despite being unhappy they still don’t want to impose any sanctions against Turkey, which should have been done swiftly.
Erdogan’s paramilitary groups
F.G: How can this new alliance survive amidst enemies?
Z.A: Erdogan has been working on creating his own paramilitary groups. Historically, the nationalist political party MHP was given this task and created the Grey Wolves to use in favour of the government. But now, Ottoman Units (Osmanli Ocaklari) have been formed and are under the direct orders of the government and operate as part of special units in the secret service. Last year September there was a wave of attacks on the HDP. This was the work of the Ottoman Units. The Germans have warned us about their large existence in Germany. We believe they are organised across Europe. The information Germany reveals about them needs to be followed up and action taken.
F.G: Some think the joyful and disarming personality of Selahattin Demirtas can play a role in drawing other sections of the Kurdish movement together; are you hopeful for unity amongst Kurds, especially after the HDP’s leaders were arrested?
Z.A: The HDP leaders’ arrests created a reaction amongst other Kurdish leaders. However, I found the reaction of the KDP soft. Current problems cannot be resolved through oppression; the KDP leadership did not condemn Turkey’s actions. Having said that, other Kurdish parties across the four parts of Kurdistan showed their condemnation of Turkey, which was important. The developments in Mosul and Rojava further create the need for unification among Kurds. We are ready for a more developed dialogue; however it is hard to predict if this would lead to any gains in the form of short-term solid cooperation.
F.G: Is the PKK losing strength after recent attacks?
Z.A: Kurds enjoyed autonomy under Ottoman rule from the beginning of the 1500s until the early 1800s. When this was changed, riots against the Ottomans started. The first ever riot was in 1806 in Sulaymaniah. Since then 210 years have passed but there are a series of uprisings. Former Turkey president Suleyman Demirel once said the PKK was the 29th Kurdish uprising, however according to the Turkish General Commander's bureau documents, the PKK is the 39th Kurdish movement since the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. A difference is that the existence of the PKK uprising is longer than the total of all those that came previously. The movements of the past were local and weak and therefore they were suppressed in a short space of time. However, the PKK has continuously grown in the last 33 years.
In Turkey governments come and go and each one vows to eradicate the PKK but this hasn’t been the case. In the 1990s, we had a Kurdish parliamentarian group, but now, even though some have been arrested, we have a much more stronger group. We also have more municipalities run by Kurds and the international recognition of Rojava, which didn’t exist in the past. Again in the 1990s, there was Saddam in Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government was weak. NATO was a prominent Turkey supporter. But in recent years, the EU and NATO's relations with Turkey have soured. Kurds also paid a price during this period but we will come out stronger. The Raqqa operation will help Kurds gain further recognition.
Trump in the Middle East
F.G: Is Trump going to make a good friend for Kurds? What is your prediction given his populist remarks in the run up to the elections?
Z.A: It is hard to predict, as he was a businessman in the past. He doesn't have political experience. He was elected president, but one man cannot change America’s model of politics by himself. Their foreign policy and rule doesn't change with one man. Furthermore Trump is not clear on how to implement his policies. We want America to be a mediator in peace talks and understand that Turkey's oppressive politics against Kurds cannot last any longer.
- Figen Gunes
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