20 August 2009 Edition
PKK seeks peace process for Kurdistan and Turkey
The people of Kurdistan have for generations been subsumed in the Turkish state with their national territory divided between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has struggled for an independent Kurdistan and there has been a long and bitter armed conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurds. PKK President Abdullah Ocalan is the sole prisoner in Imrali Island high security jail and has recently indicated new moves towards a peaceful solution. A special correspondent for An Phoblacht spoke to the representative of the PKK in Europe.
AN PHOBLACHT: The PKK Central Committee has described the main elements that define a peace process. Can you say something on that? Has anything changed after the March local elections?
PKK: For years our organisation has called for unilateral ceasefires and periods of no confrontation as its contribution to a peaceful solution. It has proposed and publicised ideas for a solution, sharing them with public opinion. On every occasion we have underlined our view that a peaceful and political solution was possible.
Before the March 29 elections our movement had called for a unilateral ceasefire in order to help the democratic running of the elections. The Turkish state has answered in a positive way to this decision. There were no heavy military operations. The election results set in motion high expectations but also led to a reaction which resulted in repression of the Kurdish people and the DTP (Party of the Democratic Society). The Turkish state moved against the Kurdish party. In Kurdistan the elections turned out to be a referendum between the Turkish state and the Kurdish people’s liberation movement. Despite the difficulties, the DTP had a great success. The expectation was that a dialogue on the Kurdish question could actually begin. However, the reality has been different: the state did not tolerate the results, and ordered mass arrests of Kurdish politicians. In Amara and Dogubeyazit three sympathizers have been killed. The news showed the tortures imposed on the children. The state wanted to demolish the democratic will of the Kurdish people but the people have continued to resist and are still resisting.
The Turkish government insists on calling on the PKK to surrender their weapons. What is your opinion on this?
The insistence of the Turkish government on this issue is to be expected. There are also those who think that if the PKK were to be disarmed then the question will be solved. The real aim of the Turkish government though, is to leave the Kurdish people without the means to defend themselves. The policy therefore is that of trying to hold the Kurds hostages, psychologically, giving them rights when it is useful for the government, and denying them rights when it is not. The Kurdish people went to the mountain not because it loved war or because it thought it was fun. The PKK did not take up arms in this way. It was forced into the armed struggle, which was a consequence. Fundamental human rights, national rights have been denied to the Kurdish people. A colonialism which turned into a cultural, economic and political massacre, was forced upon the Kurdish people.
Freedom and democracy? It was a period when even speaking and organising resulted in punishment. The PKK took up arms in this context and has continued with the armed struggle. But the PKK has always wanted to fight for freedom and democracy out in the open, with legal means. But this was not possible. And the price paid has been very high. Let us not forget that in the family it was forbidden to speak Kurdish, listen to Kurdish tapes or use Kurdish names. To transgress was enough to be tortured, sent into exile or sentenced to death. But the Kurdish people would not accept being the sacrificial lamb. They took up arms to defend themselves because the reality is that the Kurdish question has not yet been resolved therefore you cannot ask the PKK to lay down its arms. If the Turkish army had the strength to disarm the PKK it would have done so. They said, ‘we will destroy them, defeat them and eradicate them’. Throughout this period Europe, the USA and the states of the region have supported the Turkish state whose aim was, to eliminate the PKK. It did not succeed. Now they say the PKK has to lay down its arms. No, before there is a resolution to the Kurdish question the reasons which led to armed struggle will need to be removed. There will be a new reality and in this new context it will be necessary to lay down arms. This would need to be planned, discussed and decided around a negotiation table.
The Turkish government trying to hollow out the road map to a solution. What do you think of the role of the government?
It will certainly try to lose time and play tricks but this will only make things more difficult. If they are not honest in their approach to the Kurdish question they will try everything to hollow out the road map. We need them to be realistic and objective. The President of the Republic of Turkey, Gul, and Prime Minister Erdogan have made comments in the past. These declarations by themselves are considered positive steps in Turkey. However, you need to put words into practice. We had declarations in the past. Erdogan himself in 2005 in Diyarbakir said: “If necessary the state will say sorry” but military operations got underway again.
From the Ottoman Empire the idea is that the state is all-powerful and will suit itself when it needs to stay in control. Translated to today it means that if it decides it is necessary to solve the Kurdish question, the state will solve it. A solution is possible only with a negotiation among all parties to the any talks process. We don’t know what awaits us behind the door, but in period ahead we will be able to ascertain things better. As a movement we will undertake our responsibility fully and will underline every positive step, however small, towards a secure peace.
What role can Europe play at this stage?
Which Europe I should ask? If we are talking about the Europe of the states, well, it needs to play its part also to promote peace and democracy. But if Europe continues to keep the same opportunist attitude it has had to date, with silence contributing to the continuation of the conflict, then such a role will be negative. Europe’s relations with Turkey are based on economic interests alone. These interests should ideally be used to move towards a solution of the conflict. If Turkey does not solve the Kurdish question it will soon be a heavy burden for Europe and realistically I don’t believe Europe can afford to carry this burden forever. It is in the interest of everyone, whether Kurdish, Turkish or European to move towards a lasting resolution of the Kurdish question.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.