26 November 1998 Edition
``The war was not chosen, it was imposed''
Interview with Kurdish vice-president
by Soledad Galiana
The arrest of the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Italy has brought back to the front page of the papers the struggle of the Kurdish people. The PKK has been fighting for years for respect for their culture and traditions, and for the independence of the eleven provinces and 12 million Kurds who live under Turkish rule. Zubeyir Aydar is the Vice-president of the Kurdish parliament on the exile. He has been traveling around Europe to highlight the plight of his people.
An Phoblacht.- The PKK is on a ceasefire whose objective is to open negotiations to solve the conflict in Kurdistan. What do you think of this situation?
Zubeyir Aydar.- The war in Kurdistan was not chosen by the Kurdish people, it was imposed on them. This is the third time that the Kurds have called a ceasefire, the last being called last 1 September, a day dedicated to the commemoration of world peace. What is a pity is that the Turkish government is increasing their military operations in North Kurdistan and the area occupied by Turkey instead of negotiating a peaceful solution for the conflict. They are trying to eliminate Kurdish people, wipe them from the face of the earth.
AP.- Could you explain how your parliament was set up?
ZA.- Our intention was to form the Parliament in Kurdistan, but though we have been elected by our people to represent them and we are members of parliament, because we used the word Kurdish, they took away our immunity, our party was banned and those who could not go into exile were arrested and jailed. They are denying us our identity and existence. For these reasons we need a parliament in exile, in Brussels.
AP.- How does the Kurdish parliament operate?
ZA.- It is a multinational parliament. Not only the Kurds, but other nations which live in Kurdistan, such as the Armenians and the Asirians, are represented.
AP.- How are relations between the Kurds and these other nations?
ZA.- We have been living together for centuries now. The land is not only Kurdish land, it is owned by these ethnic groups too. We have historically lived together and we are friends. We want to live in peace with all the nations in the Middle East. Our principle is that every nation has to defend its own identity and respect the identity of the others.
AP.- Is there any international support for the Kurdish cause?
ZA.- Until now we have had to suffer censorship, but now the conflict is known. internationally. We have to take into account that the international interest to solve conflicts through political means is increasing. So, we have great hopes that our efforts will bring a political solution. A negotiated solution will be very positive for everyone.
AP.- And then, who should be involved in the negotiations?
ZA.- Our main interlocutor is the Turkish State, but it is the army which dominates the situation. In relation to Europe, we want the member states of the EU to put pressure on Turkey. It looks like the US is decreasing its military support for Turkey and they want a negotiated solution too. We should not forget that Turkish military strength is supported by these countries.
AP.- How can the conflict be solved?
ZA.- The end of the war. No more deaths. The Kurdish people should be recognised. Although Kurdistan is divided and occupied by other states, we exist and we will always claim our land.
Kurdish leader's extradition rejected
The Tribunal of Appeal in Rome, Italy, has decided to release the leader of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. The magistrates rejected the extradition order presented by Turkey on the grounds that in Italy it is illegal to extradite anyone to countries where the death penalty is applied.
Ocalan will be forced to stay in Rome, as there is another pending order from Germany, though German Justice minister Bernhard Boehm said that the German government will not ask for the extradition of Ocalan for the moment.
Abdullah Ocalan (48) was arrested in Rome's airport, where he arrived after Russia had denied him political asylum.
Ocalan, known as ``Apo'' (uncle) by his supporters, formed and became the leader of the PKK 14 years ago. Under Ocalan's leadership, PKK's objective is self-determination for Turkish Kurdistan, but independence would be difficult as Kurdish independence will affect directly five states - Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Azerbaiyan.
Since the beginning of the 90s, Ocalan has been trying to negotiate with the Turkish government in Ankara but his proposals for peace were rejected by a government that thinks of Turkey as a republic for Turkish people. Ocalan's calls to solve the conflict have never been answered. The Turkish government tends to consider every peace proposal as a sign of PKK's weakness. Apo thinks that the only possible solution to the conflict would come through European mediation, because of the good relations between the Turkish and US governments, who consider him a terrorist. ``I am not a terrorist. We are fighting a war,'' he says.
More deaths in Indonesia
At least 13 people died as result of confrontations between Muslims from Java and Christians from Ambon in Jakarta, Indonesia. The victims are not related to the students' protests, although the killings have been caused by the country's economic, social and political chaos.
The students were back on the streets of Jakarta last week. They want the 75 army officers who sit in the Parliament to be expelled and are asking for a new investigation into the nearly £3 billion that former president Suharto keeps in bank accounts outside Indonesia. At the moment, the future of president BJ Habibi looks very grim. Habibi has been forced to bring forward the general elections to December and the rumours point out that he could decide to arrest Suharto in a last effort to legitimate his plan of reforms.
EGIN editor released
The editor of the Basque newspaper EGIN, Xabier Salutregi, was released on bail of £125,000. Salutregi, who was arrested last summer by order of judge Baltasar Garzon, left the Spanish jail of Alcala-Meco in Madrid last Sunday.
Salutregi - together with the other 25 people arrested in relation to the closure of EGIN - have been called again to appear in court. He was met by relatives and comrades from the paper Euskadi Informacion as he was leaving the jail. He explained that Garzon's actions are inadequate and ``not only from a political point of view''. In relation to ETA's ceasefire he said that he did not know if the situation in the Basque Country had changed, but that in the jail he was leaving ``there were Basque political prisoners''.