News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(What follows is an English translation of “Oyuna gelmeyeceğiz” which originally appeared in Yeni Özgür Politika)
The co-President of the Party of Democracy Unity (PYD) Salih Muslim has repeated the desire that the High Kurdish Council participate in the second round of Geneva talks as an independent party, saying “we will not allow for a second Lausanne. They are trying to play the same game but Kurds will not be deceived as in 1923. We will neither betray our martyrs nor oblige ourselves to the United States or the Turkish state. The Kurdish people are obliged to none but themselves. While there is still remains one Kurd in Kurdistan we will fight for our freedom.”
Kurds want to participate in the Second Geneva Conference, which aims to bring the conflicting parties in Syria the negotiating table, as an independent party and not as a part of any opposition group. Independent participation in the conference, which is planned for January 22nd, will be effective in breaking the resistance of the Arab opposition to Kurdish demands; and will also demonstrate a recognition of the Kurds in the international arena. In this way the Kurdish High Council will positioned as the only legitimate representative of the Kurds both domestically and abroad. Thus a path will be opened for recognition by international public opinion of the Democratic Autonomous Administration currently under construction and the legitimate demands of Kurds who have undertaken a revolution in their resistance in Rojava. For all of these reasons a committee from the PYD has forwarded its request to Russian and UN authorities to participate at Geneva under the umbrella of an independent Kurdish High Council. This request has been viewed positively by Russia and the UN. However powers unable to accept that the Kurdish people will express their will or gain official recognition continue to exhibit their opposition. The United States and Turkey have taken a position that the Kurds take part in the conference under the umbrella of a Syrian opposition that still has not agreed amongst themselves. PYD co-President Salih Muslim is continuing to pursue diplomatic channels in order to allow Kurds to express their demands and political will at the negotiating table. Muslim, who has been in Europe for some months, has been explaining the resistance in Rojava to diplomatic contacts in addition to meeting with Russian and UN representatives in Geneva who are part of the efforts to organize a the Second Syrian Conference. We spoke with Muslim, who recently attended an event to mark the 35th anniversary of the Kurdish Freedom Struggle in the French city of Marseille, both about his diplomatic contacts in Geneva and the current phase of the Rojava Revolution and the attitudes of those who oppose it.
As the High Kurdish Council, what are your expectations concerning the Second Geneva Conference?
Of course we do not accept to encounter a situation in Geneva as in Lausanne. In Geneva a solution to the Kurdish issue must be found. If our problems are not addressed we will fight for another 100 years. If democracy is to come to Syria, it needs to start with the Kurdish issue. However up until now nothing has been planned or decided. Not only as regards the Kurds, but it is also uncertain how the Arab groups in Syria will attend the conference. There are a number of disagreements on the subject of participation within the National Coalition that has been formed from Syrian opposition groups. However we insist that participate in the conference as an independent and a third party. We want to attend the Geneva Conference as the Kurdish High Council with our own colors, our own will and demands. However as at Lausanne a number of obstacles have been placed in our way. It is not clear if will participate or not. The situation is not certain. However the majority of the meetings that we have had in Geneva until now have been positive. Russia and some other states have said, “Yes, you are justified. Kurds need to be able to participate as they desire.” However the United States and Turkey are insisting that we take under the larger umbrella of opposition groups. As I said, there have been obstacles and there will be in the future; however we will also fight. Today we are going to the conference with the philosophy of Leader Apo. They will not deceive the Kurds like in 1923. They are trying to play the same game. America and other foreign powers want Kurds to live through a second Lausanne. However the struggle of the Kurdish people is directed by its own will. To those powers which want to buy off the Kurds we say we will struggle until the last person. We will neither betray our martyrs nor oblige ourselves to the United States or the Turkish state. The Kurdish people are obliged to none but themselves. We are dependent only on our people.
There were reports published concerning the Assad regime’s desire to meet with you. Is there any truth to this news? If it is true what has been your attitude?
Yes these new reports are true. The regime sent us a request two months ago at a meeting in Hewlêr (Erbil). They wanted to send a Kurd who was a member of the Syrian parliament to meet with us. However we did not accept the meeting. When we did not accept they met with other parties and Mr. Barzani. We did not accept the meeting because the Baath regime as not abandoned their methods of oppression and torture that they have used on us since 1963. In fact we have been in a state of conflict with the party since 2004. Our struggle is a freedom struggle. We want a free and democratic Syria in which we live together with the Arabs. Right now we are working with 15 parties.
How would you comment on the common attitude displayed by the government of Southern Kurdistan and the Turkish state on the subject of Rojava?
Both sides have common policies and interests in Rojava. The Barzani administration are partners with the Turkish state particularly on the subject of oil. In addition they gave all the border crossings to Rojava to Islamists. However they shut these doors to us saying that “you will take them over and give the to the YPG.” For this reason there has been an embargo in place on Rojava for 6 months. However a new crossing has just been opened. Not the UN and other humanitarian organizations can reach Rojava from this crossing. The Iraqi Red Crescent and our own Red Crescent is working together to try to get this aid to our people.
What is the current situation of the revolution and resistance in Rojava? What kind of mood exists there now?
There was a segment that did not believe in the beginning that the struggle would arrive at this point. However in the phase we have come to the Kurdish people are now saluting all segments with the rallying cry of democracy and brotherhood of the peoples. The fight has been directed according to the philosophy of Leader Apo. Our struggle is the legacy of Kemal Pir, Hayri Durmuş and Ali Çiçek. Today in the minds and hearts of the youth of Rojava is the legend of Mazlum Doğan and his comrades. The Rojava Revolution is the legacy and philosophy of the Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan. We will fight until the victory spreads from Rojava to all of Kurdistan. At the same time we are struggle with betrayal as much as with enemies. For us two things are very important: Leadership and the reality of the people. There are those who want to break us away from these but they will never be successful. Salih Muslim cannot be the president of the people; the people are directing themselves. Let no one think think that by closing the crossings and impoverishing the people they will abandon their struggle. Our people can accept hunger, and can accept becoming naked; but they will never accept surrender. Our people our giving themselves and making their own war. As they carry the coffins of their martyrs on their shoulders they are saying “the victory and the struggle is ours.” This the is reality of Kurdistan. After this resistance the victory will be without a doubt the victory of the people of Kurdistan.