News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF) What follows is the second part of an interview conducted by ANF with Mustafa Karasu, a member of the Executive Council of the PKK. In the interview Karasu discusses the PKK’s relations with the KDP and an agreement recently reached to provide for cooperation in Rojava, and national unity more generally. Part I can be found here.
‘Rojava is the important pillar of the agreement’
How will this agreement be reflected in North Kurdistan, or will it?
Rojava is the important pillar of the agreement. If in Rojava Kurdish national unity is not achieved, relations in this framework between Kurdish movements generally will not relax and a healthier situation will not emerge; this tension will also spread to other areas. Because in the most recent period we saw how the situation became. Rojava is like the Palestine of the Kurds. It is a moral value of the Kurdish people. We approach Rojava thus. It is small but it has strengthened all the other parts. And because Rojava is a small part the other parts have a responsibility toward it, they cannot abandon it. From this point of view finding a common in point on the subject of Rojava will create a positive effect on all the other points.
‘We expect that the KDP will not support but criticize the AKP’s politics of diversion’
Does this agreement, for example, have an affect on the elections in Turkey?
Right now there is a ceasefire in Turkey and together with this a peace process without any clashes. In fact this is a process developed by our movement and leader Apo. But the AKP has taken an incorrect and insufficient approach on this subject. Instead of evaluating this process as a democratic path, it is working to sacrifice it for the elections. We want the KDP to see that this is the approach and to criticize it. It is not a problem for [the AKP] to meet with the KDP government and to develop particular political-economic relations. However we expect that the KDP will not support but criticize the AKP’s politics of diversion. Unfortunately the KDP has taken an approach which does not compel the AKP but strengthens it with regards to policies that will not bring a solution and which supports [the AKP] in the economic and political arenas. From this vantage point we have our differences of opinion with the KDP with respect to Turkish politics. For this reason this agreement in the current state of affairs may not have a direct effect on the struggle for freedom and democracy in North Kurdistan and the struggle for the Kurdish people to win official recognition.
‘The Agreement will advance the work toward national unity’
Do you think that this agreement will speed up the work around national unity?
I think that if here any development will be reflected it will be by creating real progress in regards to the national congress. Because the expectations of all Kurds are in this. Why was it delayed when there were national unity and congress meetings and while such hope was being given? Our people are justly asking this question and waiting for an answer from us.
There is an expectation of unity among all Kurdish political organizations in Kurdish public opinion. The PKK and the also KDP and other Kurdish parties know this. On this point it is important that we respond to the desires of the Kurdish people. Among the Kurds there is a widespread and justified conviction that goes something like “we lose because we are never together, foreign powers take advantage of this and this disunity takes our strength.” If unity occurs this anxiety will also go away. National unity will also provide support – as from a psychological angle it will bring comfort to the Kurdish people – to the struggle for freedom and democracy in all parts [of Kurdistan]. In this direction we believe of course that this agreement must speed up and support the work around the congress. This is the expectation. At the high-level meeting this desire and expectation was put forward.
‘The High Council (Destaya Bilind) needs to be revitalized’
After the statement from your Executive Council meetings between parties in Rojava began to increase. Separately there have been meetings between the government of South Kurdistan and PYD members and the Rojava People’s Council. In the statement concerning the agreement it seems that the Kurdish High Council will be revitalized. What is your expectations of these meetings?
The formation of the Kurdish High Council greatly increased the moral of the people. It strengthened the Rojava revolution. From this vantage point it has been a positive experiment. This experiment needs to be revitalized. Organizations like ENKS which pulled out of the Kurdish High Council and made propaganda against it played the role of weakening this experiment. They rendered the high council inoperational. Now there are meetings. How are the meetings progressing, what is there content, how will they end? Right not it is not possible to say anything for certain. Because the meetings are continuing and the results have not yet been released. But we believe that a positive result will come out of the meetings.
In the past negative circumstances were experienced. No one benefited from this. A positive result must absolutely come out of these meetings. If a negative result comes out the Kurds will have lost. And because of this South Kurdistan will also have lost. Our hope and expectation for the meetings being held now is a decision to bring the High Council back to form. From this point on Kurds must move together both in Syria and in the international arena.
‘The form of official recognition is not important, what is is essential is a free life.’
According to you how will the agreement that you have reached at these meetings be reflected at Geneva-2? Will the Kurds be able to go to Geneva with common demands?
What is important is that Kurds move together and go to Geneva under a common representative and demand a status. Whether it is a federation or democratic autonomy is not very important. From our vantage part freedom is the principle thing. The PYD’s project of democratic autonomy is a freedom project. Whether it be a federation, or regional autonomy, or a canton system it is a democratic autonomy project. The project of democratic autonomy is the project of the Kurdish people for a free life. This is how we think. Whatever form in which a status comes about democratic autonomy can develop within it.The form is not important, its genuineness is important. Kurds can agree on this subject. The opposition, the state, and international powers must be made to recognize the demand for a status [for the Kurds]. From this perspective revitalizing the High Council will strengthen the Kurds as they go to Geneva.
‘Kurds must go to Geneva with a common position’
If [Kurds] go together then I think that Geneva will be affected a lot by this. The state, the opposition and international powers will go to Geneva. What is important is that Kurds go to Geneva with a common approach and position. In this way Kurds need to go to Geneva with a demand for a legal status. Right now neither the state nor the opposition accept a status for the Kurds. Kurds are also an opposition. The High Council is an opposition, and the PYD is also a force of opposition. They want to change the existing regime. However the Syrian opposition that wants to change the existing regime approaches this in a chauvinistic fashion. They have not come to the point where they can accept Kurds for who they are, or recognize their rights, or accept that they govern themselves. Democracy in Syria will only develop with this acceptance. But under existing circumstances these are not being accepted.
‘The Rojava Revolution is a new democratic horizon in the Middle East.’
The Syria that will be remade is in a situation to be democratic. As regards this a Geneva which accepts a free and democratic life for the Kurdish people will be a Geneva that creates a democratic Syria. A new Syria will emerge on a democratic foundation. I want to emphasize this in particular. The democratization of Syria is absolutely tied to the resolution of the Kurdish issue and an acceptance of legal statuses [for the Kurds]. In the event that a status for the Kurds emerges in Syria it will have to happen alongside the democratization of Syria. Because Rojava is now a democratic country. It is a free country. If Rojava will be a democratic, free country Syria will be also compelled to be democratic. It cannot be that on one side there will be authoritarianism, and on the other side democracy.
From this perspective we want the Kurds to go to Geneva unified and to represent the democratic revolution in Rojava. When Kurds go to Geneva in a unified fashion everyone who comes there will have to change. Rojava opens a new democratic horizon in the Middle east, lays its foundation and accelerates it. We think that a Geneva in which Kurds attend united will produce such results.
‘The colonial status of the Kurds is very severe’
Geneva is taking place as part of a process that will remake the balance of the Middle East. Ninety years ago as the result of an agreement that was made in Lausanne the region was reshaped and according to this reshaping the Kurds were divided into four pieces. There is a widespread belief that Kurds “lost at Lausanne because they were unorganized and unprepared.” As the Middle East is again being reshaped, do you think that the Kurds are ready?
Lets start from the last part of your question. Here it is necessary to keep a response along two lines. They are both prepared and unprepared. It would not be right to say that they are completely unprepared like in the 20th Century. It would also not be right to say that they are completely prepared. Of course Kurds have made specific gains in recent as a result of their struggle. The Kurdish people have become more knowledgeable, they have organized, and there emerged a reality of a people who will struggle for their own freedom in all parts [of Kurdistan]ç An important level of development was also reached in the struggles. They are not unorganized as in the 20th century. On the other hand the colonial status of the Kurds is very severe. They are divided into four parts, and in being exposed to the cultural assimilationist policies of different countries they have experienced severe depredation. In the past there were only the Ottomans and the Safavids. When they were divided into four parts they became enemies with the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Each of these states has international powers behind it. To go against these states also means to go against these powers. This is a very severe situation. In this situation is not enough that Kurds have a certain organization or that the people struggle for freedom and democracy.
‘Enemies of the Kurds are working together in the Middle East’
In the 21st Century is not possible to develope a free and democratic life with only this. From this perspective therefore the national congress and unity among Kurds is very important. Even in a small part like Rojava the enemies of the Kurds in the Middle East are working together against Kurds who themselves cannot even work together. Kurds need to see this. As Kurds establish a free and democratic life those countries where democratization is not up for discussion will come to an even more dangerous position. As our struggle develops they will increase their attacks. They are developing their unity. They are taking up weapons so that Kurds are unable to establish a free and democratic life. As all of these states and these countries which have established their authority over the Kurds will not accepted the free and democratic life of the Kurds, the disunity of the Kurds and this level creates a major weakness. From this perspective we cannot say that we are entirely prepared. This is the great weakness of the Kurds. Any people in the situation in the world would not be divided and unorganized to this level. Unity would certainly have been provided for.
‘If it had been left to the Kurds, unity would been established ten or one hundred times over’
What kind of obstacles to national do you see as existing?
There are many foreign factors for which there is no Kurdish unity. If it had been left to the Kurds, unity would been established ten or one hundred times over. Why didn’t it happen? I mean what was the obstacle? The obstacle is obvious. Various regional and international powers do not want Kurdish unity. They want to tie other countries to themselves and to use Kurds through exploiting Kurdish disunity. From this perspective if Kurds do not provide for their own unity if they do not adopt a common position it woulds the free and democratic life of the Kurdish people into danger. Let no one deceive himself. If Kurds do not become unified and win a free and democratic life in the parts [of Kurdistan] the possibility of this happening in one part will be immediately destroyed and will vanish. This danger exists and Kurds need to see this danger. That is it is necessary to understand well how this disunity and the problems that are created by this disunity are exploited by foreign powers. In is necessary to be prepared on this foundation. If we are not prepared enough it is to say that we are not completely knowledgeable about how this division into four parts is used by regional and international powers. From this perspective we are hoping that all Kurdish political organizations by coming to a knowledge of the situation will better organize current organization levels, the people’s desire for freedom, and the desire for struggle for the free and democratic life of our people. They will reach a free and democratic life in the 21st Century by strengthening their own unity. This is our hope and expectation.