News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
In the first part of an interview appearing in Özgür Gündem, the paper’s editor Sedat Yilmaz and one of its writers, Veysi Sarısözen, sat down with the KCK co-President Cemil Bayık. Bayık spoke about the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey and the state of the peace process more generally, as well as the changing conditions within the region at large. Below is an English translation of the first part of this interview.
-It has been two years since the start of the peace process which began in Oslo and which the Kurdish Popular Leader Abdullah Öcalan announced to the public on Newroz in 2013. Can you talk about the stage we have come to?
Our movement has declared many one-sided ceasefires since 1993. Why did we declare so many ceasefires? With the struggle we waged so thoroughly we laid the Kurdish problem out in the open. Now that this problem has been laid out in the open it must be solved through democratic politics. After this point we tried to pull Turkey into a ceasefire and into speaking about the problem. Despite all of our efforts the state did not respond positively to our efforts for a ceasefire. They interpreted this as weakness and tried to push their own interests by benefiting from it. These ceasefires had no result. The Oslo price is a process of dialog. The questions which need to discussed reciprocally were discussed, a sufficient amount of mutual understanding developed. Now there is nothing to achieve with dialog. Leader Apo began an historical process in Newroz in 2013. The goal is to pass from the process of dialog to the process of negotiations.
We released all the prisoners we had; we proclaimed a ceasefire; we began to pull the guerilla forces back to South Kurdistan. We laid the foundation for negotiations. But the state took no step toward negotiations. Why did they not take any steps? Because there were not enough steps taken to strengthen Apo’s hand and to compel the state and the government toward negotiations. The state and the government needed to take steps but they did not. Because they had no approach toward or goal of solving the Kurdish issue by political means. Their goal was to strengthen their own position by benefiting from the ceasefire to do whatever was possible to take control of the peace process, to evacuate it of its content and to render it meaningless. The state and the government, which saw that military methods would not bring an end to the problem, tried to destroy the PKK through political means. While we followed all the conditions of the ceasefire they only stopped their large operations. At the same time they began to build new military bases, roads and dams. They increased the number of village guards. They built new walls and dug new ditches on the border. There was no change regarding the conditions of our leadership. There was not even the smallest change in their treatment of democratic forces in Turkey. In summary they condition to exhibit their old attitude.
Benefiting from our ceasefire declaration and withdrawal of guerrilla forces they took the war in the North to Rojava. While we followed all the conditions [of the ceasefire] they followed none and continued to do what they know best. We tried to warn them many times. We told them that we would take new measures if there was not a change in the policies being implemented against our people, our movement and our leadership. And thus when no attention was paid to our criticism and our warnings we halted the withdrawal of the guerrillas. These efforts which have all been one-sided have reached their limit. After this month we have nothing left to do. Parliament must pass a law creating a foundation for negotiations before it goes on recess. If this law passes it would would create legal foundation for the formation of a foundation for negotiations and would be a positive step. This is not a negotiation, and may not carry the meaning of a negotiation. Whether or not the state and government will use this to take a step toward negotiations or not will become clear after its passed. If after the law is passed they do not immediately pass on to negotiations and this turns in an attempt to play for time and stalling we will certainly not continue to demonstrate the same position which we have demonstrated for so long. They can insist on their own position. But we will make our position clear and we will walk down our own road. Developments in the region have also made this necessary. Further stalling we not be accepted by us. Every passing day this stalling harms both the Kurdish people and all the people of Turkey. We have historical responsibilities both to our people and to the peoples of Turkey and we will carry these out. We will not sacrifice these historical responsibilities to the games of AKP power and this needs to be understood. Up until today we have in endured because of the responsibility we feel toward the peoples and to history. This is the end of it and there is no other side of it.
-In some circles there is a claim that the Kurdish movement and Öcalan are making a secret agreement with the AKP and that “in exchange for Democratic Autonomy they are saying yes to Erdoğan’s dictatorship.” What do you say to these accusations?
We know there are such assessments. In fact we know that these assessments and these exaggerated accusations are increasing. These are truly unjust assessments and accusations. We are a movement that has struggled in Turkey against this government and this state for years under the most difficult of circumstances. We are a movement that from the beginning has defended a solution to the Kurdish issue as the democratization of Turkey. Turkey cannot democratize without the Kurdish problem being solved. If one pays attention one knows that they wanted to form a new constitution but nothing came of it. Why? No new constitution can be formed with dealing with the Kurdish issue. Because there is still a mentality which does not accept the Kurdish people as a people and a mentality which wants to destroy this people. The AKP came to power through the struggle which the PKK has waged. Both domestic capital and the forces of international capitalist modernity wanted to block the PKK through this power. Perhaps the PKK did not explain this enough to public opinion. The democratic forces did not understand this sufficiently and did not take responsibility for it. As a result of this the AKP, its allies and the Gülen Cemaat, etc are able to say that the guardianship of Turkey belongs to them. If you are going to struggle this much and pay such a high price and then allow others to come and take what emerges then we need to search inside ourselves. Left and democratic forces in Turkey need to search inside themselves. If the government takes no steps on the Kurdish issue there will be no democratization and fascism will develop and is now developing. The Kurdish freedom struggle is not only for the Kurdish people and it will fulfill its historical responsibility in regards to the people of Turkey and the Middle East.
-Your movement stated last week that these last days will determine what happens. If the government does make the corrections you want what will happen?
Now there are not weeks left but days. At the end of this month the Turkish parliament will go on recess. A law which will develop a legal foundation [for negotiations] needs to emerge before parliament goes on recess. If it does not then the process is certainly at an end. We will not hesitate to take steps along our own road and toward our own goals. Of course we will also look at the law that emerges. That law will answer whether or not and how much it there is a foundation for negotiations. We will look to see how much it corresponds to what we want. If it does then will will assess it as a positive development. If not and they try to delay by saying negotiations will be held [later] then we will not accept it. Developments are happening very quickly. We want steps to be taken that respond to developments in the Middle East. We have our responsibilities and we will not betray these. If the government and the state will not even form a legal foundation and want to win time in order to win the presidency we will not accept this.With the stage we have come to it has been seen that the PKK will not be destroyed through politics. [The Turkish State’s] own politics has narrowed significantly and is a very difficult situation. The PKK is now in a position to be an actor and a significant element in the politics of both Kurdistan and the Middle east. Now politics cannot be done in the Middle East without the PKK. Conditions are developing in favor of the PKK and the see that the PKK’s position is developing in every direction. There is only one road in front of them and that is to negotiate. There is no other road except a solution to the Kurdish issue through democratic politics. If they think there are other roads then are committing a grave error in judgement. Either the democratization of Turkey will be accepted and the democratic forces will develop around a common program to take Turkey out of the crisis its living through or the old politics will continue. And this is war. No one can be certain where war will take Turkey.
-In your opinion what steps will be taken that will show the government is willing to open a negotiation process?
The law that to be passed needs to talk about negotiations. Certain conditions need to be fulfilled so that negotiations can take place. One of these conditions is that there is third-party oversight. If there is no oversight then no one will know who made or did not make an effort for a solution and who worked to sabotage the process. Most recently there were some events in and around Lice. During these events what did the statements released by the government show and what did the press which support them express. It is as if the PKK is attempting to derail the peace process which has developed positively. They made such statements. Yet it was the state and the government which were the reason for Lice. Military outposts are war bases. This was not some simple military outpost. They are building them in the most strategic places and these are preparations for war. They are building roads. These are not roads built to meet the needs of the people. The people’s response was directed toward this. Those uprisings [serhildan] are just and correct. Three of our people were martyred. There are still injured in the hostel. If there is an oversight committee and a third party then the truth of what happened in Lice would come out. Who started those events would come out. This shows that there must certainly be a observation committee. Without one there will be no negotiations. Another condition for negotiations is that Leader Apo’s conditions be changed. Leader Apo is the head negotiator. In order to work for solution he has made many big, one-sided sacrifices and has increased the danger for himself to bring us to today. There is no chance for him to direct the negotiation process under conditions of heavy confinement. It is not possible to carry on a negotiation process with only a three-person BDP committee going back and forth [to Imralı]. Leader Apo’s conditions must be corrected. For him to direct this process he also needs to be free. If the state and the government wants to solve the Kurdish issue by political means and they are genuine about this then they need to create conditions that will allow for our leadership to direct these negotiations. Meetings need to take place in many circles. There needs to be meetings and debates among Turks, Kurds and other people, among writers, the press and many groups working on politics over how we will develop a solution and we must explain what kind of Turkey we want. They need to accept this criticism and these suggestions. Without this then the passing of a law will not be enough for negotiations and the negotiations will not have any meeting. Right now we do not even know how the law will be passed.