News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
In a new interview for Özgür Gündem journalist Ersin Çaksu sat down with Xalid Şevger, the YPS commander in Şirnex (Turkish: Şırnak), on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the international conspiracy which led to the capture and imprisonment of Kurdish popular leader Abdüllah Öcalan on February 15th, 1999. In this interview Şevger discusses the significance of the anniversary in the context of the struggle for autonomy in Bakur (North) Kurdistan amid ongoing attacks by the Turkish state. The interview has been translated into English below.
-Following the proclamations of autonomy the existing period of clashes took on a new character. The fighting has become more violent. Are you the reason for the intensifying violence of the clashes?
In fact there were already clashes. There were attacks by the Turkish state. And the YDG-H carried out actions in response to these. At the same time the resistance had a difference focus. There was already a civil war underway in Turkey which had been unfolding over many years. What has changed about the war is the weapons. For example now it’s not molotov cocktails but arms. When the state changed its weapons of attack we also changed our own weapons. In short in response to the weapons which the state employed in its intensifying attacks the Kurdish people said now is not the time for molotov cocktails, or for stones. That is the age of stones is over…we have spoken in a language [the state] understands.
-In response you took up arms…
I mean yes more or less. If the enemy is attacking me with arms why should I not also pick up a weapon? If the enemy is firing bullets at my people why should I not fire back? We as the youth made a decision. We were experiencing all of this in our lands. Let’s say that it was another country and these parts belonged to them and their rules were valid then maybe I would be quiet. But it isn’t thus. These parts are our lands and we are experiencing oppression in our lands. The Turkish state does not accept me, nor my language, nor my ethnicity, nor my history or culture…it accepts nothing about me. It wants only one thing from me, and that is slavery.
-Widespread state massacres have occurred particularly in places where ditches and barricades have been constructed. In certain Kurdish circles there are criticisms that you all prepared the foundation for these massacres. How do you evaluate such criticisms?
Don’t worry about such circles, they have deceived themselves in order to flee from the struggle. It is the Turkish state that created the foundation for these attacks. We know how this foundation was created from our own history. This is neither the last or the first time. For example for how many days now is the Turkish state attacking Rojava? How will those particular circles explain this? Will they also say that there are ditches in Rojava? You can invent stories for yourself in order to run away from the resistance and you can run but there is no need to produce such dark propaganda. Erdoğan is attacking all Kurds. Any other explanation or attempts as justification is just excessive verbosity.
-Is this a war declared against the Kurds?
Yes. It is a war declared against the Kurds. There is no difference between the attacks being carried out against Rojava and those happening here. If they can do it they can also declare a war against South Kurdistan in the same way. Erdoğan has come out and said that there are PKK fighters inside the PKK. As far as we know there are not. But if there are then we need to congratulate the PKK. It would mean that they ran to help the peoples of Rojava. This is an honorable stance. For example they went to Şengal (Sinjar). They protected the Êzîdis. They liberated Şengal. If you are against this then you are the same as DAISH (ISIS). The policy of the Turkish state is clear. They are openly saying that wherever there are Kurds and they have made gains then we will move against them. I think it was Cemil Çiçek who said that if a Kurdistan is founded in Argentina then we will be against it.
-There is an full-scale war underway in those regions where proclamations of autonomy have been made. For example everyday there is news of more massacres. What is your response to this? What is the trajectory of this war? How far will it go?
What is happening is a series of massacres. We can see this very clearly. It is entirely clear what they did in Cizre. In other places there executions have been well documented. Our people are face to face with a massacre but we as the YPS want to strongly emphasize that we will hold them to account for all of this. The Turkish state will derive zero benefit from these massacres. Sooner or later they will be held to account. You go out and use chemical weapons in Cizre and think you will get away with. No way. This is an attempt at total extermination. They want to bury Kurds and Kurdistan in graves as they tried in the past. There will certainly be a response against this. We will hold them to account for this with the strength we derive from our people.
-Can you explain a little more about what you have said?
With the strength we derive from the people. Our financeer is our people. Kurds are entirely aware of what is being done. Our people have stopped at nothing in their self-sacrifice. We have no expectations of help coming from here, or support coming from there. We we still against this genocidal process with only our own means and we will make a gift of freedom to our people. Within the borders of Turkey there are 20 million Kurds. Are they going to kill all of them? Everyday youths are coming and joining our ranks. They are taking up arms because they have witnessed this savagery. Within the Turkish army nearly 1 in 3 soldiers are Kurdish. What would happen if they put down their guns? Do they never consider this? Can they not see into the future?
-As a matter of fact there was a similar situation during the battle of Kobanê…
Yes and everyone knows this. They also know this quite well. Let them release their figures on how many soldiers deserted. The same thing is happening here. Our gains have increased and will increase even more. As I have said youth come and join our ranks every day. The fate of the Kurdish people is being determined here. Or more accurately the Kurdish people are determining their own fate. Either the Turkish state will accept our will and our autonomy and will create a legal framework together or we will all be destroyed. We will no longer live as in the past.
-You are saying that this is not some tactic…
No, certainly not. As long as there is one Kurdish youth left this resistance will continue.
-You are fighting against the Turkish armed forces. Can you explain something about the war you are waging?
It’s true, we are fighting with the army. We are fighting with the second largest army in NATO. More truthfully we are not allowing any chance for NATO’s second largest army to advance one step in Sur, Cizre, Nusaybin, Şırnak and Gever (Turkish: Yüksekova). This army is in reality a criminal army. Now the AKP is involved in these crimes. They have declared war against the people and are waging that war against the people. But they are not making any progress. The situation is Sur is there for everyone to see, as it is in other places. Since they are not moving forward then they will have to take a step back.
-What can be the way forward?
There is no way forward except for them to take a step back. Or they will return to the Dolmabahçe (negotiations). There was a 10-point agreement that came out of those negotiations. But let me make this clear: even they return to that table and meetings begin again we will still defend our ditches and barricades. There are clearly identified stages as part of this negotiation. We will move forward according to those. It cannot be any other way. Davutoğlu pointed to the October 6-8th serhildans (uprisings) and said that we will not forget them. Well we also have much that we will not forget.
-What about parliamentary politics…
We have no expectations from politics. There are none left. Erdoğan did this. Kurdish youth should not have any hopes for the parliamentary system. If a police officer can grab an MP by the arm then and throw him or her about then I expect nothing from our parliamentarians. And it is the person who gave the police that authority who has created this situation. This is not my problem. Let the Kurdish youth see this. We should not look at that sign reading “these days too will pass” with some kind of fatalism.
-There is talk that the war will become more violent in the spring. What will happen in the spring?
Yes there is such a situation. The state as always has calculated saying let’s crush and finish them in the winter and launched into their attacks. The seasonal conditions and movement of people in Kurdistan is known. Yes today the YPS are resisting in cities. But the people also know that there are guerillas who have been struggling for them for 40 years. This is the people’s thinking. In short the people believe that the guerillas will come to support the autonomous areas from their rural areas. This is the situation. Will they offer such support or not we do not know. However will continue to grow and expand our resistance.
-How do you evaluate the silence in the west concerning the massacres that are occurring here?
I want to ask revolutionary, democrats and Kurds in the big cities of Turkey this: Until what point will you hide yourselves in those large cities? What hiding places have you created for yourselves there? If today it’s our turn then tomorrow it will be yours. This fascist system and government is a major threat not only to Kurds but to you all. We know that there has been serious organization and agitation against you in the cities. Such singles have been giving in many places through arson, lynchings, public stabbings. Our words for our youth there is this: If you see the oppression here and if you see the oppression there and you are still living in the same way then you ought to turn around and look at yourself. You ought to investigate yourself.
-We have just marked the 17th anniversary since the international conspiracy against the Kurdish popular leader Abdullah Öcalan. From that day until today there have been developments every year. This year passed with the proclamations of autonomy, its construction and defense. How do you evaluate this?
The day our leadership was handed over to Turkey then president Bülent Ecevit is reported to have said ‘I don’t understand. Why did they hand over Öcalan to us?” And they still haven’t understood. Our leadership has turned Imrali Island in a field of resistance and has turned every day into a new gain. Now the state wants to keep him in isolation. As you said from the day the conspiracy has begun until now there have been developments every year. Most recently it happened when the state walked away from the table and the proclamations of autonomy began to come out. However our leadership had started the peace process. But Erdoğan did not accept this and started the war. Erdoğan was coming out every day and saying “I am the architect of the peace process.” Do they not ask if you are the architect then where is your foundation? What kind of architecture is this? The architecture of war? After seeing that his foundation was massacre and war we have now taken our own precautions.
This is to say that Erdoğan declared war against the Kurds to deepen the conspiracy. At some point this is a war against our leadership. And he started the war in Botan where lies the heart of Kurdishness. This is to say he wanted to strike the Kurds from Botan, from their heart, in order to destroy their other organs. This was the attack and it needs to be read like this.
-A resistance has emerged against the war…
We will no longer experience the February 15th conspiracy. Now is the time for the liberation of our leadership. We as the soldiers and defenders of the Kurdish people are making it clear that now is the time for the liberation of Kurdistan and our leadership. These are our targets and goals. Let no one waver. We have sufficient strength and will.