august 01, 2023
An interview with KCK co-Chair Cemil Bayik about the latest developments in Kurdistan, the Middle East and the world, including recent efforts in Europe for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, the involvement of the KDP in renewed occupation attacks of the Turkish army in South Kurdistan/North Iraq, the decisions taken during a recent conference on the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish state’s strategy behind its war efforts since 2015 and the upcoming anniversary of the IS attacks in 2014 on the Ezidis:
The isolation of the leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan, has reached a level that can only be described as torture. Nobody has heard anything from him for more than two years now. At the same time, the protests against Abdullah Öcalan’s isolation continue. How do you evaluate the latest developments with regards to this issue?
The policy pursued against Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] does not only concern the Kurdish people, but humanity as a whole. This is the reason why the international protests against this policy are increasing day by day. Recently, a conference during which many important decisions were taken was held in Lausanne, including the demand for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Another example is that a few days ago in Belgium, trade unions, intellectuals and municipality members held a press conference in which they demanded the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. I would like to salute all those who made this demand and who participated in the press conference. I believe that they will play a leading role in this struggle and that they will eventually achieve their demand. I say this, because they themselves have been struggling on this basis for years.
With both the conference of Lausanne and the press conference held in Belgium, a new phase within this struggle has been opened. As a movement, we are going to take our place in this new phase. On this basis, we are going to take some new decisions in the near future. On this occasion, I would like to call on the four parts of Kurdistan and our people abroad: Every Kurd must take part in the struggle for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Everyone knows that a very dirty war is being waged against him and that he has been in total isolation for more than two years. If the oppressive enemy succeeds with this policy, it will finalize the genocide of the Kurds. That is what they want and why they are tightening the already severe isolation of Rêber Apo. The fascist Turkish state does not recognize any humanitarian, moral or legal principles.
The forces of democracy and freedom on the international level have taken a stance against this policy that is implemented against Rêber Apo and thus against the Kurdish people as a whole. The fact that they do this through public protests makes the Turkish state uncomfortable. The state knows the importance of Rêber Apo for the Kurdish people and humanity and therefore increases the torture of Rêber Apo gradually. Some Turkish officials have recently said some empty things. For example, Rêber Apo was apparently threatened and told that he would be killed day by day, if he did not do what they want from him. Tuncer Kılınç [former Secretary General of the Turkish National Security Council] even said, ‘Every day in Imrali is equivalent to execution, we execute him every single day’. That is the basis of the policy pursued on Imrali. Therefore, the most important agenda for everyone must be the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Thus, we can thwart the policy being pursued against Rêber Apo and the Kurds as a whole. This is the duty of us all.
Our people understand the policy of the Turkish state very well. Every day there are news about Rêber Apo being given a disciplinary punishment. Thus, they prevent the visits of his lawyers and family. If a person cannot meet with his family or lawyers, cannot write letters, nor anything else, how can he have committed a crime? These are purely political decisions. By representing his people and humanity as a whole, Rêber Apo wages a historic resistance against this dirty policy. That is why the Turkish state wants to achieve results based on hatred against Rêber Apo. They impose such a severe isolation so that his voice cannot reach the people. I believe that those who took part in the conference in Lausanne and the participants of the press conference in Belgium will come up with new actions for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. We as a movement will take part in this. We are going to make a public announcement accordingly in the near future.
Eight years ago, on July 24, 2015, the Turkish state launched a major attack against the Kurdish people and the South Kurdish Medya Defense Zones. These attacks have been going on uninterruptedly now for more than 8 years. In its latest statement, the HPG stated that the KDP participates in the Turkish army’s operations in the South Kurdish area of Xakurkê and in other areas as well. What can you to tell us about this? How is the situation with regards to the ongoing war?
The last 8 years are very important for our struggle. Of course, we have gone through many difficult times, but in the last 8 years we have been fighting an even tougher war. The Turkish army, the second biggest army in NATO, receives all kinds of weapons and support from NATO members and other states. They use every kind of weapon when it is about the PKK and the Kurds; from chemical weapons to tactical nuclear weapons. For the last 8 years, the Turkish state has used all its means in its war against our movement. It attacks the guerrillas 24 hours a day with tanks, artillery, fighter jets and chemical weapons. The HPG lately stated that there have been more than 500 attacks a day.
The attacks on our forces are enormous and in a way unprecedented. The aim of the Turkish state is to complete its genocide against the Kurdish people. Apart from the PKK, no other force would not have been able to resist such attacks for 8 years, not even for 8 months. Rêber Apo, the guerrillas of the PKK and the Kurdish people have been putting up a historic resistance in the last 8 years. Since there is a great resistance, we are also paying a great price. Because the struggle we are waging is not only for ourselves, but also for the Middle East and for humanity. Despite this heavy price we have paid, we have not allowed the occupying Turkish state to achieve its goal.
They aimed to destroy the PKK and carry out a genocide against the Kurdish people on the 100th anniversary of Lausanne. But against this, Rêber Apo, the PKK and the Kurdish people are putting up a heroic resistance. On this occasion, I would like to respectfully greet all the HPG and YJA-Star guerrillas who have been fighting against the invaders in and outside the tunnels, thus waging a historical resistance. I would like to express my gratitude and congratulate them on their success.
On the other hand, there is the practice of the KDP and Barzani. All Kurds with a political awareness have to express their protest against the situation being created by the KDP and Barzani. The KDP and the Barzani family are collaborating with the Turkish state. They put all their means at the service of this genocidal state and do not see this as something wrong. They even claim to represent and serve the Kurds. But at the same time the Turkish state martyrs Kurdish youth with the help of the KDP. Our people need to understand the relation between Barzani’s KDP and the Turkish state well.
In Xakurkê, the Turkish state and the KDP are conducting operations against the guerrillas. In [the South Kurdish region] Zap, they [KDP forces] dress themselves in the uniforms of Turkish soldiers and fight against the guerrillas alongside the Turkish soldiers. They come out of Barzani’s outpost and attack our friends [guerrilla forces]. On the day of the recent conference in Lausanne, whose aim was the development of national unity, the Barzani’s carried out operations against the guerrillas alongside the Turkish state. What is the meaning of joining forces with the enemy and of carrying out operations against the guerrillas? Everyone should think about this.
There are only two lines in Kurdistan today: one is the line of freedom and the other is the line of betrayal and collaboration. The Kurds cannot side with the Turkish state, they can not shed the blood of Kurdish youth together with the Turkish state. This has nothing to do with being a Kurd. Our people need to take a stand accordingly.
On the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, all parties except the KDP came together in Lausanne. They expressed their unity in the very place where the treaty leading to the Kurdish genocide was signed. How do you evaluate this recent conference?
The recent conference in Lausanne is a step towards national unity of the Kurdish people. It has created hope not only among the Kurdish people but also among other peoples living in Kurdistan. A hundred years ago, a document was signed in Lausanne that led to the genocide of Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Assyriacs, Alevis and Ezidis. Rêber Apo has been struggling against the alliance that was forged at that time in Lausanne and has tried to show the truth of this treaty. That is what the conference that took place a few days ago has shown clearly to the world. During the conference it was stated clearly, that the genocidal policy implemented since Lausanne is not going to be accepted any longer.
The Turkish state and its collaborators made great efforts to prevent the conference from taking place. But they did not have enough power to succeed. The constantly growing resistance of the Kurdish people in all parts of Kurdistan and abroad, and of the increasing number of their international friends made the conference happen.
This recent conference was very important. I would like to take this opportunity to send my greetings to all those who contributed to the conference, who took part in the decision making process there and who will put these decisions into practice. They have achieved something historical and have thus done a great service to the Kurdish people and all the other peoples. Everybody wanted the KDP and Barzani to participate in this historic conference. Everybody wanted them to stand on the side of their people and not on the side of the occupiers on such a historic day. But they did not attend the conference because they have tied their fate to the Turkish state. All those who wanted Kurdish unity and freedom came together at the recent conference in Lausanne. It was just the Barzanis who did not come. In Lausanne, the Kurdish people organized a conference, while Barzani and his KDP were carrying out operations against the guerrillas together with the Turkish state. The Kurdish people tore up the Lausanne alliance, but Barzani tried to keep it alive. This is the meaning of their decision to side with the Turkish state and to not attend the conference.
The Treaty of Lausanne means the denial and extermination of not only the Kurdish people but of all other peoples and different beliefs in Kurdistan, which is why the people living in Kurdistan do not accept it. The decisions taken at the recent conference are important and need to be implemented. It is not enough to just take decisions, they must be followed up on. Not only the PKK, but all the peoples living in Kurdistan are responsible for this. Maybe everyone’s responsibility is different, but everyone must take some form of responsibility and fulfill it. Everyone in Kurdistan and abroad need to fulfill their duties according to their power. This should not remain limited to the conference itself. A strong step was taken at the conference a few days ago and this must be followed up on. It is necessary to do this with a variety of activities until we achieve results.
At the conference, calls were made for the physical freedom of the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and for the Kurdish people to build an alliance among themselves and organize a national unity conference. As the biggest force in Kurdistan, what is your response to these calls?
First of all, I must state that we take all the decisions and calls made at the conference in Lausanne as a basis for our own work and will help in every way possible to put these decisions into practice. We are ready to do whatever is asked of us.
The decision taken to achieve the physical freedom of Rêber Apo is very important. Everyone had expected the conference to take such a decision, because Rêber Apo is the representative of the Kurdish people. The people want to live freely on their land and with their own identity. The central demand to achieve this is the freedom or Rêber Apo. If he is not freed from Imrali, the freedom of the Kurdish people will not be achieved and democracy will not become a reality, neither for the Kurds, nor in Turkey as a whole. Everyone who wants the Kurdish question to be solved, who wants the Kurds to live in freedom and who wants Turkey to be democratized must stand against the isolation of Rêber Apo. If they don’t, neither the freedom for Kurdistan nor democracy in Turkey will be achieved. Anyone who calls themselves a democrat, socialist, artist, intellectual, anti-fascist or freedom seeker must take this demand as a basis for themselves. The measure of democracy, socialism and Kurdish identity is to stand against the isolation of Rêber Apo. There can not be any other measure, no one should deceive themselves. Based on this, the Kurdish problem and the problems of democracy in Turkey can be solved.
Another important decision of the conference is to organize a conference of Kurdish national unity. There has never been a people in the world that has been divided, dispersed, tortured and displaced as much as the Kurdish people. No people has ever lived under such a domination by others. That is why national unity is so important for the Kurds. They have been divided so much, that they have been left powerless. The enemies of them are encouraged by this fragmentation. The liberation of Kurdish society can definitely only be achieved through unity.
Today, even though there is a good opportunity for the Kurds, we are faced with a dangerous situation. If Kurdish unity is established soon, the Kurds can achieve their freedom. That is why this decision taken at the conference is very important and historic. All Kurds and even all peoples living in Kurdistan should work for the realization of the national unity conference as soon as possible. If Kurdish unity is achieved, the Kurdish people will win and their hopes will be realized after so many years of struggle. I would therefore like to call on everyone to fulfill their responsibility.
The AKP conducts its politics based on the ‘Submission Plan’ that it is has been putting into action against the Kurdish people since 2015. They have been going back and forth between NATO and Russia, but recently also held talks in several Arab countries. How do you evaluate this?
We see every day in the news that the fascist AKP-MHP is starving all the people in Turkey. They have condemned the people to poverty. They are conducting a politics of deception based on lies and demagoguery. Thus, they try to hide the plight of the people. Because the AKP-MHP knows that when the people realize this, they will not be able to stay in power any longer. They also deceive the people with empty words such as, ‘There is terrorism.’, ‘There is separatism.’ or ‘The Kurds will tear Turkey apart, they will destroy us. That’s why we have to defend ourselves.’ By deceiving and scaring the people on the one side and by constant war on the other side, they try to stay in power.
Outside Turkey, they also pursue such a policy. By referring to Ottoman history, they promise to take back the land of the Ottomans. That is why the Turkish state does not have much credibility in the international arena. Since they have invested all their resources in the war, their economy has collapsed and their politics is in a deadlock. They are now making the people pay the bill for this. Every day, they announce price hike after price hike. The only thing the people care about nowadays is how to live, how to keep their children alive. The AKP-MHP is consciously pursuing this policy and wants the people to only care about bread so that they forget about the other things and the AKP-MHP can maintain its power. Again, they are taking advantage of the lack of an opposition in Turkey. There is no opposition to explain this policy of the government to the public, to educate the public with regards to this issue. This is one of the main problems in Turkey right now.
Therefore, the Labor and Freedom Alliance needs to make society understand the problems created by the government. It must organize and mobilize society on this basis. Because apart from the Labor and Freedom Alliance, there is no other opposition in Turkey that can do this. If they make the people understand the situation in the country, organize and mobilize them, the people will rise up. Because the people are not satisfied with this government, they opposed it. If the Labor and Freedom Alliance is able to make use of this, the AKP-MHP government will not be able to cause so much trouble to the people of Turkey anymore. They are oppressing the people heavily every single day. The people are even in need of drinking water and even their electricity is often cut off. Our people in Kurdistan are being martyred in deliberate accidents with armored vehicles every single day. But no one holds anyone to account. The poor have become poorer and the rich have become richer. Hunger, plunder and oppression are increasing every day, while the nature is being destroyed.
The Turkish state recently started to cut down trees in the [Akbelen] forest [in Southwest Turkey]. Even an 88-year-old woman who clung herself to a tree so they wouldn’t cut it down, was taken away by the police. They are eliminating human life. They know no limit and encourage rape, massacres and the destruction of human life. A policy of using especially heroin and prostitution against women and young people can be seen in Kurdistan. They also encourage spying in Kurdistan. And people are constantly getting arrested and tortured. That is why the forces of labor and democracy have to focus on all these problems. It is their task to uncover this situation and to show the society who is responsible for it. Then, the people themselves will take action.
The AKP-MHP government has become weak but still tries everything to look strong. The problems in Turkey are increasing day by day. This is not just an economic crisis, there is also a social, political and moral crisis which they are not able to solve. They aim to get out of this crisis by creating fake agendas and by selling everything they can. There is nothing left they haven’t sold. The Turkish state has gone to many different countries to solve its monetary crisis. But this will not lead to any real solutions. They cannot solve the problems unless they give up the dirty war they are waging against the Kurdish people. What has to be understood is, that the root of all these problems lies in the war that is being waged against the Kurdish people. If the Turkish society wants to get rid of their problems, they must tell the AKP-MHP that it is enough, and stop this war. They need to accept the existence of the Kurdish people and its demands, change their policies towards the Kurds and solve the problems through dialogue. Turkey cannot get out of the crisis in any other way.
9 years ago, the Islamic State [IS] committed a massacre against the Ezidi people. The guerrilla fighters of the HPG and YJA Star came to rescue Şengal [Sinjar] and thus prevented further massacres. Do you have any message on the anniversary of the 74th genocide against the Ezidi people?
Our Ezidi people have experienced 74 genocides. The purpose of the 74th genocide was to exterminate all Ezidis through genocide. But they did not fully achieve this goal, because the PKK prevented this. Even before the genocide, Rêber Apo instructed our movement to protect our Ezidi people. If our 12 friends who went to Şengal as a first group, had not intervened against IS, if the forces of YPG, YPJ and HPG had not gone there and if a corridor had not been opened, IS would have carried out a genocide against the whole Ezidi people.
The Ezidi people cannot live anywhere else than on their own land in Şengal. They can still live there today because of the intervention of the guerrilla forces of the PKK as well as of the YPG and YPJ forces. This intervention prevented the completion of the genocide. IS was going to slaughter everybody they caught and displace all others thus making a return impossible. If the intervention of our friends had not happened, the Ezidis would not exist anymore today. Because once you leave your land, you can no longer survive. This danger was averted and a high price had to be paid. But as a result, today the people in Şengal continue to live according to their identity, religion and values.
Today, our Ezidi people are stronger than they were before the 74th genocide. There are still many problems that have to be solved, e.g. the attacks by the Turkish state and the Barzanis. But despite all these problems, the Ezidi people have their own institutions today and can defend themselves. They have formed a very important alliance on this basis, which needs to be strengthened even more in order to achieve a solution for Şengal. Achieving a status for Şengal and the Ezidi people is important for them. There are also peoples and beliefs other than Ezidis within this alliance.
I would like to take this opportunity to honor the martyrs of our Ezidi people. Without these martyrs and the resistance, the Ezidi people might not exist today. The situation of not only Ezidis but also Kurds and other peoples in the Middle East would be very different. That is why this resistance has created new values not only for the Ezidis, but also for other peoples and humanity as a whole. Therefore, once again, I salute our Ezidi people and congratulate them on their struggle. I would like to pay my respects to them and encourage them to believe in themselves and to further strengthen the alliance they have established. If they continue to struggle on this basis in a determinate and courageous way, they will definitely achieve their goals.