june 29, 2023
A comprehensive interview with KCK co-Chair Cemil Bayik about the latest developments in Kurdistan, the Middle East and the world, including the current situation of Abdullah Öcalan on Turkey’s prison island Imrali, the decision to terminate the halt of military attacks, the most recent attacks carried out by the guerrilla forces, the last round of Astana talks, necessary precautions against a possible new occupation attack by Turkey on Rojava, Masrour Barzani’s recent visit to Ankara, the lessons to be learned from Turkey’s elections and the lack of legitimacy of Turkey’s new government:
The isolation of the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan continues. He is not allowed to meet with his lawyers and family and is regularly being given new so-called ‘disciplinary punishments’. How do you evaluate the current situation of Abdullah Öcalan?
The occupying Turkish state started to carry out massacres against various peoples right after its foundation. Many peoples were thus subjected to genocide. One of them is the Kurdish people. The Turkish state has since caused great suffering to the Kurdish people and the Kurds have rebelled against these attacks. They have displayed a heroic resistance and defended themselves.
The occupying Turkish state still wants to continue this genocide policy. If we do not understand this policy of the past – a policy of massacres against the peoples – we cannot understand the Turkish state’s current approach towards Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan]. This policy against Rêber Apo, is actually a policy against all Kurds, peoples and humanity as a whole. Because Rêber Apo is the leader of a people. Therefore, we need to understand the mentality of the Turkish state well. If a state is based on genocide, it will never take into account law, justice and international rules. We can see clearly today that the policy being carried out against Rêber Apo and the Kurdish people neither complies with Turkey’s own laws nor with international law.
The only thing they think about is to eliminate the Kurds. The Turkish state uses all its institutions for this. The policy against Rêber Apo constitutes a policy against the Kurdish people and human values. Rêber Apo defends human values. Therefore, the isolation of Rêber Apo is an attempt to complete the genocide. This isolation has nothing to do with law. It is purely political. When the struggle increases, the Turkish state softens the isolation a little bit. But when the struggle is weak, they put the complete isolation back into effect. Therefore, everyone must understand their duty to take a stance against the complete isolation and to oppose the genocide. Then the Turkish state will take a step back in its genocide policy. This is the responsibility of our people, our international friends, all revolutionaries and socialists. Those who define themselves as patriots, socialists, democrats and intellectuals must stand against the complete isolation and increase the struggle for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo.
That is why all Kurds, socialists, democrats and international friends of the Kurdish people in the four parts of Kurdistan and abroad must wage a great struggle for Rêber Apo. Because the Turkish state pursues a policy of genocide. It wants to carry out a genocide against the Kurds and the PKK by doing the exact same thing against Rêber Apo. The Turkish state must lift the complete isolation immediately. Rêber Apo’s lawyers and family must be able to visit him. Rêber Apo has rights as a prisoner. The Turkish state must recognize these rights. I also have a call for all politicians and those who fight for human rights: They need to apply to visit Rêber Apo.
First because of the earthquake in North Kurdistan and Turkey and then because of the elections, your movement decided to declare a halt of all its military attacks in February. But the Turkish state continued its attacks despite this decision. Recently, the KCK announced the end of the halt of all attacks. What made you take this decision?
We declared the halt of all military attacks for a reason. A very heavy earthquake had happened in Kurdistan. Thousands of our people had been killed and injured. We wanted to fulfill our responsibility and alleviate the pain of our people. Another reason was to guarantee a strong framework for democratic politics. Because in war, inevitably democratic politics cannot wage a strong struggle. Because there is a fascist and genocidal government in Turkey which interferes in everything. Therefore, our decision was a human and moral decision. In the context of the elections in Turkey and North Kurdistan, there was talk among the people that the AKP-MHP would carry out provocations. They had done this before. That is why there was such a fear among the people. We therefore extended the halt of all our attacks in order to prevent any provocations.
Despite our decision to halt all military attacks, the Turkish state did not change its war policy. It wants to destroy the PKK and annihilate the Kurdish people. That is why it was not able to understand the reason for our decision. The Turkish state thought that the guerrilla forces had taken this decision because they had been weakened. It saw the decision as an opportunity to destroy the guerrilla. Therefore, the Turkish state increased its attacks even more, both in the Medya Defense Zones [areas controlled by the guerrilla forces in South Kurdistan] and everywhere in South Kurdistan [North Iraq], Rojava and North Kurdistan [East Turkey]. They carried out many bombardments and continued to use chemical weapons, basically using all the means at their disposal. They took many different measures such as arrests, killings and heavy punishments in the prisons. Since they had taken these steps, our decision to halt all military attacks lost its meaning. That is why we have officially declared the end of the halt of all attacks.
Since you declared the end of this decision, the fighting in the Medya Defense Zones has intensified. Can you tell us what the latest developments there are?
The Turkish state has never understood the guerrilla’s power to attack. And it still doesn’t understand it. The Turkish state has certain technological capabilities and some powers are helping it. Thus, it thought that it could easily strike a blow against the guerrilla. But this is nothing more than self-deception. Immediately after we ended the halt of all attacks, many effective and powerful attacks were carried out by the guerrilla forces.
As a result of these attacks, the Turkish state has recently suffered heavy blows in many areas, especially in Xakurkê and Metîna [both areas in South Kurdistan]. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Heval Asya, Azad and Koçer who were martyred in a recent guerrilla attack in Xakurkê. One of these friends was German, one was Kurdish and one was Turkish. In other words, they represented a variety of peoples. This shows the reality of our movement. It is not only a Kurdish movement but a movement for the freedom and democracy of all peoples.
Now, the war will intensify even more. Because once more a war government has been established in Turkey. Erdoğan has already openly said that they will wage a stronger military and diplomatic war. The new cabinet was formed on this basis. The Turkish state is currently increasing its attacks day by day. Our resistance against these attacks is also growing stronger. Our people and our democratic and socialist friends need to understand this reality well. When the Turkish state escalates its attacks and the war intensifies, no one should remain silent and simply watch. Wherever they are, they must fulfill their duty for the Kurdish people and the struggle for democracy and freedom.
In its statement on the end of the halt of all military attacks, the KCK stated that after the elections, the Turkish state had increased its attacks especially on Rojava. Most recently, the Qamişlo canton co-chair Yusra Derwêş, deputy co-chair Leyman Şiwêş and council member Firat Tûma were murdered in an attack of the Turkish state. Why are these attacks increasing now?
A meeting was held in Astana recently with the participation of Russia, Syria and Iran. Astana meetings have taken place many times before. But no solution was found to any problem of the peoples, neither in Syria nor in the Middle East. In fact, these meetings made the existing problems even bigger. Obviously, the forces involved also focus on the Kurdish issue in these meetings. But instead of accepting and solving the problem in a political and democratic way, they look for ways to eliminate the Kurds. After each Astana meeting, the problems in Syria and the Middle East grew bigger. The Turkish state has occupied and even annexed many areas in Syria. It has established all its institutions in these areas. It continues to forcibly remove the Kurds from Serêkaniyê, Girê Spî and Efrîn and to place gangs [Islamist proxy forces] affiliated with the Turkish state there. In other words, the Turkish state is changing the demography of these areas. It does this because its policy is based on the Kurdish genocide. The Turkish state has said that it wants all the remaining Kurdish-held territories [in Syria]. That is why it carries out all these attacks in front of the international public.
The Turkish state, which aims to eliminate Kurds and Kurdistan, is not only doing this based on its own strength. On the one hand, the participants in the Astana meeting support the Turkish state while on the other hand NATO remains silent. Encouraged by this, the Turkish state continues its war policy with ease. Syria should not make any false plans with the Turkish state that occupies its territory. If it does, it will be the one who suffers the biggest blow. The powers participating in the Astana meetings have said that they will support Syria to eliminate the Kurds. Syria should not accept this because this is a trap. Syria should unite with the Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian people against these plans. It should focus on solving the Kurdish problem and negotiate with the Kurds. It should fight against the occupying Turkish state and remove it from the occupied areas. This will serve Syria. If the Syrian state fights against the Syrian people, it will suffer the greatest damage. I believe that Syria understands this.
While talks were being held in Astana, Masrour Barzani met Erdogan and other government officials in Ankara recently. What is your take on these talks?
Yes, while the Astana talks were taking place, Masrour Barzani went to Turkey and met with Erdoğan, Fidan [Turkey’s new foreign minister] and Yaşar Güler [new defense minister]. Afterwards Yaşar Güler made a statement: “Our talks with Masrour Barzani went well and will have positive results.” After Mesrur Barzani’s talks, Qamişlo was attacked and the co-chair of the Qamişlo Canton Yusra Derwêş, the deputy co-chair Leyman Şiwêş and the council member Firat Tûma were martyred. Of course, Masrour Barzani can go to Turkey and hold talks there. We are not against this. But if Kurds are attacked when he goes to Ankara or while he is there, and if Kurds are attacked after he returns, there is clearly a meaning to this.
Yaşar Güler, Turkey’s war minister, said that their talks were positive and will soon have practical results. Everybody knows that the Turkish state pursues a policy of genocide against the Kurds. So what exactly does it mean that they say there were positive talks between them and that the practical results would be seen soon? That is what everybody is asking themselves now: What kind of talks were held between Masrour Barzani and the Turkish state and what decisions were taken? They need to explain this. If they don’t make an explanation and if they don’t take into account all the questions the Kurds have about this, then everyone will think that negative decisions were taken between the Turkish state and Masrour Barzani against the PKK and the Kurdish people. Because the Turkish state is waging a war against the Kurds.
Again and again, international support has been vital for the defense of Rojava and North and East Syria. How do you see the current international response to Turkey’s attacks?
If Syria does not negotiate with the Kurds and focus on solving the problem with them, of course the Kurds of Rojava will strengthen their alliance with the peoples. They will increase their resistance against the occupation. They will not submit to the Turkish state. Everybody must be aware of this. What we want is for Syria, the Kurdish people and the other peoples to stand against the occupying Turkish state. Because the Turkish state wants the war to intensify and the occupied areas in Syria to expand. If Syria does not want more of its territory to be occupied by the Turkish state, then it should improve its relations with the Kurds. The Turkish state carryies out attacks and massacres. Almost every day they massacre civilians in Rojava. But everyone is silent. Remaining silent means considering the Turkish state’s massacres against Kurds as normal. If Syria does not see it like that, it needs to stand against these attacks. But if it doesn’t do so, it obviously considers the massacres of the Turkish state as positive. This means that it also has a share in these massacres.
Rojava defends human values. That’s why everyone who calls themselves a democrat, socialist, ecologist, libertarian, artist or intellectual, everyone who is against occupation, annexation, fascism, and who supports democracy and human values must defend Rojava. Because Rojava does not only fight for itself but for humanity as a whole. It has proved this in practice. Rojava has fought a heavy war against ISIS and has suffered thousands of martyrs and wounded. It has thus saved humanity from a great scourge. Now, the Turkish state massacres exactly those people who have stood against ISIS and who defend human values. So why is humanity silent? Some states are silent because of their interests, but why are intellectuals, socialists, women, ecology movements and all those who fight for democracy and freedom silent? They should not remain silent. Because some members of the movements I mentioned also took part in this struggle. Some of them were martyred. These movements have also shown great efforts for Rojava. That is why humanity must defend Rojava against the Turkish state. Especially the Kurdish people in the four parts of Kurdistan and abroad must defend it.
And the population of Rojava and North and East Syria, how should they respond to the current threats and attacks?
The Turkish state wants to increase its attacks on Rojava. It even aims to occupy new areas. It is currently conducting diplomacy in the international arena to intervene in Rojava. Our people must recognize this. They need to make preparations to defend themselves against the occupation. This is what we ask of them: Do not leave your lands and homes when the occupation attacks start. You must remain in your land and stand against the occupation until the end. If you stay and fight in your lands, the Turkish state will suffer great blows and will not be able to occupy it.
An important election recently took place in Turkey and North Kurdistan. This election was also historic due to the intensity of the state’s oppression, persecution and fascism. What are the most important conclusions you draw from the election results?
The election in May was very important. Consequently, everyone is discussing the results now. It is not wrong to have these kinds of discussions. This is necessary indeed, but what is important is that these discussions carried out by the forces of freedom and democracy lead to positive developments and success. The Labor and Freedom Alliance was founded before the elections with the aim of democratizing Turkey and creating the unity of the peoples of Turkey against fascism. This was a good decision. Perhaps this alliance should have been strengthened even more. In practice, it was not developed as necessary. There may have been shortcomings and mistakes, but lessons must now be learned from them. Then these mistakes will be overcome. Those who want to succeed need to approach this issue in this way.
All those who are part of this alliance need to strengthen their relations with the people. Because it has become clear that there are some weaknesses in their relations with the people. Without such relations, their politics will never yield any results. This is an alliance for freedom and democracy. Therefore, it must be based on society. It must organize society and express the people’s will. They must take decisions together with society. If their ties with society are weak, they will not be able to achieve results through politics. The AKP gathers people of faith around it. This is a powerful section of society in Turkey. Therefore, the Labor and Freedom Alliance needs to prevent Erdoğan’s abuse of these people so that he cannot use them for his politics. Because this is a big part of society. If you don’t acknowledge this, don’t develop a policy accordingly and don’t include society, you won’t achieve any results in Turkey. This was also the case in the recent elections.
That is why Rêber Apo has developed a policy against this. His policy is based on the politics of democratic Islam. Islam is dominant in Turkey. There are people from different faiths and religions, but it is predominantly a Muslim people. If you don’t acknowledge this, you cannot achieve any results no matter what you do. Everyone in the Labor and Freedom Alliance must recognize this. Therefore, they must go to these people based on politics of democratic Islam. If they do so, this alliance will achieve great results in Turkey. During the recent elections, the importance of the democratic nation paradigm has also become clear. The problems in Turkey can only be solved based on this paradigm. That is why it is necessary to insist on this and to not take any steps back. Why am I saying this? Because there are attacks on this paradigm. These attacks may even have an effect on certain people. It is necessary to know why these attacks are being carried out and what their goals are. Against these attacks, there must be an even stronger support for the paradigm of the democratic nation.
There are intense discussions among the Labor and Freedom Alliance about the election results. Do you agree with what is being said about the work of this alliance?
There are people who see themselves as responsible for what happened during the elections. They want to solve the existing problems and are working hard for this. The critique they have voiced is good. They might face some difficulties, but I believe that they will achieve great results. While some are approaching this issue responsibly and focus their discussions on how to achieve success, there are others who are talking nonsense. Because they are detached from society and do not feel any responsibility towards it. They instead serve fascism and genocide. That’s why they speak so comfortably. Their speeches are full of attacks on Rêber Apo, his paradigm and the PKK. While some of them do this openly, others do it in a more subtle way.
A relentless struggle has been waged for 50 years under the leadership of Rêber Apo. In the course of this struggle, many values and patriotic principles have been created. Some people stand against these values and claim too represent national interests. They attack Rêber Apo and the PKK and define themselves as defenders of national interests. But they have nothing to do with such interests. Those struggling for national interests pay the necessary price for this. But when we look at these people, we can see that they neither wage a struggle nor pay the price for it. They have not taken a stance against the Turkish state for a single day and have not paid the slightest price. They take side with the Turkish state and attack Rêber Apo, the PKK, democratic politics and the projects developed by Rêber Apo. What kind of supporters of national interests are they? A person who defends national interests stands with whoever fights for the Kurdish society, not with those who carry out a genocide against the Kurds. We can clearly see that those who attack Rêber Apo and the PKK are on the side of the Turkish state. Fascists, racists and chauvinists are carrying out these attacks as part of Erdoğan’s politics. There are not only Turks among them, but also Kurds. These people are carrying out the politics of the Turkish state.
While the peoples of Turkey and the Kurdish people are really enthusiastic about the democratic nation paradigm and are struggling on this basis, others are afraid and attack it. Those who do this are fascists, chauvinists and racists. They completely serve the politics of the Turkish state. The forces of democracy and freedom must understand well why these attacks are being carried out so that they can defend the democratization of Turkey and socialism. Because they are attacking Rêber Apo’s project of democratizing Turkey. With these attacks, they want to eliminate the Labor and Freedom Alliance. Therefore, it is now necessary to support the project developed by Rêber Apo even more. We need to understand the democratization of Turkey and the unity of the peoples as our basis. If the Labor and Freedom Alliance takes this a basis, all attacks will be defeated. Then, the alliance will grow stronger.
What is the most urgent task for the Labor and Freedom Alliance to tackle now?
Erdogan’s alliance still exists. The alliance built by Kılıçdaroğlu has now collapsed. The alliance that will develop the most from now on is the Labor and Freedom Alliance. Those who take part in this alliance must therefore act responsibly. In other words, they need to develop a more democratic policy both in Kurdistan and in Turkey.
Many things are currently happening in Kurdistan and Turkey. Especially in Kurdistan. For example, Kurds killed each other in Bismîl the other day. Our people should not kill each other. They should solve their problems through dialog. Democratic politics should protect the people and prevent these kinds of problems between the people. Because the Turkish state wants such problems to escalate and Kurds to kill each other. That is why democratic politics must play its role in this regard.
And the Kurdish people themselves, what kind of stance do you think they should take after the elections?
The Turkish state attacks the people in every way possible as part of its genocide policy in Kurdistan. It promotes rape, sends the bones of martyrs to their families in bags, slaughters children, women and elderly people with tanks, spreads prostitution, encourages the use of heroin and turns people into spies. It exploits the nature of Kurdistan, cuts down trees, builds dams, spreads mining and destroys villages. In other words, it destroys the possibility to live in Kurdistan. That is why our people should not remain silent against all this. Wherever the Turkish state carries out these attacks, the people there should rise up. This is the right thing to do. This is what Kurdish identity, religion and being a human demands.
One last question about the elections: In light of the general atmosphere during the election and the fraud that took place, do you consider the new government as legitimate?
The elections have shown clearly that the Kurdish people reject Erdoğan. They do not accept him. Not only the Kurdish people but also the peoples of Turkey rejected Erdoğan in the election. Therefore, this government is not legitimate. The decisions it takes with regards to the Kurdish people are not legitimate. The government in Turkey is a completely fascist and genocidal government. It only won with the help of the state’s power.
June 30 marks the 27th anniversary of şehit Zîlan’s martyrdom, one of the PKK’s pioneering cadres who carried out a self-sacrifice attack in Dersim in 1996. What is the importance of this anniversary for today?
First of all, I would like to respectfully commemorate all the martyrs of the revolution by commemorating heval Zîlan, Sema and Gulan. I would also like to salute all freedom fighters. Heval Zîlan took a stance against the attack on Rêber Apo [carried out in May 1996 in the Syrian capital Damascus]. She thus sent a message to the guerrilla, the Kurdish people and the Turkish state. And she clearly told the Turkish state that if it tries to eliminate the leadership [Abdullah Öcalan], it also tries to eliminate all of us, which gives us the right to eliminate the Turkish state. Today, our party, our people and our militants are still fighting in the spirit of Zîlan. From the first day of the PKK, it has always been characterized by this kind of sacrificial strength. This became clear through Zîlan and the friends in the Amed prison. Today, in the Media Defense Zones – in Zap, Metîna and Avaşîn – the spirit of Zîlan is being kept alive. In the prisons, not only in Turkey but also in other countries, all those who struggle for democracy and freedom for the Kurdish people are resisting based on this spirit. Nobody can destroy the PKK or complete the genocide of the Kurdish people because of this spirit of resistance. There is faith and sacrifice hidden in this spirit. If this were not the case, we would not have been able to struggle against the Turkish army for so many years. We have carried the resistance until today and have created many values thanks to this spirit.
The anniversary of the execution of Şêx Saîd is upcoming. Yet, so many years after his execution, the Turkish state has still not published the whereabouts of his grave. Why?
On June 29 , the genocidal Turkish state issued a death sentence for Şêx Saîd. Together with Şêx Saîd, they executed 46 patriots. The site of their graves is still unknown. The occupying Turkish state also put Rêber Apo on trial and, on June 29, 1999, it issued a death sentence for Rêber Apo as well. In other words, it issued a death sentence for Rêber Apo on the same day as it had done for Şêx Saîd. This shows the character of the Turkish state. If one understands this character and the historical reality of the Kurdish people, one can make sense of what is happening today. Then you can understand why Rêber Apo has been subjected to such brutal torture. The Turkish state wants only death for the Kurds. It enjoys massacres, deaths and genocides. That is why its approach towards Rêber Apo and the Kurdish people is to eliminate them. This is all it thinks about. That is why they have put all the means of Turkey into action. Every Kurd, every person needs to see this. Every day they need to think about how they can protect their values, about how they will stand against the Turkish state. Thus, they must understand and fulfill their responsibility. They might pay a price and suffer doing this, but in the end they will win. Our people today know who is a real patriot, who has paid a price and suffered. Because every day Rêber Apo, the PKK and the guerrilla are waging a relentless struggle for the freedom of the Kurdish people. Every day they suffer martyrs. On this occasion, I would therefore like to once again commemorate the martyrs of the freedom struggle and respectfully bow in front of their memories. I offer my condolences to the families of all martyrs. And I wish all the fighters success in their struggle.