july 29, 2023
An interview Mustafa Karasu, member of the KCK Executive Council, about the latest developments in Kurdistan, the Middle East and the world, including the ongoing physical isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the continuing genocide against the Kurdish people, the Turkish state’s war of occupation in South Kurdistan/North Iraq with the help of the KDP, the centenary of the Treaty of Lausanne, the importance of the Rojava Revolution for the Middle East and the right of the Ezidi people in Şengal [Sinjar] to govern themselves:
The Kurdish Freedom Movement is facing all kinds of attacks. One of the most significant is the isolation of the leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan. What can you tell us about his current situation?
An attack against the struggle of a people is always first and foremost directed against its leadership and political organization. Because without destroying them, a people’s struggle for freedom and democracy cannot be prevented and a people cannot be subjected to genocide. Since the resistance of Şêx Said and the people of Dersim, it were always the leaders who were massacred. Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] has always considered the execution of Şêx Saîd as the beginning of the Kurdish genocide. In this respect, the struggle against the Kurdish genocide and the struggle against the isolation of Leader Apo are intertwined. Therefore, the policy of isolation pursued against Rêber Apo in the prison of Imrali is part of the policy of the Kurdish genocide. A reality that must be well recognized by the Kurds is, that without an effective struggle against the isolation, there can be no effective struggle against the Kurdish genocide. A people always fights together with its leaders, its political movement and its organization, and thus gains its own power. Now that there is a genocidal attack against Rêber Apo, there of course has to be a struggle against this. This struggle has been continuing for nearly 25 years now. Today, unions, municipalities and intellectuals all over the world have joined the struggle for the freedom of Rêber Apo, because his freedom is not only in the interest of the Kurds or the democratic forces in Turkey, but has become the interest of humanity as a whole.
Nevertheless, the Turkish state persistently continues its policy of isolation and genocide. For example, Merdan Yanardağ [editor-in-chief of the Turkish television channel ‘Tele 1’] recently commented on Rêber Apo’s stance in Imrali. He said that no prisoner in the history of Turkey had ever experienced such a system. He is a political leader who has been imprisoned longer than anybody else [in Turkey]. Merdan Yanardağ said this himself. He also stated that there was no legal basis for this in Turkey. Why is Rêber Apo not allowed to meet with his lawyers? Why is the way to get him out of prison blocked, even though he has been imprisoned for so long? Yanardağ criticized this and actually made an assessment as to why Turkey does not obey its own laws. In response to this, he was immediately arrested. In the past, there have been similar cases, e.g. Şebnem Korur Fincancı who was arrested because of a statement relating to the use of chemical weapons [by the Turkish army].
Because the link between democracy in Turkey and the Kurdish question has still not been established, democratization is not making any progress in Turkey. Without establishing the link, there won’t be any development. Those who call themselves leftists, democrats or liberals but do not stand up against the isolation of Rêber Apo are only deceiving themselves. Undoubtedly, the struggle against the Kurdish genocide and isolation is the struggle for the democratization of Turkey. Therefore, this topic must not be taken off the agenda. This struggle needs to be fought constantly. It needs to be seen as part of the struggle for democracy and freedom. It is important that stopping the Kurdish genocide and fascism becomes the highest priority of our struggle.
For several years now, the Turkish state has been waging an intensive war in the South Kurdish Medya Defense Zones. A new offensive was launched just a few days ago. What can you tell us about the latest situation in the area?
Just like in 2015, they [the Turkish army] recently launched a comprehensive attack on the day of the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne with the intention of occupying the [South Kurdish/North Iraqi] areas of Zap, Metîna and Avaşîn. Symbolic days like this are very important to the Turkish state.
By launching this attack, they openly show that it is their essential interest to complete the Kurdish genocide and achieve the real purpose of the Treaty of Lausanne. This applies to all Kurdish forces, including the KDP and PUK, to all four parts of the country, i.e. also Rojava and East Kurdistan [West Iran], and in general to everyone. The attack on the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne is an attack against all Kurds. It is not only an attack against the Kurds of North Kurdistan. Because the Treaty of Lausanne is an agreement to carry out the Kurdish genocide. This is how it should be understood. That’s why we say that the attack is very comprehensive.
Of course, there is also a big and historical resistance against this policy. Despite the fact that the Turkish army has been waging this war since 2021 and despite the fact that they are using all kinds of military equipment, strategies and techniques, they have not been able to achieve any results.
Of course, this war was discussed during the recent NATO summit. The NATO representatives keep saying: ‘We understand the sensitivities of the Turkish state’ thus ignoring the fact, that by doing so they legitimize the genocide of a people, namely the Kurdish nation.
The Turkish state tries to legitimize its war by repeating the following: ‘We are not against the Kurds. We are fighting terrorism’ and ‘We are not against the Kurds. Look, we have relations with the KDP’. So they use their relation with the KDP to cover up their genocidal policy. NATO is doing the same thing. It also claims not to be against the Kurds and refers to its relations with the KDP as a proof. So it has to be acknowledged that NATO is an active partner on the Turkish side in this war. Of course, the KDP is supporting them since the war is taking place in the areas that are formally under the KDP’s military control. The KDP limits the movement of the guerrilla forces and tries to divide the areas in order to prevent any support for them. This must also be understood as KDP support for these attacks.
It is clearly not enough to simply observe these attacks. Nor is it enough to just to point out the heroic and sacrificial resistance of the guerrilla. The people as a whole, especially the youth and women, have an essential role to play in this resistance. The fascist Turkish state pursues a policy of genocide, including the elimination of the guerrilla as an essential part of it. That is why a broad anti-fascist struggle is necessary. Therefore, I call on all the people, intellectuals, political parties and all those who call themselves Kurdish to stand up and reveal the real face of the Turkish state.
On what kind of other methods does the Turkish state rely in its war against the Kurdish people?
One of the most common methods that the Turkish state is currently using to suppress the Kurdish people’s struggle for freedom is spying on people. The state tries to buy people and if they refuse to spy, they start to oppress them, threatening their families, threatening to ruin their business or telling them that they will be thrown in prison and never get out. The most basic method of the special warfare that the Turkish state is currently waging against the Kurds is spying. It is the greatest enmity to pressure a people to become spies.
The public must see, that this state is an enemy of the Kurdish people, which does not even recognize the Kurds as human beings. The only good Kurd is a scoundrel, spy and traitor in their eyes. This has become very widespread and must be condemned by the society. Traitorship and spying are the world’s greatest evils. This is immoral, unscrupulous and deserves to be called every kind of name. That is why we call on everybody to be very sensitive regarding this topic. Yes, there is a lot of pressure by the state, but it is no option to surrender. Even death is better than this. And for the people who have surrendered and committed betrayal in the past, the only way to regain their humanity is to admit their guilt and show regret.
You have already mentioned several times that the Turkish state is carrying out a genocide against the Kurds and that it is an essential goal of Turkey’s government to bring this to a conclusion. What exactly do you mean by this? What is Kurdish society faced with at the moment?
When we talk about a genocide carried out against the Kurdish people, what we really mean is cultural genocide. This is not about physical elimination, which means that all Kurds will just be slaughtered. Cultural genocide is even worse because it is a social massacre, a mass murder. With a physical massacre, you can kill 50,000 or 100,000 people. With cultural genocide, you can carry out a genocide of millions.
Kurds who turn Kurdish folk songs and traditional music into Turkish songs and who call themselves Turkish artists are part of this genocide. They are more guilty than those who have killed hundreds of people. As a Kurdish society, we must be sensitive with regards to cultural genocide, especially the Kurdish youth. At the moment, the Kurds are being subjected to genocide mainly on the cultural level. They want the Kurdish identity to cease to exist. In this regard, not only Kurds but all people must take a stand. Especially artists, authors and intellectuals need to play an essential role.
It is necessary to declare those who go to festivals [that serve the cultural genocide] as active supporters of the Kurdish genocide. Whether they are Turkish artists or Kurdish artists, leftists or whatever, if they become part of it, then they become perpetrators of the Kurdish genocide. These festivals are not organized to make Kurds and the Kurdish youth cultural and social. They are part of a special warfare strategy. Whether an attack on the Kurdish people with atomic bombs or a cultural attack with such festivals, this is the same thing and far from being something innocent. This is more dangerous than weapons because weapons that kill are easily recognizable. Everyone should be sensitive with regards to this issue and take a stand against such festivals. Those who attend these festivals should be condemned, isolated and exposed.
In a few days, there will be the anniversary of the genocide against the Ezidis. What would you like to say on this occasion? And what are the perspectives of the Ezidi society today?
Nine years ago, one of the most brutal crimes in history was carried out in Şengal. They tried to completely wipe out the Ezidi society. But this was prevented in the last second by the HPG guerrilla forces. Separating a people from its own geography constitutes a genocide. Every culture flourishes on its own soil. Every flower gives its most beautiful color and fragrance when it grows on its own soil. The group of guerrillas that came to Şengal was a really small group, but they immediately started to resist against the genocidal IS fighters. Later, the YPG and YPJ fighters arrived and managed to open a corridor for the civilians to escape. Thus, the Ezidi society was saved from this genocide. They still remember this very well. What many do not know is that Rêber Apo had already warned of the arrival of IS and called for the protection of the Ezidi society. This was an order given directly by Rêber Apo and fulfilled by the HPG and YJA Star guerrillas, as well as the fighters of the YPG and YPJ.
Today, the Ezidi society continues to return to its homeland. After all they have experienced, this people needs to be allowed to be free and autonomous. So many different identities and cultures in the world have shown that you can only protect your existence and freedom through autonomy and self-administration. In this respect, on this anniversary of the genocide perpetrated against the Ezidi society by IS, all the peoples of the world and all the forces of democracy and humanity must support the struggle of the Ezidi society for freedom, democracy and its very existence. The best way to express your love for the Ezidi society is to accept its self-administration. Otherwise they will hardly be able to survive. Especially under the conditions of capitalist modernity, cultures, identities and beliefs can only survive through self-administration. Otherwise, in the age of capitalist modernity and the nation-state, the fate of all identities and beliefs is genocide.
The 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne is just a few days away. It was a historic day whose effects are still being felt today. Can you tell us more about the background of this treaty?
The Treaty of Lausanne has had a huge impact not only on the Kurdish society, but also on all the peoples of the Middle East. This treaty is the basis for a genocide. In fact, two congresses were held in the [North Kurdish/East Turkish] cities of Erzurum and Sivas before it was signed in Lausanne. As a result of them, the Misak-ı Milli [National Pact] was declared, i.e. the goal to establish one homeland and one government together as Turks and Kurds. The Kurds supported this goal to establish a free and independent country. But what happened later? While the existence of the Kurdish people was acknowledged in the constitution of 1921, they started to deny it with the declaration of the new constitution in 1924. This denial is based on the Treaty of Lausanne.
This treaty is basically about the following: The British demanded the Turkish state to leave Mosul and Kirkuk to them. In return, they promised to allow the Turkish state to carry out a genocide against the Kurds within its own borders. Both the Turkish state as a whole and the Kemalist government in particular accepted this. In other words, Lausanne is a Kurdish genocide agreement.
The British and the French state are just as responsible for this as the United Nations. The Turkish government obtained the right to carry out a genocide against the Kurds with the approval these states by leaving Mosul and Kirkuk. The nation-state created by capitalist modernity is in itself a tool of genocide. Not only in this region. If we look at history, we will see that many different people and cultures have been subjected to genocide with this tool.
In this respect, it is not only the Treaty of Lausanne and the policy of genocide that must be opposed, but rather the nation state itself. The mentality that is created by the nation state leads to genocide. The Turkish will to create their own nation state has lead to the genocide against the Kurdish society. The same goes for the Persians and the Arabs who established their own nation states based on cultural genocide. But the Turkish state is the most concrete example.
The Turkish state received the right to carry out a genocide against the Kurds in Lausanne. And as if this were not enough, it now wants to turn the entire Kurdish geography, which it calls Misak-ı Milli, into the expansion area of Turkish nationhood by crushing the Kurdish Freedom Movement. It wants to take Rojava and South Kurdistan under its hegemony and establish Turkish nationhood there too. All this can not be seen as independent of the Treaty of Lausanne.
A few days ago, a conference was held in Lausanne on the centenary of the signing of the treaty. This is very important. Talks about Kurdish national unity took place in exactly the city where Kurdistan was divided into four parts a hundred years ago. But when we talk about national unity, we need to be realistic. Talking about national unity without seeing the current situation of the KDP means not coming any step further. Because this an essential topic. There is this perception that there cannot be national unity without the KDP. Obviously, it would be the best if the KDP joined the efforts of national unity, but they have shown that they do not want to. They want to dominate the whole nation and seize all the political power. There was a time when they wanted to talk. This was during the ceasefire of 2012 and 2013. After the ceasefire was declared and the war had stopped, the KDP came running to us and wanted to talk. But when Turkey broke the ceasefire and restarted, the KDP pulled back immediately. National unity is important. All Kurdish groups and parties should come together. Today, the KDP constitutes an obstacle for the national unity.
The Treaty of Lausanne was signed and Kurdistan was divided. But there is still an opportunity to stop this genocide. This is not about creating an own Kurdish state. Much more than that, it is about the prevention of this ongoing genocide and the protection of the Kurdish existence.
National unity will ensure Kurdish self-administration in all parts of Kurdistan. Important steps have been taken and lot of progress has been made in this regard. There is significant progress in Rojava and South Kurdistan, but also in North and East Kurdistan the struggle of the Kurdish people is very high. The main achievement is that there is a strong acknowledgment of the Kurdish existence. The struggle being waged in the four parts of Kurdistan has made this possible.
Recently, there have again been a lot of discussions about the revolution in Rojava, both about the perspectives that have emerged from it and about problems in building structures for the society. Have you been able to follow these discussions? What do you think about them?
First of all, the Rojava Revolution is a great revolution. In the Middle East, there are many essential problems and open questions regarding nation, faith, culture, women, democracy and much more. Through the Rojava Revolution right solutions have been found to all of these problems. In a way, it is not only a revolution that solves the Kurdish problem, but a revolution that puts forward a solution for the problems of the whole Middle East. There is the understanding of the democratic nation, of democracy, of different faiths living side by side and of women’s freedom. This means leaving sectarian, national and power conflicts aside and obtaining rights as part of democracy instead of power struggles and of seeking a state. It is about solving problems without adapting a mentality of power. Especially this is important, because it is the mentality of state and power that creates all problems and makes them unsolvable. The moment you enter into the sphere of state and power, you loose the ability to solve problems.
The people of Rojava have shown that they understand this well. It is the practical implementation of the perspective created by Rêber Apo. But I would also like to point out, that the paradigm of Rêber Apo has still not been fully implemented in Rojava. Despite this, everyone has seen how important and valuable even this inadequate implementation is. In this respect, the Rojava Revolution is a field of freedom, a model in the environment of oppression and persecution in the Middle East. We believe that the Rojava Revolution and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria will be a model.
Can there be any other solution for a new Syria while all these gangs and groups affiliated with Turkey try to gain power in the country? No, there can’t. Can stability be achieved in Syria without changing the current regime’s understanding? No. The only common denominator for the stabilization of Syria are the social and political principles put forward by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The leadership of North and East Syria is capable of reaching a compromise. But how can you achieve reconciliation with gangs, with groups that are under the influence of Turkey? Unless the regime changes itself, it cannot provide stability and a solution, and a compromise will not be possible.
On the other hand, the Rojava Revolution has played an important role in uniting the democratic forces of the Middle East. It has created an Arab-Kurdish alliance in Syria against the Turkish state’s aggression. These are really important developments not only for Syria but for the whole Middle East. I would therefore like to salute this revolution. We believe that the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Circassians will protect this revolution against all kinds of attacks on the basis of the idea of the democratic nation. This revolution is a very beautiful revolution, although it may have its shortcomings. The existing problems stem from the fact that the paradigm of Rêber Apo has not been fully implemented. But even in its current state. It is a revolution that has the support of all peoples and will be an example for the Middle East. I therefore respectfully salute all those who have contributed to this revolution.
Recently, a NATO summit took place in Vilnius, where it was announced that Turkey gave the green light for Sweden to join the alliance. In this context, the interests of the Turkish state in terms of foreign policy were discussed intensively. How do you evaluate Turkey’s alliance policy?
Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan are faced with the threat of genocide. To finalize the genocide, Turkey uses every opportunity to blackmail the international powers. They do this with refugees, their NATO membership and the relations with Russia. The Turkish state and government function work based on this mentality of blackmailing. It is not a democratic country at all. It persecutes the Kurds. When they ask the European Union (EU), that calls itself democratic all the time, for help in their genocide policy, the EU immediately complies. The stance of the EU is really hypocritical and shameless. No state should negotiate with Turkey and use the struggle of the Kurdish people for freedom as a bargaining chip.
What exactly did the Turkish state do now? Allegedly, Sweden and some other countries were not willing to give Turkey certain weapons, because they said that the Turkish army would misuse them and turn them against the Kurds.
They said that Turkey was not using these weapons in the right way and that it was using them against the Kurds instead. But now they are saying that they will sell these weapons to Turkey. This has always been the main aim of the Turkish state. Then there is also the demand of Turkey to have a number of Kurds handed over to them. Turkey is using pressure to achieve this. But the basic goal of Turkey is to get political support for the genocide. That is what they want these weapons for and NATO is willing to provide them.
The Turkish state forms all kinds of alliances, relations, institutions, e.g. NATO and the EU. The only reason is to carry out the Kurdish genocide. It forms these alliances in order to get support for the Kurdish genocide. If these alliances would demand them to stop the genocide, Turkey would not stay in them for a second.
Now the Turkish state is again trying to become member of the EU. This is not because they really want to enter. They only want the benefits of the EU membership. They will try to get them after they finalize the Kurdish genocide. Turkey will not seriously try to enter the EU until the Kurdish genocide is not completed. Because the EU has its own criteria, measures, the local autonomy charter, etc.. When Turkey becomes a member of the EU, it has to give up its Kurdish genocide policy. But it only wants to use the EU for the Kurdish genocide. At the moment, Turkey has no interest in joining the EU. That is a fact no one should deceive themselves about.
In this respect, both NATO and the EU have become institutions that the Turkish state uses for the Kurdish question. As Kurds, we would like to warn these institutions not to support this genocide. They say that they understand the sensitivity of the Turkish state, but I want to ask them, where their sensitivity is while Rojava is being bombed every day; where their sensitivity is regarding all the Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey.
In short, the recent NATO summit was a really shameful meeting. Negotiations about the Kurds and the PKK took place there without the Kurds being involved. In this respect, all Kurds really need to take a stance against NATO and against this attitude of the EU. NATO and the EU should not be partners in the Kurdish genocide, but they currently are. Just like they were partners in the past in the Armenian genocide. The policies and conflicts of that period led to the Armenian genocide. Now, they are becoming complicit in the genocide of the Kurds. They need to give this up as soon as possible.