june 08, 2023
An interview with Sabri Ok, member of the KCK Executive Council, about the latest developments in Kurdistan, the Middle East and the world, including the unlawfulness of Abdullah Öcalan’s imprisonment, the results of Turkey’s recent elections, discussions about the Green Left Party’s election performance, the future of Turkish politics, recent Iraqi attempts to lay siege on the Maxmur refugee camp and the continuing Turkish attacks on Şengal [Sinjar]:
There have been no news from the Kurdish people’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan for more than 2 years. The Asrin Law Office has called on the CPT to fulfill its duty to end this unlawful situation. How do you evaluate the ongoing isolation of Abdullah Öcalan?
The situation of Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] is always on the agenda of our party and our people. The occupiers and the forces involved in the international conspiracy [process starting with the illegal imprisonment of Abdullah Öcalan on February 15, 1999] also closely follow Rêber Apo’s situation and the Imrali system. We know that nothing is done in Imrali in an unplanned, aimless or unconscious manner. They aim to aggravate the Imrali system day by day. They are thus playing with the psychology of the Kurdish people and their international friends. Their aim is to break the bond between Rêber Apo and the Kurdish people. They are trying to achieve their goals by increasing the pressure on Rêber Apo. What is happening in Imrali cannot be explained in terms of humanity, politics or law. If we consider it in terms of human rights, Rêber Apo should be allowed to live his life in comfort. But we know that the situation in Imrali is not normal. As a people and as a party, we clearly have the right to be suspicious of this situation. We don’t know what is happening in Imrali. But what we do know is that Rêber Apo is not being given the right to live his life under human conditions. This situation is the cause for both anger and suspicion.
Rêber Apo knows the occupying forces very well. The enemy is aware of what can change with a single word from Rêber Apo. Since the international conspiracy, hundreds of PKK militants have set their bodies on fire for Rêber Apo’s physical freedom and in protest against this conspiracy. Since he has devoted 50 years of his life to the struggle, no one can treat Rêber Apo as an ordinary person. The Turkish state is doing whatever it can to take revenge on him. From a legal point of view, there is no explanation for this lawless situation. I have been in prison myself for years. A prisoner has the right to write letters and meet with his lawyers and family. Legally, there are these kinds of rights, but the Turkish state violates this. A few days ago, without anybody knowing why, they again prevented Rêber Apo from meeting with his family and lawyers. I don’t want to use that word too much, but they gave him a ‘punishment’. This means that Rêber Apo is not allowed to meet with his family and lawyers and to send any letters. What has he done that they decided to ‘punish’ him? The reason for this is clearly the fact that there is an ongoing resistance in Imrali. Rêber Apo continues to resist against the oppression against him. Therefore, the state is aggravating the isolation both to take revenge and to continue its oppression.
Both the Kurdish people, their international friends, the revolutionary, socialist forces and our party need to follow Rêber Apo’s situation 24 hours a day, show empathy, be aware of their duties and responsibilities and keep up their struggle. The occupying forces continue the severe isolation. Therefore, our top priority needs to be the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. It is our duty to fight for this with courage and a great sense of responsibility. Again, in terms of legal issues, both in Turkey and internationally, work must be carried out uninterruptedly. Most importantly, our people must always be on the streets. We all owe this to Rêber Apo. If his physical freedom is our primary goal, our people must act strongly, in an organized way and effectively against the enemy. Our movement must become more organized. We must all fulfill our duties and increase the struggle to protect the values created by Rêber Apo during the 50 years of his efforts. When we do all this, the enemy will not be able resist. Only in this way can we fulfill Rêber Apo’s wishes. This cannot be done only with speeches. There must be protests, organizing and increasing strength. Consequently, our struggle will definitely continue in a more organized and stronger way from now on.
An election recently took place in Turkey and North Kurdistan. How can we understand the election results in light of all the fraud that took place? What is the meaning of the different messages given during the election?
Everyone knows and consequently discusses the conditions under which these elections were held. These discussions are still going on. Everyone also knew that this election was not an ordinary election. If the fascist AKP-MHP government had been defeated, this would have led to a rupture in the mentality of the occupying Turkish state. The government was aware of this, so it mobilized all the forces and means of the state. This was a really historic election. But we have to accept that – Rêber Apo has also said this – the AKP has become the state. Erdoğan has even described himself as the second Atatürk. Atatürk played a role in the foundation of the Turkish state. Now, in Turkey’s 2nd century, Erdogan says that he will play a similar role. At the same time, Erdoğan’s role resembles that of Hitler in World War II. The recent elections were held under a government with this kind of mentality.
Süleyman Soylu recently used the expression ‘mind of the state’ for HÜDA PAR. He did not elaborate on this, but everybody knows what he wanted to say. There is no example of a chief of general staff playing a role in elections in any country in the world. But Turkey’s chief of general staff clearly worked for the AKP-MHP. They did this especially in Kurdistan. All religious sects and communities were mobilized. Because they are both mentally and ideologically united with the state who also finances them. Again, the entire bureaucracy of the state was mobilized. The governors on all different levels were mobilized. This was an election between the state and certain others forces. The state was also aware of this. It knew that if the AKP-MHP were to loose, there would be a rupture in their mentality in the 2nd century. That is why they did everything to prevent this. They also used very bad demagoguery and racism. They put the Kurds and also Rêber Apo and the PKK on the agenda. They made propaganda as if this was an election between the state and the Kurdish people or between the state and the PKK.
The National Alliance had only come together with great difficulties. Their strength, intelligence and alliance were not enough. But the Kurdish people and the democratic forces resisted against all attacks. Therefore, I can say the following about the election results: First of all, this election is not legitimate. Why? Because it was a one-sided election based on the mobilization of all the state’s means and under its heavy pressure. This was an election that had very little to do with law and democracy. Therefore it is not legitimate. Secondly, the AKP and Erdoğan lost, especially in the presidential elections. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian immigrants voted. Yet they had no right to vote. Hundreds of thousands of HDP votes were invalidated and consequently not accepted. It is very interesting to see that before the election many polls had predicted that the MHP would get at most 7 percent of the votes and that the HDP would get 11 to 12 percent. Yet, the MHP received 10 percent and the HDP 8 percent. Everywhere, especially in Kurdistan, they registered the HDP’s votes as votes for the MHP. This is how the AKP and Erdogan were able to declare themselves the winners. But this is actually not true. According to the election results, the AKP will remain in power. The role of the Kurdish people, the democrats and socialists was also very important. Despite all the attacks and oppression of the state, the resistance and stance of the Kurdish people and the united actions of the democratic forces were very important. They did not give in but risked torture, death and arrest. Thus, they expressed their will clearly. Everywhere, especially in Kurdistan, they made Erdogan lose in the presidential election.
The HDP took part in the elections as the Green Left Party. After the elections, the HDP shared with the public what kind of a path it will follow in the near future. On the one hand, the party has launched a phase of self-renewal, but on the other hand, the attacks against the HDP are increasing day by day. How do you evaluate the HDP’s new road map and the ongoing attacks?
First of all, let me say that the HDP or the Green Left Party worked hard in this election and achieved a clear result. The aim of the AKP-MHP and those who are against the democratization of Turkey and the will of the Kurdish people is to demoralize everybody. But things are not the way they say. Dozens of HDP mayors are under arrest and hundreds of the party’s executives and members are in prison. A special war is being waged against the Kurdish people and the democratic forces. Any other party in the HDP’s place would not have received even a few votes in this election. But the HDP has a culture and a tradition. Its members have been paying a price and have made efforts for decades. The Kurdish people are an organized and conscious people. That’s why, despite all the attacks, the Green Left Party achieved a good result. Of course, it was possible and would have been necessary to do better. But it is important not to allow the occupying forces to receive joy and morale from the current situation. And even more important than that is not to allow them to play with the psychology of the Kurdish people and legitimate democratic politics. This must be prevented.
All parties are currently making their post-election evaluations. The AKP is in a state of drunkenness, but the CHP and the IYI Party are holding internal discussions. It is very normal for the HDP to hold such discussions too. Already now they have prepared hundreds of legal proceedings against HDP members. There is great pressure on the HDP. Yet, a struggle is being waged. No one should understand these results as a defeat. Everybody needs to define their agenda correctly. In other words, they should not be influenced by other forces. They should create an agenda that recognizes their inadequacies, shortcomings and realities. If they overcome all this, they will be better prepared for the next period. Their most recent messages point in this direction. We consider their approach as positive. Criticism, self-criticism and discussions are important. These discussions about how to organize ourselves more and how to overcome the existing deficiencies are important. What is also important is how they will determine their road map in the coming period. The HDP and the Green Left Party are currently going through such a process.
There is another important thing to know: Every vote the HDP or the Green Left Party received is very valuable and honorable. This value has been created based on labor and blood. The Kurdish people support the Green Left Party and the HDP, by risking many difficulties, death, torture and imprisonment. Surely we should be worthy of this. Many people are talking now. Some talk about how things were limited only to Kurdistan, while others say that they were too much directed towards Turkey. Both sides are wrong. The perspective of a democratic Turkey is the right one. Attempts were made to follow this perspective and important steps have been taken. It is normal to have some shortcomings and inadequacies. We should not make a big deal out of them. They should not turn their energy and power into negativity. They should see their shortcomings and respond to the process with a new synergy. All criticism, self-criticism and discussions should definitely serve this. Some people who do not take any responsibility only talk to discharge, others only talk to be talked about. But this is what it means to take responsibility: They should set their real agenda, conduct serious discussions, give strength to each other, not tire each other out and and carry out their work in a comradely fashion.
Nothing has been lost. This is politics, this was an election. The desired result has not been achieved, but there is a clear result. There are reasons for these results outside of our control and there are other reasons related to the HDP. These are already being discussed. The important thing is to draw conclusions from them and come up with a correct plan. But the biggest danger is to tire each other out, to revolve around an incorrect agenda under the name of criticism and self-criticism, to spend your energy on this, for the occupiers to make use of this and to create disbelief. There is no reason for this to happen. A good result has been achieved. No one gave in and everyone resisted. We would therefore like to congratulate everyone and wish them success once again. On this basis, they must have the right discussions, set the right agenda and strengthen each other. The best result will be achieved in this way.
In this election, 3 alliances came to the fore. The Turkish state is entering its 2nd century with these alliances. Where is Turkey headed? What kind of a future awaits the country?
The fascist mind of the state obviously wants to maintain its power in the 2nd century along the same lines of the past and with the same mentality. All their efforts and preparations were made accordingly. There were alliances, but only in name. The National Alliance has already disintegrated. An alliance without principles, without criteria, without values will disintegrate just like the National Alliance does and will not get any results. This alliance had changed its language and strategy with regards to Rêber Apo, our movement and the Kurdish people, especially in the May 28 elections. It is not possible to act in such an unprincipled, pragmatic and narrow way. This will not offer anything new to the society in Turkey. The most important thing is the AKP’s People’s Alliance. Look at those in the alliance: Each of them has a mission and a role. It is an alliance based on how they will continue the mentality of occupation, how they will reject the will of the Kurdish people, even break it if they can, and how they will destroy the mentality of democracy. It was established especially against the PKK which represents the will of the Kurdish people. HÜDA PAR was given a role [in the alliance] for this reason. It plays the role of an Islamist Kurdish identity, but in essence it is a partner of the occupying AKP. They want to pave the way for HÜDA PAR. In the past, Hezbollah was given a role, now HÜDA PAR has been given this political role. They want to influence the Kurdish society, obstruct the HDP and present HÜDA PAR as an alternative. But these efforts will be fruitless.
The Kurdish people know very well who has been working, resisting and struggling for the existence and freedom of the Kurds. The Kurds are still in a state of resistance 24 hours a day and pay the price every day. It is clear that the state will not get results in this way. The KDP also played a role here. The KDP immediately congratulated Erdoğan. They were clearly in favor of the AKP government. This alliance was formed against the Kurdish people. Our people are aware of this. They must act and respond accordingly. In the political history of the Turkish state, there is no tradition and culture of radical opposition, of taking to the streets against occupation and the government, of rising up with the society and fighting for democracy like in other countries. Neither the CHP nor others have this tradition. There are hundreds of reasons for society to rise up, but instead they are blocking society. They prevent the development of a radical opposition. In fact, they serve the state. Unfortunately, this is the reality of Turkish politics.
Yet, revenge is very much a characteristic of the Turkish state. That is why it attacks the Kurdish people, Rêber Apo and our movement so brutally. It attacks the Kurdish people and their values with a mentality of ordering them to not think like this again, to never rebel again and to not defend their existence. You might remember what they did to Mustafa Suphi and his friends in the Black Sea, especially to Maria Suphi, Mustafa Suphi’s beloved wife. This was also a revenge. They wanted to say that you cannot create an ideology against the Turkish state, that you cannot fight. The People’s Alliance represents this mentality. It is very clear what will happen in the coming period. The oppression against the Kurdish people, the peoples of Turkey and the democratic forces will continue. They will prevent democratic politics from breathing. They have already trampled on democracy, law and justice. The fascist Dictator Erdoğan does not care. They will do whatever it takes for their interests and the continuation of their power.
Most importantly, Turkey’s geopolitical position and its NATO membership are a historic advantage, a golden opportunity for the government and they are using it well. It has always been the politics of the Turkish state to play with existing balances. In World War II, only one state was not harmed and that was the Turkish state. It pursued a policy of remaining neutral. Now, with its state experience, it is playing with the balance between NATO, Russia, the Middle East, the Arab powers and Iran. In other words, it is using all of them for its own interests and will continue to do so in the future. But now the gap is narrowing for them too. They are already heavily dependent on NATO and the US militarily and economically. That’s why their relations with Russia and China are not real. It is not clear to whom and when they will turn their backs. Both the Turkish state and Russia know this, but they continue to make use of the current situation. Therefore, when it comes to democracy and the freedom of the Kurdish people, they use whatever means necessary.
The US and Europe remain silent towards this. Actually, they are not really satisfied with the fascist AKP mentality. But the Turkish state has the advantages I just mentioned. It is a NATO member. That is why they continue to make ends meet and do not oppose it. In the coming period, the Turkish state will want to promote a restoration in its Syria and Middle East policy. In other words, it will develop new relations with all Middle Eastern countries. It wants to catch some breath in this area. The only condition for the Turkish state in Syria will be the destruction of Democratic Autonomy [Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria] there. They will be prepared for everything if the Syrian state accepts this condition. But the Syrian state has reasons not to accept this. The example of Hatay is still very much alive. The Turkish state will base its entire policy on how to prevent a democratic Turkey and break the will of the Kurdish people. They will oppress and persecute even more.
Another alliance is the Labor and Freedom Alliance. It is the most important and honorable alliance. This alliance will determine the role, mission and future of the Kurdish people and the peoples of Turkey together. As the name suggests, the Labor and Freedom Alliance is very valuable. But no mistakes should be made with regards to the growth and approach of this alliance. This is important. There is a dialectic of the Kurdish people and the peoples of Turkey: Turkey’s democratization depends on the solution of the Kurdish question. The same holds true for the reversal of this equation: It is not possible to solve the Kurdish question without democratizing Turkey. In other words, both the democratic forces in Turkey must acknowledge this reality and the Kurdish people, even those who consider themselves nationalists, must see it too. That is why Rêber Apo has called this situation a Gordian knot, and it really is. Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot with his sword which opened the gates of Asia, initiated a new historical period and thus changed the course of history. If the Gordian knot is cut and the Kurdish problem is solved, the whole Middle East will be democratized.
This is why the solution of the Kurdish question is so important. For this reason, the Gordian know cannot be solved based on a narrow perspective by considering this only as a Kurdish issue. It is also not possible to solve the problem if the democratic and socialist forces of Turkey do not see this Gordian know. Therefore, the Labor and Freedom Alliance is very important and meaningful. Both the Kurdish people and the democratic and socialist forces of Turkey must take part in this alliance. The future of Turkey lies here, the freedom of the Kurdish people lies in this alliance. This alliance must not be jeopardized by small calculations and narrow perspectives. Everyone should think bigger, work more, make greater efforts and participate in the strengthening of the alliance. This alliance was not only established for the elections. It is based on the democratization of Turkey and the solution of the Kurdish question. It should not limit itself to parties only. Democratic NGOs, the laborers and workers of Turkey and Kurdistan and all those in favor of freedom and democracy who suffer harm from the fascist government must take part in the alliance. The struggle continues. There will be local elections in 8 months. The fascist AKP government is facing the bill of a huge economic crisis and is trapped in narrow politics. So not everything has gone as they wanted. If morale is high, if there is a strong will, a strong goal and a good organization, there are opportunities to shorten the life of this occupying government even more.
There has been an attempt by the Iraqi state to lay siege to the Maxmur refugee camp in South Kurdistan/North Iraq. Şengal [Sinjar] is also under regular attacks by the Turkish state. What is the overall concept behind this siege and these attacks?
Our people of Maxmur and Şengal have paid a great price for years. Our people of Maxmur had to leave their lands and come to South Kurdistan years ago due to the attacks of the Turkish state. They changed their place many times until they eventually came to Maxmur. The people of Maxmur are a resistant people who protect their identity, culture and language. They have not bowed down until today. I would therefore like to salute our resisting people of Maxmur, convey my respect to them and wish them success. As I said, the Turkish state is a vengeful state. It wants to take revenge on Maxmur and Şengal because of ISIS. ISIS was defeated in Maxmur and Şengal. The Turkish state and AKP financed and supported ISIS in every way possible. There is visual proof of this. Maxmur took a stance against the ISIS attacks. Without Maxmur’s resistance, ISIS would have entered Hewler [Erbil]. Barzani went to Maxmur to greet and congratulate the guerrillas. This is the kind of role that Maxmur has played. During the ISIS attacks, neither the Iraqi army, which today puts pressure on Maxmur, nor the Peshmerga were there. The people of Maxmur resisted based on their own courage and will and thus obstructed ISIS.
The Turkish state is putting pressure on the Iraqi government, threatening that if Iraq does not evacuate Maxmur and put pressure on the refugee camp, Turkey will cut off the water and end trade with the country. Instead of resisting, the Iraqi state has opted to give in. Ten thousand civilians, old people and children live in Maxmur camp. At the same time, the Turkish state has occupied Iraqi territory and annexed dozens of places. The Iraqi state is silent against all this, but decides to take a stance against Maxmur. This is not right and cannot be accepted. In fact, we know that the Iraqi state is not doing this voluntarily. This is due to the Turkish state’s pressure on Iraq. But the Iraqi state should also have its own criteria. What harm has come to them from Maxmur camp? On the contrary, the people of Maxmur have fought and paid the price for humanity, for the Iraqi state and for South Kurdistan in the war against ISIS. The Turkish state’s strategy is to dismantle the camp. According to Turkey, there should not be such a camp. We don’t know if the Turkish state will really be able to do this. But our people of Maxmur must definitely continue their resistance. And our people in general should support this resistance wherever they are. The people of Maxmur must be supported in every legal, political and humanitarian way. The Iraqi state must also give up its siege attempt. Whatever the problem is, there is the Maxmur people’s council, there are the administrators of Maxmur, they should sit down with them and talk to solve the problems through dialog. Any attempts other than this are not right.
The same goes for Şengal. Recently, they bombed the city center in Şengal with armed drones. Everyone knows what the situation today would be like if it had not been for the guerrilla and the Ezidi people’s resistance in Şengal. Here as well, the Turkish state supported and financed ISIS and thus caused the massacre of the Ezidi people by making ISIS attack Şengal. Iraq could not do anything at that time. And everyone knows that the KDP fled on the first day. Today, they talk about how Şengal belongs to them and how they are the owners of Şengal. How can this be? Is there no justice, no rights and no law? That is the mindset of the Turkish state. They are putting pressure on the UN and are preparing a plan together with the KDP. And they are using the PKK as an excuse. We have repeatedly made clear that the PKK is not there. Yes, the PKK fought in Şengal. It fought there for humanity and for the Iraqi state. It defended our Ezidi people. But when the PKK had fulfilled its duty, it announced publicly that it was withdrawing its forces. The Ezidi people have gone through 72 genocides which is why they are rightly skeptical of everything. They want to ensure their own security. Based on Iraqi law, of course.
This is an issue that can be resolved through negotiations. Not with the pressure and violence of the Turkish state. Our Ezidi people survived a great massacre and of course they will defend their rights. They will undoubtedly protect themselves within the framework of Iraqi law and find a solution to this problem. Iraq must not accept the pressure of the Turkish state. Iraqi society, politics and parties must first and foremost protest against the Turkish state’s occupation. Whom does the Ezidi community harm? They only want to protect themselves and continue their existence. This reality must be acknowledged.