our interviews

april 15, 2024

For three years, there has been no news from Rêber Apo1. The harsh conditions of solitary confinement, which are against human decency, the law, and morals, persist. Writers, politicians, intellectuals, professors, and activists are debating Rêber Apo’s ideas and suggestions at the same time. People all throughout the world are calling for Rêber Apo’s physical freedom. What is your assessment on this situation?

First, I would like to congratulate the Kurdish people and the entire Islamic world on Eid al-Fitr. The situation of Rêber Apo is undoubtedly always on the agenda of our movement, of our people, and of the international friends of the Kurdish people. For more than three years, there has been no news from Rêber Apo. This situation alone is reason enough for our people, our movement, and our international friends to rise up with all their strength. In fact, everyone should rise and stand against it. It is impossible for anyone who knows Rêber Apo, not to be affected by this situation. Because of this, Rêber Apo’s paradigm offers millions of people – especially women and young people – a perspective on both the future of humanity and their own lives, everywhere in the world. Today, millions of people are protesting to demand Rêber Apo’s physical release, but no one knew the Kurds before. Rêber Apo affects people in this way.

The more Rêber Apo’s paradigm and his prison writings are spread and read, the more the embracement for Rêber Apo grows. This is what the Turkish state aims to prevent, and that is the reason why the Turkish state does not want Rêber Apo to breathe. That is why such pressure is being imposed on Imrali. Despite the brutal conditions on Imrali, there is great resistance. To understand the Turkish state’s approach to the Kurdish question, it is necessary to look at what is happening on Imrali. They are approaching Rêber Apo with this consciousness. They insist on their occupation-mentality, they are conducting a genocide against the Kurdish people, and they are waging this dirty war. The fighting force against this, is the global struggle for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. From now on, this struggle will continue in a more planned and organized manner.

It was announced that the global freedom campaign under the name ‘Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan, a Political Solution to the Kurdish Question’ has entered its second phase. How do you assess the stage the campaign has reached so far? How do you analyze the protests and events conducted within the framework of the campaign?

This global campaign was launched on October 10 of last year. It was initiated because of a very important and honorable cause. Both in Kurdistan and around the world, the campaign is growing and developing day by day. It is a very important campaign, but whatever is said or done for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo will be incomplete and insufficient if it has not reached its aim. This will be the case until Rêber Apo regains his physical freedom. The campaign is continuing in a steady, planned, and determined manner. In a few days, thousands of patriotic Kurdish people and their international friends will hold a sit-in in front of the ‘European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ (CPT) in Strasbourg. Also in this regard, right now, several conferences, concerts, and meetings are being organized by different platforms in many European cities, to be held soon. Well-known people from many parts of the world also make efforts in this regard. The foundation for a movement based on the global campaign has been established, and I believe it will develop further. The Kurdish people should focus 24 hours a day on what is happening on Imrali and what responsibilities they have towards Rêber Apo. According to this, they should take their stance and act.

One should point out that in North Kurdistan and Turkey, society has risen and many striking actions have taken place there lately, but I want to underline this again; it is still insufficient. All Kurds, whether organized or not, members of the party or not, should think about what they can do for Rêber Apo and act accordingly. Everyone should know that our future lies with Rêber Apo, and that the enemy intends to destroy our future along with him. Therefore, more action should be taken by our people, and a wider struggle should be waged in political and legal fields.

As it is known, when it comes to Rêber Apo and Kurds, the doors of the system of capitalist modernity and law remain shut. This is why they have developed the international conspiracy2. If this were not the case, would the CPT have kept silent to the unlawfulness of the Turkish state? If the same situation had arisen elsewhere in the world, their approach and reaction would have been different. This situation should anger us even more; it should cause our struggle to grow even more.

As you have implied, the torture inflicted by the Turkish state on Rêber Apo on Imrali is in no way legitimate, not even according to the law of the enemy. The Turkish state and the AKP are conspirators. The AKP is the party that is playing the most crucial role in the concept of special warfare in Turkey. Many people were surprised at how the global campaign spread all over the world, while the Kurdish people and their international friends gained morale and strength. Undoubtedly, in the coming period, this campaign will be carried out in an even wider and more organized manner.

The war between the Turkish state and the Kurdish freedom guerrilla continues. The Turkish government is still using every available means to harm the Kurdish people. During the close of 2023 and the start of 2024, the guerrilla executed multiple triumphant revolutionary operations. Recent statements indicate that the Turkish government is preparing more extensive attacks against the Medya Defense Zones3. What is the current state of the war, and what kind of attacks are you anticipating?

This is an important issue, on which the HPG provides daily information. In the last seven to eight months, the guerrilla has taken initiative and carried out several revolutionary operations against the Turkish state with great impact. With their sacrificial approach, the guerrilla obtained very significant results. The technology and forces of the Turkish state received a heavy blow in the Medya Defense Zones. They had to withdraw from many positions, and at many positions they were completely defeated. But the Turkish state is planning a large-scale war; they insist on this. They say that they want to continue the war, the denial of the Kurdish people, and the torture and solitary confinement on Imrali. This is the mentality of the Turkish state and the AKP. It is hard to tell how far they will go, but we know that we have a war ahead of us, a war which will be tougher than it already is. The Turkish state is preparing for this and is utilizing all its means. The guerrilla is always ready. It will be a very tough and brutal fight. Yet, so far, they have not been able to achieve results against the guerrilla. The children of the Kurdish people are heroically resisting in a sacrificial way. They have broken the attacks of the Turkish army, but the war does continue.

The guerrillas, despite incredibly tough circumstances, were able to achieve such positive outcomes in their struggle and resistance against the enemy. This ought to be a point of attention for our people; they should assume this a reference and should fulfill their own duties accordingly. In addition to a political and legal struggle, they should also salute the guerrilla with serhildans4 and be in constant action. We are now in a process where the willpower of the Turkish state is broken; that is why they are attacking more. They are aware of the dangers they are facing; if its will is broken, their 100-year-old system and mentality will be defeated. To prevent this from happening, they will resist until the last moment, they will mobilize all their economic and political means whatever its implications may be. Therefore, the war will only grow, and the consequences will be very determining.

The situation is no longer the same. In 2024, Turkey’s destiny and the Kurdish issue will be decided. Success will go to the one who trains harder, is more disciplined, enthusiastic, and has higher morale, as well as the person who fights more tactically and technically proficient. These are characteristics shared both with the guerilla and our movement. Its ability to lead the war on the battlefield, both strategically and technically, is a result of its strong motivation, morale, and resolve.

On Newroz, our comrade Murat Karayilan shared some news with the press. After 40 years of struggle, the guerrilla has a missile system to neutralize unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). Everyone was astounded. The Turkish state wanted to sell its UAVs and UCAVs to create a big market, but the world is not blind. The developments in this war are being closely followed. The world knows that the guerrilla has shot down 10–15 of their UCAVs so far. This is why they are so agitated; they are now searching for ways to turn the war around. Of course, we should not be complacent. Complacency is a bad habit. We must believe in ourselves, we must value the fact that we have taken hold of initiative, but we must know that the Turkish state and the AKP will resist, they will use all their means, and they will attack more aggressively. We are ready for a more intense phase. As I said, the initiative is in the hands of the guerrilla, it has 40 years of combat experience, it has Rêber Apo’s paradigm, the mountains of Kurdistan, the Kurdish people, and their international friends that stand beside them.

For more than 40 years, the Kurdish people and our movement have always stood up for our just cause. The PKK started from scratch and has reached this level so far. No matter how much the Turkish state and the AKP attack, this process will end with the success of the guerrilla. Undoubtedly, this will not be easy, a high price is being paid every day. But with this spirit, this organization, this struggle, and this determination, the guerrilla will succeed.

The agenda in North Kurdistan and Turkey is the results of the municipal elections held on 31 March. What message did the Kurdish people send in these elections?

A very important election has taken place. The Kurdish people, together with the democratic forces, have achieved successful results. Though, the elections are but a fragment of the whole.

When we evaluate the democratic forces, we include the Kurdish people and their struggle; when we evaluate the Kurdish people, we include the democratic forces. They integrate, and together they gave important messages during the elections. What were these messages? First, no matter how much the occupying Turkish state and the AKP persecute with all their means, no matter how dictatorial they are, their power has come to an end. From now on, they can only resist; they will no longer be able to maintain their dictatorship as before. This message was given clearly. Secondly, whatever their oppression, massacres, and attacks, the Kurdish people and democratic forces will never surrender to them; they will always rise-up and continue to wage their struggle. This message was also given.

In the past, trustees were appointed to the municipalities legally won by the Kurdish people. Now the Kurdish people have defeated the trustee system by demonstrating their will and clarifying that even if the government tries to appoint trustees, the people will resist and impose their will. Most importantly, the Kurdish people showed that, this time, the state will not be able to appoint trustees as easily as before. Even if the state tries, the people will resist, rise-up, and block these policies. This could be seen most clearly in Wan. The Turkish state wanted to test waters there. If their plan had succeeded, they would have appointed trustees everywhere gradually. But that serhildan was very important. Furthermore, the struggle amongst the democratic forces of Turkey prevented the appointment of trustees. The Turkish state is an occupying state, and our people and democratic forces must always be prepared against it. If the state wants to appoint trustees once again, a tougher, more radical serhildan will be necessary. In this sense, we should not be complacent.

Everyone is talking about the CHP in this process. The CHP did not achieve this success on its own. There are those who think Kurds are apolitical, but Kurds are one of the most political and conscious societies. In this election, they carried out a strategy that many were surprised by. They approached the election strategically and made the AKP lose. Most of Turkey’s democratic forces also adopted such an approach. The CHP took advantage of this approach to defeat the AKP; in doing so, they succeeded. For the first time in more than 40 years, the CHP became the biggest party in Turkey. Now the CHP has a responsibility and a burden. What will the CHP do? Will it be the same as before? Or will it understand the message of the Kurdish people and the democratic forces and renew itself accordingly? I think the Kurdish people and democratic forces should put pressure on the CHP. They should ask the CHP for their program to democratize Turkey. They should want to learn and understand. Related to this is also CHP’s approach to the Kurdish question.

Till now, the CHP was secretive and cowardly regarding the Kurdish question. But especially now, it must openly share its policy on the Kurdish question. If the CHP is truthful, honest, and serious relating to these points, if it takes a positive approach, the country will undoubtedly enter an important and new process. But if the CHP repeats itself, if it acts cowardly again, if it does not develop a radical, democratic, it will be a pity for the CHP. In the incident of Wan and in the AKP’s approach to the elections, it was seen that the CHP base is open to democracy. This base has a certain stand against brutality and the AKP rule. The CHP leadership should take these realities into consideration and reshape itself.

The opposition has become the first party in Turkey and the AKP-MHP has fallen to second place. How will these results affect Turkish politics?

For the first time since the AKP came to power, it has fallen to second place. If one can understand correctly, this demotion carries much meaning. It is seen that the AKP is in disbelief and hysteria, their psychology cannot handle this situation. They benefited from all the resources and blessings of the country and region. The mentality of the MHP has seeped into the entire bureaucracy; they have become the state. Devlet Bahçeli and the AKP talk as if they own the state and the country, and no one holds them answerable, no one questions their power or their truth. A more radical stance must be taken against them, and they must be fought against.

The fact that they declined to second place is, of course, important because it means an obstacle has been overcome. Many people in Turkish society, and even some international politicians, were questioning whether it was even possible for the AKP and Erdogan to lose. Why would it be impossible, or even unlikely? The AKP has engaged in every nefarious act, exploited all the country’s resources in its own interest, and made its own circle rich. As a result, they have ruined Turkey, ravaged the economy, blocked politics, and wrecked the psychology of society. In fact, if there had been a true, serious, radical, democratic opposition, the AKP would have lost power long ago. The AKP is losing the grounds of its power; for how much longer they will be able to hold on depends on the struggle against them.

Without the struggle of the Kurdish people and the PKK, the AKP would not have lost power or will. As always, they would have deceived and diverted the public with superficial agendas. The AKP utilized everything it had in the war against the Kurdish people, and in the process, it destroyed its own reputation, disgraced its own image and prestige. Still, they insist on the war against the Kurdish people and, still, they are running out of air to breathe. Even the base who had previously voted for the AKP have broken away from them. If the AKP insists on the same mentality and the opposition plays a democratic role, the powers in government will come to an end very soon.

Erdogan is expected to travel to Iraq around the end of April, according to sources in the media. The US President Joe Biden will then meet with him in May. These visits appear to be about your party. What purpose is Erdogan serving with these trips, and do you believe he will succeed in achieving his goals?

Fascists and other rulers only have their own interests in mind; they claim that they will always be in control. They want everyone to believe this. Their future of such rulers is based on destroying the Kurdish people and enforcing this conflict. All they do is look for strategies and means to accomplish these goals. During his visit to the country, Erdogan will exert pressure on the Iraqi government and make as many concessions as possible to bring down the PKK. However, Erdogan and the AKP are pragmatists and liars; they say one thing and do another. They pose a risk in terms of ideology as well. They hope to expand in the area as a new Ottoman Empire, this is their goal in the Middle East. Erdogan thinks that Iraq still belongs to the Ottomans. Regardless of how disgraceful it is, that’s the way he approaches Iraq. Of course, Iraq sees this reality. Whatever evil there is in the Middle East, in Iraq, Erdogan and the Turkish state have a hand in it. From Kirkuk and Mosul to Libya, Erdogan wants to create problems and take advantage of chaos. This is their policy.

We want to believe that Iraq will not be a pawn in the Turkish state’s game. If they fall for Erdogan’s game, it will not be good. The PKK has not harmed the laws and regulations of Iraq, especially Iraqi society, and people. On the contrary, the PKK played a historic role in the fight against ISIS. Without the PKK, Shengal [Sinjar], Mosul, Mekhmur, Kirkuk, and Hewler [Erbil] would all have fallen to ISIS. Iraq knows this reality. Iraq also knows the PKK’s power and the kind of war it is waging, very well. That is why Iraq should develop a more correct and rational policy on this issue. At the same time, it must also be aware of the reality of the Turkish state.

The Turkish army has intruded 40 kilometers into Iraqi territory, established dozens of military bases, and brought thousands of soldiers to Iraqi territory. An independent state would not accept this. Let alone fighting the PKK, the Iraqi state should work with the PKK to stop the Turkish state. The Iraqi state has the obligation to do something against the Turkish state in the international arena. They are a bit weak at this point.

For example, the Iraqi press should be more combative against the invasion and attacks of the Turkish state, and society should stand up. Yet, they remain silent. Nevertheless, we hope that the Iraqi state will not become a partner of the Turkish state against the PKK. We are not against economic, commercial, and political relations between states, but the PKK and the Kurdish people will not accept the Iraqi state being a part of the Turkish states conspiracies, games, and wars. The problems created by the Turkish state in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East in general are obvious. The AKP’s efforts against the PKK must be frustrated. After his visit to Iraq, Erdogan will go to the US. After Biden became the US president, Erdogan really wanted to go to the White House. But Biden did not want to meet until now, he did not accept Erdogan. Till now, Erdogan was not given an appointment. The reason why the US accepted the visit must also be understood. Many issues, such as the Ukraine-Russia war, the situation in the Middle East, and Syria, will be discussed. Again, the F-35 fighter jet issue was always on the agenda of the Turkish state.

The US will not strengthen the hand of the Turkish state and Erdogan if it does not align with its own interests. Unfortunately, it will help the Turkish state on the Kurdish issue and Erdogan will again make whatever concessions are necessary on this issue. Erdogan’s aim is to provide himself with an opportunity in the war against the Kurdish people. He wants to get the US to accept and approve his plans to attack South Kurdistan and Iraq. The entire Iraqi airspace is under the control of the US. Without the US, without its approval, the Turkish state would not be able to fly its planes and bomb Iraq and South Kurdistan. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s influence in Turkey will not be the same as before the March 31 elections. Nor will he be taken seriously in foreign policy. The elections will have an impact on Erdogan’s position and the negotiations he wants to develop. Erdogan is doing everything to wage war against the Kurdish people. The US should not support Erdogan’s demands. But if they do, it means that they insist on the same line today, which they did 25 years ago when the International Conspiracy took place on their initiative and decision.

The US knows that even though Kurdistan is divided into four provinces, the hearts and minds of the Kurds are one. The fate and future of the Kurdish people were drawn 100 years ago with the Cairo Conference5, when the country was divided into four parts. On March 8, on Newroz, on Rêber Apo’s birthday6, it was made clear that the mind, heart, and soul of the Kurds are one. The hearts of our people in Rojava, Rojhilat, North and South Kurdistan, Europe, and different countries beat as one. It is not possible to have a positive approach to one part of Kurdistan while destroying another. The US and Europe should have a more objective Kurdish policy; they should not favor one part of Kurdistan while support the genocide of Kurds in another part. From now on, the US should formulate a general policy and not accept the genocidal attacks of the Turkish state against the Kurdish people.

You mentioned that Erdogan’s circumstances are not as comfortable as they were prior to the elections, both domestically and internationally. What effect does Erdogan’s and the AKP’s decline to the sidelines have on Turkish diplomacy?

The relations which develop between states and governments are important. States have interests in each other. The governments impact this in a positive or negative way. Many states and powers are not happy with the AKP and Erdogan. But they do what their interests require. After the March 31st elections, the European and even the Middle Eastern press described the AKP and Erdogan as having lost power. Erdogan doesn’t have the power he used to have. This will have an impact on negotiations, diplomacy, and talks, but it will not be the determining factor. In the coming period, the AKP will no longer be in power, and maybe it will even be defeated sooner than expected. But the determining factor is that states have political, strategic, geopolitical, and multifaceted interests in the short and long term.

The AKP takes use of the Palestinian struggle and bends it to suit its needs. Erdogan’s hypocrisy was exposed in the Hamas-Israel conflict when it was discovered that Turkey had supplied the weapons and ammunition used in the conflict against the Palestinian people. What is your assessment on this situation?

There are two fundamental questions in the Middle East: The Palestinian question and the Kurdish question. Unless the problems of the Kurdish and Palestinian people are solved democratically, the Middle East will never be democratized. This is a matter of fact. How much this war serves their interests is another discussion. AKP, especially Erdogan, is a pragmatist, he is unprincipled, and immoral. He does whatever serves his interests. They present themselves as if they are working day and night for Palestine, as if they want the Palestinian people to fulfill their dreams, but the same AKP and Erdogan have doubled their trade with Israel in the last six months. This is hypocrisy. They are shedding crocodile tears. On the one hand, they are trying to deceive and manipulate the public, while on the other hand they have increased their trade by folds. Lies can only go so far, what they have done has been exposed. They are now in a desperate situation.

Erbakan’s son, the chairman of the so-called Welfare Party, developed a strategic, clever policy, and they caught Erdogan at his weakest point. Erbakan’s son revealed that the AKP regime was shedding fake tears for Palestine, by drawing attention to arms trades between Israel and the Turkish state. He said: “If you are honest, if you are truthful, if you are a Muslim, you should give up this trade.” He caught Erdogan by surprise. Erdogan was dumbfounded. But as I said, interests are everything for Turkey, especially for the AKP. In the past, Özal, Demirel, Erbakan, and Ecevit had some principles, when you looked at their personalities, their lives, and their families you could see they had principles. But Erdogan has no such measure or principle. His son, daughter, son-in-law, relatives–all of them–are somehow in the state, and all of them are exploiting the resources of the state. They are deceiving Turkish society with the tenets of concepts such as ‘the homeland’ and ‘the nation.’ Turkey is falling apart, being divided, and their blood is being spilled in the mountains of Kurdistan. Unfortunately, Turkish society is not aware of this. But this is gradually changing.

In the past, the Turkish society would show huge reactions during the funeral ceremonies of Turkish soldiers. In order to silence these reactions, the AKP regime exerted great pressure, and some of them were hushed with money. Still, there is a strong potential. A few days ago, a reporter of the HPG said that the corpses of hundreds of Turkish soldiers were buried on the border between Kurdistan and Turkey. Many families do not know if their children are alive or not, or where they are buried. The state is suppressing the reactions with money, but this will only go so far. Surely, this will reach its breaking point. It is like this all over the world, governments rise to the top and either they explode or fall as fast as they rose. The AKP government has also risen to the top. It will find no remedy, it is going to fall in the same way.


1 Referring to Kurdish peoples leader Abdullah Öcalan.

2 By international conspiracy he refers here to how Abdullah Öcalan was kidnapped in violation of international law on February 15, 1999 and taken to the prison island of Imrali after he had gone through a political odyssey through various countries that began on October 9, 1998. The forced odyssey and abduction is verifiable the work of various states and secret services, above all the CIA, Mossad, the Greek and Italian states.

3 Areas on the border between North and South Kurdistan/South-East Turkey and North Iraq, that are under the control of the Kurdistan Freedom Guerrilla.

4 Kurdish word for popular uprising.

5 The so-called Cairo Conference of 1921 was a series of secret meetings by British officials to organize their dominance over both Iraq and Tansjordan.

6 April 4, 1949