our interviews

june 22, 2024

There has been no news from the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan for 39 months now. No information has been disclosed as to the situation in Imrali.The Kurdish people continue their protests for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. How do you evaluate both the resistance and struggle in Imrali and the actions of the Kurdish people and their international friends?

Our primary focus is on the situation of Rêber Apo1. Not only the movement and our leadership, but also our people and international friends, should make Rêber Apo’s situation their main agenda, empathize, discuss what is right, what is one’s duty and responsibility, and what can be done. This is a moral, political, and humanitarian duty. Rêber Apo says that whatever happens to him, whether the matter is life or death, the underlying cause is political. For 26 years, Rêber Apo has been a hostage in Imrali, and for 39 months, he has not been heard from in any way while the Turkish state is watching him 24 hours a day with cameras. Rêber Apo has a historic and heavy burden on his back. We can only imagine how much pressure he is under. There is a great deal of pressure and resistance in Imrali. The real war is taking place there. The Turkish state considers Imrali an area of liquidation. The Turkish state, Erdogan and Bahceli, are waging a genocidal war against the Kurdish people. If conditions were at least close to normal in Imrali, if Rêber Apo could live a normal life and the Turkish state respected and accepted his role as a leader, the situation would be very different and would have a positive impact on Turkey. This fact is neither untrue nor exaggerated.

The heart and pulse of Turkish society and the Kurdish people beat in Imrali. No one can claim otherwise. Therefore, Turkey’s future, democratization, and the liberation of the Kurdish people are completely interwoven with the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Everyone is responsible for ensuring Rêber Apo’s physical freedom. First and foremost, our people and we as a movement, but also all revolutionary forces and everyone who has human values, are responsible. That is why the campaign launched eight months ago for Rêber Apo’s physical freedom and for the democratic solution of the Kurdish question has received support all over the world. This is of great significance. The campaign is still going on, and so academics, revolutionary forces, and young people are reading and discussing the prison writings in order to understand Rêber Apo’s paradigm. This paradigm, which was written against capitalist modernity, is a breath of fresh air for humanity. There is no doubt that the campaign has reached a certain level, but we should never be comfortable or satisfied. The campaign must continue with a new synergy every day, and everyone must see themselves as responsible for this. Every Kurd and everyone with human values should ask themselves what they have done for this campaign. Until the physical freedom of Rêber Apo is achieved, no one should say, “We have done a lot, we have succeeded, and now we can relax.”

As I pointed out, one of our main goals is the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. The ongoing isolation is inhumane. Normally, the family and lawyers should be able to visit him. So, we are struggling for him to be able to exercise this right, but still, our main goal is the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Of course, there is a struggle for this, but it should be wider and stronger. Just as people all over the world embraced Mandela, we must embrace Rêber Apo in the same way. Not only the Kurdish people but also our international friends have started the campaign; this is also very important. The democratic forces, our international friends, socialist forces, and women and youth movements should convey this campaign to their societies. This campaign must be carried out with the participation of the whole society, not just some friends. There are discussions and plans on this issue. Rojava is also standing up for this campaign, which is very good. We respect the work being done in northern Kurdistan and Turkey. There is a struggle going on, but it is not enough. Especially in northern Kurdistan, the democratic and socialist forces, as well as the Kurdish institutions, should come to terms with the reality that there are things that are legal and there are things that are moral. It is necessary to take action accordingly. We see the struggle for Rêber Apo’s physical freedom in northern Kurdistan and Turkey as incomplete.

Society should not be complacent; it should empathize. Rêber Apo pulled the Kurdish people out of the grave where they were buried alive. The Kurdish people have reached such a strong stage of struggle, will, and accomplishments through Rêber Apo. The Kurdish society, its international friends, and the forces of freedom and democracy must point the finger at the ongoing injustice. It is wanted to destroy the future of society by destroying the person of Rêber Apo. Accordingly, there should be a more massive, bigger struggle than ever before. This is a humanitarian criterion. As I said, there are some efforts at a certain level, but the pressure and torture continue in Imrali. Therefore, society must rise up in every field and further spread its struggle. Also, the legal struggle must be expanded. Thousands of lawyers in Turkey have put the issue on the agenda. This is very important. The lies of the Turkish state and the true face of Erdogan must be exposed to the whole of society.

It was said that the Turkish state was planning a major attack on the Medya Defense Zones2 in the summer months. For this, many meetings took place between Iraq and the Turkish state. What were the results of these talks and what is the current stage of the war between the Turkish state and the guerrilla?

A very tough war is being waged both in the Medya Defense Zones and in Imrali. In fact, there is a tough war in Turkey as well. No one can breathe comfortably in Turkey. This is a psychological, economic, and political war. The Turkish state has made a strategy and expressed that it would invade the Medya Defense Zones in the summer and would successfully destroy the guerrilla. They have been trying to put this into practice since April 16th, and since then there has been a fierce and uninterrupted war. Apparently, the Kurdish people and the democratic forces are having a hard time understanding the overall situation. Sometimes it is as if there are two worlds. On the one hand, a great war is being waged in the Medya Defense Zones, and on the other hand, everyone lives according to their own problems. If the Turkish state achieves results against the guerrilla, everyone should know that no one can continue to live in northern Kurdistan and Turkey. That is why the Turkish state is attacking the guerrilla with all its might. It is due to the guerrilla’s resistance that the Turkish army is in deadlock. In Zap, Metina, Xakurke, Gare, and the whole Medya Defense Zones, a resistance is being put up with years of experience and a spirit of sacrifice. No one can stand against this will. No matter what the Turkish state, NATO’s second-most powerful army, does, no one can stand in the way of the guerrilla. The Turkish army is fighting immorally and is fully supported by NATO. Despite all this, it cannot achieve results against the guerrilla. Our people should be aware of this and take courage from this reality.

As early as the spring months, Turkish delegations were constantly holding talks with the Iraqi state. They requested that Iraq and the KDP fight together against the PKK. We know, more or less, what was discussed and what results were achieved. I would like to say a few things to the Iraqi state: the Iraqi state knows that the PKK has been in the mountains of Kurdistan for more than 40 years since the Saddam era. The PKK has never harmed Iraqi society, the people of southern Kurdistan, the Kurdish people, or even the Iraqi state. On the contrary, the PKK has always defended Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian, and all other peoples and communities. It is a shame that the Iraqi state of Baghdad, despite this, has declared the PKK a banned organization. We know what this means. This is not just a statement. This decision is not right, and the Iraqi state should review and correct this wrong decision as soon as possible. A few years ago, the PKK saved the future of the Iraqi, Kurdish, Assyrian, Êzidî, and Arab people against ISIS. It waged a self-sacrificing war and proved itself. It is incorrect to take such a decision instead of respecting such a movement and instead of establishing an alliance of friendship. If the Iraqi state says it is an independent state, then how come the Turkish state occupies hundreds of kilometers of its territory, establishes bases in dozens of places, and thousands of troops enter its territory? This is the annexation of land by an independent state. How can this happen? You do not exercise your international legal rights, you do not condemn the practice of the Turkish state, you do not hold it to account, and you prevent society from reacting. You do not allow the press to say anything against the Turkish state. This is the reality of a state which calls itself independent.

For more than thirteen years, the Syrian state and Bashar al-Assad has been fighting a very brutal war. Syria has been plundered and occupied by ISIS, the Turkish state, and many gangs. There is an autonomous administration in North and East Syria, and they are in favor of solving the problems through dialogue, but the Turkish state has occupied Syrian territory. It is running its administrative system on Syrian territory; it has annexed areas, considering these places a part of its own territory. It has placed thousands of mercenaries there. Despite all this, the Syrian state responds to the Turkish state’s request for talks by saying that they will not hold any talks until the Turkish state, which occupied their lands, withdraws its forces. One really has to respect the Syrian state for this stance. They show a principled stance; they say that, as a state, they will not meet with anyone who occupies their lands.

We were expecting Iraq to take such a stance. Sometimes they imply for the Turkish state to get out of Iraqi territories, but at the same time they hold dozens of meetings. This is not right. The Iraqi state should know this; it should not be afraid of Erdogan’s constant threats. Erdogan is not like he was ten, twenty, or even four years ago. He has no power over society anymore. He has only bureaucracy and the power of the state. And their time in power will be over. The Iraqi state should think more strategically and broadly and conduct politics accordingly. As a movement, we want this injustice to be overcome, and the Kurdish people, our movement, Arab society, and the Iraqi state should develop friendly relations. Because there has never been harm between us.

Of course, there are those who want to drive a wedge between Iraq and the Turkish state, to make them take a stand against the PKK, and who see this as their duty. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein is spearheading this. He is trying to make Baghdad and Ankara get along. Again, there are those in the Iraqi parliament who play into the hands of the Turkish state. For example, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and the Minister of Defense. I condemn them and their actions. Our people should know that these people are the cause of many problems. Undoubtedly, this is a process that continues. The Turkish state has not achieved any significant results; it is locked at the moment. We know that it will use all its power against us, but we are confident in our strength, our experience, and the level of our technology, and we are preparing ourselves with a sacrificial spirit

Politics in Turkey is boiling. Everyone is undermining each other. The fascist AKP-MHP, once again, wants to usurp the will of the Kurdish people by appointing trustees to the legal positions of Kurds. On the other hand, the government is creating fake agendas and the opposition in Turkey is being distracted by this. They prevent the discussion of real problems. In the face of such a situation, what attitude should the democratic and revolutionary forces of Turkey take?

Everything in the Turkish state, especially Erdogan and Bahceli, is based on dishonesty. They follow no principles or values. They created a false agenda called ‘normalization’. The name alone makes me uncomfortable, because a situation in which the Kurdish language, identity, and existence are denied but at the same time described as ‘normal’ is simply wrong. The Kurdish people should not join this discussion of ‘normalization’. Rêber Apo’s situation and the war being waged are obvious. They want to distract everyone with these false agendas. In his 22 years in power, Erdogan has never been as weak and desperate as he is today. They have many problems internally; they are covered in filth. Even they themselves say that they have to be careful. They probably take the public for sheep, but the eyes of society have now been opened. That’s why they are reacting. Turkey has serious problems. Either there will be someone who thinks about the future of Turkey, who sees themselves as responsible, and who comes up with humane and democratic solutions. Or there will be someone who will exacerbate these problems and exert pressure. AKP-MHP is doing exactly this right now.

The appointment of trustees is also related to this. There is war in the Medya Defense Zones, there is torture against Rêber Apo. Despite and due to all this pressure, the government is falling. We, the democratic forces, and the Kurdish people must organize, take action, and respond with this consciousness. And we should know that time is very precious for us. Every passing day is working against Erdogan. The resistance against the trustees in Wan and Colemerg (tr. Hakkari) is very important. The democratic forces, socialists, women, youth, all of Turkey, and all Kurdish people are acting together. One gets excited in the face of this. I find the emergence of such a common will and acting together important and exciting. This must be insisted on. That’s why the Wan resistance was very good and successful. The people in Colemerg are also resisting and must insist on this stance. The alliance of the Kurdish people and democratic forces is very important. Every democratic organization in Turkey must stand by the struggle of the Kurdish people. The Turkish state is afraid of this alliance.

Oppression and usurpation by trustees are being used specifically against the people in Kurdistan, but the people on the Turkish side are also suffering. They are also hungry, and many are driven to suicide. In this situation, the democratic forces and the DEM Party should organize rallies and further actions together. They should express the economic and political problems of society in parliament. If they do so, their alliance will grow even more. The struggle should not weaken; it should not be said that results cannot be achieved in the face of the Turkish state. If we insist on the struggle, we will be able to yield results, but not in a passive way; that is, not only with sit-ins and singing, but more organized and radical action should be taken. Erdogan was weakened after the election; his will was broken to a certain extent. He wants to change the agenda with ‘softening’, ‘normalization’, and talks with the CHP. This shows how weak he has become.

For some time now, Erdogan has been saying, “we will not allow the establishment of a terrorist state on our border”. What is Erdogan’s “terroristan” discourse?

The Kurdish people and the whole world, especially Turkish society, know that Erdogan is the biggest terrorist ever. His hostility towards the Kurdish people is obvious. He is the biggest terrorist alive. Let’s take, for example, Kurds in Japan; they want to learn their language in accordance with Japanese law. Erdogan raised hell to prevent this. Every Kurd should get this message. The KDP should also get this message. Erdogan is the enemy of the Kurdish people. Rêber Apo once said, “Someone trying to put handcuffs on your language also wants to put handcuffs on your heart, brain, and future.” If one puts handcuffs on the language of the Kurdish people, they cannot speak and they cannot learn their language. Isn’t this the biggest terrorism? Erdogan defines a whole people as terrorists. During the referendum in southern Kurdistan, Erdogan threatened that they had brought their army to the border and that if the KDP would not step back, they would do “whatever it takes.” The Barzanis seem to have forgotten this, or they put it aside for their own interests. But this is the truth: Erdogan does not want the Kurds to have anything, even if it were in space.

The whole world witnessed how Kurdish, Arab, and Christian people fought together against ISIS in Rojava. More than 20.000 people gave their lives. It was Erdogan who ordered ISIS to leave Mosul and directed them to Damascus instead, and it was Erdogan who encouraged ISIS to attack Kobane. Even arrested ISIS fighters admit this. There are many documents that prove this. It was Erdogan who supported, protected, strengthened, and financed ISIS. There will be elections in the municipalities in North and East Syria. Millions of people live in that region, and they already held elections in the past. Why are you calling them terrorists now? Kurds should know that this is pure enmity against Kurds. The Kurdish people, the Turkish society, and the Arab society should know that Erdogan sees himself as the 5th caliph and wants to occupy Libya and Iraq everywhere.

It’s constantly in the press that Sinan Ateş, the former head of the national quarries, was murdered in Ankara. His wife has been traveling from party to party for his cause, she met with Ozel and lastly with Erdogan. Erdogan’s hostility towards Kurds is also seen here. There are more than 17.000 unsolved murders in Kurdistan; 17.000 Kurds were massacred. Their mothers and fathers have been protesting every Saturday for years with the pictures of their children. Their cases were not on anyone’s agenda. Medet Serhat3 was a lawyer; he was murdered in the middle of Istanbul, who talked about him? Who talked about Musa Anter4? Tahir Elçi5 was martyred on live TV in front of cameras; a few days ago, the perpetrator was acquitted, who talked about him? Seven members of the Dedeogullari family were murdered in Konya, it was never on the agenda. Weren’t they human beings? I say the same for the CHP. Thousands of people like Savas Buldan6 and Behcet Canturk7 were murdered. There is no law for the Kurdish people in Turkey. Is what was done to Rêber Apo lawful? Is the murder and disappearance of 17.000 people lawful? Yesterday, HPG announced that in just one day, thirty areas including Qendil were bombed; banned and chemical weapons are used every day. Are these legal?

Not only the Kurdish people, but people of conscience, democrats and even liberals must see this double standard and the Kurdish hostility of Erdogan and Bahceli. They sent mother Halise8 the bones of her child in a sack by mail. They gave a father the bones of his child in a bag9, they should think about how a person’s psychology can withstand this. This is how they are hostile to Kurds. Again, mother Emine Senyasar’s10 search for justice continues. In short, it is Erdogan, the Turkish state and the AKP that terrorize everything and keep themselves alive through chaos and crises. They say they do not accept the establishment of ‘Terroristan’, but they want to establish ‘Gangistan’. Neither the Syrian state nor the people of Rojava recognize and accept them. The Kurdish people will continue their resistance in every sense against all the attacks of the AKP government.

Right-wing extremists received a high number of votes in the European elections. What do you think is the reason why radical right-wing extremists received so many votes? What impact will this situation have on Turkish politics?

There is a nationalist vein in Europe. There were wars between Germany, France, England, and Italy. ISIS and Al-Qaeda carried out attacks in Europe for a while, and many people, including women and children, lost their lives. European society reacted by criminalizing the Middle East because most of the perpetrators are Muslims. I think this is one reason. The other reason is the Russia-Ukraine war. If Russia invades Ukraine today, Russia and Europe will be neighbours. So European society is questioning why Russia is not being stopped. That’s why society has turned to the right wing. But the issue they are most angry about is the issue of migration. It is an issue that also concerns Turkey. Millions of people have migrated to Turkey from Iraq and Syria. And Erdogan consciously kept the doors open. Because he wanted to make this a trade and bargaining chip for himself. There was a G7 meeting a while ago. As far as I am informed, the Turkish state has not attended this meeting for five or six years. This year, Turkey attended. They bargained over migrants; they told Erdogan they would give him as much money as he wanted; he just needed to keep the gates closed and not let them come to Europe or their countries.

Recently, a boat sank again in Italy, and dozens of people lost their lives. This is something that is done consciously. They don’t intervene in time; they want people to be afraid, to say so they let them drown. Turkey’s economic situation is obvious; they need money, foreign currency, and capital, so in return that Erdogan keeps the gates shut, Europe gives him money. These states don’t care about the people running away from their homelands; people who have had to leave their lands because of war, hunger, or poverty. They don’t treat those people like human beings; they trade on them. This is immoral. And Europe, which constantly talks about human rights, is doing this, together with Turkey. They are trampling on all human values. This is why I think the radical right is on the rise in Europe.

June 29th is the anniversary of the execution of Sheikh Sait11, and June 30th is the anniversary of the comrade Zilan’s12 sacrifice. What is your message regarding these two anniversaries?

First of all, I respectfully commemorate comrade Zilan, Sema13 and Gulan14 and all our martyrs. I also respectfully commemorate Sheikh Sait, who has a place in the hearts and history of the Kurdish people. We are their followers. How did the PKK emerge? For example, without Mazlum15, Kemal16, Hayri17, Ferhat18 and their prison resistance, there would not have been a PKK with such a culture. What would PKK have been like without Egid19, without the dozens of friends who set their bodies on fire against the international conspiracy20, without Zîlan who gave the biggest sacrifices? All of them created this culture. They are the history and reality of the PKK. Our duty is to follow these comrades and protect their values. Therefore, once again I commemorate all our martyrs and bow to their memories with respect. Our movement, our people, the PKK, and the KCK, draw its strength from this. Despite everything, the struggle continues and we are convinced that we will succeed.

They executed Sheikh Sait and Seyit Riza21, and today no one knows where their graves are. This is of course a policy of the Turkish state. It wants to destroy the historical memory of the Kurdish people and make them forget. The PKK has thousands of martyrs today, of whom the location of their graves are unclear. A few days ago, thousands of people visited martyrs’ cemeteries in northern and southern Kurdistan, as well as in Rojava. When Sheikh Sait was executed, there were no such opportunities, they executed him, and now no one knows where his grave is. Here, too, the PKK gave an answer to history. Sheikh Sait was not executed just because he appeared as a religious person. He was a conscious person; he spoke five different languages. Sheikh Sait’s son Ali Riza once said, “My father had national consciousness.” All our efforts are to realize their unfinished dreams. As Rêber Apo once put it, “I will complete their unfinished dreams, I will succeed.” With this responsibility, with this love and excitement, we will always try to play our role. We will try to be worthy of the values of the Kurdish people and their martyrs.


1 Referring to Kurdish peoples leader Abdullah Ocalan.

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

3 Medet Serhat was a well-known, respected Kurdish lawyer who was particularly committed to the enforcement of human rights. He fell victim to an assassination attempt on November 12, 1994 in Istanbul.

4 Apê Musa (Musa Anter) is one of the best-known Kurdish writers, who was often confronted with repression for his political and cultural activities. On September 20, 1992, he was murdered by a death squad of the Turkish state.

5 Tahir Elci was a well-known and respected Kurdish lawyer and President of the Bar Association of Amed (tr. Diyarbakir). He fell victim to an assassination attempt in Amed on November 28, 2015.

6 Savaş Buldan, the husband of the well-known Pervin Buldan (co-chair of the HDP), was a Kurdish patriot who stood up for the interests of Kurdish society. He was abducted by the Turkish police on June 3, 1994 and found dead one day later.

7 Behcet Canturk was a Kurdish patriot and businessman who stood up for the interests of Kurdish society. He was kidnapped on January 14, 1994 and found dead shortly afterwards.

8 Mother Halise Aksoy became famous through a picture from 2020. There she is seen sitting, crying, bent over a box in a sack. The box contains the remains of her son, who had been killed by Turkish military forces three years earlier and had been sent to her by post shortly beforehand.

9 After a long legal battle, Ali Riza Arslan received the mortal remains of his son, who was killed by the Turkish military in 2016, in 2022. He received the remains of his son in a bag.

10 Emine Şenyaşar is the widow of Haci Esvet Şenyaşar and mother of their sons Celal and Adil. The three men were victims of lynchings carried out by armed bodyguards and relatives of AKP politician Ibrahim Halil Yildiz in the district town of Pirsûs (tr. Suruç) a few days before the parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2018. Emine Şenyaşar has been holding a justice vigil for years.

11 Kurdish tribal leader who led a general uprising in North Kurdistan against the Turkish occupation. The rebellion failed due to treason and Sheikh Sait was hanged with his comrades on June 29, 1925 in Amed.

12 Zeyneb Kinaci (nom de guerre: Zîlan) is one of the most best known militants of the Kurdish women’s movement. At a time when the Kurdish women’s movement was under massive attack, the then 23-year-old took the initiative and carried out an action in Dersim (tr. Tunceli). She detonated a bomb in a military parade, killing and injuring several soldiers. Zeyneb Kinaci also lost her life on this June 30, 1996.

13 Sema Yüce was a leading militant of the Kurdish women’s movement. On March 21, 1998, she set fire to her own body in protest against the attempted assassination of the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and in solidarity with the self-immolation actions of many political prisoners in Turkish prisons. She succumbed to her burn injuries on June 17, 1998.

14 Filiz Yerlikaya (nom de guerre: Gulan) was a leading militant of the Kurdish women’s movement and a commander of the special forces. On June 7, 2002, she was murdered in Qendîl on the sidelines of a congress by collaborationist forces who wanted to weaken the role of women in the Kurdish freedom movement.

15 Mazlum Dogan is one of the founding members of the PKK and was one of the pioneers of the resistance in the infamous Amed (tr.: Diyarbakir) prison. On Newroz 1982, he set fire to his cell, referring to fire as the central symbol of the Newroz tradition, and hanged himself. This act of resistance was the trigger for a long series of resistance actions in Turkish prisons and also led to a reorientation of resistance outside the prisons.

16 Kemal Pir is one of the founding members of the Kurdish freedom movement and is a symbol of prison resistance. Kemal Pir martyred on September 7, 1982 in Amed prison (tr. Diyarbakir) as a result of a death fast that they had begun on July 14.

17 Mehmet Hayri Durmuş was a leading militant of the Kurdish freedom movement. In the course of the death fast declared on July 14 in the prison of Amed (tr. Diyarbakir), Durmuş gave his life on September 12, 1982.

18 Ferhat Kurtay, Eşref Anyık, Necmi Öner and Mahmut Zengin were four militants of the Kurdish freedom movement. After months of torture in the prison of Amed (tr. Diyarbakir) and treason slowly threatening to spread, they decided to set a sign of resistance. On the night of May 12, 1982, they set themselves and their cell on fire. This night has since been known as “the night of the four”.

19 Mahsum Korkmaz (nome de guerre: Egîd) was the first commander of the Kurdish guerrilla. He fell martyr in combat on March 28, 1982 in the province of Şirnak.

20 By international conspiracy he refers here to how Abdullah Ocalan 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.

21 Kurdish tribal leaders who led a general uprising in Dersim against the Turkish occupation. The rebellion failed and the Turkish state subsequently carried out the Dersim massacre in 1937/38. Seyit Riza was hanged with his friends on November 15, 1937 in Elazig.