“Our goal is a free, democratic and independent Kurdistan, not a nation-state”
An interview with Besê Hozat and Cemil Bayik, KCK co-Chairs, about the principles, goals, achievements and relations of the Kurdish Freedom Movement:
Is the goal of the KCK and its affiliated organizations a fully independent Kurdistan or greater autonomy? What is the position of your Freedom Movement regarding the question of secession?
It is important to keep in mind how exactly we understand the concept of independence. As a movement, we understand independence as a condition in which one is not subject to the will of other powers, nor of other people. In this sense, we are an independence movement. We attach great importance to preserving this kind of independence for ourselves. We can clearly state that we have always preserved our independence-oriented line and attitude since the emergence of our movement. No one – no political movement or organization – can claim that we are under the influence of other powers and that our will is dependent on them. Because of our clear stance on this issue, our Leadership1 was taken hostage in an international conspiracy and has been in prison for 23 years under the most severe isolation. For the same reason, all NATO members have classified our Freedom Movement as a terrorist organization. In doing so, they provide legitimacy to the all-out attacks on our movement, thereby fueling the attacks. Had we not maintained our independent stance and instead submitted to the influence of other powers, NATO’s attitude would have been very different. This is true not only for the NATO countries, whose interests the policy of our movement does not correspond to. Russia and other countries of Capitalist Modernity also take a negative attitude towards our movement.
Our movement is not under the influence of any international power. Likewise, no regional actor influences or directs our movement. Our Freedom Movement is very much concerned with maintaining its stance aimed at independence. Certain countries, which themselves have contradictions with Turkey, may indirectly take advantage of our struggle. However, none of these countries have succeeded in subjugating our will to their influence and directing it. Therefore, it is generally acknowledged that, in the real sense of the term, we have maintained our independent position on the basis of a free will.
To speak about this using the terms of Capitalist Modernity or the literature of the last centuries leads to erroneous conclusions. This is because the political literature of the last centuries has, by and large, been shaped by the forces of Capitalist Modernity. It is therefore important not to understand independence within the framework of the categories `nation-state’ or `independent state’ developed by these forces. This approach would lead us to false conclusions. The forces advocating freedom, democracy and socialism do not understand independence in the same way as the hegemonic, exploitative and oppressive forces. The concept of the `independent state` is based on the interests of the respective national bourgeoisie. It was developed on this basis. This is accompanied by the view that it is the right of the national bourgeoisie to establish its monopoly of exploitation over the respective nation from which the bourgeoisie itself originates. The `independent state` thus becomes the national factory or domain of exploitation in which the national bourgeoisie can implement its project of exploitation. To call this an `independent state` or `independence` means nothing else than to conceal the fact that the respective nation is under the rule of an exploitative monopoly.
If we look at this question from that perspective, we can clearly see that the nation-state is not a truly independent state. It is certainly not an independent country. It would therefore not be correct to equate the terms ‘independent Kurdistan’ and ‘independent state’. To do so would only mean to give legitimacy to and normalize the oppression and exploitation of the hegemonic classes that want to establish their monopoly of exploitation and oppression over the nation. It would therefore be very wrong to equate an independent Kurdistan with the notion of an `independent state`, that is, to automatically understand an independent Kurdistan as a nation-state and to create the impression that independence can be achieved through the establishment of an `independent state`. If we do not succeed in avoiding this mistake, we will not be able to develop a proper political analysis and an adequate understanding of national liberation and freedom.
It is absolutely clear that the PKK pursues the goal of a free, democratic and independent Kurdistan. But we do not understand this as a nation-state or an `independent state`. The assumption that independence can be achieved in this way is nothing but a lie of Capitalist Modernity and its hegemonic class. In addition, even the forces of Capitalist Modernity themselves do not advocate these kinds of independent states. While in the past they argued that solid state borders served their own interests, today they look at it differently. They now advocate permeable borders. They no longer see a rigid understanding of the nation state as serving the interests of capitalism, which is now in the phase of a globalized consumer society. It has become one of their fundamental laws to oppose the obstruction of the free and secure movement of capital by fixed borders. Certain circles calling themselves leftist today erroneously portray the nation-state as anti-capitalist simply because capitalism no longer considers it conducive to its own interests in the current era. These circles are characterized by their failure to recognize the capitalist and exploitative nature of the nation-state and by their lack of a proper understanding of the correct line of struggle against global capitalism. They have a very dogmatic character, on the basis of which they even defend the reactionary characteristics of their collaborating national bourgeois classes.
It has been clearly shown that countries and peoples that do not derive their strength from a free and democratic society cannot have an independent will. Without relying on a free, strong and democratic society, it is impossible to develop an independent will and to oppose other powers based on that will, that is, to be independent. If the people of a country have developed into a free and democratic society, they also possess a correspondingly strong independence. A country cannot achieve its independence merely by defining its borders. It is undeniable that precisely those who claim to have an independent state with clearly defined borders display the worst form of collaboration and lack of will. Because in these states a free and democratic society does not exist. A free and democratic society possesses its own will and power. Political forces that are not based on such a society inevitably become collaborators.
Being independent, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and against occupation is only possible if you predicate yourself on a free and democratic society. Otherwise, it would be impossible to attribute these characteristics to yourself. During the Cold War, when the world was divided into two poles, some states could claim to be anti-imperialist while relying on certain other forces. Some other states, benefiting from the conflicts between various forces, managed to adopt an independent stance to a certain extent. But it would be a misconception to consider them as states or countries that were seeking independence. The relative freedom of movement that resulted from the line and political conjuncture of the time cannot be understood as an attitude that strives for independence. To look at these states or countries in this way paves the way for a false understanding and concept of independence. Any viewpoint that does not understand independence as something based on a free and democratic society is wrong. Such views only serve to distort the actual facts.
The state is a tool of the ruling class. We must never forget this. A state can neither belong to the people nor be socialist. Both self-administration of the people and socialism can only be implemented without the state. For this very reason, Rêber Apo2 took a clear stance and expressed that he would never strive for a state, even if it were offered to him on a silver platter.
Rêber Apo calls for a democratic-autonomous Kurdistan based on a free and democratic society. He considers a democratic-confederal Kurdistan, in which all four parts of the country have political, social, cultural and economic relations with each other without changing the existing state borders, as the best way of liberation and national unity. He does not consider a unified Kurdistan through statehood to be the right way, because it would create many new problems and would not solve the already existing ones. Moreover, it would not create a free, democratic and independent nation. In this context, Rêber Apo emphasizes that this path of statehood would only move Kurdistan further away from a free, democratic, and independent status.
There are two ways to establish a democratic autonomous life without changing the existing state borders. The first consists in an autonomy, narrowly defined only on the basis of relations with the state. The second path involves an organized, democratic society that develops into a social and political system on a democratic-confederal basis in the political, social, cultural, economic, etc spheres. When the organized and democratic society develops into a socio-political system on a democratic-confederal basis, it will be free and independent in the true sense. This form of Democratic Autonomy does not resemble other common place form of autonomy. Rather, it is a form of autonomy based on an organized and free society. An autonomy that empowers the nation. Within the framework of this form of autonomy, the nation develops a degree of strength that it cannot achieve in any other states or systems. Society and the nation can only be empowered through democratic relations. Democratic Nations based on an organized society possess strength and willpower. In this sense, this nation model has the highest level of independence and willpower. States do not give strength to the nation, but to the ruling classes. In a democracy, on the other hand, it is society and the nation that are turned into the decisive force. The nation is strongest when it has developed as an organized democratic society into a social system that stands on a democratic-confederal basis. The Democratic Autonomy thus constituted has a level of independent political willpower that cannot be found in any nation-state or supposedly independent state.
Here we are undoubtedly talking about a situation we call `democracy + state`. This is not a completely democratic condition. But at the same time it is a situation in which the society or the nation is in the strongest possible position in relation to the state. In today`s world, the term ‘complete independence’ does not do justice to the actual reality anyway. It is rather a relative situation. In today’s world, there are relations of mutual dependence. Certain objective influences and circumstances exist that impose limits on all states and nations. What is crucial is that these relationships and interdependence do not destroy the independent will of those involved. In the `democracy + state` formula mutual limitations exist as well. But the system `democracy + state` represents at the same time a situation of permanent tensions. In our present era, it is always democracy that emerges from this tensions with greater strength and efficacy.
For us, it is important that peoples and societies live free and democratic lives. We advocate for the systems that can best ensure this. In our view, separation, detachment, dissociation and opposition is only meaningful when you separate and detach yourself from violence, oppression and hegemony. Becoming a state is certainly not conducive to this goal. The right of nations to self-determination has ultimately been expressed in terms of the bourgeois understanding of the nation-state. But socialists cannot follow such a principle or take such a stance. For socialists, freedom, equality, democracy, society and fraternity among peoples are crucial. All those who are committed to societies strive for the broadest possible political associations based on friendship among peoples and democratic unity.
Separating communities from each other by state borders in a rigid way is contrary to historical-social reality. Historically, peoples, communities or cultures have never been separated by rigid borders. Rather, they have always drawn on their symbiotic relationships with each other. The Soviet Union erected immutable borders and walls, separating itself from the rest of the world. However, this was an unnatural development. Actually, the Soviet Union should not have isolated itself even if the capitalist system had decided to take this step. However, due to certain wrong convictions and a lack of self-confidence, real socialism ended up in the aforementioned situation. The strict secession of the Soviet Union from countries and regions that defined themselves as capitalist is ultimately another result of the disease represented by the nation-state.
Historically, peoples and communities have always lived in the form of federations or confederations. Centralized empires have practically never existed in this context. In any case, an empire was only able to exist if it recognized the autonomous political will of the peoples, cultures, communities of a region and geographical areas. Against this background, Democratic Autonomies, confederations and federations represent systems that are more in line with the historical trend and can more successfully ensure that peoples complement each other. However, Capitalist Modernity, due to its understanding that revolves around nation, nation-state, nationalism and the annihilation of different cultures, and for practical reasons, does not succeed in practically implementing the forms of local democracy, Democratic Autonomy and other forms of autonomy that are correct from the point of view of humanity. It does not succeed in solving the problems of humanity. Once these mentalities and obstacles are overcome, the world will become a place where nation-states will be rendered obsolete and broad democratic unions will emerge on the basis of the free and democratic life of the peoples.
In his works, Abdullah Öcalan deals intensively with the question of how capitalism can be overcome and an economy based on cooperatives can be built. What kind of economic policy does the Kurdistan Freedom Movement intend to implement after the liberation of Kurdistan?
Overcoming capitalism is not only a task of the PKK and all socialists. Society, the form of existence of humanity and the source of all its cultural values, is being destroyed by capitalism. There is an attack on the existence of humanity, on humanity as a whole. Capitalism cannot exist, it cannot survive without consuming or destroying society and all its social values. Just as cancer cells in the human body attack and destroy healthy cells, capitalism attacks and consumes society. For this reason, Rêber Apo has defined capitalism as a cancerous phenomenon. Because capitalism attacks and consumes society, Rêber Apo also always considered the term ‘capitalist society’ to be wrong. He spoke of the fact that capitalism and society cannot be brought together. The question of overcoming capitalism, moreover, should not be seen only as an economic problem. Rather, it is a fundamental social problem. Capitalism is the cause of deepening all social problems. This is also the only conceivable result of this kind of exploitation and its modernity, which keeps itself alive by consuming society.
Rêber Apo has analyzed capitalism as a whole. Undoubtedly, Marx and Engels have made a great contribution to the analysis of capitalism and have reached important results. Rêber Apo has both paid tribute to the achievements of these socialist leaders and at the same time completed points that had remained incomplete in the analysis of Marx and Engels. Thus he has made a very great contribution to the analysis of capitalism. Today it is no longer possible to develop a holistic approach to capitalism without taking Rêber Apo’s analysis into account. To ignore his analysis would lead to serious shortcomings in the struggle against capitalism and in its overcoming. In particular, the concept of ‘Capitalist Modernity’ must be examined very carefully. Otherwise, the alternative to it, Democratic Modernity, cannot be properly understood.
All these are important points to mention before elaborating on the alternative economic understanding of Rêber Apo. We consider it the duty of all people to defend themselves against capitalism in all fields of life. The attack on society began with the attacks on women. Based on this, the various systems of exploitation, oppression, power and state emerged. The hegemony over women was followed by the exploitation of society, the emergence of classes and social problems. In capitalism they have currently reached their climax. If we want to continue to exist as a human society, it is very important to take a stance against capitalism and to take action. Capitalism is increasingly putting humanity in a position that not even the capitalists themselves can justify or defend. That is why the think tanks and intellectuals serving capitalism are intensively dealing with the question of how capitalism can be palatable to humanity. Rêber Apo has comprehensively analyzed capitalism and thereby made it clear that it has become an immense burden for humanity and must be overcome at all costs. For this, he has very convincingly presented a wide variety of evidence and arguments.
Capitalism cannot simply be abolished overnight. But it is important to start doing exactly that today. It is undoubtedly necessary, first of all, to break the ideological hegemony created by capitalism. Parallel to this, an alternative economic model must be implemented in practice, i.e. a way of doing business that does not destroy society but, on the contrary, strengthens it.
The various societies and individuals today have been taught something like the following economic mentality: `One is necessarily the big landowner, governor, boss, factory or store owner, and the other is correspondingly a simple villager or worker. In order to live, all people have to earn a salary.` Historically, this is one of the worst forms of ideological hegemony. For it means nothing else than the internalization of slavery, that is, to turn the antique form of slavery into something that is voluntarily obeyed. In this regard, the economy is the most fundamental activity of society. When humans became humans, that is, when they began to organize themselves as a society, they satisfied their need for food and shelter through social interaction. It is totally unthinkable to satisfy these needs individually. Apart from what humans found and ate individually in nature, everything was achieved through common social work. Therefore, to pursue the most central social activities today as a slave or worker represents one of the most fundamental social distortions. This is a truly abnormal situation. The fact that this is considered normal today makes clear what kind of distortion we are dealing with. Without changing this, we will not be able to become real people. Rather, it is necessary for us to do our own work, that is, to satisfy our needs as workers of society, without even a single person living a life as a slave or a worker. The technical progress and the increasing professionalization in this field may only be understood as a social division of labor. But social division of labor does not necessarily require the existence of privileges and exploitation. What is crucial is that everyone is able to live and contribute to a healthy and happy life.
This ideological hegemony has been reinforced by Capitalist Modernity. It has created the serious misconception that individualism is the most fundamental characteristic of humans and that the individual can exist without society. In connection with the economic understanding that certain people must always be bosses and the rest workers, individualism has developed into a culture. Therefore, it does not occur to anyone to produce together and share the products fairly by bringing people together and building a social economy or a communal economy. Today, it is not an easy task to bring people together and develop common production processes on this basis. Because the dominant idea is to work somewhere as a worker or civil servant and to get the best possible wage. This is ultimately an attitude of accepting slavery. The only goal is to live a little better than in the days of slavery. The more one consumes, the more the profit of Capitalist Modernity increases. That is why today attempts are being made to create conditions in which, in addition to the middle class, the workers are also empowered to consume. By having the workers reinvest their wages in consumer products, it is ensured that the money ends up in the pockets of the bosses once again.
The PKK aims to build a free and democratic society that is not subject to exploitation. If democracy, as the leadership by the people themselves, is a sublime value, then the corresponding economic system of the people must also be built. In the field of economy, democracy corresponds to an economic form in which there are no bosses or big landowners. In the democracies that we can find today in capitalist countries, the rule of the people does not exist. In the same way, the economy does not belong to the people, but to the hegemonic classes, since they dominate the system as a whole. But if we declare democracy, that is, the power of the people to govern themselves, to be our goal, then we must also build the corresponding economy of the people. So our goal must be to create an economic system in which there are not bosses and big landowners on one side and workers on the other. As monopolism becomes stronger and stronger in capitalism, the economy increasingly loses its connection to society. Just as democracy in social life means overcoming authoritarian, homogeneous systems, in the economic sphere it overcomes any monopolies and the economic policies of the ruling classes.
Rêber Apo calls first of all for the communalization of land, water and energy, that is, of the fundamental pillars of economy. These three economic elements should never be monopolized by anyone. We must understand this communal approach as the first step for the construction of the economic system of the people. The economy can be democratized only if the existing socio-political system is democratic. Therefore, the democratic-confederal socio-political system based on the organized and democratic society is a prerequisite for building a communal economy. It is necessary that the people are convinced of the democratic-communal economy and implement it themselves. Against this background, it is very important to break the ideological hegemony of Capitalist Modernity in this area. Otherwise, the economic model we have described cannot be implemented.
The communal economy is based on a large number of different economic associations, each of which is organized on a communal basis. The various communities organize themselves in this system in the form of communes. These can be smaller, but also large production communes. These communes are concerned with meeting social needs in the areas of agriculture, industry and commerce. Cooperatives are another form of community economy. A wide variety of cooperatives dealing with production, distribution, trade, transportation, or similar areas can be established within this framework. Of course, all of these are decisions that must be discussed with the people in the context of the democratic system, which is based on an organized and democratic society. There should be no coercion of any kind. At the same time, the democratic-social system will, of course, actively support the establishment of this type of economic association. The more the people recognize the positive sides of this economic system built by themselves, the more the communal economy will expand with each passing day. Historically, there have always existed forms of production based on the work of individuals or families. Also, there have always been small farms that were not designed to be monopolistic. As long as these types of businesses do not become the main component of the economic system, they will make their contribution to the communal-democratic economy, thus completing it and maintaining its existence. It is crucial that the communal economy prevails and that the economic sector based on private small businesses operated by individuals does not become the main economic sector. Within this framework, both private and community ownership can coexist.
There should be no attempts to take possession by force of the economy that is based on the old social and political system. Capitalist Modernity intervenes in all areas, merging small production enterprises or making them redundant in order to increase its own influence, and increases its economic influence in all areas, ultimately making it the dominant force. Therefore, the communal economy must likewise develop into a holistic and productive system, advance the people’s participation in it, and thereby ensure its own continuous development. In the communal economy, productivity is of course not only measured in terms of economic-numerical values. Rather, it encompasses a wide variety of dimensions, such as social rights, justice, effectiveness, psychology or morality. Ecology is an area that must be taken into account as well. If primarily economic-numerical values are taken into account and moral values or psychological aspects are ignored, the end result will be a situation such as the one we know from the time of the collapse of real socialism. Taking economy as the base of real socialism, but defining culture, ideology, etc. as superstructure, was one of the central mistakes of the socialist leaders. They did not sufficiently address the importance of moral values because they assumed that they had no direct influence on the economic base. Thus, real socialism does not serve as the basis for the economic model we envision. We aim at a holistic economic model based on democracy, freedom, moral and cultural values. In a nutshell: Capitalism today has become a heavy burden for all of humanity. Even the forces of Capitalist Modernity are looking for new economic models – which, of course, do not overcome capitalism itself – to keep themselves alive. In such a time, the forces fighting for the peoples, freedom, democracy and socialism will naturally understand the construction of a social economic system that overcomes capitalism as one of their most important tasks.
Can you briefly describe some of the social and economic achievements and successes in Rojava?
Since we ourselves are not directly involved in the socio-economic developments in Rojava, we cannot give a comprehensive account of them. Therefore, based on the developments we have heard about, it may well be that we cannot provide a comprehensive picture. However, we can only report on the developments that we have heard about and that we believe are taking place.
The mere fact that the people of Rojava have now lived without a state for eight years has paved the way for important developments. States are an obstacle to all kinds of social and political developments. For the state, the economy means nothing else than an area of exploitation. The state is an institution of enormous proportions. The mere maintenance of the state represents an enormous burden for its population. Under the burden of a state, society is destroyed and loses its own willpower. In this sense, living without the state ensures that societies and individuals regain their own will. Statelessness corresponds with democracy to a large extent. Therefore, Rojava has gained very important democratic experiences in the course of the past eight years. There, decisions are made by organized society. The women and the youth are organized. Because of their organized power, they are very important actors in the context of social and political life. Those who ignore them will not be able to shape social and political life in Rojava. These two fundamental social forces have completely changed the face of Rojava.
Rojava is still surrounded by hostile forces. The Syrian state still refuses to accept Rojava’s democratic system. The Turkish state, together with its Islamist mercenaries, has occupied Afrin, Serekaniye and Gire Spi. Thus, there is a permanent danger that the occupation will be extended and the revolution will be crushed. In this situation, self-defense becomes very important. All work is thus necessarily carried out within the framework of self-defense. In the past, it has not been possible to pay sufficient attention to dangers in certain areas and organize the revolution accordingly. The occupation forces have benefited from this. It therefore leads to certain erroneous conclusions if we regard the current conditions in Rojava or North and East Syria as completely normal.
There is no longer a state-run economy in Rojava today. The revolution itself, but also the ongoing heavy attacks, have led to an economy that looks like this: a slowly developing communal economic system including production and consumption businesses in the form of cooperatives, agriculture and livestock breeding run by families in rural areas, and, in addition, trade and small businesses run by individuals in cities and small towns. Accordingly, there is no economic system in which state-run businesses exist or play a decisive role. The economy is largely dominated by communal economic associations and cooperatives that emerged during the revolution, and also by agriculture, trade and very small businesses, all of which are run by families in rural areas. Rojava was also once Syria’s center for agriculture and livestock. Today, the region is still in a similar position. The communal economy has great potential for development in this region. A strong social culture still exists there. Therefore, the development of the communal economy is increasingly creating the economic basis for a democratic-confederal system based on an organized and democratic society.
The Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK) is present in many areas of Kurdistan. What achievements has the PKK gained for the people of all these areas?
The PKK has initiated enormous developments and achieved huge gains in all four parts of Kurdistan. All the struggles in Kurdistan that took place before the emergence of the PKK were strongly influenced by the Kurdish ruling classes and at the same time were exclusively military-political in nature. Since all these struggles failed to gain influence in the military and political spheres, they led to very little or no social change. On the other hand, ever since its foundation by Rêber Apo, the PKK has been a movement that has brought about revolutionary developments in all areas. From the way of thinking to the most diverse areas of practical life, it has always made it its task to initiate profound changes. It has thus always been a movement that breaks with all forms of backwardness. From the first day, Rêber Apo has made it his main mission to change both his friends and society. He has always criticized the various forms of backwardness and the existing mistakes. In this way, he has dealt with the social and political realities. In this context, he has always emphasized that the struggle for freedom and democracy is impossible as long as the various forms of traditional backwardness are not overcome and changed. Therefore, in its struggle, the PKK has always fundamentally aimed at initiating national, social, political, cultural and socio-psychological revolutions. The national, social, democratic, cultural and political revolutions have always been closely linked and promoted in this way. Most importantly, with the PKK, for the first time in the history of Kurdistan, a movement of the poor, that is, a popular movement, was built. At the time of the foundation of the Apoist movement, all its members were children of the poor popular classes. This alone represents a revolution, a development and achievement of enormous proportions for all of Kurdistan. Today, it is the people themselves who determine the national, social, political and cultural developments in Kurdistan directly based on their own strength.
In North Kurdistan, there is not a single city or small town, not a single village that has not participated in uprisings. The traditional authorities have been replaced by the power of the organized people. A democratic, social and cultural revolution has taken place there in the truest sense of the word. On this basis, a national Kurdish reality has developed that is characterized by its democratic character. The Kurdish people, who only a few decades ago were on the verge of extinction, have today risen up and are waging a struggle for freedom and democracy. Tens of thousands of young men and women have joined the guerrilla in the course of this struggle. For the first time in human history, such a comprehensive women’s army has been built. Today, the Kurdish people have developed their own democratic political willpower and have thus become an actor fighting for the democratization of Turkey and the liberation of Kurdistan.
Whether Sunni, Alevi or Ezidi, all Kurds have participated in the national liberation struggle in Kurdistan. The Arabs, Azeris, Turkmen, Armenians and Assyrians-Chaldeans living in Kurdistan have also recognized the struggle for freedom in Kurdistan as their own and have joined it. Thus, the Democratic Nation has become a reality in Kurdistan in an impressive way.
A huge breakthrough was initiated in the field of Kurdish culture and art, giving new life to the cultural values of the Kurds. By combining them with new values, a new social reality of the Kurds has been created. The women’s uprising has developed in a very impressive way. The social revolution based on women has deepened and at the same time multiplied the libertarian and democratic character of the revolution. In Kurdistan today, a revolution has emerged that has sparked countless revolutions within the revolution based on the women’s freedom revolution. Through these revolutions based on women’s freedom, the Kurds have turned into a very resilient and powerful people.
Historically, the greatest changes and developments have taken place in Kurdistan. At the same time, Kurdistan has developed a huge strength. It would be wrong to view this Kurdish revolution as limited only to North Kurdistan. Within a very short time, the revolution has had an impact on all four parts of Kurdistan. It has led to national, social and cultural changes throughout the country and has also had a strong influence on Kurdish politics. At a time when there were no modern means of communication at all, the French Revolution had a decisive impact on the Russian society, which itself fought against it and considered it an enemy. Today, however, the means of communication are far more advanced. In such an era, it is only natural that the Kurdish Revolution has greatly influenced all parts of Kurdistan and will continue to do so in the future.
Thousands of young people from Rojava, South Kurdistan and East Kurdistan have joined the PKK over the years. Of course, this has also had a decisive impact on their own families and social environment. Many of them have since fallen as Şehids. In addition, the PKK cadres and the guerrilla have established relationships with thousands of families and hundreds of thousands of people living in South Kurdistan, influencing them and initiating changes in their minds and lives. Without this manifold influence of our revolution, South Kurdistan would be in a backward socio-political situation today. Also, the patriotic feelings of the South Kurdish people would not be as strong as they are today. Thus, the PKK has brought about enormous national, social, cultural and mental changes in South Kurdistan.
In Rojava, the changes and achievements were reached in a direct way. For 20 years, Rêber Apo lived together with and educated the people of Rojava, the youth and women there. Thousands of young women and men have joined the guerrilla from there and many of them have fallen as Şehids. The Rojava revolution has taken place based on the ideas and influence of Rêber Apo. The population of Rojava is for the overwhelming part strongly connected to Rêber Apo. The women of Rojava are the driving force behind this strong bond. The revolution in Rojava has developed on the basis of Rêber Apo`s paradigm. It is clear that it is a very important revolution not only for Kurdistan but for the entire Middle East.
In East Kurdistan, too, the population is full of a great longing for freedom and democracy. Rêber Apo’s ideas play a very important role in this longing. Despite massive state pressure, the people of East Kurdistan express their desire for freedom at every opportunity. This is the result of the influence that the PKK has today in all four parts of Kurdistan.
In Europe and many other parts of the world, the Kurds are also organizing themselves on the basis of Rêber Apo’s ideas. As a result, they have succeeded in tangibly expressing their existence as a national community. Today, the Kurdish people are subjected to permanent genocide. Moreover, the political will of this people had been broken. Therefore, it is a very important development and achievement that these people are organizing themselves in places far away from their homeland and actively manifesting their existence as a nation there. The organization of Kurds living abroad represents a very important source of motivation and moral support for the people of all four parts of Kurdistan. Through their strong organization in Europe, the Kurds living there are a kind of window of communication for Kurdistan to Europe and the rest of the world. This organization and the influence of the Kurds based on it in all parts of the world represents a great achievement for the four parts of Kurdistan.
The PKK’s struggle has led to very great achievements in all four parts of Kurdistan. Despite this, KDP representatives, who have been in government since the establishment of a federation in South Kurdistan, or circles close to them, are spreading propaganda and claiming that the PKK has achieved nothing with its struggle. They have thus clearly shown how narrow-minded and superficial their sociological, political, cultural and national view of the world and Kurdistan is. Kurdistan has been divided into four parts. A genocide is taking place there, for which the hegemonic states are using their own position and drawing support from foreign forces. Therefore, it is not easy to make achievements even in one of the four parts of Kurdistan. Achievements can only be made by overcoming not just one, but four states and their supporters. This in turn depends on the social, political, military and diplomatic strength of the Kurds. Against this background, it becomes clear how superficial the perspective of certain political forces in South Kurdistan is, who attribute all achievements to themselves and claim that the PKK has achieved nothing.
We have described above the changes that the PKK has initiated in Kurdish society and in Kurdistan. The PKK has also played an indispensable role in the achievements of South Kurdistan. Most importantly, it is worth mentioning that the PKK emerged at a time when South Kurdistan had just experienced a severe defeat. At that time, not only the KDP and South Kurdistan, but Kurdish politics itself had suffered a heavy defeat. It is very significant that the PKK became active in exactly such a historical phase. Moreover, the PKK started fighting in the part of Kurdistan that is the largest, geographically speaking, and in terms of its population. Furthermore, the Turkish state is the force most hostile to Kurds. It considers even the smallest Kurdish uprising a threat to itself. It is a well-known fact that the KDP, which maintains close relations with the U.S. and NATO, is tolerated by the Turkish state in return for strictly preventing the emergence of other Kurdish movements in North Kurdistan. During the Cold War, Turkey represented an important country for the U.S. and NATO. Turkey’s basic national policy at that time was its hostility towards the Kurds and its aim to commit a genocide against them. By starting to fight against this kind of state, the PKK has given room to breathe to all parts and all political forces of Kurdistan.
The inauguration of the parliament of South Kurdistan coincided with the attacks by the KDP and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) against the PKK, which began on October 2, 1992. Because the Turkish state was waging a war against the PKK, it accepted the developments in South Kurdistan at that time. With the aim of crushing the PKK, the Turkish state developed relations with the political parties of South Kurdistan. Shortly after the fall of Saddam in 2003, the Federation of South Kurdistan was formed. This occurred in the context of the struggle waged by the PKK in all four parts of Kurdistan. The Turkish state later described its recognition of the federation in South Kurdistan as a historic mistake. It had only agreed to take this step of official recognition because, in return, the U.S. and KDP took a very open stance against the PKK in 2007. When the then U.S. President George Bush called the PKK an enemy of the U.S., the Turkish state formally recognized South Kurdistan. In return, the KDP provided Turkey with extensive assistance in its attempt to crush the PKK and thus openly became part of the genocidal policy in North Kurdistan. If the KDP had not provided support to the Turkish state, Turkey would have been forced to recognize the existence of the Kurds in North Kurdistan and their democratic autonomy. However, due to its relations with the KDP, the Turkish state can claim that it is not fighting against the Kurds, but only against the PKK and terrorism, and is thus able to continue its genocidal policy in North Kurdistan.
The PKK has made a decisive contribution to the achievements of South Kurdistan. There is no doubt that the South Kurdish people and the political forces there have also fought important battles. But if the PKK had not come into existence, if it had not started its struggle and if it had not left a decisive mark on Kurdistan and the Middle East, all the achievements in South Kurdistan would not have taken place. So, when we conclude that the PKK’s struggle has led to enormous achievements in all four parts of Kurdistan, we are doing nothing other than calling a spade a spade.
Numerous ethnic minorities, such as Assyrians, live in Kurdistan. What relationships does the Kurdish Freedom Movement have with these minorities? And how does it work together with them?
The PKK has ample experience with the negative consequences of nationalism and hostility towards different ethnic and religious communities. Therefore, both because of its socialist convictions and its empathy towards all the different peoples, it has always adopted an attitude based on sympathy, friendship and brotherhood towards these peoples and faith groups. The PKK is the first movement in Kurdistan that has succeeded in uniting Sunni, Alevi and Ezidi Kurds under one roof. Even during the initial phase, when the first group of the PKK was formed, four of the six group members were Alevi Kurds. Among the first leading cadres of the PKK were Haki Karer and Kemal Pir – two very important leading figures of Turkish origin. Many Turkish comrades have fallen as Şehids in the ranks of the PKK.
We have also always approached the Assyrians and Armenians on the basis of sympathy, friendship and brotherhood. There has never been any room for nationalism in the PKK. A certain number of Syriacs still live in Kurdistan. The PKK has always supported them in organizing themselves and in freely living out their faith and establishing their own self-administration wherever they live. It has also supported the establishment of their own organizations and parties in many ways. The sole aim of this support has been to preserve the existence of these communities as part of the diversity of Kurdistan. Our movement considers Kurdistan as the common homeland of Assyrians and Armenians. It respects the way these communities name or define the places where they live and appreciates that they consider Kurdistan as their homeland and live there. The PKK has always adopted an attitude in line with this. Today, with the idea of the Democratic Nation developed by Rêber Apo, this attitude is based on an even stronger historical, social, ideological and theoretical foundation. This attitude consequently implies that the Assyrians and Armenians are equal and native parts of Kurdistan. They have every right to live freely and autonomously. In the hope that we use the right term for this and that this will not be misunderstood, we can even say that we consider ‘positive discrimination’ towards them to be necessary. For they, too, have experienced great injustice in Kurdistan. Even if not based on their own political will, some Kurds, under the auspices of the ruling classes, participated to a certain extent in the injustice perpetrated against the Assyrians and Armenians. Today, without getting caught up in such complexes of the past and without having the slightest doubts, we can overcome this historical injustice to a large extent by living a free and equal life together in our common homeland.
We do not harbor any negative attitudes toward the Assyrians. They possess all their rights in Kurdistan, without exception. It is completely out of the question that we could have a negative attitude towards them. However, from time to time they may have a negative attitude towards us because of their relations with certain states. Yet, we do not reject, but comprehend this attitude. Whatever may happen, we will never change our attitude toward them. Because this attitude is what makes up our identity and character. If we learn that there are occasional mistakes in Rojava in this context, we use our influence and try to support the correction of these mistakes. This issue is more sensitive and important to us than any other. We cannot tolerate injustice to other peoples and faith groups. If we do not show this sensitivity, we will lose our own identity and character. At the same time, this would mean that we would be very disrespectful to Rêber Apo. He does not tolerate injustice towards other peoples, faith groups and women. Neither does he forgive those who are responsible for this injustice.
We regularly have direct exchanges with the Assyrian parties and friends. We meet their demands and proposals as well as our current resources allow us to. We also regard our amenities and resources as their own. We do not make any difference in this matter. Our relations with them take place within the framework of equality and justice. We thus continue the relationships established decades ago by Rêber Apo, based on mutual respect, and the way of working that goes along with it. We are also always open for any form of criticism on their part.
What is the attitude of the Kurdish Freedom Movement towards liberation struggles such as that of the Palestinians or the struggles of indigenous and black people in the United States?
As a national liberation movement, we have always had sympathy and interests for the national liberation struggles in the other parts of the world. We were also greatly influenced by reading the books of other national liberation movements and by closely following their struggles. In particular, in the early 1970s, the national liberation struggle in Vietnam had a tremendous influence on us. We used to regard Ho Chi Minh and Giap as true leaders of national liberation. The words of Ho Chi Minh – `Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom` – became our basic slogan. The book on the history of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam was read by all our cadres and supporters at that time.
The Palestinian struggle also had a direct influence on us. Rêber Apo and our movement went to Palestine even before the military coup on September 12, 1980. There they received support and experienced the solidarity of the Palestinians. Our first guerrilla fighters were trained in the Palestinian camps. When our party retreated to the Middle East after the fascist military coup on September 12, 1980, it also received a lot of support from the Palestinians. It is undeniable that the Palestinian people and their political forces supported our movement to regroup after the military coup and at the same time to prepare for the guerrilla struggle. They will always remain the friends of our struggle. We support their struggle for freedom.
Until 1982, when Israel occupied Lebanon, we lived closely together in common camps. In the war against Israel at that time, PKK members fought on the front lines shoulder to shoulder with their Palestinian sisters and brothers. In the war against Israel, eleven very valuable comrades of ours fell as Şehids and nearly 20 others were injured. These fallen represent an indestructible bridge between us and the struggle of the Palestinian people. We firmly believe that the Palestinians will achieve freedom, democracy and self-rule in their homeland. They have earned this right because of their tremendous struggle.
Rêber Apo has always regarded the PKK not only as a freedom struggle of the Kurds, but of all oppressed people. Accordingly, he has fundamentally oriented the entire practice of the PKK towards liberating all oppressed groups and faith communities in Kurdistan and the Middle East. Because this necessity arises from our ideology. In the context of such an ideology, various peoples have joined the PKK. After all, the idea of the Democratic Nation developed by Rêber Apo is not based on only one ethnic group, but includes the most diverse ethnic and religious communities. On this basis, we support the struggle for freedom and democracy of all oppressed people in this world.
We consider it the duty of all socialist and democratic movements and people to support the struggles of indigenous and black people in the USA. It is very important that the rights of indigenous people everywhere in the U.S. be defended and restored. As the real owners of the land, they must be able to live a free and democratic life in their homeland. For this to happen, it is important that they have all the resources necessary for this kind of life. So the indigenous people of the United States must have enough land to live a free and democratic life. It is equally important that they develop a free and autonomous life wherever they have a strong presence as a community.
There is no doubt that it is very important that the black population in the USA enjoys the same rights as all others as citizens of the country. In all areas of social, cultural and political life, all forms of discrimination and exclusion must come to an end. There must be no inequality in any area of life. Humanity as a whole – especially the U.S. – owes this to the black people. This debt must be paid by recognizing the most basic rights of the black people, while ensuring that they can live fully equal and free lives. If they fail to do so, neither the U.S. nor the rest of humanity can claim to truly value equality, morality, justice, equity, freedom and democracy.
The liberation of women and their freedom is an important issue for the Kurdish Freedom Movement. Abdullah Öcalan has rightly pointed out that the liberation of society is impossible without the liberation of women. What achievements and successes has the Kurdish Freedom Movement made in this area? What is its vision regarding women’s freedom?
Rêber Apo talks about the fact that society cannot be liberated if women are not liberated. But Rêber Apo’s view on women goes far beyond that. As long as the whole society does not develop a social, cultural and political life based on the freedom of women – the line and spirit connected with it – woman cannot be truly free. This is because women have been turned into a gender that is enslaved, oppressed, exploited and marginalized as part of social reality. Therefore, the whole society must be shaped according to the line that aims at the freedom of women. Only then can both society and women be free. Women’s freedom is the mother of all freedoms. Once it shapes the entire life, that is, all forms of freedom, then women and the society will be completely free. To make it easier to understand the enormous importance of women’s freedom, Rêber Apo has spoken of women’s freedom as preceding the freedom of the nation and class. Because the first form of oppression, enslavement and exploitation came at the cost of women`s freedom. Therefore, only through women’s freedom can we get to the root of slavery and exploitation. Thus, we will succeed in destroying the basis of all forms of slavery and achieve freedom in all spheres of life.
In Kurdistan, it was women who were at the forefront of the popular uprisings. This is the first time in the Middle East that women have been at the forefront of a social movement at this level. All of this has changed not only women, but also society as a whole, and men. Because as long as men do not change, social freedom in the real sense cannot be achieved. All exploitative and oppressive systems, including Capitalist Modernity, are based on the mentality of the hegemonic man. For this reason, in order to overcome all these exploitative and oppressive systems and their current representative – Capitalist Modernity – it is very, very important that men also transform themselves. Because all of them are social systems based on the mentality of the hegemonic man. So, in the real sense, women play their role as a mother by changing the man, and by changing the whole society accordingly. The fact that women play the main role or the mother role in all developments in Kurdistan expresses this reality of women very clearly. The women who took to the streets in Kurdistan and led the popular uprisings later took to the mountains and thus continued their quest. An enormous women’s power has developed in the guerrilla. Women’s units, commanders and the women’s army have been established. A women’s party has been founded. Thus, a reality of women has emerged in which they organize themselves completely autonomously, lead themselves and wage war independently. In addition to joint planning, actions and joint command, women have developed into their own guerrilla army. Women commanders are always represented in the general commandant’s office. Without a doubt, there exists a common guerrilla army that fights against the enemy. This is because success is achieved through joint organization, planning and action. However, alongside this exists the women’s own organization and their own lives. They choose their own commanders and independently determine their tasks, area of operation and field of work. Decisions concerning women are made by the women’s leadership and the women’s structures themselves anyway. This kind of women’s organization is very important.
In addition to women’s equal rights in the field of social and political organizing, they also participate in the organized life and struggle. Often, the majority of the members of a leadership are female friends. Because female comrades organize themselves autonomously, they have gained significant influence in social and political life.
This is the first time that women, as members of a freedom movement, have founded their own party. In this way, they deepen their ideological discussions about women’s freedom. They also develop their analyses of the political situation within the framework of these ideological discussions. At the same time, through their autonomous organizational structures, the women’s structures constantly increase their knowledge and experience regarding aspects such as leadership, organizing, and solving problems on their own. The women’s self-confidence is increased by the fact that the problems that arise in the women’s movement are solved within the framework of the women’s own organization and leadership. This plays a very important role in helping them develop their own willpower in the male-hegemonic system. The fact that the Kurdish Women’s Movement is based on an autonomous women’s party plays a very important role in giving it a very influential and leading position in the global women’s movement today. Such a women’s party makes women become a force and also increases the importance and influence of women in the general ideological and political struggles. This fact proves that women will not develop into a real force unless they organize themselves autonomously. Guaranteeing women’s equality and freedom only on a legal level does not ensure that women will become completely free, nor does it let them develop a will of their own. When equality and freedom are based on such organization and will, they have real meaning. This not only liberates women, but plays a crucial role in ensuring that the whole society is free and lives a democratic life. In this sense, it will be crucial for the liberation of all humanity and for making a democratic life possible to understand the women’s party as the most important ideological and political structure for the liberation of society. It will be equally important to further develop the women’s party on this basis and to help this autonomous understanding of the party to prevail not only in Kurdistan but all over the world.
The system of the co-chairs, or the system of equal representation, has caused a revolution in the political sphere. It has given politics a democratic and free character, thus making a great contribution to the democratization of society. In particular, women, whose eyes are fixed on a free and democratic life, are advocating all these achievements and are waging an enormous struggle for this to be perpetuated and spread in society. As the struggle for women’s freedom has now reached all spheres of life in Kurdistan, our struggle for freedom has become invincible. This is because the women’s struggle for freedom continues to broaden and deepen the general struggle for freedom on a social level.
The most important feature of the development of the Kurdish women’s movement is that it has developed a science of women on the basis of the women’s liberation ideology and the freedom line of Rêber Apo. In other words, the science of women – that is, `Jineoloji` – ensures that all women related activities are carried out on a correct and scientific basis. It is obvious that the history of the various societies written so far is inadequate and full of shortcomings. Most of the written historical accounts of society and humanity are totally inadequate. Jineoloji corrects this wrong, inadequate and deficient history of society and humanity. In doing so, it will enable humanity and the various societies to know their own history, including all the mistakes and shortcomings, and to better shape their future. In this sense, Jineoloji is one of the greatest mental revolutions in human history. In the course of human history, there have been many mental revolutions and developments. However, they were all flawed and remained incomplete. Accordingly, they are all wrong and insufficient. Jineoloji is a social science that corrects all these mistakes and shortcomings, thus placing the history of ideas on a firm foundation. For social science, this represents the greatest possible revolution. Without the development of Jineoloji and the full disclosure of women’s history, no single social and historical record can be correct and complete. In order to properly understand the social sciences and human history, Rêber Apo first of all reveiled the truth of woman, that is, Jineoloji or the science of woman. He has studied this subject more than any other person who is committed to science and to the freedom of women. Even though Jineoloji as a science is still at the beginning of its development, it has already created huge new horizons in people’s minds. Thus, it has ensured the liberation at people´s mental level. This will lead to humans breaking all the chains that shape their lives, and to humanity liberating itself. If all humanity wants to achieve a free and democratic life, it must first of all embrace the Jineoloji, that is, the science of women. In this way, it must recognize from the perspective of humanity which developments since the beginning of human history were right and which were wrong. Once she succeeds in this, the destruction of all backwardness, oppression, injustice and all obstacles to humanity will accelerate. Moreover, social freedom and democratic life, both of which are jointly based on women’s freedom, will become the fundamental way of life for all humankind.
In addition, our women’s movement has a great impact not only on Kurdish women, but on all women in the Middle East. Kurdish women have a great influence on the struggle for freedom of women in Turkey, the Arab world and Iran. The women in Turkey today are very dynamic and exuberant and hence influence the women in the Arab world. They will increasingly turn into a force that will affect the entire Middle East as an engine of change.
Our vision for the future of women is very clear: The 21st century will be the century of women. Women will significantly shape all of life. Freedom and democracy will be deepened and broadened through women, and thus acquire their true meaning. Everything that does not bear the marks of woman and make woman’s freedom possible will remain incomplete. Humanity today is only half itself. This incomplete life lacks the crucial things. Life with free women will be much more exciting, colorful and beautiful. Accordingly, there will be huge developments in political, social and cultural life. The economy will be completely in harmony with nature. The world in which women’s freedom has been achieved will know no wars. It will be characterized by a free, equal and democratic life. Free life will permeate every place, every word, and every step. The relationship of women and men based on a free partnership will be the foundation of all social life and of a free and democratic life throughout the world.
Finally, I would like to return to the international level. How does the Kurdish Freedom Movement view the major global powers, especially NATO? Turkey is a member of NATO. Accordingly, does the Kurdish Freedom Movement understand the struggle against Turkish fascism as part of the general struggle against NATO imperialism?
Our Freedom Movement emerged at the time of the Cold War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Turkey at that time acted as a military outpost encircling the Soviet Union from the south. So at that time, NATO and USA did not have the slightest tolerance for domestic changes, that is, for the democratization of Turkey. This was even more true for changing the borders of the country. For this reason, Turkish generals – NATO and the USA called them ‘our boys’ – carried out a military coup when the revolutionary democratic movement and the Kurdish Freedom Movement were developing in Turkey. So, from the very beginning, our struggle was confronted with NATO. NATO considered our movement as very dangerous. This is why the U.S. consulate in Adana – it was responsible for Kurdistan in Turkey – sent a report to the CIA’s Middle East Center in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1978, emphasizing how dangerous an organization the PKK (the Apoists) was. Accordingly, the military coup of September 12, 1980, was organized to prevent the collapse of Turkey – NATO’s military outpost in the fight against the Soviet Union.
When our Freedom Movement launched the guerrilla offensive on August 15, 1984, NATO was the first to take a stance against it. It assured Turkey of its full support for the destruction of the guerrilla. It was NATO that gave legitimacy to Turkey’s attacks by classifying the PKK as a terrorist organization. It went so far as to attribute the murder of Olof Palme, committed by Gladio, to the PKK in order to lend even more legitimacy to the elimination of the PKK. This was because at that time the Cold War was increasingly intensifying and NATO wanted to bring this war to an end according to its own interests. At that stage, great resentment had developed within NATO towards Olof Palme. Through the assassination, they got rid of Olof Palme and at the same time tried to get rid of the PKK by putting the blame for the murder on it.
NATO is a military organization that defends the interests of the capitalist-imperialist powers. Whole peoples and societies are sacrificed for these interests. Because Turkey is a NATO member, the USA and Europe turn a blind eye to the genocide Turkey is committing against the Kurds. They even support this policy. The Cold War is over, but NATO`s support for Turkey continues. Just as they want to use Turkey against countries like Russia, they are using it to fight the democratic revolutionary forces of the Middle East. True, they claim that they are fighting al-Qaeda and IS. Yet NATO is actively supporting the Turkish state in its fight against the Rojava Revolution and the PKK – the two forces that have fought the most against IS. This shows what kind of organization NATO really is.
Against this background, the struggle of our Freedom Movement is also an indirect struggle against the dirty interests and plans of NATO. By continuing to list the PKK as a terrorist organization, NATO is making itself a supporter and partner of the war and genocide waged by the Turkish state. NATO’s claim that it is fighting a war against terrorism and defending democracy and freedom is pure demagogy. It is an attempt to conceal its true character. The Turkish state is the enemy of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. This state is supported by the USA, Europe and the military organization NATO. The PKK and the Kurds, on the other hand, are the leading force working for democracy and freedom in the Middle East. The paradigm of Rêber Apo, which is based on the freedom of women and a democratic-ecological society, has become the key for the democratization of the Middle East. Because of their democratic character, the Kurds are now the leading force for the democratization of the entire region. Rojava is an oasis of democracy in the heart of the Middle East.Yet NATO member Turkey, with the permission and support of NATO, is attacking this oasis. Turkey is the biggest enemy of democracy not only in its own country, but in the entire Middle East. It is exactly this Turkey that the PKK is fighting against. For the democratization of the Middle East and for the democratic revolution, the PKK is the most important force. But this democratic force is being attacked by Turkey with the support of NATO. So, NATO is not standing by the side of the forces that are working for democracy and freedom, but is supporting the fascist forces in the region. The main supporter of organizations like IS or Al-Qaeda in the Middle East is the Turkish state. If the Turkish state collapses or is democratized, IS or Al-Qaeda will also cease to exist in the Middle East. Their offshoots, such as Al-Nusra or other organizations, will also give up within a very short time. In this sense, our struggle is also the struggle of all democratic forces against NATO, which actively supports fascist forces.
In a nutshell: It is clear that NATO is an institution that has no legitimacy and intervenes in other countries in the interests of capitalism. It is a relic of the Cold War that should be abolished.
1 Turkish term: Önderlik; this refers to Abdullah Öcalan
2 Kurdish; literally translated: `the guide Abdullah Öcalan`