NOTES FROM QENDIL 1

“It’s not our goal to make propaganda. We have hope for peace. That’s why we decided to meet you . . . “
~ Murat Karayılan.

Here is the first part of Hasan Cemal’s interview with KCK Executive Council Chairman, Murat Karayılan, which will be carried here on Rastî. I’d like to extend my thanks to the comrade who volunteered to work on this translation, and the ones that will follow. This work and his tenacity in completing the task while I have been too busy in the last week to attend to it, is much appreciated by me and I’m certain it will be much appreciated by all the others who read it.

This translation is a portion of the original piece, which can be found at Milliyet.

Karayılan: We have hope for peace

PKK’s number one man Murat Karayılan says ‘The first thing is to silence the weapons; nobody should attack. Let’s talk this issue ourselves… Let’s start the work with talks, not with weapons’. Karayılan offers a mechanism composed of [unbiased] intellectuals, if necessary. He said “We are at an important juncture. There was opportunity for peace in 1993 [and] it was missed. Let’s not miss it again. We don’t want blood to be spilled anymore’.

Qandil Mountain, North Iraq [South Kurdistan]

For many years now the PKK is being managed from Qandil mountain. They say “the leadership’s office is İmralı [Öcalan’s island prison],” but today PKK’s number one man is in Qandil, living in the mountain, Murat Karayılan.

I met Murat Karayılan in a short, two-room village house made of mud bricks on the skirts of Mount Qandil last Monday for four hours.

Where we were was not at a PKK base but, as they [the PKK] call it, in ‘PKK territory’. This was obvious from the women and men PKK members with arms on their shoulders, whom we saw while arriving at our meeting location through picturesque views.

Murat Karayılan came with two members of the PKK’s Leadership Council, which is made up of five people. They were assistant commander Bozan Tekin, who was from Urfa, Bozova. He went to the mountains after staying in jails for 20 years, from 1980 to 2000. The other assistant commander was Sozdar Avesta, whose real name was Nuriye Kesbir. While living in The Netherlands, her extradition to Turkey came up and she ran away and came to Qandil. The third person with Murat Karayılan was Ahmet Deniz, who is in charge of PKK’s communications with the media and civilian organizations.

[…]

Saturday at 12, Murat Karayılan met us in front of the village house.

Karayılan said “I think it’s your first time at the PKK’s rural area”. If we don’t count Zeli, my meeting with Öcalan at Bekaa, that was the case.

[…]

I said to Karayılan:

“I am here as a reporter. I am not bringing any kind of message or anything like that from anyone in Turkey. Don’t think like that. I came as a reporter to learn what PKK’s administration thinks”.

Then I added:

“Please don’t record this meeting on camera. As reporters, we make news rather than being news”.

Karayılan:

“We will make a 5 to 10 minute recording for our archive, that’s all.”

They put their tape and we put ours on the plastic covered table and started the conversation.

Murat Karayılan’s first sentence:

“It’s not our goal to make propaganda. We have hope for peace. That’s why we decided to meet you . . . ”

Positive messages

Karayılan gave positive messages. He didn’t speak negative but positive. He said “The first thing is to silence the guns, nobody should attack anyone”. He said this when he offered a definitive mechanism for dialogue:

“We are at an important juncture!”

He stated that in 1993, too, with the ceasefire at the time, there was a “big opportunity for peace”; however because of the “lack of political willpower,” the government of the time forwarded the issue to the military and the opportunity was wasted.

He continued: “Let’s not miss the peace opportunity this time”.

He added:

We don’t want blood be spilled any more. Because years will pass and we will end up at the same point. Turkey will lose blood. PKK cannot be finished with military methods; they were tried for 25 years and they didn’t work.”

Karayılan, who didn’t say anything about whether they would extend their unilateral ceasefire beyond 1 June, said this:

“The first thing is to silence weapons.”

“Not laying down arms?”

Karayılan:

“Laying arms down is a later phase . . . First weapons must be silenced. Nobody should attack anyone. Let’s talk this issue ourselves . . . Let’s start the work with dialogue, not with weapons; let’s talk among ourselves’.

I interrupt:

“How is this going to happen? On one side the state and on the other the PKK? Is this possible?”

Intellectuals Mechanism

Karayılan’s mechanism is like this:

“At the first phase, the weapons will be silenced . . . Then dialog will begin . . . İmralı is the place for dialog . . . If that’s not accepted, we are the party for dialog . . . If we are not accepted, it is the elected political party (He is not mentioning the name of DTP but when I mention he nods in agreement) . . . If this is not workable either, then a joint commission will be formed somewhere and intellectuals will meet. For example, people like İlter Türkmen (former Minister of External Affairs and Ambassador) and you will gather; a mechanism like this will start and begin to work . . . A mechanism like this will be accepted by the state as an addressee for dialog . . . ”

Murat Karayılan adds:

“Why not, why shouldn’t a mechanism like this be formed?..”

Karayılan asks then:

“Is there no political willpower? Is there a vacuum in the political area? One wonders where the Prime Minister of 2005 is . . . ”

“We are sorry for the 10 martyred soldiers”

I asked Karayılan this:

“You declared a unilateral ceasefire, you said no attacks, and you said you were extending this until 1 June. But on the other hand, what were the PKK attacks in Diyarbakır and Hakkari that martyred 10 soldiers about?”

His first reaction was this:

“We are sorry for that too.”

Karayılan continued:

“It wasn’t a move planned from the headquarters. It was in the field, a decision taken at the local level with their own incentive. They see soldiers in the field and feel that soldiers are coming at them with an operation and they take measures to protect themselves. They lay a mine. We are sorry too.”

For a little more on what you might expect from Murat Karayılan through Hasan Cemal, check this short overview from Bianet.

Some seem to think that “indirect negotiations” have already started. Apparently Abdullah Gül, Cemil “Chicken Little” Çiçek, and the new foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, wanted to meet Hasan Cemal on his return from South Kurdistan and Gül stated last week that the Kurdish “question” is Turkey’s priority.

For Ahmet Türk’s recent comments on the subject to the DTP parliamentary group, check here.

There is also a great post at Zerkesorg that addresses the discussion about the possibility of peace talks between the Ankara regime and the PKK. I agree with his conclusions there and would like to point out this quote:

PKK doesn’t need to rush. PKK doesn’t have a Kurdish problem, Turkish state has a Kurdish problem it needs to solve.

And being that the Turkish state is the state, and since the founding of the PKK is an effect of state policies (as opposed to the cause of state policies), the Turkish state has the moral burden of finding a peaceful solution to the problem it has caused.

But, then, I’m the skeptic; I won’t believe anything before I see it. We all need to see concrete steps from the Turkish state before we can believe anything. Given what Karayılan and Türk have said, it seems to me that the proper first concrete step would be an end to TSK operations in North Kurdistan in order to allow HPG to keep its side of this most recent unilateral ceasefire.

There are other “hidden hands” involved here, belonging to groups that can be trusted as much as the Turkish state, and the Americans are not the least of those untrustworthy “hidden hands”.

In other words, the time for unilateral ceasefires has ended. Now is the time for that first monumental opportunity–a bilateral ceasefire.

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