NOTES FROM QENDIL 2: THIS ISN’T YOUR DAD’S PKK

“An elimination scenario was written before 29 March. It was a scenario based on DTP losing votes . . . But it didn’t pan out.”
~ Murat Karayılan.

This is a continuation of Hasan Cemal’s interview with Murat Karayılan. The first part can be found here.

Karayılan: PKK is not the old PKK any more

Karayılan explains the change in the PKK with the following words: “PKK is at a more reasonable line compared to the past. For example, it [the PKK] used to want an independent Kurdish state. This is in the past now. In other words, PKK is not ‘secessionist’ any more. We want the Kurds to live freely and in equality within the borders of the Turkish Republic. I would like to state this. This is not a tactic. The process that dropped secessionism, excluding the independent state, started in 1993; 1999 began with İmralı (1999 is the year Öcalan was captured and sentenced to life time imprisonment, HC). The paradigm has changed.”

Qandil Mountain, North Iraq [South Kurdistan]

During my four-hour-long meeting with the PKK’s number one man, Murat Karayılan, in a short two-room village house made of mud-bricks on the skirts of Mount Qandil, I tried to keep one topic the subject of conversation constantly:

PKK laying down arms…

PKK coming down from the mountains…

At some point Karayılan said this: “Look, we didn’t go to the mountains because we’ve lost our mind. Like so many others say, we didn’t go to the mountains for picnic either.”

When the PKK’s coming down from the mountains comes up, Karayılan smiles sarcastically. At the same time, the expression on his face says it’s not so easy and there are other things to be done before it comes to that phase…

When I pushed it, he said this:

“The saying, “PKK should lay down arms,” is an empty one, it’s shooting into the air. Where shall PKK leave its arms? How? To whom? What are the grounds? It’s meaningless to say leave down the arms. First let’s sit down and talk.”

“We are at a more reasonable line”

According to Murat Karayılan it’s impossible to get to anywhere by calling the PKK “a terrorist organization”. He says that the PKK at the same time represents the Kurds’ aspirations and for that reason has their support.

And he always adds this:

“PKK is not the old PKK any more”

When asked what the change is, in summary, he gives this answer:

“PKK is at a more reasonable line compared to the past. For example, it [the PKK] used to want an independent Kurdish state. This is in the past now. In other words, PKK is not ‘secessionist’ any more. We want the Kurds to live freely and in equality within the borders of the Turkish Republic. I would like to state this. This is not a tactic. The process that dropped secessionism, excluding the independent state, started in 1993; 1999 began with İmralı (1999 is the year Öcalan was captured and sentenced to life time imprisonment, HC). The paradigm has changed.”

“How did it change?”

“Look, now we say ‘Democratic Autonomous Kurdistan’. What we mean by autonomy is not federation. It’s not redrawing of borders. It’s a solution that preserves the unity of the state. The Local Administrations Law can change, the local administrations will be made stronger.”

“We caused some complications too”

Murat Karayılan again stressed a point which was in yesterday’s article:

“First the weapons must be silenced!”

“Then?”

“Then it will be turn for rights associated with the Kurdish identity (He refers to constitutional changes–HC) and the ‘societal reconciliation project’ which some people interpret as amnesty. This is a two sided subject. On one side there have been armed rebellions . . . On the other side denial policies have been followed . . . These have done damage . . . There are over 17 thousand murders with unknown perpetrators that have been committed against us, Kurdish people . . . Yes, there have been some complications from our side too. That’s why we are talking about this societal reconciliation project. This something that is mutual, reciprocal. This project is to mutually forgive one another. It is to reach reconciliation on a new constitution that reflects voluntary unity.”

Murat Karayılan adds this:

“All we want is for Kurds to live their culture freely.”

“Kurdish conference can prepare the environment for solution”

I notice something. While I have been talking with Murat Karayılan in a short village house on the skirts of Mount Qandil, two members of the PKK’s Leadership Council (made up of five people), Bozan Tekin and Sozdar Avesta, didn’t say anything. I bring up the subject of PKK laying down arms and coming down from the mountains again. This time within the context of Kurdish conference. In summary, I say this:

“A Kurdish conference for all Kurds, living in every country [Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey], is going to be held and a call is going to be issued to the PKK to lay down arms; the scenario will be fixed such that PKK is going to enter the phase of laying down arms. Such an expectation was created. But then the conference was postponed to Autumn. Did you or PKK cause this?”

Murat Karayılan agrees that expectations regarding the Kurdish conference were created. On this subject he laughs at the role Kurdish leader and Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani played and takes a sarcastic tone. But at the same time, while stating he takes the Kurdish conference seriously and summarizes the subject: “The conference was originally our idea. But the last undertaking was not ours. If correctly approached, this conference can create an environment for solution. However, this is a reality: from such a conference will not mean ‘PKK should lay down arms!'”.

“Özal would worry about the Kurdish Question”

There is a question on PKK’s number one, Karayılan:

Are we going to return back to the first half on 1990s?

Especially to 1994 . . .

The period during which the fire in The Southeast [North Kurdistan] flared… Karayılan asks:

“Will the government forward everything to the military again, like it did in early 1990s?”

Karayılan is looking for an answer to this question.

In summary, he said this:

“Özal died in 1993 and the opportunity for peace was missed. Özal was leader who was able to see the Kurdish Question and who worked seriously to solve it. Özal died in 1993 and 1994 was horrible (like Öcalan, Karayılan too places Turgut Özal at a very positive place in regard with Kurdish Question–HC). Is an attack reminiscent of 1994 on the way again? We are feeling some things but we are not sure. Will Erdoğan’s government forward the issue to the military and cause a blood bath? What do you think?”

“So the military too can wait . . . “

Murat Karayılan is trying to read into the period after 29 March [local elections]. He says that a scenario was written for elections such that DTP would lose votes and Tayyip Erdoğan was so engaged in this, and trusted himself very much, but at the end was disappointed because DTP increased its votes and municipalities in the local elections.

He points to military’s role in this scenario indirectly and says:

“An elimination scenario was written before 29 March. It was a scenario based on DTP losing votes . . . But it didn’t pan out. We lived the calmest winter of last 25 years. The military waited until 29 March. So the military, too, can wait (he said this sentence with a bit of sarcasm–HC). Why didn’t the military attack us during the election period? But we were hopeful from this despite all . . . Some indications of solution appeared. We thought this could be a new phase in which the military takes part, too. But no. The day after the elections, on 30 March, the military started even though it wasn’t on a large scale . . . On 14 April, this time the start of targeting DTP was given. But the election results had given us hope in the name of peace and democracy.

“Where is the Prime Minister Erdoğan of 2005?”

Karayılan, during our four hours long conversation a few times talked about Prime Minister Erdoğan. He mentioned the speech Erdoğan made in Diyarbakir in August of 2005. In that speech Erdoğan said “The Kurdish issue is our issue; the state has made mistakes in this matter; these can be corrected”.

PKK’s number one mentioned a few times that today nothing was left of Erdoğan’s speech and raised the following point:

Political power vacuum . . .

Karayılan said this:

“I am not able to be optimistic. At the top there is no political willpower about the Kurdish Question. The absence of will power is a very serious problem. Today, even generals started saying different things. But where is the political will power? Where is the Prime Minister who said those words in 2005? Where is the Erdoğan who prepared a Kurdish report in 1994 when he was İstanbul’s mayor and handed to his party leader even if it was not his job to do that?

“Armed struggle is now in the line of legitimate self-defense”

Karayılan comes back to “PKK is not the old PKK” point once more. He tries to explain the PKK has changed. He says they are open to the media and says “let them come and learn about us”. He states that their method of struggle are starting to change.

In summary, he says this:

“We are not the PKK of 10 years ago. We don’t do the armed struggle with classical means any more, either. We work in the line of legitimate self-defense. We are putting emphasis on mass activities, civilian disobedience, and political work. But meanwhile, what are you going to do with 6-7 thousand armed people? They are, in a sense, a guarantee for the gains, for legitimate defence . . . We don’t want people to die. The last four years we are in a limited war. It’s not like 1993, 1994. In the rural areas, if you are being attacked, you will defend yourself.”

“The explosion at university prep school too was one that happened out of control”

Then he adds this:

“In the new phase, after 29 March elections, a new war is imposed . . . We don’t even want to think of this. In case of such an imposition, it will exceed the one in the first half of 1990s, it will be more dire, for both sides. We don’t want this. But we are ready for this too. Unwanted results may come out. We don’t do things out of control. Military actions that hurt innocent people, civilians, and that are not in legitimate self-defense enter the class of terror.”

In this regard, Karayılan talks about the horrible explosion that happened in front of a university prep school, the terror action in Diyarbakır and says: “It is very wrong. We didn’t approve it either. It happened out of our control.”

To be continued.

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