Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Kurdistan Workers’ Party Leader Murat Karayilan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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[Asharq Al-Awsat] The PKK [Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party] previously announced a ceasefire [in April 2009]; is this still in effect?

[Karayilan] Yes, the cease-fire is still in force but it is not an official cease-fire as much as it is a cessation of our armed activities until 1 June. The Turkish side, however, has not yet announced its acceptance or rejection of our initiative. The Turkish forces continue its military operations against us and the authorities have arrested a large number of the supporters of the Kurdish Democratic Society Party also known as the DTP. In other words, the arrest campaigns against the followers of this party continue parallel to the military operations against us. More than 10 days ago, a prominent Turkish journalist called Hassan Cemal from the Turkish newspaper Milleyet visited me here in the Mountains of Qandil. He conducted an interview with me in which I sent a message to the Turkish people. After its publication, the interview generated a wide debate in Turkish circles and queries on the initiative of this journalist to visit Qandil. This correspondent met with senior Turkish officials who asked him about what I said and on how to deal with our issue in the future. This is particularly important since in the interview, I reaffirmed that the Kurdish problem in Turkish should be solved through peaceful and democratic dialogue. Despite the fact that this matter had a limited effect on the circles concerned in Turkey, it is being discussed but no practical steps have been taken. This can be seen in the fact that the military operations are still continuing against us parallel to the campaigns of arrest of the followers of the DTP. At any rate, two more weeks are left for the suspension of armed operations and we will then see if Turkey is going to extend the arm of peace or not. On our part, we hope that Ankara would tilt toward peace; otherwise, our initiative to stop armed operations would have been to no avail. This is particularly true since Turkish military operations against us continue.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you expect from Turkey? Will it extend the arm of peace toward you?

[Karayilan] Unfortunately, so far, it has not done so. However, we reiterate that the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Iran, and Syria should be tackled within the borders of these countries by recognizing the rights of the Kurdish people and by entrenching democracy. In Turkey specifically, a genuine democratic autonomy seems to be the ideal solution parallel to the consolidation of democratic practices in the country. On this basis, the Kurds would gain their legitimate rights after removing the discrimination against them. The Kurdish issue should be solved on the basis of freedom, justice, and democracy, and this is what we recently proposed to the Turkish public opinion via our message. This is what is being discussed at present in Turkey.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who in Turkey rejects your peace initiative? The political leadership or the military leadership?

[Karayilan] Both are; however, it is different this time. After our leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested by the United States in collusion with certain quarters in the world and after he was handed over to Turkey in a step that was intended to extinguish our movement and then to liquidate it completely, we took the initiative of freezing our armed military activities proceeding from our desire to solve the Kurdish issue peacefully. Five years ago, we evacuated our forces and withdrew from the northern part of Kurdistan(Turkish Kurdistan). However, Turkey continued to tighten the noose against us and to torture our leader Ocalan while continuing its military operations against us and confiscating the will of our people by trying to “Turkisize” the Kurdish people. As a result, we took the decision on 1 June 2004 to stand up in self-defense against the Turkish offensives. In the past five years, we accomplished a lot and became stronger. In the past two years, we scored brilliant victories against the military and political offensives against us. In other words, we are now in a more powerful position. To be more precise, we are now strong and not weak and Turkey cannot ignore our initiative. This is a glaring fact that everyone knows. As evidence of what I am saying is the big military and political victory that we scored when we repulsed the fierce military campaigns against us by the Turkish forces in 2007. These offensives were backed by logistic and technological support from the United States and by intelligence support from Israel that surveyed all the mountains of Kurdistan. The purpose was to destroy us. However, we emerged from the battle stronger than before. In the recent local elections in Turkey on 29 March, the Turkish authorities tried very hard to ensure the victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party led by (Recep Tayyib) Erdogan (the Turkish prime minister) at the expense of the Kurdish Democratic Society Party led by Ahmet Turk. For this purpose, Ankara spent huge amounts of money in the Kurdish regions and distributed commodities and household appliances free of charge to the Kurdish citizens. The funny part is that it distributed refrigerators to the villagers in Kurdish villages that have no electricity in an attempt to win over the Kurds by exploiting their abject poverty. Turkey also exerted military pressures on them through the army and mercenaries supporting the regime. Nevertheless, the Kurdish people in the northern part of Kurdistan waged the battle of will and scored a brilliant victory. The Kurds told the world that they will continue along the footsteps of their leader Ocalan and that they cling to their will and will never abandon their cause no matter what happens. This was embodied in the election booths and ballot boxes. After that huge victory, we too issued our peaceful call to Turkey and reaffirmed again that we are not warmongers but advocates of peace and a democratic solution. We expressed our readiness to solve the issue peacefully. Thus began the debate and discussion in Turkey on our cause. In the past, Turkey used to block its ears to our calls and peaceful initiatives. This time, however, all the media outlets in Turkey are discussing and openly debating our issue, especially after the appeal I made personally through the Turkish journalist. I am not saying for certain that Turkey will respond to our call or peaceful initiative. However, I am saying that the echo of our voice is reverberating in and shaking Turkey. I believe that if Ankara rejects our initiative, the advocates of peace and democracy in the country will put strong pressure on the Turkish authorities. If Turkey resumes its military operations against us after this initiative it would be exposing its true black face and the world would realize who loves peace and who is calling for war. The world will know this at the beginning of next month, that is, after the period of our initiative expires. It gives me pleasure to convey through your newspaper to readers in the Arab world about the living conditions of the Kurdish people in the northern part of Kurdistan. I did the same thing in recent interviews with the Italian television station, the French newspaper Le Monde, and other media outlets.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the nature of your relations with the Kurdish Democratic Society Party led by Ahmet Turk?

[Karayilan] We have a kind of relationship, but that party is now being sued in the Turkish courts. We hope that this party would embody the aspirations and will of the Kurdish people, especially since it is a legally licensed and unarmed political party. It is different from our ideological and political armed party that is waging an armed revolt in all its forms. This does not mean that we are an armed movement. On the contrary, 95 percent of our struggle is political and our military command and forces are separate from our political leadership, unlike the Democratic Society Party that aspires to achieve its goals through the ballot boxes in local and general parliamentary elections. It is a party that has been struggling since 1991 and that has sacrificed many of its members and supporters although it does not bear arms. Turkey is killing and assassinating its members and expelling them. This is what happened to Mohamet Senjal who was assassinated although he was a deputy in parliament representing this party.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you not worried that this party would replace you on the Kurdish political arena in Turkey?

[Karayilan] Yes, many say so; but we are not worried about this because our Kurdish people in the northern part of Kurdistan considers leader Ocalan as their commander and symbol. If our leader orders that the Democratic Society Party should replace us we will follow his instructions. The opposite is also true. In other words, the people are the basis. This is particularly true since the philosophy of leader Ocalan is to unify the ranks of the Kurdish people. Therefore, one cannot separate this party from the [Kurdistan] Workers Party [PKK]. Even if such a thing happens, the people would not be pleased because they have united their ranks along the path of Ocalan. The fact that thousands of followers of the Democratic Society Party that recently staged a sit-in in the towns of Turkey’s Kurdistan were chanting and wishing long life for Ocalan attests to this.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the nature of the peaceful solution that you desire for the Kurdish cause?

[Karayilan] All the facts show that we are victorious and ina strong and organized situation. We are not a terrorist organization as Turkey and some other countries claim. We enjoy the support and backing of our people. We reiterate that we have not and will not receive any financial or military aid from any country in the world with the exception of the support and backing of the sons of our people. We are on the land of Kurdistan and we do not have any suspect connections to this or that country. We are independent in our will and our decision-making process. If Turkey wants to solve our problem it should first and foremost release our leader who is behind bars in Emirli Prison. Only then will we accept peace with Turkey. Otherwise, we will not. This is our basic condition. We also do not object to having a face-to-face dialogue between Turkey and Kurdish notables in order to solve our issue despite all the attacks and military and political offensives against us. However, if Turkey insists on annihilating us with force of arms, we will no doubt defend our existence.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have repeatedly demanded an independent greater Kurdistan. Are you still making this demand?

[Karayilan] We reject the subjugation of peoples. The Kurdish nation is one of the most ancient nations in the Middle East alongside the Arabs, Persians, Assyrians, Armenians, and Turks. Turkey is not more than 1,000 years old. The land of Kurdistan was divided into four parts and the rights of the Kurdish people were violated. This injustice should end. The Middle East needs an alliance similar to that of the European Union in which Kurds, Arabs, and other nations enjoy equal rights. In other words, the Kurdish people should be liberated from occupation and from being a second-class nation as long as the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is not possible at present. In other words, a democratic regime should be established where the Kurds would enjoy their rights on the basis of fraternity with neighboring nations. Let me ask you this question: Why is it possible to establish a European Union but not a Middle East union that is rich in its history and resources and that is the cradle of the three divine religions and ancient human civilizations? Briefly, what I am saying is that the Kurdish, Arab, Persian, Assyrian, and Turkish nations in the region should have relations based on brotherhood without any obstacles or boundaries among them. This is our goal.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the current reforms in Turkey, such as reinstating the original Kurdish names of villages and townships and opening Kurdish television channels?

[Karayilan] In the past, Turkey used to firmly say that there are no Kurds in the country and that we are Turks living in caves and mountains. Turkey used to say that the word “Qurt” is derived from the sound made by frozen ice on the mountains breaking under the weight of footsteps. With time, this word became the current name of “Kurd”. In other words, Turkey used to claim that there are no Kurds but that they are no more than mountain Turks and that Turkey is educating them by teaching them Turkish and civilizing them. But after the struggle march of the PKK erupted from zero, the situation changed gradually. When I was a college student in the early 1970s I became interested in political science along with other Kurdish youths that were under the influence of leftist ideologies. It was then that I discovered that we area distinct nation totally different from the Turks after I read the history of Kurdistan and the Kurdish nation. Turkey used to devote university seats only to Turkish students and forced everyone to view things from a Turkish perspective. Leader Ocalan was the first one who broke this theory when he was a student of political science in Ankara University in 1971. He once answered his college professor who was delivering a lecture on the Turkish state, its borders and origins and on the ancient history of the Turkish people and telling his students to be proud of their Turkish heritage which is the only component of Turkey. Ocalan shouted out, “No, not only Turks are in Turkey; there are also Kurds and Kurdistan”. His reply was like a bombshell. It shocked the students who began to ask how Ocalan dared to say such a thing that may cause his death. Ocalan, however, insisted on the presence of Kurds and Kurdistan. Our movement erupted then and it was originally called a student movement that stood up against the mercenaries that were loyal to the Turkish state. They killed many of our unarmed comrades and attacked us with heavy weapons although we only had light weapons. When our people saw this determination by the students they gradually rallied behind our movement until our movement forced Turkey to admit the presence of Kurds in Turkey in the early 1990s. However, Turkey insisted on annihilating them. After a while, Turkey began to recognize the Kurdish issue contrary to its past claims that the issue is only one of terrorism. Turkey began to accuse our party of being the agents once of Russia, once of Syria, and once of the Kurds of Iraq. At present, however, Ankara recognizes the Kurdish issue. About one week ago, Turkish President Abdullah Gul admitted that Turkey is suffering from a specific problem that could be described as the problem of terrorism or the issue of terrorism. This is Turkey’s main problem. However, he did not dare admit openly that it is the Kurdish problem. Thus, in order to pre-empt us, Turkey resorted to satellite channels in Kurdish. Only four days ago, it reinstated the original Kurdish names of the Kurdish villages and townships. These are token measures that do not solve the Kurdish problem but mislead the Kurds there to win their support for the Turkish state and become the mercenaries of the regime. Turkey would thus claim to the world that it initiated political reforms in favor of the Kurds. In other words, this is no more than media propaganda.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You used to receive aid from Greece, Syria, Iran, and Armenia. Are you still receiving this aid?

[Karayilan] We did not receive financial or military aid from Iran or Greece or Syria or others, with the exception of some minor assistance such as, for example, allowing us to stay on Syrian soil or Iranian soil. Sometimes, the assistance that was extended to us was on a fraternal basis as was the case under the late President Hafiz al-Assad who treated Syrian or Iraqi or Turkish Kurds as brothers. We still appreciate highly the stands of the late Syrian President Al-Assad who built a strong and solid bridge between the Kurdish and Arab nations. Unfortunately, after his death, some regional forces and other figures tried to sabotage our relationship with Syria that changed its policy and began to tilt toward Turkey. This led to the deterioration of our relations with Syria. As for Iran, the issue of PJAK(Party of Free Life in Kurdistan that represents the Kurds of Iran) to which we are not connected led to a crisis in our relations with Iran. We are a regional force in the Middle East that seeks to educate the world on the identity and cause of the Kurdish people and enabling them to solve their problem by themselves by benefiting from the support of other peoples in the region on the basis of the principles of fraternity. However, it would be unacceptable if the countries in the region insist on confiscating the will of the Kurds and subjugating them by force. These countries should understand that the Kurds have their national identity like all other nations. They should respect and appreciate the identity of the Kurdish nation, especially since the Kurds are not trying to establish an independent Kurdish state either in Iraq or Turkey or Iran or Syria. He Kurds aspire to have a free life of dignity like other peoples in the region. At this point I would like to clarify to the peoples in the region that the goal of our movement that is marching along the footsteps of leader Ocalan is to achieve genuine fraternity with the peoples of the Middle East.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not think that it is high time you lay down your arms and embark on political action?

[Karayilan] At this stage, we are not waging our struggle in the classical sense. We engaged in armed struggle until 1991 and since then we have resorted to political struggle as a means to solve our issue. Our forces -that number between 7,000 and 8,000 fighters – are fortified on the mountaintops of Kurdistan and are in a purely defensive mode. They will remain so until our issue is solved. In other words, they are a reserve force to guarantee the future and freedom of the Kurdish people and to defend and protect all parts of Kurdistan and the achievement of the Kurdish people. International laws and charters allow peoples the right to self-defense if subjected to external attacks. In other words, we are exercising our legitimate right of self-defense of our people and homeland. Turkey, however, is seeking to annihilate us whether we may be. So it is natural for Turkey to clash with our fighters that are defending their existence. We in the northern part of Kurdistan are defendingour language, heritage, and existence. Before our movement erupted, Kurdish women were not able to leave their homes. However, we started the revolution of women and Kurdish women are now carrying arms and lying on mountain tops. If the constitution recognizes the rights of the Kurdish people, the suspicions surrounding our forces will disappear. However, we need to stay in order to safeguard our gains and rights exactly as is the case in [Iraqi] Kurdistan where the Peshmerga forces are protecting the achievements of the people and exercising their right to self-defense. In other words, it is high time to resolve the Kurdish issue peacefully and democratically, particularly since the Kurdish people have demonstrated their will in the 29 March elections. Turkey should respect this will.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect a Turkish military offensive against you this summer?

[Karayilan] A Turkish offensive is possible but not certain. The situation will become clearer next month after the current debate in Turkish circles on how to deal with us is finalized.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] It is said that it is the militarists in Turkey that are refusing to solve your issue peacefully for selfish reasons and motives. How true is this?

[Karayilan] It is part of the truth; the politicians also are refusing to solve our issue peacefully. The militarists have admitted that it is impossible to solve the issue of the PKK militarily but by recognizing the personal rights of individuals. So far, however, the political will in Turkey that can shoulder the responsibility of solving the internal problems in the country has not evolved. For instance, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is mediating to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or mediating between Syria and Israel. However, he refuses to solve the Kurdish issue in his own country and refuses to shake hands with the head of the Kurdish bloc in the Turkish parliament representing the DTP. He claims that he is mediating in the Arab-Israeli conflict and defending the children of Palestine. These are all false claims. In other words, it is the politicians in Turkey that are refusing to solve our problem. They keep referring it to the military so they would solve it in their own way.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is Ocalan’s health at present? Do you have any information in this regard?

[Karayilan] As far as we know, the Turkish authorities allow only his brothers and sisters to visit him as well as his attorney. He continues to have health problems and so far he has not been given the proper medical treatment. His respiratory system has recently deteriorated. Moreover, he has been in solitary confinement for 11 years. He is deprived of his prisoner’s rights as stipulated in Turkish laws, such as meeting the members of his family every week and watching television or listening to the radio or reading newspapers.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you still receiving instructions and directives from Ocalan?

[Karayilan] The Turkish authorities keep claiming that he sends his instructions and directives to the party. Each time Ocalan makes a statement he is subjected to penalties in his cell in prison. He is forced to sit on a chair without moving for 20 days. The Turkish authorities use some of his statements as excuses to punish him. They claim that when Ocalan says the lack of peace in Turkey would lead to a rise in violence he is sending a coded message to his followers that they should continue the fight and threaten the security of the Turkish state. As for us, we are proceeding along the path of the leader that he outlined in more than 100 books that he authored.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that the Turkish planes are using non-conventional weapons in their raids on Qandil?

[Karayilan] We had suspicions, only suspicions, in the kind of weapons used in these raids. I personally have not stated or confirmed that they are non-conventional rockets or missiles. However, some newspapers and analysts suspected something after unordinary cases of deaths among cattle herds. These perished as soon as they grazed in the regions that were subjected to the Turkish raids. However, we have not confirmed or announced that Turkey used chemical weapons in hitting the Qandil Mountains.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] It is said that there are serious differences between you and commander Jamil Bayek. What is your comment on this?

[Karayilan] These are Turkish intelligence claims that seek in vain to convince public opinion that there are such differences in the PKK leadership. The Turkish press also claimed similar differences between me and comrade Bahoz Erdal. Later, these claims disappeared and were replaced by others that there are differences between me and comrade Bayek. I confirm that these claims are false and I firmly stress that there are no such differences among us.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If Ankara were to offer the release of Ocalan in return for throwing down your arms, would you accept the offer?

[Karayilan] Turkey is not ready to release Ocalan nor are we ready to throw down our arms. This is an issue called “The Kurdish Issue” that should be solved first before we put down our guns. In other words, the release of Ocalan only is not enough. Such a release should be accompanied with a radical solution of the problem.

[Aziz] What kind of relationship do you have with the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) that is opposed to Iran? Is it the Iranian wing of your party, as is being said?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Absolutely no; it is not a wing of our party. For instance, there is an Iraqi communist party and a Turkish communist party. Both have Marxist-Leninist ideologies. However, each one is responsible for its activities; in other words, they are brother parties but each struggles in its own arena. The same situation applies to the PKK and PJAK. PKK is headed by Ocalan and PJAK is struggling in the eastern part of Kurdistan under the leadership of Ocalan. These are its ideas; should we prevent it from having such ideas? This party asked for help and we responded to its request. We have a strong relationship with it and we strongly support it as we have said repeatedly. However, we are two different and totally separate parties. Iran, however, claims that PJAK is a wing of the PKK and deliberately ignores the facts that present conditions in the eastern part of Kurdistan led to the emergence of this party. Recently, when the fighting intensified between the PJAK fighters and the Iranian forces, we proclaimed that we do not support the escalation of the fighting and the deterioration of the situation between the two sides. We asked them to solve the issue through dialogue and to stop the fighting immediately. PJAK responded to our request but Iran has not responded officially. However, we think that Iran as well has stopped the fighting. Our views on this issue are that the Kurdish people in Iran should enjoy their freedom and legitimate rights. They should be allowed to wage their political struggle freely. We believe that Iran does not have the right to kill the Kurds by using arms against them. We hope that PJAK and Iran would tilt renounce violence and tilt toward dialogue and peace.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Ramzi Kartal [one of the founders of the PKK] is under house arrest in Spain and Turkey is asking for his extradition under the excuse that he is a member of your party. What is your response?

[Karayilan] Kartal is not a member of the PKK but a deputy in the Turkish parliament representing the Kurdish people. He left Turkey carrying a passport that identified him as a deputy in the parliament. He is a specialist physician and a well known figure on the local and international levels. Turkish accusations of Kurdish figures that they practice terrorism are always ready in order to distort the image of the Kurds and of Kurdish diplomacy in the world. Ankara has put the names of all the Kurdish diplomatic figures in Europe on a list of wanted people by the international police. This list includes Ramzi Kartal who is under house arrest until he is tried. In other words, the decision to detain him is a political one, not a judicial one. There are political motives behind this decision. This is particularly true since there are European countries that do not want a peaceful and final solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey so they would not be forced to accept Turkey as a member in the European Union. That is why these countries are trying to ignite the struggle between the Kurds and Turkey so that democracy would disappear in the country and Turkey would thus lose the qualifications needed to become a member of the European Union. These European countries are very shrewd. They know that Turkey will never be able to crush the Kurds militarily. This is particularly true since the states that divided the land of Kurdistan into four parts in the Lausanne agreement of 1921 wanted to turn the Kurdish issue into a chronic disease afflicting the region. Moreover, Israel does not want a resolution to the Kurdish issue so that the struggle would continue among the Kurds, Turks, and Arabs. Israel wants to keep Turkey in need of it and of its advanced technology and to keep the Arab countries weak. In other words, Spain’s stand on this issue serves only war and it is a rejected stand.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] It is said that the Turkish president concluded a secret agreement against you with Iraq during his recent trip to Baghdad. What is your information in this regard?

[Karayilan] We do not have confirmed information in this regard. All we know is what the press reported on this subject. However, if the two sides wish to solve our problem, let them offer a political plan. However, if the policy of the current Turkish state wants to use annihilation and slaughter of the Kurds as a basis for its dealing with the Kurdish issue, the outcome will not be good at all. We are present on the land of Kurdistan. We are not the kind of forces that can be besieged or the noose tightened around us through an agreement between two countries or more. Moreover, our fighters are in a much better state than they were in the past. They can resist for another 10 years while relying on their current resources. Thus attempts to crush and destroy us militarily will never succeed and will be futile.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave you the choice between leaving or laying down your arms. Were his statements serious or were they only for media consumption?

[Karayilan] President Talabani recently stated in Irbil that his statements in this regard were distorted and that he did not say so. This is the basis for us.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In his recent visit to Ankara, President Talabani said that the formation of an independent Kurdish state will remain a dream that is hard to realize. What is your comment?

[Karayilan] Ideologically, the PKK does not demand the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. A state should be accompanied with guarantees of freedom to everyone and should be established on a modern basis; namely, the democratic confederation system. However, it is not right to say that the Kurds will never enjoy having a state and that they will take this dream to the grave. The dream may perhaps be realized. However, in the midst of current circumstances and conditions, none of the Kurdish leaders are calling for an independent Kurdish state.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Turkey is accusing Talabani’s party and Barzani’s party of providing you with logistic support. How true are these accusations?

[Karayilan] These are mere groundless Turkish accusations. Turkey thinks that an improvement on the situation of the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan would prevent the Kurds in Turkey from surrendering. When its forces were subjected to a fatal blow in their attack against us in February 2008 in the region of Al-Zab [River], Ankara realized that it could not put more pressure on southern Kurdistan. Therefore, it decided to change its policy but deep inside, it still wants to destroy us first and then destroy Kurdistan.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did the current Kurdish leaders have a role in Ocalan’s arrest?

[Karayilan] We do not claim that Ocalan was arrested with the collusion of some Kurdish politicians. We are saying that there was some sort of agreement then to arrest Ocalan in which some Kurds played a role. However, we have no proof about the nature of this role.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is Turkey’s role in the issue of obstructing a solution to the issue of Kirkuk?

[Karayilan] It has an essential and active role. Had it not been for Turkey, the issue of Kirkuk would have been solved in 2004 or 2005.However, Ankara is using all its weight on this issue and the United States believes that a solution of this issue would make Turkey take a negative stand. In other words, Turkish policy has been 100 percent behind the lack of a solution to this issue.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Had Saddam and his huge army of the 1980s been present now, would he have supported you against Turkey or the opposite?

[Karayilan] Saddam was present in the past and he did not give us any support. In fact, he signed a security accord with Turkey that allowed the Turkish forces to penetrate Iraqi territory at a depth of 20kilometers [approximately 12 miles] to launch military operations against us whenever they wished. This agreement is still in effect.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the future of Turkish-Iraqi relations?

[Karayilan] At present, the United States intends to withdraw its forces from Iraq and it is thinking of finding an alternative to on the Iraqi arena. Meanwhile, Iran is in the arena in practice. That is why Washington wants Turkey to have an active political role in Iraq. That is why we see that with US blessings, Turkey is establishing relations with the Sunni leaders and even with the Al-Sadr Trend, the arch enemies of the US presence in Iraq. The United States wants to pave the way for Turkey to replace Iran in future Iraq. In other words, the United States is seeking to strengthen the Turkish-Iraqi relationship. But the problem is the Kurdish issue, particularly since the government of the district of Kurdistan constitutes the most powerful factor in Iraq and the most basic in safeguarding the unity and stability of Iraq. That is why Washington is seeking to improve the relations between the district of Kurdistan and Turkey that continues to refuse to recognize the government of Kurdistan. Briefly, if Turkey does not hasten to solve its Kurdish issue, its role in future Iraq will face real difficulties.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If Iraq were to allow you to establish camps in the center of the country – like the followers of Mojahed-e Khalq – would you accept the offer?

[Karayilan] We do not need camps or bases. Our forces were not created to establish camps; they are active forces. Camps are established for those with families. Moreover, we are not on foreign ground to establish camps.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is the ban imposed on you by the government of the district of Kurdistan still in force?

[Karayilan] It is, as you yourself noticed. But what is more important is that the Kurds should learn to become masters in expressing their policies. We should not establish internal borders in the homeland of the Kurds. If in the next few years progress is made on the Kurdish problem in Turkey, the dangers threatening southern Kurdistan and the government of the district of Kurdistan will disappear. However, if Turkey and the countries that are sharing Kurdistan deliberately deal a fatal blow to us, the suspicions will become stronger that these states will be likely to tighten the noose on the government of Kurdistan and subjugate the whole Kurdish nation. Therefore, I believe that the coming stage will be historic and very critical. The Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan should understand well the truth that all of Kurdistan constitutes one homeland.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] It is said that the government of the district of Kurdistan is using you as a pressure card against Turkey to force it to recognize the government of the district. What is your comment?

[Karayilan] Our policy in the region is clear. Turkey has not yet officially recognized the government of the Kurdistan district despite the limited relations between the two sides. Ankara refuses to recognize this government but is allowing the two major parties in the district to open representative offices in Turkey.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If the Peshmerga forces were to attack you in order to evict you from Qandil, how would you respond?

[Karayilan] First of all, I would like to emphasize that all the Kurdish forces have repeatedly asserted that they have turned the page of Kurdish-Kurdish infighting for good and that they would absolutely not shed Kurdish blood.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not think that your armed activities against Turkey that proceed from the territory of the district of Kurdistan may reflect adversely on the government and people of the Kurdistan?

[Karayilan] Had it not been for our presence here in Qandil, Turkey would not have permitted the establishment of the government of the district of Kurdistan. Furthermore, all our military activities are purely defensive to protect the dignity of the Kurdish people. Our activities are not offensive at all and they have greatly contributed to strengthening the stands of all the Kurdish political leaders. For instance, between 1999 and 2004, not one bullet was fired in the northern part of Kurdistan. But Turkey is now interfering in the affairs of the government of the district. It is seeking to contain it and belittle it and it refuses to receive any of its officials. After we resumed our operations, Turkey was forced to improve and normalize its relations with the district. This is the best evidence that armed struggle in northern Kurdistan strengthened the stands of the government of Kurdistan and the stands of all the Kurds in all the parts of Kurdistan. Similarly, the victory of the DTP in the recent elections strengthened our stands and those of the government of Kurdistan.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect a radical change on the policies, stands, and conditions in the district of Kurdistan after the upcoming parliamentary elections?

[Karayilan] We hope that the change would be in the direction of consolidating democracy in the district and the success of the democratic experiment in the region. We hope that the Kurds in this part of Kurdistan would have more stability and that the sovereignty of the law and human rights would prevail so that the democratic Kurdish experiment would have a broader impact in the Middle East.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will you participate in the expanded pan-Kurdish conference that is to be held in Irbil soon?

[Karayilan] A date has not yet been set for the conference that aims at bringing about unity among the Kurds and consolidating peace in the region. It is primarily focused on the Kurdish issue in northern Kurdistan (Turkey). When we are officially informed, we will participate. The Kurdish issue is now passing through a historic phase. We hope that the conference would contribute to creating a new climate and a better groundwork for action. We hope that this conference would focus on two basic tasks: The first is the consolidation of brotherhood and unity among all the Kurds and the second is to strengthen the relations between the Kurds and the neighboring peoples and deepen the brotherhood and amity among the peoples of the Middle East. We do not want the conference to focus on antagonizing the neighboring countries but on discussing how to solve the Kurdish dilemma peacefully with the neighboring countries. It is essential for the representatives of these neighboring countries to participate in this conference in order to achieve peace in the Middle East.