Today I am publishing an interview which truly gives me great pleasure: my Q&A email exchange with Mizgîn, a Kurd who has studied in the West and who generally supports the PKK. That is all I can say about her as in fact that is all I know about her. And that is how it should be. On my blog, names do not matter, not even self-evidently nonsensical ones (like, say, “vineyardsaker”). Only ideas are important here, and Mizgîn has a lot of very interesting things to say, things which are almost never heard in the West or, as far as I know, anywhere else in the world. This is, in fact, how I “met” Mizgîn: she posted some rather interesting replies on Scott Horton’s blog and I decided to contact her and to request an interview. To say that I was not disappointed would be an understatement: I was delighted.
Mizgîn is the kind of person which I most enjoy listening to: passionate, strongly committed to her values, and willing to take the time to explain them to those who, like myself, know very little about her reality. In a time when Neocon propaganda is maskarading as “objective reporting” it is truly refreshing to hear a voice which concerns itself not with (pseudo-)”objectivity”, but with the truth as she sees it.
I would encourage those who are interested in the topic of the Kurdish people to use the comments section to post questions for Mizgîn. You can also email me the questions and I will forward them to her.
Mizgîn preceded her answers with the following disclaimer:
“I have written PKK as “PKK” in the replies, because PKK does not exist as a party anymore. It is an ideological school. Neither is it or PJAK synonymous with KONGRA-GEL. KONGRA-GEL is an organization under the overall umbrella of KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan–roughly, Confederation of Kurdistan Societies), under which everything else falls, including HPG, the armed wing which is the successor of PKK’s ARGK. If you see statements from the leadership at Qendil, you will see that it’s coming from KCK. So the leadership at Qendil is in charge of more than just HPG or PJAK (including its armed wing, the HAK)”.
Very little is published in the Western media about the developments in Turkish- controlled Kurdistan. Recently, Dahr Jamal has claimed that since the beginning of the year over 70 Turkish soldiers have been killed there by Kurdish fighters coming from Iraqi Kurdistan and that, in response, the Turks have deployed about 100’000 soldiers right on the border and that they are ready to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. According to him, only Washington’s opposition has prevented this, but the risks of the Turks actually going ahead with this invasion are very real. Is this information correct and what is the current situation in Turkish-controlled and Iraqi-controlled Kurdistan? Do the Kurds fear an invasion and do you think they are ready to deal with one?
Very little about Turkish-occupied Kurdistan is published in the West because the West has to protect the genocidal regime it has supported for decades, and continues to support today.
It’s very easy to find out how many Turkish soldiers have been killed. HPG publishes a monthly body count on its website. They have just published year-to-date totals and are showing 446 enemy forces killed, with a yearly total of 96 HPG martyrs.
How does Dahr Jamail know if the guerrillas are conducting operations from Iraqi Kurdistan? Has Dahr Jamail, or anyone else, taken out a map to actually look at the region to get an idea of what it takes to walk from Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically Qendil, to the places where clashes with the Turkish army have taken place? Bear in mind the topography of the region; mountain peaks reach approximately 12,000 feet (3700 m). Bear in mind the nature of guerrilla warfare; guerrillas move on their feet. Not in trucks, not in helicopters, not in armored personnel carriers, but they move on their feet. So it will take two to three weeks to walk from Qendil to, say, Dersim (Tunceli) province, Çewlik (Bingöl) province, Erzirom (Erzurum), Mûş (Muş), or Gümüşhane.
On top of the two to three week walk, they have to stop at times, make camp, do reconnaissance and other patrols, and set up posts and machine gun defenses. By the very nature of guerrilla warfare, HPG’s guerrillas are constantly on the move within Turkey itself, because it’s not effective to spend the time walking to one operation in, say Dersim, and then walk back to Qendil. Such a thing would be sheer stupidity and, apparently, it’s the kind of thing that Western media regularly expects us to believe. The majority of the guerrillas are not at Qendil and have not been for some time. Even the Turkish regime is aware of this fact, as indicated by Erdoğan’s statement in mid-June:
”Has the struggle against 5,000 terrorists inside Turkey come to a close, so that we can now start dealing with the 500 in northern Iraq?”
If the Turkish regime decides to invade Iraqi Kurdistan, it will be for some other reason and not because of “PKK.” They may decide to do it to gain control over the oil at Mûsil and Kerkuk, or to secure their many business interests, or for both reasons. In the last 80 years, Turkey has engaged in a continuing genocide against the Kurdish people because the ideological foundations of the regime is based on denial of the existence of the Kurdish people, so there is also the problem that Kurds in South Kurdistan and in the Baghdad government are not holding true to Turkey’s idea of Kurds as “Mountain Turks,” as savages who are inherently incapable of the slightest degree of sophistication or ability, particularly as regards politics. As a result, it’s also possible that Turkey invades for the purpose of saving its own ideological roots which are the very foundations of the current regime.
Has Washington’s opposition prevented a Turkish invasion to this point? Well, that’s a very simplistic view. First of all, every act of aggression carried out by the Turkish regime has had the approval of Washington, as well as the rest of the international community.
At the end of April 2006, just after the Turkish regime murdered a number of Kurds, including children, in the wake of the series of protests throughout Turkish-occupied Kurdistan known as the Amed Serhildan (uprising), Condoleezza Rice made a visit to Ankara. This was at the time that the Turkish army began massing hundreds of thousands of its troops in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan and began shelling Iraqi Kurdistan. Her presence in Ankara while there were ongoing TSK operations is proof that the US encourages Turkey in its aggression against the Kurdish people.
By the way, notice the timeframe of the massive deployment. It wasn’t just recently that “100,000”—or whatever number the current propaganda quotes—Turkish troops deployed. They have been there since April of last year. This is similar to the Western media’s other propaganda which said that “PKK” had suddenly called a ceasefire in mid-June, when the fact is that “PKK’s” ceasefire went into effect on 1 October 2006. The American media warmongers were all over that. Plus there was some garbage that DebkaFILE picked up from its Kemalist friends at Cihan News Agency, stating that there had been a massive invasion of South Kurdistan.
On the other hand, no one, absolutely no one, in the Western media wrote so much as a syllable about Iran shipping weapons to Syria with the help of Turkey—and it was HPG that derailed the train. Yaşar Büyükanıt, the chief of the Turkish general staff, permitted this information to penetrate Turkish media for a brief period before it was finally censored.
Now another Kurdish blogger has speculated that the Turkish military is cooperating with Washington, acting as Washington’s tool to threaten all of Iraq, including South Kurdistan, over rapacious oil laws that would permit an equitable distribution of oil revenue among Iraq’s ethnicities after Western Big Oil takes its 75% cut of the profits.
So, is Washington the only thing preventing an invasion of South Kurdistan? Insofar as Washington, itself, is the lapdog of Big Oil, yes. Is it coincidence that the Turkish regime begins a new round of shelling of South Kurdistan as Iraqis—across the board—dig in their heels in opposition to the oil laws? I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
When I was in South Kurdistan two years ago, friends told me then that if Turkey invaded, everyone in South Kurdistan would take up arms against the invaders. Since then, the situation has evolved to the point where Kurds under Turkish-occupation would also rise up against an invasion of Southern Kurds, and a Kurdish DTP politician, Hilmi Aydoğdu, recently got himself in trouble with the regime for speaking this fact of life:
”The two sides in this war would be Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq. There are some 20 million Kurds in Turkey, and the 20 million Kurds would regard such a war as an attack against them,” newspapers quoted Aydogdu as saying.
“Any attack on Kirkuk would be considered an attack on Diyarbakir.”
Everyone knows this–everyone. And when it is spoken out loud in public, the one who says it goes to prison. But prison does not negate truth. If anyone wants to engage in guerrilla warfare with 20 million Kurdish guerrillas in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan and 5 million Kurdish guerrillas in South Kurdistan, then let’s get on with it.
Are Kurds afraid of an invasion? No. This would not be the first Turkish invasion anyway. The Turkish regime has invaded several times in the recent past, even during the so-called “safe haven” in which the British and Americans permitted Turkey to bomb Kurdish civilians in the South—the very people the UK and US claimed to be “protecting.” What did Turkey get from these invasions? “PKK” is still there. “PKK” is still fighting. Southern Kurds, ordinary people, are willing to fight the invader, too. Kurdistan will become Turkey’s graveyard once again.
A basic background question: What are the differences between the KDP and PUK and what is their relationship to the PKK? Is this just a conflict between Barzani and Talabani or are there deeper, ideological, political differences between these to parties? Whom, if any, did Ocalan support
The KDP is more conservative, more tribal or “feudal.” The PUK is more progressive and oligarchic. The PUK was created from the KDP when there was a split among them back in the 1960s. The PUK was the first Kurdish group to side with Saddam against another Kurdish group, the KDP. They have been at each others’ throats since then and they would still be if not for the fact that the heat is on and they are going to have to make South Kurdistan work.
The “PKK” and Öcalan have supported neither of these parties against the other, except during one, specific event. In 1997, the KDP brought in Saddam Hussein’s army to help them recapture Hewlêr (Irbil) and the surrounding area, which had been under PUK control. The PKK went in to set up defensive positions in the Soran areas (PUK heartland) to help contain the KDP. The KDP had also captured Hero Talabanî, the wife of Iraq’s current president, Celal. They were using her in anti-PUK propaganda which showed Celal as the “honorless fleeing husband.” Celal Talabanî had, in fact, fled to Iran, leaving his wife behind. Ocalan called for her release and threatened to become actively involved in the fighting if KDP did not comply.
That was the only time that “PKK” sided with either group.
”PKK” has had its focus elsewhere, mainly in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan and now there is a sister organization under the KCK which focuses on Iranian-occupied Kurdistan, both politically and militarily. “PKK” has always had guerrilla members from all parts of Kurdistan, as well as Europeans and guerrillas from other parts of the world. It is the same today. “PKK” is always open to anyone who wishes to fight with them, both politically and militarily, for the cause of freedom.
As for ideological differences, both KDP and PUK are far more conservative than “PKK.” PKK’s outlook is socialist/green and it is far more progressive than either KDP or PUK. A core value of “PKK” is gender equality which can easily be seen by the women’s guerrilla army, YJA-STAR, and the training they give other women’s rights activists in the Kurdistan region.
The general goals of the “PKK” are outlined pretty well in their Declaration for the Democratic Resolution of the Kurdish Question, which was propsed to the Turkish regime in August of last year.
From the outside, the capture of Ocalan by the Turkish MIT seemed to have crippled the PKK. First, where can one get somebody get good information about the details of his capture? Second, what has the effect of his capture been on the PKK? Is he still considered the PKK’s leader and, if not, who has replaced him and how did that succession happen? Does the PKK consider Ocalan’s call for a truce genuine, or has it been coerced out of him or outright faked?
Turkish MIT did not capture Öcalan. Öcalan was the first victim of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program and after his capture was arranged by the US—some say with the help of MOSSAD—he was handed over to Turkish MIT. In fact, the MIT undersecretary who was involved with the CIA in the capture is now a “consultant” for a Turkish mercenary company, Black Hawk Security, Inc. This company is based in Maryland, has a training facility in Silopî (at the Habur border crossing), and they are now serving as mercenaries in Iraq, including Kerkuk.
Ocalan wanted to change many policies when he arrived in Europe after being forced out of Syria and he, as well as the Kurdish people, hoped that his arrival in Europe would be the first step in a peaceful solution of the Kurdish situation. Both the US and Turkey applied pressure on the governments of Europe to prevent Öcalan from staying in Europe and to prevent a wider international discussion of the gross human rights abuses and atrocities that Turkey, with full American backing, had inflicted on the Kurdish people since the US-backed coup of September 12.
As an aside to this, the fact that US special operations types trained Turkish special teams is widely known and has been documented by Desmond Fernandes, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Serdar Çelik, and Kendal Nezan, among others. Late last year, Desmond Fernandes published the results of his most recent research into US-backing of Turkey in the so-called “War on Terror.”
It was a shock to see Europe behave with such arrogance and ignorance when Öcalan arrived in Europe. The policy changes that Öcalan wished to implement were stalled as the political side of the Kurdish freedom movement fought for Öcalan to be taken seriously by European governments. Some policy changes did go into effect, such as Öcalan’s call for a unilateral ceasefire in 1998. Since this ceasefire was proclaimed in when Öcalan was free in Italy, then why wouldn’t “PKK” take it seriously? Or how does that prove that “PKK” was crippled? I mean, if “PKK” is crippled, why are there some hundred thousand Turkish soldiers deployed against “PKK” at this very moment?
While Öcalan fought to bring the Kurdish case to the attention of Europe, it was in the interest of the Kurdish people to uphold and support the ceasefire, so this is not coercion nor is it fake. The same goes for the current ceasefire.
It should be pointed out that those of the time who were calling for retaliation were the very same people who had ignored Öcalan when he came to Europe to solve the Kurdish situation by peaceful, political means. These people did not have Kurdish interests at heart but rather acted as agent provocateurs for the American and Turkish regimes. These were the political Left of Europe, the same ones who stand behind the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel. These agents, the non-Kurdish leftist grassroots apparat in Europe and North America, cut all ties with the Kurdish freedom movement as soon as they saw there was no retaliation forthcoming, calling “PKK” ”defeatist” and “Kemalist,” and accused the Kurdish freedom movement of having “betrayed” the cause of the “proletariat” for not fighting for their “socialist revolutionary war.”
Kurdish hope in Europe as a bastion of democracy and justice was destroyed with the international conspiracy against Öcalan and the Kurdish cause, and the response to the capture was intense, furious, and personal. Greek embassies were targeted because they were initially seen to blame. Many set fire to themselves in protest. Israeli embassy personnel in Berlin murdered four young Kurds protesting Israel’s hand in the capture.
Öcalan is still considered the leader of the “PKK,” but there is also an executive council of the KCK which also makes decisions for the movement. One has to consider the love that the Kurdish people have for Öcalan and the politicization of the people that has come about as a direct result of the “PKK.” Whatever minor concessions the Ankara regime has granted came about only as a result of the blood of “PKK’s” martyrs. The “PKK’s” political wing has enlightened the Kurdish people under Turkish occupation and this enlightenment can be seen today throughout the region, in the efforts of the DTP in overcoming obstacles to the political process in Turkey, or in organizations such as the Peace Mothers. In this respect, the Kurds under Turkish occupation are much better off than Kurds in South Kurdistan, because they are much more politically aware and act on their awareness. As an example of that, all one has to do is follow the activity of the DTP mayors. This is the result of the blood of “PKK” martyrs.
It has been reported in the Western media that the “Kurdish Peshmerga” had offered the Iraqi government to eliminate the Sunni militia in Baghdad (according to some reports they wanted to do this with the support of Shia militias) but that that offer was rejected. Is this information correct? More generally, would it be correct to say that the Kurds are closer to the Shias than the Sunnis because the Shias are less set on opposing an largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and because the Sunni militias have a lot of former Baathists in them?
KDP has been closer to the Sunnis historically, and PUK has been closer to the Shi’a. Only the Western media and its consumers would be stupid enough to circulate rumors—no doubt started in Arab media—that Kurdish pêşmerge would “offer” to eliminate Sunni militias in Baghdad. If anyone would have wanted someone else to eliminate Sunni militias, it would have been the US, and they would have had to make the “offer” to Kurds because it’s obvious that the US can’t do anything about any militia in all of Iraq.
If anyone at all can hold Iraq together, it’s Kurds because they have tried to work with both Sunni and Shi’a, even though 98% of the Kurdish people in South Kurdistan don’t want to be part of Iraq at all. Of course, democracy requires a complete disregard of the wishes of the demos.
According to definition of the word “pêşmerge,” and according to popular view, pêşmerge are not aggressors. The word “pêşmerge” is the name of a defending warrior, someone who stands before death. If you’re an aggressor, you don’t stand before death, you are death. Those who stand against you, to defend themselves, are pêşmerge, or those who stand before death.
Those Kurds who make up the majority of the Iraqi army are no longer pêşmerge because their loyalty is to Iraq, not Kurdistan, and they’re no longer serving in a Kurdish army.
Additionally, Kurds are not interested in invading anyone else. There are enough problems to deal with inside Kurdistan itself without having to look for more problems in someone else’s house.
What do you make of Ahmed Chalabi? It is often written that he began his career as a Kurdish politician but that he also has close ties to Shia factions. Where are his loyalties? Does he matter in the Kurdish political life? There also is the persistent rumor that Chalabi was an Iranian agent who acted as an “agent provocateur” for Tehran who wanted the USA to get rid of Saddam Hussein and bogged down in Iraq. According to this thesis, the Iranian actually used the clueless US Neocons to get them to push the USA into a war which would serve Tehran’s interests? Does this thesis make sense to you? What is written about all this in the Kurdish media?
How can Ahmed Chalabi get his start as a Kurdish politician when he’s not a Kurd? I don’t know of anyone who likes Ahmed Chalabi, and the KDP never liked him. He might have had closer ties to the PUK, but I’m not certain about that because I never see anything about Chalabi in Kurdish media. So he’s meaningless as far as Kurdish political life goes.
As far as the clueless neocons getting conned by Chalabi, in my opinion it was a mutual con. Michael Ledeen is one of the neocons who’s well-known for his close associations with Iranians and their con men. Maybe somebody should ask Ledeen about Chalabi.
General Joseph Ralston, former Vice Chairman of the JCS, has been appointed by Bush as the US “special envoy” to “coordinate” the PKK for Turkey. What does this appointment mean? What is the current US policy towards Kurds and what are their objectives for Turkish-controlled and Iraqi Kurdistan? What will Ralston true role be?
The appointment of Joseph Ralston as the “special envoy” to”coordinate” the PKK for Turkey means that the US and Turkey intend to continue the genocide that they’ve inflicted for decades on the Kurdish people under Turkish occupation.
Joseph Ralston is not merely the former NATO commander and vice-chairman of the US JCS, he’s also a member of the board of directors for Lockheed Martin. He’s also a vice-chairman of William Cohen’s The Cohen Group, which is a lobby firm among whose clients is Lockheed Martin. In the months before he was appointed, he was listed with the US Senate as a lobbyist for The Cohen Group for the purpose of exporting tactical fighter aircraft. That listing fell under the Lobby Disclosure Act and two of the required documents have been posted online. Within two months of his appointment, he managed to swing $13 billion worth of tactical fighter exports to Turkey as a result of his ”coordination of the PKK.” The aircraft involved in the deal were F-16s and the new F-35.
He is also a member of the advisory board of the American Turkish Council. Lockheed Martin is also a Golden Horn member of the ATC, something which costs $11,000 per year—chump change for Lockheed Martin.
Out of sheer frustration with getting this conflict of interest presented in the American media, I wrote something on it last October and published on KurdishInfo, with a follow-up on the F-35 deal. Slowly, a friend and I got a few independent journalists interested, including Kevin McKiernan, Chris Deliso, and Ken Silverstein. Luke Ryland, a blogger who has one a lot of research on the Sibel Edmonds case, picked up the Ralston conflict of interest, and from there, Sibel herself picked up the information and added it to hers.
The appointment of Ralston is highly cynical and only serves the interests of the American corporatocracy. Ralston, along with Yaşar Büyükanıt, rejected the PKK ceasefire out of hand and further rejected any political settlement on the IRA model, while the international community obeys its American masters, as with everything. These people do not want peace; they want to continue the genocide. That’s the American policy toward Kurds and its objectives for Turkish-occupied Kurdistan and South Kurdistan—Genocide. Kurds are a very inconvenient problem when they exist in a region rich in energy resources.
What is the situation of the Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan and what is the connection of the PDKI and the PJAK to the KDP, UDP, PKK? What has been the role of Iran in regards to the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and what are, in your opinion, Iran’s objectives concerning the Kurds and their future?
The situation of Kurds in Iranian-occupied Kurdistan does not differ very much from the situation in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. Kurds there are also repressed by a genocidal regime that denies Kurds as Kurds, prohibits Kurdish language and other forms of cultural expression, imprisons, tortures, and executes those Kurds who are politically active or Kurdish journalists who don’t reproduce the mullahs’ propaganda in their writing, and economically strangles the people to death. If it were not for the limited liberation in South Kurdistan, Kurds in the East would be much worse off than they are right now.
Iran shares Turkey’s goal of genocide of the Kurdish people.
PDKI has no relationship with PJAK and as far as I know, it’s not even located in Iranian-occupied Kurdistan. I have no idea what its relationship with KDP or PUK is.
PJAK is part of “PKK” and gets all its support from “PKK.” Cemil Bayık said as much last November.
In the last few years there has been some cooperation between “PKK” and KDP. At least, there have been no hostilities such as there were in the 1990s, when the KDP fought alongside the Ankara regime against the Kurds of the “PKK.”
There was an item in Turkey’s Akşam, in which the Turkish general staff claims that their intelligence says that some 1,000 guerrillas will join KDP’s special forces and be deployed along the border with Turkish- occupied Kurdistan. We’ll have to see how true that turns out to be, but KDP’s special forces were founded by a former “PKK” guerrilla and such a turn of events would be the Ankara regime’s worst nightmare come true.
The relationship with the PUK may be a bit more stand-offish, especially since Qubad Talabanî, Celal Talabanî’s son and PUK’s representative in Washington, was recently involved in a scandal at the Hudson Institute, with the Americans and a representative of the Turkish general staff. Among other things, they discussed assassinations of Kemalist members of the judiciary, suicide bombing of shopping areas, and the capture of PKK’s” leadership at Qendil, sort of a sequel to Öcalan’s extraordinary rendition.
This was a huge scandal in the Turkish press, and the Islamist Zaman carried two articles in English, ”Terrifying scenarios discussed at US think tank,” and ”More details revealed on scandalous meeting. Given that we know the Turkish regime, with US support, regularly engages in black operations against the Kurdish people and in Western Turkey in order for the Turkish military to keep a death grip on the reins of power. The scenarios discussed at the Hudson Institute are very similar to recent events or are very similar to incidents in the past. Since everyone knows that these things are possible, and that the Deep State carries out such operations, no one was laughing about this scandal.
Of course, Qubad Talabanî’s presence at such a planning session is absolutely unacceptable from any honorable Kurdish perspective.
But you read about all of this in the US media, right?
For many years it has been reported that Israelis have been involved in the Kurdish issue and that they have been covertly arming and training the various Kurdish militias. At the same time, the Israelis are also allied with Ankara. What is the current Israeli policy towards Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and what are their objectives in these areas?
Why is it that no one bitched about the Israeli presence in South Kurdistan during Mala Mustafa Barzanî’s time? Yes, there’s a long history between the Barzanîs and Israel, and apparently there were some Israeli contractors, former military types, training pêşmerge in counter-terrorism tactics a few years ago. As for the details of the current relationship, I don’t know.
Yes, Israel is an ally of Ankara, just as the US is, and for that reason, the only policy that Israel could have toward Kurds under Turkish occupation is the same as the US and Turkey—Genocide. I have never come across any stated Israeli policy toward the Kurdish people under Turkish occupation, although Israel’s cheerleaders in the US appear to have sudden bleeding hearts for Southern Kurds, Kurds in Iranian-occupied Kurdistan and Kurds in Syrian-occupied Kurdistan.
Now isn’t that a curiosity in itself? The enemies of Israel are guilty, according to Israeli cheerleaders, of severe repressions of Kurds but there is a total lack of concern for Kurds suffering the severe repression at the hands of Israel’s good ally, Turkey. What does that tell you? Sure the Israelis engage in tit-for-tat when it suits them, like suggesting that they sit down and talk to Öcalan since Turkey invited the HAMAS leader to Ankara. But they don’t mean it and, as far as I can tell, Israel has no interest in justice for the Kurdish people. They ignore Turkey’s atrocities and they’ve ignored Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi atrocities until they think they can use it for their own cause.
But then, like the US, Israel doesn’t recognize the Armenian Genocide either.
On the Kurdish side, the Kurds are the only nation that does not want to annihilate the Jewish people or Israel, and this is consistent across the political spectrum. Kurds don’t support the annihilation of the Arab or Turkish people,for that matter. And Israel knows this, which makes its position that much more hypocritical. On the other hand, the vast majority of the Turkish people hate Israel and Jews, and subscribe to every anti-Jewish conspiracy theory that comes along. When I was in Turkey two years ago, what was the bestseller? Mein Kampf. It was everywhere, from the shiny, new modern grocery store in Amed (Diyarbakır)–which was built to serve the local military families—and in upscale bookshops near the Sultanahmet in Istanbul.
What should Israel do, in contrast? Here are the Kurds, a nation trying to rise from the ashes of brutal repression, a nation willing to see others as their equal and never act as an aggressor toward its neighbors. What should be the Israeli policy toward such a people?
According to Wikipedia, various religions are present among the Kurdish people. While most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, others are Shia, Christian and even Yazdani. What role, if any, does religion play in the Kurdish political processes?
Except for the Kurdistan Islamic Union in South Kurdistan, there is no religion in the Kurdish political process. Kurds are overwhelmingly secular.
Insurgencies and political parties need money and support. How do the PKK/KDP/PUK/PDKI/PJAK finance themselves? What are their sources of income? Where do they get their weapons? Who trains them? Most successful insurgencies have outside supporters, does anyone support these groups and, if yes, who? How much money do Kurdish exiles in Europe and elsewhere send to these groups?
The KDP and PUK are part of the Kurdistan Regional Government, a recognized political entity. As such, they are financed like any other government—taxes, loans, interest, trade. I suspect PDKI gets at least some of its funding from PUK, but I will leave that open to question.
PJAK is part of “PKK,” so it gets its support from “PKK.” Now, even if I knew the details of “PKK’s” funding, I would not discuss it because I view it as a matter of national security. However, historically, “PKK” gets its funding from the Kurdish people themselves, mainly by the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe. Europe has historically been the biggest source of funding. “PKK” has taxed smugglers moving through its territory, regardless of what’s being smuggled—and “PKK” has neither cared what is smuggled nor has it wanted to know.
”PKK” has trained itself for decades now. It doesn’t need anyone else. Besides, who’s going to teach Kurds how to conduct a guerrilla war in the mountains? Everyone else is a rank amateur when it comes to this.
I assume that “PKK” gets its weapons in the same way that anyone else would get weapons—from international arms dealers. “PKK” has money; arms dealers have weapons.
The PKK used to have a formidable underground organization in Europe which in the eighties even succeeded in perfectly coordinated attacks on several Turkish embassies in different European countries. What happened to this network? Has it been destroyed by European police/counter-intelligence agencies or is it still out there?
The “PKK” has never had an underground organization in Europe. The ”PKK’s” organization in Europe is the Kurdish people in diaspora. More aggressive actions have been carried out there by young Kurds who have the will, and are militant and professional enough to carry them out. Even the political wing of the old “PKK” (the ERNK) had offices in Europe,and underground organizations rarely have offices.
There are millions of Kurds in diaspora that support the Kurdish freedom movement—and remember, Istanbul, Ankara, and other Turkish cities are diaspora. Although Turkey is constantly engaged in psychological operations against the Kurdish people and their freedom movement, the people know the justice of their own cause, even while fighting for legitimacy in the “civilized” world. It is the shame of Europe that it has remained silent for so long about the massive, systematic, state-sponsored human rights abuses carried out against the Kurdish people under Turkish occupation. Given US-backing of the same abuses, it is also a shame against the US as well, particularly when activists like Noam Chomsky, John Tirman, or Kevin McKiernan have documented and publicized the US role in Turkey’s atrocities, and human rights groups in the US have documented American sales and subsidies of weapons to Turkey, which were used to murder some 40,000 (official figure, therefore most likely on the low side) Kurdish civilians, utterly destroy some 4,000 villages (about the same as Saddam Hussein destroyed in South Kurdistan), and displace some 3 million more.
The information on all of this is widely available on the Internet, so there’s no excuse for not knowing about it.
Whoever wants to get rid of the “PKK” must murder the 20 million Turkish Kurds at the very least. That applies to the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe, so if European police/state terrorism agencies want to do that, I guess they can refurbish the ovens they used in their last genocide and put them back in service.
In conclusion, in which country is the current situation of Kurdish people the most likely to result in some kind of peace? How do you see the future of Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran?
Ironically, the country in which the Kurdish people will find some kind of peace will be Turkey. Turkey’s elites are going to try to drag the rest of the country into the EU, so even though support for EU accession is at a low point, they will probably continue with it because they are too far along in the process.
There have been those in the Turkish elites who have made remarks here and there that indicate they realize very well that Turkey’s future viability lies in full equality and freedom for the Kurdish people. Unfortunately, it has been these very same people who have created a monster of the majority Turkish population through a media and system that are dedicated to perpetuating ultra-nationalistic propaganda. I think it will take a few generations, if they start to undo the damage now, to turn the Turkish people into democrats. But that means they have to end the ultra-nationalist propaganda and change the system now.
There are certain groups within Turkey that are willing to work peacefully with Kurds. Most of these are among the intellectuals or are on the Turkish Left. Also, Kurds under Turkish occupation are not as isolated as those in other parts of Kurdistan.
Finally, the efforts of DTP in the recent election campaign have been Herculean and heroic. If this leadership can continue to grow in experience and maintain its determination—something that I do not doubt—then I, for one, feel great hope. Certainly I think DTP has made mistakes in the very recent past but, on the other hand, they are on the political frontlines and deal with the situation in and up-close and personal way every day, yet they continue to push the boundaries.
As bad as the situation in Turkey has been and can be, including with the recent declaration of a new OHAL (State of Emergency), I feel the most hope for this part of Kurdistan. In Iraq, the greatest problem is the extreme corruption of the two main parties, the failure to provide basic services to the people, the repression of free speech, and a perverse refusal to invest in self-subsistence. Food is entirely imported, and that’s a serious problem for a population that has always been predominately agricultural without going in to the danger of relying on surrounding, hostile regimes for a food supply.
Syria and Iran, the two allies, have the Kurdish regions they occupy virtually cut off from the rest of the world and are ruled by repressive, racist regimes.
The key is the Kurdish population of Turkey, the largest population of Kurds on earth. Equality and freedom for us, within the Turkish state, will transform the entire Middle East for the better.
GREETINGS from Poland.
Mizgin leads the online world struggle against the psychological labelling of the Kurdish struggle as ‘terrorist’. If we had just 10 or 20 more like her we would have ‘Serkeftin’ much sooner!
She is Mamosta! (Teacher)
Some links are dead, for ex:” They may decide to do it to gain control over the oil at Mûsil and Kerkuk, or to secure their many +++business+++ interests”
I will ask about some things later.
An excellent interview especially seeing how the US/UK have been using the Kurds in Iraq to justify their imperialist occupation.
A couple of points I’d like to add about Greece’s role in the ‘capture’ of Ocalan. The then PASOK (‘socialist’) government basically handed over Ocalan to the Turkish MIT in Kenya. This caused absolute outrage amongst ordinary Greeks, who have a good history of supporting the Kurds (unlike the Greek government(s) that were busy deporting Kurds back to Turkey, Iran and Iraq.) Huge demonstrations followed in Athens and Thessaloniki in support of Ocalan and the PKK. I remember going to a solidarity concert held in Aristotle square in Thessaloniki and at least 50,000 were there and on the demonstration earlier about 20,000. It was very clear to the Greek Left that the PKK were freedom fighters not terrorists, just as much as the ANC in South Africa and the PLO in Palestine fighting for their freedom.
At the same time I got to know some young “Turkish” Kurds (they were from Istanbul) who were studying at the University of Thessaloniki and they were very critical of the PKK, but from a Marxist/Trotskyist perspective. They argued that the PKK had basically considered ALL Turks as the enemy and the main aim of the PKK was an independent Kurdistan, whereas these young guys argued the main aim should be unity with Turkish workers against the Turkish state and for equal rights for all those that lived within the border s of Turkey. ie the class question was more important than the national question.
Anyhow, the oppression of the Kurds in Turkey still continues despite the so-called “European path” taken by the present Turkish government, and the “intervention’ of the European Union. Until Kurds get their rights, they will, quite rightly, continue to resist.
superb work. Thanks to both of you.
I’ve been reading Hevala Mizgin’s comments for a long time, and admire her accuracy, ferocity, and dedication. I’m glad you initiated this exchange with her, and I hope more people will better understand the murky relationships and political betrayals, commitments, and connections she outlines.
The only comment I would raise is about Mizgin’s response that the overwhelming majority of Kurds are secular. Having spent several years among Kurds in Amed and elsewhere, I think the relationship between Kurds and religion, particularly Islam (altho’ the Yezidi question is salient in S. Kurdistan, as witnessed by recent events between those communities) is much more complicated. Many, many Kurds are deeply pious and committed to an Islamic tradition, even as many, if not most, of those same people also support a Kurdish independence struggle.
Sure, within the ‘PKK’ and its various political/military entities an explicitly socialist orientation mitigates against religious identification, but I’d say the majority of ordinary civilian Kurds, in Turkey at least, are fairly committed to their faith as well.
I say this only because I think it complicates the picture in an important way. Kurdish friends of mine who embrace a socialist politics have continued to express concern at what they perceive as a growing Islamic movement within the Kurdish community of Amed and the region, a movement aimed at emphasizing religious connections over ethnic divisions within Turkey. There is evidence of a growing Islamic movement in places like Amed that is specifically aimed at Kurds.
And for what it’s worth- I have encountered the same anti-semitic, paranoid conspiracy theories and propaganda from Kurds in Turkey as I found among Turks. It makes sense – they are products of a shared ideological system in many ways, for all that Kurds have the crucially different experience of subjugation under an oppressive regime – but it serves to qualify Mizgin’s assertion that Kurds don’t share Turkish prejudices in this regard. It used to infuriate me, that Kurds, victims of genocidal politics and oppression, would spout the same twisted racist ideologies about another people. The distinction between ‘a people’ and ‘a regime’ crucial to maintain – difficult as it is to do sometimes. Otherwise we’re not too much better than the others.
That’s all for now – mostly I wanted to say Thanks, and Biji Hevala Mizgin!
Hey VS, congratulations on all your interviews.
The other day you were asking for Scott’s show from Monday. Here’s the show but it’s incomplete. I got the last 70 minutes.
Hey – you are a champ! Thanks a lot. Cheers!
And thanks for pointing our mediafire.com to me – that is *exactly* what I needed for my blog.
To “anonymous” that commented on the secular issue:
Secularism doesn’t mean atheism. Many Kurds in northern Kurdistan are devout muslims, but they would think twice before involving religion into the Kurdish political process. The devout Kurds voting for the Turkish Islamic AKP party does so because they’re not interested in the Kurdish political process, so the Kurdish secularism is safe.
First I would like to publicly thank the Saker for giving space to a Kurdish voice, especially one in support of the Kurdish freedom movement. There are not many who are willing to listen. Perhaps if the Saker had been appointed as “special envoy” to “coordinate the PKK,” there would be hope for a political solution within the territorial integrity of Turkey at this moment.
Anticapitalista, I have no doubt the Greek people were outraged, as you describe, by their government’s collaboration in the extraordinary rendition of Öcalan. It should be noted that the Russian Duma voted to grant asylum to Öcalan, but was overridden by the same enemies of the people. This is the problem of “democracies.” People labor under the illusion that their will and their vote makes any difference.
The Istanbul Kurds must not have known much about the founding of “PKK.” There were ethnic Turks among the founders and there are ethnic Turks in the mountains fighting for the Kurdish cause today. These ethnic Turks recognize the idea that “if one person ain’t free, ain’t anybody free,” and that by fighting the cause of the most oppressed in Turkey, they are fighting for true freedom for Turks as well.
At the time of the founding of “PKK,” the Turkish Left was more concerned with the revolution and felt that once it was achieved, they could then turn their sights toward the Kurdish people. The founders of “PKK” could not accept this, particularly after the 12 September coup. The atrocities of Diyarbakır Military Prison provided the moment of clarity necessary to shape many future lives. When those who survived were released in 1982, they joined “PKK” and were trained and ready to launch their first operations against the regime on 15 August 1984.
“PKK” formed an alliance with DHKP-C in the late 1990s (more on that kind of thing here and today there are socialist groups within Turkey who support the Kurdish people and Kurdish freedom movement. I have never heard that “PKK” had rejected any of this kind of support.
From the beginning, then, to say that “PKK” considers all Turks as the enemy is not correct. However, it’s very possible that the Istanbul Kurds were completely unaware of the founding of “PKK.” If it’s difficult to find correct information in the West, imagine how much more difficult it is to find such information in a society that is completely saturated with the regime’s fascist propaganda.
Anonymous, thanks for your comments and your points are well-taken. However I was responding to a question in a political context. I think that Berxwedan has given a good explanation of the position I was coming from in the interview.
Except for the KIU, I do not know of any other religiously-based party. I think there was some talk of another such party starting up in South Kurdistan a few months ago, but I really haven’t seen much on that, so I don’t want to count it.
On the other hand, when people vote for KDP, PUK, or DTP, I don’t think they’re doing it from a strictly religious position. There’s an awareness of separation of religion and state, so that more religiously-minded people still feel that they can vote for these parties (or the “Kurdish List” as during the Iraq elections) without compromising their personal or social values that stem from religion.
Having spent time in Amed with religious families, the talk in the home centers much of the time on politics. Who do they support? “PKK.” Why? Because “PKK” fights for the people. Back in the early 1990s, “PKK” eased it’s position on religion because it realized it had to in order to be successful. This change was not disregarded by Kurdish imams, and they are able to accept it because they know “PKK” is concerned with the state and not with religion.
On the other hand, the movements and ideas that you mention that have infected segments of the Kurdish population with anti-semitism or aiming “at emphasizing religious connections over ethnic divisions within Turkey,” are not genuine Kurdish ideas or movements. These ideas come from the Turkish-Islamists, especially from Fethullah Gülen. AKP is Gülen’s party.
Turkish-Islamic synthesis was the agreement in the 1980s between Gülen’s gang (Turgut Özel was a Gülen disciple), which led to the regime’s founding and sponsorship of Turkish Hezbollah specifically to combat Kurdish nationalism and “PKK”. We all know what Turkish Hezbollah did (and Kurdish imams in Turkey know, too). Turkish Hezbollah slaughtered Kurds, including moderately religious Kurds.
And now we have Gülen’s propaganda institutes (i.e. schools) popping up all over South Kurdistan in order to turn Southern Kurds into good Turkish Islamists. Why does KRG allow this? Incredible!
Then there was the presence of Ansar al-Islam in and around Helebçe, which is a very conservative, very religious population. Yet even here, the people despised Ansar, especially after it beheaded pêşmerge of the progressive PUK inside a mosque. Ansar is no different than Turkish Hezbollah.
So the people are able to make the distinction between extremism and normal religion, as well as see the dangers that religion-in-politics brings. Therefore in their voting habits and in their civic ideas, I still think they are overwhelmingly secular. When they vote for DTP, or for the “Kurdish List” during the Iraqi elections, I don’t think they were thinking too much of religion or were doing so from a religious position per se.
However, you are correct that in social life there are many people who are religious and that many of them do support the struggle. Therefore I don’t think that we have any inherent disagreement on the state of the situation.
Hevallo, Lukery, and Berxwedan–Gelek sipas û Serkeftin!
20 million kurds in turkey???? Where did they come from.
Back in 1985 they claimed there were 5 million kurds in turkey now its 20 million. The kurdish party never got more then 5% of the votes in any election. There are no more then 5-7 million kurds in turkey, it is obvious from their votes how many of them there are. Stop dreaming and get back to reality!