Transcript of an interview with Nuçe TV.
NEWS CENTER 28/03/2013
KCK Executive Council President Murat Karayilan and member of the Executive Council Presidency Ronahi Serhat, have made important statements about withdrawing from the Turkish territory. Karayilan, pointing out the important responsibility on the Turkish Assembly, said “To ensure continuity of this process, it needs to be developed mutually. We are preparing for withdrawal, but the other side also needs to start preparations. To facilitate this process, our leader’s conditions of imprisonment need to be improved.” Ronahi Serhat stated that the channels for dialogue with the architect of the peace process need to be opened.
KCK Executive Council President Murat Karayilan and member of the Executive Council Presidency Ronahi Serhat, answered the questions directed by the journalists Koray Düzgören, Erdal Er and Khaled Hermit from Nuçe TV.
Q: Öcalan is talking about a process that not only interests Turkey but also the neighbouring countries in the region…Could you expand on this a little?
Karayilan: The suggested process foresees the beginning of a new way of thinking, a new direction. It is the beginning of a new period. It mainly interests the Kurdish and Turkish people of the region. As a solution that takes into account the unity and common life perspective of these two nations, it will enable the start of a new era in the Middle East. As a solution that interests the Kurds, not only in the boundaries of Turkey but in the whole region, it requires reference to the Misak-ı Milli (National Pact -the set of six important decisions made by the last term of the Ottoman Parliament), such that the process will not require any change in the boundaries formed. It is important to assess the proposed paradigm in this way and see it as a project that foresees the unity of nations and the formation of the Middle Eastern Confederation of People. This solution, with the free will of the people, acknowledges the shared values and cultures of the people in the Middle East, who can determine the nature of their relations and to make the boundaries placed between them insignificant.
THIS IS NOT A TACTICAL MOVE
Q: What kind of responsibilities fall on the sides in question?
Karayilan: First, it is important to interpret and understand the proposed approach in the right way. While this is considered important both for us and the Turkish State and Government, it is in essence important for the people concerned. Now everyone is in a state of discussion. And it must be discussed because the approach suggested is one that concerns everybody. But, firstly it is very important to understand the situation correctly. This is not a tactical move. It is not a perspective that is only concerned with resolution of the Kurdish Question. It is an attempt to change the existing way of thinking and to represent a new mentality. Until now the concern was about our differences and about clashes between the people of different nations, cultures and sects; it was about separation. Whereas now, the differences need to be seen as a reason for peace and the formulation of an enriched life together, instead of a reason for conflict. I mean the representation of a new way of thinking. This is a strategic approach. We will try to develop this within our means. In the Middle East there is now a ruthless conflict. Every day, blood is spilled. There is a comprehensive conflict in Syria. In Iraq an unnamed sectarian conflict exists and it is thought it will escalate. International forces use these conflicts to formulate their policies. The proposed approach is one that will overcome these issues to transform conflicts to peace between people. It is a modest one, it first aims to resolve the Kurdish Question to ensure peace between the people in Turkey, it then aims to provide a framework to shape the developments in the Middle East by setting an example with this new way of thinking.
What is important is for the parties to understand the issues correctly and address them in the right way. In order to understand the issues correctly we have been discussing them for some time. This is actually not a new thing for us. Anyone who has read our leader’s defence publications since the one written for the European Court of Human Rights, those written since the year 2000, will know that the proposals that have been made are essentially a refinement of the ideas generated through a philosophical outlook, reviewed and discussed thoroughly in these publications. The proposed solution by our leadership is a refined presentation of a well thought-out paradigm, it is a very important and detailed document. If we are still discussing and trying to understand the meaning of the proposed solution, despite continually being engaged in developing paradigms, then the external forces need to make some effort to understand this proposal correctly too.
UNTIL NOW WE HAVE DECLARED 8 CEASEFIRES
Q: You have declared a ceasefire. A number dates are set, a calendar has been produced. What do you expect and foresee in this new period?
Karayilan: Since the ceasefire declared by our Leadership in 1993, we have tried very hard to solve the Kurdish Question through democratic means. Until now we have declared 8 ceasefires. In 1999, following a call from our Leadership, we withdrew all our troops from Turkey in order to avoid any conflict and form the base for a democratic solution. Unfortunately, our efforts were not answered correctly by the other side. They were wasted, without a result. In fact, only in the last three or four years, with the intervention of some international powers, the Oslo process was initiated. For exactly three years, at different intervals, delegates from both sides have met to discuss the issues. This also produced no results. What I want to clarify is that we have gained a great deal of experience.
We hope that this 9th ceasefire will actually give way to peace and a permanent solution. To achieve something, it is important to firstly do the groundwork and then to allow for ideas to mature. In the past this was not sufficient. During the Oslo process the foundation was there, but due to other reasons, the efforts were wasted. Now we must develop a well-crafted, a more constructive period. Our leadership’s call is, in fact, aligned with the need to form a new perspective. A solution based on politics rather than military means, which in return leads to the withdrawal of forces. We have first declared a ceasefire. With this ceasefire we wanted to create a more mature basis for discussion, we need to develop opportunities for dialogue and to prepare for withdrawal. We want it to create an organisational, political and legal base. First of all, the preparation, positioning and organisation of our forces will be in accordance will the principles of this new process. We are currently in the process of doing this. Most importantly, we have planned activities to persuade all our forces to be in alignment with this new approach. We are trying to reach out to all our forces and make them understand this call. We have started the necessary and vital preparations for withdrawal.
THE ASSEMBLY MUST TAKE A DECISION
Before the withdrawal there are also things that the other side must do. Everybody knows that Turkey’s most serious, most important problem is the Kurdish Question. In a matter as serious as this, the Assembly, which is the supreme will of the people, must make a decision, which this is the right way to do it. What do we want; what kind of decision? When our forces withdrew in 1999 they fell into a trap. They all came and gathered in Amed (Diyarbakir) and found themselves under siege; besieged in an area. This is the first. Secondly, nobody protected them. They were left hanging. For five years not a single shot was fired, yet the will for a resolution did not develop. For security, in some sense a guarantee, and to ensure a healthy withdrawal, the Parliament could make a decision along these lines: “to resolve the Kurdish Question by peaceful means the withdrawal of the PKK’s armed forces abroad and the establishment of a commission to observe this period”.
We are not saying the Assembly should resolve the Kurdish Question and then we will withdraw. We used to say this in the past. The issue of withdrawal has been on the agenda for 4-5 years. This was the main agenda in Oslo also. They said “you leave the country, we will resolve the issue”. In the past we stated that, once certain changes were made at a constitutional level, we would then withdraw. This was one of the reasons the Oslo period was blocked. The leadership used initiative at this point. The Government, without taking rooted step to resolving the Kurdish Question, will simply need to introduce a law to form the legal framework required for carrying out the discussions. In this way we will withdraw.
Q: It is said that the period of armed struggle is over; now there will only be a political struggle. But how will the political struggle be carried out? Without an answer to this question, is there not a risk in withdrawing?
Karayilan: The plans are composed of three stages. Cease-fire and withdrawing outside the borders form the first stage. While we are doing the things required by us, the Turkish Assembly also needs to fulfil its responsibilities. We are not asking for the formation of a new constitution, all we ask for is for the establishment of a new commission and to make decisions on this issue. A solution borne by the Parliamentary Assembly will be a solution borne by the people of Turkey. The AKP (Justice and Development Party) see themselves as forming the basis of the solution. The approach taken is superficial and has a narrow outlook. Therefore, bringing this issue to the Grand National Assembly means taking into account the interests of all. Maybe not everyone will agree with this, but if the Assembly is the supreme will of the people then this is needed. Secondly, it is important to involve the other political parties in this process.
The approach taken is so simplistic, as if there are only a small group of people undertaking a struggle and that calling out to them to come down will be enough to bring them down. There is a force that has been fighting for 30 years out there. It believes that it can win this war, it has confidence. They will not give up and come down just like that; I can’t bring them down that easily. The problem cannot be resolved with such a superficial approach. The other side needs to take this very seriously.
Also it should be noted that the things that are being done now are considered illegal by the laws of Turkey. There are delegates that come to see us. It becomes an illegal undertaking. A delegate goes to meet our leadership, and then the prosecutor interrogates the delegation. The lawyers are detained. The prime minister rescued the MIT (National Intelligence Service) chief by bringing out a law for his protection. But the lawyers that are doing the same job are locked away. If we are to find a solution to this then we need to form a legal basis for the dealings. This ‘illegality’ must be overcome, both in the case of visits to Imrali, and in the case of withdrawal of the armed forces. Without the right approach in this regard there is a danger of the process being blocked. The seriousness of the process needs to be made clear right from the beginning.
When will there be a full retreat? This is completely dependent on the government’s pace. Also for us, the climatic conditions are not right yet. Nevertheless, we have started our preparations without a legal framework put in place; a surveillance committee needs to be formed to make these observations. Also in a broader framework a committee of “wise men” need to be formed. Because we will be withdrawing, who will then settle in the areas left behind? There is a mass return to villages, how is this going to happen? There are many questions unanswered. Both inside and outside the parliament there is a need for extensive work.
Ronahi Serhat: If the real intention is to resolve the Kurdish Question then then this naturally needs to be taken to the National Grand Assembly. But if the intension is to resolve the PKK, this will, as they say, be dealt within the Government’s fight against terror. It sees this as a practical way of handling the situation. The problem is not just the safe withdrawal of the guerrillas. It needs to be seen as the first move required for a complete solution. This puts responsibility on the Assembly. If this doesn’t happen then people will start doubting the process.
A NEW CONSTITUTION IS REQUIRED
Q: Öcalan has said that, “to re-establish the laws of Fraternity, based on liberty and equality, I call on all interlocutors and the Kurdish society to do their part in this process”. Could you elaborate on this a little bit?
There are rights that have been denied to the minorities in the first Misak-ı Milli Pact. This shaped the Turkish state to be one that didn’t recognise the rights of minority groups. For all people to live in equality in Turkey a new constitution is required. The problem is in fact one of democracy and equality. Thus, the change required involves a change in the fundamentals of the constitution. This will mean both the resolution of the Kurdish Question but also the ability for all minority groups to freely express and live their identity; allowing for the formation of a truly constitutional arrangement.
Q: Withdrawal, ceasefire, ultimately means removal of the armed struggle. In a TV program an advisor to the Prime Minister said that “Öcalan has in the end concluded the same paradigm as the Prime Minister. As Turkey becomes more democratised then the Kurdish Question will be resolved”. Is this what really happened?
Karayilan: It is important that the government has a language of resolution. Statements made in the direction of finding a solution are highly important. What is expressed by the chief advisor is not true of course; the leadership has always defended this paradigm. What has happened is a paradigmatic evolution that started in 1993 and developed further in the 2000s. In fact what he said last is a summary of what he said in his 5th defence publication. The leadership wants to persist with a solution. He wants to develop a reasonable, a more cautious language of solution that takes into consideration the sensitivities of all sides.
THE “WISE MEN” COMMISSION SHOULD INSTIL TRUST IN ALL
Q: The formation of a commission of ‘Wise Men’ is being discussed. The Prime Minister has said “we have a pool of people”. How do you see this?
Karayilan: We don’t think that simply the formation of wise people commission will resolve this issue. There needs to be a charter these wise people can base their work on. The government says that “There is no need for a decision from the Assembly, no need for a commission, the wise people are sufficient”. We don’t think that way. This is the government’s job. We do of course have our views on the selection of “wise men”. But I don’t want to give any names right now before any decisions are taken. This commission needs to be composed of people that can instil trust in the process. They need to be recognised, well-known people – writers, artists, journalists, NGOs – trusted people of integrity who can independently represent the will of the people. They need to be empowered and strong-willed. But most importantly they need to be independent. While this commission cannot be formed using law, it will need to have a legal basis.
A LEGAL FRAMEWORK IS NEEDED FOR WITHDRAWALL
Q: The prime minister says that “the wise men will monitor the withdrawal process”. Is this something that can be done by the wise men?
Karayilan: A commission of wise men can monitor the continuity of the process. They can see if both sides are doing what they are responsible for. However, we are not at that stage yet. For withdrawal there is the need for a legal framework. Withdrawing from our bases is not easy, everyone needs to be convinced and for it to be carried out in a healthy fashion, the most persuasive force, our leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) must be genuinely involved. I’m not saying that this should be the first thing that should be done, but the conditions of his detainment need to be eased. Different groups need to be able to visit him and form a relationship. Without our leader’s intermediation it is not possible for us to convince all forces. As the administration we are all in agreement, but when we go further down there are many friends in the middle rank who are not fully convinced. In the last few years the guerrilla forces have become very motivated to carry out a defensive war. We are in a strong position in terms of fighting a war. Therefore, in such a position of strength it is not easy to take a decision on withdrawal. We have reached the position we are in as a result of our leadership’s strong influence and our belief in achieving peace. In 2013 we have the basis for developing a strong war. But our leadership’s strategic outlook is far more important.
We had in fact made a plan for two stages. First stage was based on conducting an extensive war. The second stage looked at preparations needed to take part in a democratic resolution process if the impasse created during earlier stages in the dialogue was overcome. We decided to go ahead with the second stage. This was not an easy decision. It is important for our people, the public and the Turkish government to know this. Our people say “Why did you trust the AKP government, you had the chance for success”. When we are conducting this process we are not doing it on the basis of trusting anyone, but because we believe it to be the right thing to do; there is the need for a democratic solution. We trust ourselves. We are ready both for war and peace. Our choice is peace, a democratic solution!
For the continuity of this process it needs to be developed by both sides. We are making preparations for withdrawal but the other side needs to make preparations too. To make this process easier our leadership’s detainment conditions will somehow need to be changed. If this happens then the first stage of this process will have been fulfilled.
Q: Exactly what are your views on improving Mr Öcalan’s detainment conditions?
Ronahi Serhat: It is not possible to conduct a process like this with limited means. He is the owner of the project. Thus, this announcement that has excited the public requires his discourse with the movement. This is his right. It needs to be like this by the nature of this process. Delegates visit on an ad-hoc basis, but the leadership does not have the opportunity to arrange discussions when he wants to. The leadership has called out to certain groups, women, NGOs to join the process. So how will these people join the discourse? The process needs to be carried out transparently. It can’t be continued with restrictions, threats or with the government’s existing procedures. A relaxed working environment needs to be created.
Karayilan: This opening can be done step-by-step. In the first stage the visits need to continue and then the frequency and procedures need to be developed. The whole point of this is to open the route to peace.
Q: What are your thoughts on the international forces?
Karayilan: Europe played a determining role in the Kurdish Question becoming such a critical issue. Until now, the Kurdish people have faced major tragedies; but the west closed its ears to the genocides, tragedies, and the screams. Their interest was in the continuation of the conflict not in finding a solution. We are saying enough! Listen to your conscience! The continuation of the conflict benefits them, but this must come to an end. Their representatives made a statement following the one made by our leader Apo. Before everything else, it is important that they are not creating difficulties. The Kurdish Question has become an international issue. If they contribute to its resolution then it will be easier to find a solution. But they can create obstacles as attempted by the Paris murders. Those responsible for the murders need to be identified. This is an attempt to block the process. The European side needs to support its resolution rather than prevent it. Our call to the EU and the USA is this: support the process, don’t be a barrier. They can start different initiatives. They put our movement in the ‘terror list’ during a ceasefire. This was not done when the war was escalating but at a time when we hadn’t fired a bullet. Removing the PKK from this list will make a major contribution to finding a solution.
Q: The importance of the government in Southern Kurdistan is increasing. What are your thoughts on this?
Karayilan: We are not seeing this process as a process exclusive to the North. This concerns all the Kurds and consequently we have been in communication with many forces. We wanted to hear their thoughts. We have contacted the parties that are outside of our organisation. Those we couldn’t reach, we sent our message. We want to hear the views of intellectuals and artists. We are relying on a national framework. On this occasion, there have been messages of support. We are serious about continuing the process and we don’t want it to be undone or hampered. If the other side also approaches it with the same determination, then the question will be solved.
Q: How is this process going to proceed?
Karayilan: In fact, we have discussed the first stage. The resolution process consists of three stages. After the withdrawal, the second stage will commence. What steps the Government and the state needs to take? A new constitution that will also cover the solution is needed. We perceive the solution to the question in extensive democratisation: a system that recognises all identities, allow for their representation and coexistence. We need a new constitutional framework that allows the Kurdish community to express themselves, for Kurds to exist with their own language and culture and have a say in their own governance.
In particular, corrections must be made on three main points: firstly, citizenship needs to be redefined. It needs to embrace different identities and cultures; not based on an ethnic definition but it needs to be able to cover everyone. Secondly, there needs to be the acceptance of all identities. The right conditions need to be created to allow for people of all identities to express themselves. Thirdly, the nation of Turkey needs to be defined. It needs to be re-stated of whom it is comprised. This will generate important information. Doing this is actually the second stage.
The third stage is the stage of normalisation; to ‘clear the way’ in the road to a solution. They say ‘engage in politics’ but all the politicians are in prison. We cannot talk about a solution as long as the KCK (the Union of Kurdistan Communities) detainees remain in prison. Their release would be one step towards a process of normalisation.