Medya News Exclusive
Cemil Bayık, the Co-President of the Executive Council of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), shared his perspectives on ‘genocide’ and the current political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Turkey.
How do you evaluate the Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan to meet Iraqi and Kurdish officials (including Kurdistan Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani) just days after Joe Biden’s inauguration as President of the United States of America?
Yes, the Minister of Defence, also with the former Chief of General Staff, held such a visit and meeting with a delegation of the Chief of Staff and a committee from Turkey’s National Intelligence Service (MIT). There are reasons behind why such a visit was planned in such a period and why the meetings were of a military purpose. When you look at the delegation, you can see that the whole visit was over military reasons. The statements issued in the aftermath of their visits revealed that the true agenda of the visit was the annihilation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK): that is, there was only one reason why they met with central government of Iraq and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officials. That was the annihilation of the Kurdish Freedom Movement and how they could actually achieve this goal.
Do you relate the true agenda of these meetings to a strategic approach of Turkey that is historically rooted in the founding characteristics of the Turkish state?
When the Republic of Turkey was established nearly one hundred years ago, it was not established in accordance with the historical and cultural fabric of Anatolia, which the republic reigns over. The Anatolian region with its wide ranging nature of ethnic groups living in it, its communities, wide-ranging cultures and people with many different beliefs and languages lived before in harmony. It was a region brimming with diversity. Any system built upon this region was supposed to be built in accordance with this cultural wealth, recognising this incredible and vibrant diversity. Unfortunately, the founders of the Republic of Turkey established it, based upon a monopolist nation state system which took the ‘Turkish-Sunni’ identity as its central defining point which it imposed on the whole republic.
Within this context, they almost completely destroyed the Armenians, Rums [a term that is used mainly to refer to the Greek Orthodox Christians of Turkey] and Assyrians so that they could exclude the Christian peoples from the Anatolian region. Circassians, Arabs and the Laz [an ethnic group that has its origins in the eastern Black Sea coast of southwestern Georgia] who are Muslims were treated in such a way that none of them could demand anything for themselves and they were eventually ‘blended’ into the ‘Turkish’ identity.
They ejected the Yazidi Kurds from Kurdistan and ‘blended’ the remaining peoples and ethnicities within the ‘Turkish’ identity. So, in this context, all diversities other than Kurds and Alevis were expatriated, forced to flee or subjected to genocide. It was only Kurds and Alevis that constituted any obstacle against the monopolist nation state based on the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis [which evolved as state policy in Turkey, especially after the military coup in 1980].
There is a ‘one and only one’ policy that defines the approach of the Republic of Turkey to Kurds and Alevis. It can best be described using two words, ‘assimilation’ and ‘genocide’. The only policy applied in all spheres of life and maintained for nearly a century in Turkey has been this policy of denial and destruction. However, the resistance of the Kurds and the Alevis has never stopped in the face of these genocidal attacks.
How do you evaluate the resistance of Kurds within and outside the borders of Turkey?
Kurds, indeed, have engaged in an uninterrupted existential struggle throughout the four parts of Kurdistan since their homeland was divided into four territories by the nation states of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. It took some time for the many Kurdish entities in southern Kurdistan to come together and form today’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. The Rojava revolution was achieved at the end of the process in Syria that is called the ‘Arab Spring’. Even though not recognized officially, this has become a revolution, which has been embraced by and influenced the peoples of the world. The actual discussion now relates to the ‘status’ of Rojava within Syria. Rojhılatê Kurdistan (Eastern Kurdistan, which refers to those parts of northwestern Iran with a sizable population of Kurds) is also a place where the struggle for the existence and freedom of the Kurdish people continues.
Coming to the struggle within the borders of Turkey, that is, Northern Kurdistan [also referred to as Bakurê Kürdistan, the Kurdish-majority southeastern part of Turkey], Kurds have been engaged in almost a century long struggle for existence and freedom and this struggle has been led by the PKK continuously for over 40 years. Even though the Republic of Turkey [hereinafter referred to as TC – Cemil Bayık’s preferred term for it] – which was founded and also drew upon the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis and adopted the destruction of the Kurdish identity within the Turkish identity as part of its ‘one and one only’ policy – has achieved some aspects of this goal in Bakurê Kürdistan, it by no means has attained this end-goal.
In addition to this, the TC has always feared any ‘development’ that favours the interests of the Kurds in the other parts of Kurdistan. This fear has been so pronounced that [President] Erdoğan defined the support and the status given to the PKK by the other political parties in Southern Kurdistan as “the biggest mistake which shall never be repeated”. He always evaluated these ‘developments’ in the other parts of Kurdistan as an ‘example’ for the Bakur (North) and deemed this as a danger to his power.
What is your assessment of the current approach of Turkey regarding its national borders and Turkey’s attempts to take control in the regions across its borders?
Since all parts of Kurdistan except for Eastern Kurdistan (under the rule of Iran) were ruled by the Ottomans until the First World War, the TC has never viewed treaties that excludes these territories from its borders as legitimate. It has always viewed these lands, I mean all parts of Kurdistan other than Eastern Kurdistan, as part of its Misak-ı Millî borders, that is, as part of the national borders of the TC. Therefore, it claims its rights at every opportunity to the other parts of Kurdistan which lie within the current borders of Syria and Iraq.
If we evaluate the current approach of Turkey in this context, we can say that it will attempt to invade all of Kurdistan, other than Eastern Kurdistan, using the excuse of ‘national security’. It will turn the conditions of today’s World War III into an opportunity for itself, because it already feels ‘threatened’ by ‘developments’ in those parts of Kurdistan other than Bakur (the North) and because it views these lands as within its national borders.
The invasion of Afrin, Serêkanî (Ras el-Ayn) and Girêsipî (Tell Abyad) and the threat of invasion of Rojava have been planned accordingly, just like the plans of invasion of various lands including Shengal (Sinjar), Maxmur (Makhmour), Mosul and Kirkuk. This approach is reflected in the strategic outlook and purpose of the last visit by Turkey’s Defence Minister and the TC does not conceal its plans regarding Southern Kurdistan.
What is the strategic and conceptual framework that brings the Turkish power elites together as an alliance despite many internal conflicts of interest?
The Justice and Development Party (AKP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP, an ultra-nationalist party) and Ergenekon alliance [Ergenekon refers to a secret ultra-nationalist organization allegedly formed within the Turkish military] is rooted in the concept of the genocide of Kurds. Only with such a policy and strategic and conceptual framework can it seek to destroy the PKK. The PKK, for its part, is viewed as the obstacle which frustrates the alliance’s policies of denial and destruction of Kurds and its plans to invade Southern Kurdistan and take as much territory as it can. The alliance displays a visible goal even as it pursues many invisible goals and objectives.
If we come to the ‘timing issue’ raised by your first question, the nation state of the TC is ruled by an alliance of the AKP-MHP and the Euroasianists. The realisation of a Kurdish genocide is the only goal that brings these three power elites together. There is no greater factor than this in uniting these three power elites and it is this common theme and goal that maintains the alliance. Moreover, even the system of presidency [in Turkey] was agreed upon in order to achieve and facilitate the Kurdish genocidal process using a single centre that could act in a systematic, unified manner.
However, since they could not effect this Kurdish genocide in the time-frame initially envisaged, with each passing day beyond that time-frame, it has become increasingly difficult for the three parties to maintain this alliance. This alliance has been exposed nationally and internationally for attempting to perpetrate the Kurdish genocide before each party in this alliance goes on its own separate way. It is in this context that this alliance has a problem with ‘timing’ and ‘timing’ has become a strategically significant issue for the parties involved.
Significantly, recent developments in the international arena have made it especially difficult for this fascist alliance to continue working and operating. The alliance of the AKP-MHP-Ergenekon has a ‘compliance’ problem with regard to the foreign policies it promotes. The current government has:
a) Been the supporting power of radical jihadists which are now held to constitute a serious threat to the West,
b) Bought the S-400 missile defense systems from Russia and
c) Recultivated a standpoint that differentiates itself from the ‘West’ with regard to the Mediterranean.
Such factors have become primary sources of disagreement between the Turkish state and the ‘West’. ‘The Western world’, led by the US and the European Union, now states that Turkey ‘lacks liberal democracy’, which is stated to be ‘very significant’. The ‘West’ now considers Turkey neither as ‘democratic’ nor ‘liberal’: it is stated to be an ‘autocracy’, a ‘softened term’ that refers to a genocidal, fascist regime.
What is your assessment of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hint of a looming operation in the region when he said: “We can come suddenly one night”?
Erdoğan is the spokesperson of the AKP-MHP fascist alliance and its practitioner. That alliance says this [i.e., “We could arrive suddenly one night”] via Erdoğan at a particular time. There have already been some occupations they have made in this context. They have made a decision to deepen their occupation in Southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan), including the guerrilla areas, and maintain this due to the reasons already highlighted. In this context, Erdoğan says nothing new, apart from the decision to geographically expand the area under occupation.
The visit [of the Turkish Defence Minister and MIT representatives] is already aimed at highlighting their decision to the relevant officials in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and if possible, to include them in their plan. However, it appears that Iraq has not exactly engaged in Turkey’s plan despite the intense pressure placed upon it but, at the same time, it has also not developed an attitude to prevent it.
However, it has been observed that the KDP, in reinforcing its role in the current removal plan and taking on high profile tasks, has attempted to legitimise the Turkish state’s assaults. In that sense, considering Erdoğan’s discourse, it could be concluded that military operations may be carried out against Rojava (North East Syria) and Iraqi Kurdistan and such a strategy is not new as well.
It has already occupied a certain part of North East Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan which it considers as its own lands. The aspect which is new is not the decision that has been taken, but the nature of expanding the occupation area via new operations. Accordingly, it is not hard to foresee that a quite significant war may occur between us, the Turkish state and the KDP, which is cooperating with Turkey.
What is your assessment of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s statement that ‘a common roadmap’ has been agreed with the EU?
In fact, it will be more correct to discuss it [‘the roadmap’] by including the United States (US) together with the EU. Turkey’s relations with the US and the EU, the forces ‘representing’ the West, are quite problematic from peoples’ point of view.
The aspect which encourages Turkey in its fascist-genocidal implementations is the attitude of the US and the EU. The US and the EU consider political, military and commercial interests first with Turkey, not human rights, democratic values, etc. That fact enables the AKP-MHP ruling alliance to preserve its genocidal stance against Kurdistan and its fascism in Turkey. However, universal human rights, democratic rights and freedoms should not and cannot be ignored in favour of any interests. Though the EU criticises Turkey for this issue occasionally, or even defines the current regime as “autocracy”, it does not take concrete steps to solve the current issue and to overcome the current situation.
A democratic stance requires one to be consistent. Certainly, it is important and a requirement that the EU is sensitive to democratic rights and freedoms in itself and reacts against anti-democratic implementations wherever they occur in the world. However, if it displays consistency with regard to its approach, it is expected to display the same sensitivity with regard to Kurdistan as well. Yet, it cannot even ensure that the insufficient decisions that have been made by the European Council, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) about the Kurds can and will be implemented. It does not even impose any sanctions on Turkey which does not abide by the decisions made by those bodies.
Moreover, when it comes to the rights and existence of the Kurds, they support Turkey even though Turkey, in fact, has been criticised over several issues in this matter. For that reason, meetings and statements by the Turkish Foreign Minister and the German Foreign Minister arouse suspicion and concerns amongst democratic parties, especially Kurdish people.
Something similar may be said with regard to the US stance. [US President] Donald Trump paved the way for Turkey’s genocidal occupation of North East Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, and openly supported the genocide in northern Kurdistan (eastern Turkey/Bakur). James Jeffrey even happily admitted this fact a short time ago. Though the attitude of the Joe Biden administration is not yet clear, he is expected to correct the image of the US that had been eroded by the previous Trump administration, with regard to sensitivity regarding human rights and freedoms and democratic rights and freedoms related concerns.
These are the states (i.e., the US and the member states that comprise the EU), moreover, that are the strongest states of the capitalist system. Accordingly, they consider their own interests, purely and simply. Unfortunately, their sensitivity to human rights becomes active only when it becomes related to the scope of their interests. That also makes them quite inconsistent in their actions. It is not possible to expect states to act ethically and fair in favour of peoples in that context and where domination forms the basis of politics in the world of states.
For that reason, the more important thing for peoples is the attitude of peoples living in Europe and America rather than the attitude of the states. Public opinion in those countries affects the attitudes and policies of states to a certain degree. Therefore, we mainly care about the support of public opinion and sensitivity. We know that the relations established with peoples are strategic relations and we act in accordance with that fact.
Certainly, our desire is for states to not support genocidal policies. However, states are states at the end of the day and it is unpredictable when and to whom and how they will market human rights, democratic rights and freedoms. Thus, dominating powers’ attitudes are dependent on these interests. However, peoples’ and democratic public opinion’s attitudes are not. Hence, we all witnessed the force of democratic public opinion during the Kobani resistance, the occupation of Afrin, Ras-al-Ayn (Serekaniye) and Tell Abyad (Gire Spi).
The AKP puts ‘changing the constitutional law and reform’ on the agenda to cover the war it waged against Kurds. The fascist-genocidal AKP-MHP-Eurasianist alliance has noticed the recent political changes that have taken place. It also realises that it cannot continue its policy anymore. However, it wants to wage war, to achieve the implementation of the genocide of Kurds by removing the Kurdish Freedom Movement and institutionalising the fascist regime in Turkey in an absolute sense.
It conducted the visits [in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Europe recently] for these reasons. To camouflage the war, they placed the ‘reform’, even ‘constitutional amendment’, on the agenda intensely. But there is no real ‘reform’ or a ‘new constitution’ that will be made by this fascist-genocidal mindset. There nothing but sorrow, tears and oppression that comes from this governance, which considers everyone except themselves as ‘terrorists’ or ‘the enemy’ that needs to be ‘removed’. Through such division, there is intense marginalisation in society.
For this reason, yes, nothing has changed, but there should be change. Fascist rule has become a serious danger for not only Kurdistan and Turkey, but also the whole world. This fascist and genocidal governance should end. If anything will be done for Turkey and Kurdistan, the removal of this governance should be made possible by not supporting its genocidal designs and plans. Democracy in Turkey and the struggle for survival should be supported and the required solidarity should be provided to enable the removal of this rule.