The detention of dozens of pro-Kurdish activists, actors, journalists and lawyers is part of the Turkish government’s “political genocide attacks”, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Executive Council member Murat Karayılan said in an interview.
The government “still insists on the 2014 Collapse Plan”, Karayılan said. “They wish to break the Kurdish people’s struggle in the legal and political arenas, their cultural depth, and their propaganda power.”
The arrests “show a targeting of those who would express society’s reflexes”, the top PKK official said. “As such, this is an attack to break the strength and influence of the people of Kurdistan.”
More people should step up to continue election efforts, he said. “Technology today allows every person to be a journalist. Anybody with a phone can be a reporter. Their absence must not be felt, patriotic and democratic efforts must be fortified.”
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and its far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) wish to face the elections under an atmosphere of tension, he continued. However, Karayılan said, conditions were not suitable to target northern Syria or PKK’s forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. “If they were strong enough they would have targeted Rojava or Medya Defence Zones, but it is understood that they are not, so they target groups who engage in civilian and legal politics and represent the Kurdish people to varying degrees.
“They want to have at least one concrete achievement before elections,” Karayılan said. “For example, they wanted to take Tal Rifat (Şehba) and Manbij from the Syrian Democratic Forces. They planned to do this together with Syria, to deal a blow. But the meeting did not go as they wished.”
While the government has “spent it all on the war”, the people can no longer afford most basic goods, Karayılan said. “That is why, whatever they do, they can no longer achieve a result.”
Another tactic by the AKP is to smear anybody affiliated with Kurdish movements as terrorists, Karayılan said. “They are pragmatic. They wished to maintain relations with us to exploit that, but when they saw (PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan) was adamant on Turkey’s democratisation and would not support a dictatorial system, they did a complete turn and shifted to a nationalist line. All their policies from then on were based on hostility against Kurds and democracy.”
There was “direct or indirect but constant” communication between the government and the PKK between 2005 and 2015, Karayılan said. According to the PKK official, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister at the time, agreed to mediation by an international entity and tasked the intelligence service of conducting the proceedings. “We accepted, because we truly wish to resolve the Kurdish issue via dialogue,” he said. “So we assessed the offer and cleared a path to dialogue for a democratic solution.”
Delegations from both sides met in Belgium after a long period of correspondence, Karayılan said. The process led to the Oslo Talks, where an official Turkish delegation met with a PKK committee between September 2008 and April 2011. PKK’s jailed founding leader Abdullah Öcalan was given summaries of these meetings.
In spring 2011, the meetings resulted in an agreement, Karayılan said. “The agreement was sent to the AKP government by the Turkish delegation, but they “did not respond and left things vague”.
“Afterwards, AKP officials started speaking of the Tamil tactic Sri Lanka used, and kickstarted the war,” he said.
Before a public peace process began in 2013, the AKP offered to meet directly with the PKK, according to Karayılan. “But they wanted to exclude Öcalan … So we told them İmralı was closer than Qandil, and rejected the offer.”
“What is important to see here is that the AKP sought its own interests, not to resolve one of the most fundamental issues in Turkey. (Öcalan) strived sincerely for a solution, as did we, but the AKP did not,” he said.
“Kurds are a reality in Turkey. The Kurdish issue exists. PKK is a force that came about to resolve this issue. Of course the most reasonable forces to discuss a solution to the fundamental Kurdish issue are PKK and its leader, comrade Abdullah Öcalan,” Karayılan said. “What is so strange about talks to resolve the problem? The AKP is criminalising talks, but they started this process! It is shameless to accuse others of doing the same, when nobody actually has.”
There are close to 10,000 Kurds behind bars, Karayılan said. “How many of them are from an armed organisation? How many were captured while fighting? Not even a hundred. All of the rest are activists, those working on cultural activities, those who were punished for being Kurdish and upholding their identity.”