In an interview with the Jerusalem Post – conducted by Hadeel Queis and Jonathan Spyer – Murat Karayılan, Executive Committee member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), spoke about the nature of US-PKK relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s adoption of a neo-Ottoman approach, the significance of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, prospects of a ceasefire with Turkey and the situation in Syria.
Regarding the nature of US-PKK relations, Karayılan stated that the PKK does “not have enmity toward any party, including the US, and we have never targeted the US. America does not deny the human rights of Kurds, but it also doesn’t have a clear policy that acknowledges the Kurds as a nation”.
However, he noted that, “up until now, America has not engaged with us. I think that America has been fed misleading and fraudulent information about us. The only solution is for America to engage with us, lay out a clear policy toward the Kurds and contribute to solving the Kurdish issue. Listing me and my colleagues on the terrorist list was only a calculated manoeuver from US politicians to appease the Turkish state”.
Abdullah Öcalan’s significance
Karayılan also spoke about Abdullah Öcalan’s significance: “Öcalan was trying to solve the Kurdish issue with diplomacy but that failed with his arrest. If Öcalan was not arrested, the Kurdish issue could have been solved. Despite all of that, we insist on solving our issues with peaceful methods. Öcalan revised many of our party ideas while imprisoned. He has emphasized democracy, environmentalism and women’s rights. We are always ready for a political solution”.
Karayılan: Delist the PKK. The US can play a role in mediation
Karayılan emphasized the need to decriminalise the PKK: “We call on the US to delist us from the terrorist list. The PKK had a major role in stopping ISIS from expanding in the region, and we hope that the US will change their views toward our movement. Such a diplomatic approach would benefit the US and its allies in the region”.
Karayılan agreed that the US can play a mediating role to realise a political solution but “without acknowledging the Kurds in Turkey and without freeing all political prisoners, including Abdullah Öcalan, we cannot disarm”.
AKP follows the doctrine of the CUP
Concerning the current policies of the Turkish state, Karayılan observed that “the Justice and Development Party (AKP) follows the doctrine of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP)” which had led it to “commit genocide against the Armenians, Greeks, Syriacs, Assyrians and all the Christians. Erdogan is now in a coalition with the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that is anti-American, anti-Western and anti-secular.
“They are both working toward Islamization of Turkey by adopting a neo-Ottoman approach, which is a real threat against the Kurdish, Greek, Syriac and Assyrian peoples. Look at how they intervened in Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Armenia and in southern Kurdistan. Look at how they are relying on elements from al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic organizations. Look at how Erdogan reacted because we defended the Yazidis in Sinjar and encouraged the war against ISIS in all parts of Kurdistan”.
The situation in Iran and Syria
Karayılan stated that “Syria and Iran have the same programme and vision toward the Kurds. Turkey, Iran and Syria have always worked against us. The PJAK (Kurdistan Free Life Party) and many other Kurdish groups are active against the oppression by Iran”. Karayılan, however, emphasized that the PKK favours peace.
Regarding Syria, he observed that “the Kurds of Syria fought against al-Qaeda and ISIS and had a key role in defeating these organizations”. But “the Kurds of Syria and elsewhere were also hurt by seeing the US abandon them in Afrin, Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad. The ethnic cleansing carried out is unique in our time, with these crimes committed by a country that is a member of and supported by NATO”. The Kurds of Rojava still faces threats from Turkey, ISIS and Syria’s Assad regime, he noted.
Israel has the right to exist
Concerning Israel, Karayılan noted that “Israel has the right to exist and Jews to have their own independent state, and so do the Palestinians. This is why we agree with this peace treaty”.
Prospects of a ceasefire in Turkey
Since the period of Turgut Ozal, Karayılan noted that “we’ve declared nine ceasefire initiatives. All these initiatives have failed because of the Turkish state. In 2012, our leader Öcalan sent a letter to the Turkish politicians asking them to cease and to improve the dialogue, and Turkey agreed to that”. But it reneged on the agreement and has continued with its military campaign: “The Turkish state wants war. We want to sign an agreement to disarm ourselves. This will be difficult if the Turkish state continues its policy to eradicate us. We prefer dialogue to solve these issues”.