Exclusive Interview with KCK co-Chair Cemil Bayik:
“Turkey`s dirty war against the Kurds also besmirches all the political forces that have relations with it”
Kurdistan Report, January 28, 2022
Recently, we had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Cemil Bayik, the co-chair of the KCK (Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union). Here is what he had to say about Turkey`s attacks on South Kurdistan, the use of Turkish drones to target North and East Syria, the overall situation the PKK finds itself in after more than six years of heavy warfare, the policy of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and about what kind of developments he expects in the months to come:
What is Turkey doing in South Kurdistan [North Iraq]? Has the Turkish state increased its attacks against the PKK?
For 40 years, the guerrilla has been present in the strategic mountainous areas of South Kurdistan along the Turkish border, an area that we refer to as the Medya Defense Zones. Turkey wants to completely take possession of these areas in order to be able to impose military and political pressure on South Kurdistan and Iraq. In case of convenient circumstances, Turkey will use the local Turkmen population as a pretext and occupy all of South Kurdistan, similarly to what it did in Cyprus. Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly called the Treaty of Lausanne a failure. He has complained that Mosul and Kirkuk were left outside of the borders of the `National Pact` (Misak-ı Milli). Thus, Erdoğan has put forth his aim of occupying South Kurdistan. Currently, at least 20 Turkish military bases are located in South Kurdistan. Turkish forces are not only stationed in areas in proximity of the border but even in places very close to Mosul, e.g. in Başika. Iraq has demanded multiple times that Turkey withdraw its troops. But Turkey has insisted that its presence is the result of an agreement and that the KDP does not want Turkish forces to leave. Thus, it insists on upholding the presence of its troops in South Kurdistan. This actually means that Turkey has openly challenged Iraq by questioning that Baghdad has the power to ask for Turkish forces to leave.
For over six years now, the fascist AKP-MHP coalition has not only been attacking the PKK, but all democratic forces in Turkey, especially the Kurds. This coalition has united a fascist and a religious party. Nothing else but open hostility towards Kurds and democracy could have been expected from such a coalition. The attacks on the PKK constitute an attack on the Kurdish people. By Turkifying the Kurds, the Turkish state seeks to turn Kurdistan into a place for Turkish nation-building. Therefore, the attacks on the Kurdish people and the PKK are not just any attacks. Their aim is to commit a genocide against the Kurds. Consequently, the Turkish state considers the PKK as the biggest obstacle for achieving its goal of carrying out a genocide against the Kurds. It also attacks the democratic forces for the same reason. The Turkish state resists fiercely against the democratization of Turkey. The main reason for this resistance is that it fears for the Kurds to profit from a democratic political system.
Turkey has increased its attacks on the PKK. For the last six years, its primary goal has been the destruction of the PKK. It has stated repeatedly that it would bring an end to the PKK both within Turkey and beyond its borders. Turkey carries out these attacks because it fears that the Kurds organize themselves, grow stronger and consequently secure their gains. With these attacks it aims at preventing the Kurds from achieving a status which includes their Kurdish identity, culture, language, self-administration and self-defense.
KCK representatives have repeatedly said that the Turkish army has used chemical weapons in South Kurdistan. This would be something shocking and new for the international community. Why don’t you invite international observers and international medias to check your claims independently?
For the last two to three years, the Turkish state has been attacking the Medya Defense Zones with the support of the KDP. In the past, Turkey used to carry out military operations in South Kurdistan but withdraw eventually after a couple of weeks. Many of these attacks, e.g. the Zap operation in 2007, were rebuffed by the guerrilla. But today, the Turkish state seeks to take a permanent foothold in the areas it attacks. Apparently, the KDP assumes that this will help defeat the PKK and thus allow for the KDP to become the dominant force in Kurdistan. That is why the KDP supports the Turkish state, i.e. the enemy of the Kurds. Its relations with the KDP allow the Turkish state to justify its attacks. It stresses again and again that the KDP is not against this which it then uses as a justification for its constant attacks and the occupation of areas it has conquered militarily. Just one day before the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2021, the Turkish state started a comprehensive attack on all parts of the Medya Defens Zones which aims at occupying the area completely. Yet, although this attack has now been going on for nine months, the Turkish state has not been able to reach any results despite taking control of some mountain tops along the border. Its attacks have come to a deadlock. When it realized that these attacks would result in a quagmire, the Turkish state started to use chemical weapons. Until then its attacks had not yielded any results. But for many months over the course of 2021, it attacked the war tunnels of the guerrilla with chemical weapons. Many guerrilla fighters have fallen şehit as a result of these attacks. Due to these attacks with chemical weapons, the guerrilla has left some of the war tunnels while others have fallen under the control of the Turkish state. Although the KDP is well aware of the fact that the Turkish state is using chemical weapons, it does not take a stance against this. This is because the KDP is part of a coalition with the Turkish state.
The Central Command of the guerrilla has made dozens of official statements in which it has called on the international public, international organizations and the international press to come to the Medya Defense Zones. But neither the organizations tasked with working against the chemical weapons nor the press have shown any interest in the matter. They could very well reach the affected areas by passing through areas controlled by the KDP or the Turkish state. If the mentioned organizations, the media and the international public were acting sensitively, they would overcome the given obstacles and could very well reach the war tunnels in which chemical weapons have been used. But Turkey is a NATO member, the USA and the EU have listed the PKK as a terror organization and the KDP has good relations with the US and the EU. These forces don`t get active since they do not want to upset the Turkish state or the KDP.
In addition, the states and the organizations related to them are characterized by a weak moral and ethical attitude. There is no doubt that due to the efforts of many peoples a certain awareness for the issue has been raised. Yet, this awareness is being obstructed for political reasons. As soon as it comes to the struggle between the Kurds and the Turkish state, moral and ethical principles and international norms are ignored. The Turkish state is waging a dirty war against the Kurds. This also besmirches all the states, political forces and organizations that have relations with the Turkish state. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said that it was impossible in the Middle East to employ the moral principles and international norms that were abided by in other parts of the world. In the case of the Kurdish questions and Turkey`s attacks morals, principles and norms are being ignored. For this same reason, the Armenians didn`t receive help during the time of the Ottoman Empire and were eventually left to suffer a genocide.
We call on everybody to come to the Medya Defense Zones and research the use of chemical weapons in the area. The Kurdish people has repeatedly called on all international institutions to live up to their responsibilities concerning this issue. We are ready to provide all possible forms of help and assistance to those who decide to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Medya Defense Zones.
In Rojava, the Turkish army has been using a new tactic of deploying armed drones to assassinate YPG cadres. Is it the aim of these attacks to paralyze the YPG and PKK?
The Turkish state has used armed and unarmed drones both during and after its occupation attacks on Rojava. It uses these weapons not only against YPG fighters, but also against the civilian population and civilians who work for the self-administration. Hundreds of civilians and YPG members have been murdered as a result of attacks with armed drones. The Turkish state claims that the PKK, YPG and PYD are one and the same thing. Thus, it seeks to create the impression that it would not attack the YPG if it wasn`t for the PKK. Actually, a lot of forces act in line with this impression that the Turkish state is trying to create. This is a huge mistake. By doing so, one simply accepts that the PKK constitutes something wrong. The USA and Europe have listed the PKK as a terror organization for political reasons. Thus, they seek to please the Turkish state. Turkey uses the fact that the PKK is listed as a terror organization in order to cover up its hostility towards and attacks on the Kurds. Thus, the USA and EU have become complicit in this hostility and attacks against the Kurds.
The Turkish state does not attack Rojava only to associate the YPG with the PKK due to alleged relations between the two. In Rojava, the Kurds have organized themselves, waged a struggle, and established an autonomous, democratic system that includes their identity, culture and language. Because the Turkish state refuses to accept such a status for the Kurds, it carries out these attacks. It denies the existence of the Kurds and does not recognize any of their rights. The democratic system in Rojava serves as an example for the Kurds in Turkey. Because it has realized that this will make it impossible to continue the current genocidal system of denial, the Turkish state decides to attack. Even if the PKK did not exist, the Turkish state would still carry out these attacks. Representatives of the Turkish state have said repeatedly that in North Syria they would not repeat the mistake that they had done in North Iraq. Therefore, the reason for the attacks of the Turkish state on Rojava with armed drones or war planes is its hostility towards the Kurds. With these attacks it seeks to prevent the Kurds from achieving a status. Claiming that the Turkish state attacks in order to associate the YPG with the PKK only serves the impression that Turkey has deliberately created. Of course, the intention of your question was to remind us of the fact that the Turkish state is trying to create a pretext for its attacks. This is absolutely right. Yet, concluding that the Turkish state is hostile towards the Kurds and identifying this as the reason for its attacks will allow us to understand the actual situation much more clearly.
All in all, does this renewed and intensive war weaken the PKK?
The new war devices, technological means and weapons that the Turkish state has obtained have of course affected the character, style and doctrine of the war. Historically speaking, guerrilla forces have always adapted their tactics, technology and way of movement to the war technology of major powers. Today, this has brought about the need for even more deep-seated changes in methods and tactics. We have therefore developed a war doctrine and war tactics that nullify the use of drones. At first, our precautions against the use of the new war technology were not sufficient. We experienced certain problems while adapting to the new characteristics of the war. But today, we have made progress in this respect. We will therefore continue our struggle based on a new war doctrine that allows us to fight against the new means that the Turkish state is using in its war. In the past, hundreds of guerrilla fighters used to operate together. But today, this would only mean exposing them to attacks. Therefore, the guerrilla has changed its way of moving around. It has not only adopted new strategies and tactics but also has incorporated them in a multi-dimensional struggle to achieve the necessary results. If you compare these developments to the standards of the guerrilla warfare of the past, some might interpret this as a weakness. Therefore, it is important to take a holistic look at the ongoing struggle in order to be able to evaluate correctly whether the ideological and political influence of the PKK has increased or not. This will help us understand that the PKK has not lost any of its ideological or political influence. Quite the contrary is true: Its influence has actually increased. It is true that at the beginning, the guerrilla suffered some losses due to the new war technology of the Turkish state. Yet, as a response, it has developed a new way of warfare by operating in small teams. With the help of its `gather and disperse`-principle the guerrilla is able to continuously carry out powerful attacks. Today, the PKK is not only influential in Turkey, but in all parts of the Middle East. The fascist AKP-MHP government in Turkey is constantly speaking about the PKK and accusing people, inside and outside of Turkey, of supporting the PKK. This alone proves how great the PKK`s power and influence is today.
The KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government], Iraq, Russia, US and the EU countries have so far turned a blind eye on what is happening. Have you got any ally, any support?
The USA, Europe and Russia’s Middle East policies are predicated on the regional states. They don`t follow any principles such as law, justice or conscience. These states are constantly looking for relations that allow them to gain influence in the context of the political balance of the Middle East. Consequently, they take sides with tyrannic and genocidal states. This is why they deliberately ignore the attacks and crimes against humanity carried out by the Turkish state. For 100 years they have been pursuing this kind of policy. The Turkish state has been committing numerous massacres and pursuing a policy of genocide for the last 100 years. But all the above-mentioned states have remained silent. They only use the Kurdish questions from time to time as a tool to force Turkey to accept their demands. They do so, because they know that the struggle of the Kurds constitutes the biggest fear of the Turkish state. These states consider the Kurdish questions only as a means they can use to keep the Turkish state in line.
The peoples and the democratic forces of the world are our allies. Today, the democratic public and the peoples have the power to influence their governments. Thus, we try to influence the states and decrease the toll that their policy takes on us. By reminding them of their commitment to democracy, we seek to limit the support they provide to Turkey. We maintain diplomatic relations with various states. States predicate themselves on their own interests. Nevertheless, by using ways and means that put pressure on the states, we try to encourage them to openly voice their protest against Turkey whenever possible.
Yet, the democratic forces and the peoples all around the world, especially in the Middle East, constitute our most important allies. We can confidently say, that we have very important relations in this respect. Today, we are one of the revolutionary movements that receives the strongest support from the peoples and democratic forces from all parts of the world. The strong support for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan is a clear proof of this. Today, people refer to Abdullah Öcalan as the `Mandela of the Kurds`. In some respects he can be compared to Mandela and he actually receives even more support than Mandela did at the time. Many democratic forces, intellectuals, authors, trade unions and women`s movements have shown strong support for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan. He has made huge contributions to the women`s freedom struggle and the support of women from all over the world for him is increasing day by day. Women have been leading the list of allies that the PKK today has all over the world.
While the relations with our allies are strategic and based on common principles, Turkey is currently experiencing serious problems with its allied countries. The relations with our allies are growing stronger every day and we continue to strengthen the ideological and political foundations they are based on. At the same time, Turkey has serious ideological and political problems with its allies. They don`t consider Turkey to have the same position as it used to during the Cold War. As a movement we benefit from this.
Of course, the relations of Turkey with the USA, Europe, Russia and other countries and the political and military support they provide Turkey with put a certain degree of pressure on our struggle. Yet, we continue our struggle. Our struggle benefits from the attention of the global democratic forces, peoples, women, youth and workers and the discomfort of the Middle Eastern peoples and democratic forces with regards to Turkey. In contrast to the past, the struggle of the Kurdish people does no longer find itself in an isolated and encircled position.
Why is the KRG working so closely together with Turkey?
When referring to the Kurdistan Regional Government, it is better to associate it with KDP rule. It is important to note that the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] – as part of the government coalition – has taken a stance against certain policies of the KDP. The KDP has tried to use the Peshmerga forces for attacks against the PKK. But the PUK has refused to accept this. Therefore, the KDP ordered its own special forces to carry out attacks against the PKK.
The KDP considers the PKK as a rival. Because of the KDP`s hegemonic mentality, it seeks to weaken the PKK and thus become the most important force among the Kurds. For this reason it collaborates with the Turkish state, i.e. with the enemy of the Kurds that is waging a war against the PKK. The KDP doesn`t acknowledge this fact because of its short-sightedness. It is also possible that specific countries encourage the KDP to establish close ties with Turkey and make certain promises in this context.
Today, the KDP and Turkey have formed a coalition against the PKK. Such relations cannot be found anywhere else in the world: A Kurdish party supports another political force which is extremely hostile towards the Kurds and which seeks to carry out a genocide against them. When the Islamic State (IS) tried to enter Erbil, the PKK guerrillas rushed to the help of the city and prevented IS from taking control of it. As a response, KDP President Mesut Barzani visited the Maxmur refugee camp to thank the guerrilla commander who had blocked the IS attack on Erbil. This guerrilla commander later fell şehit in an air strike of the Turkish state. At the same time, Mesut Barzani complained about the lack of help by the Turkish state against the IS attacks. We bear absolutely no responsibility for the fact that the KDP has adopted this flawed policy. We have always wanted to maintain relations and a strong partnership with the KDP. Yet, due to its hegemonic attitude, the KDP feels discomfort because of the fact that the PKK has significantly increased its strength among the Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan and all over the world. This is what has led the KDP to form a coalition with Turkey. The Turkish state uses this Kurdish movement against the PKK. This allows the Turkish state to claim that it does not wage war against the Kurds, but only against the PKK.
What is the goal of Turkey? Is all this about internal politics and elections?
The primary goal of Turkey`s war against the Kurds and all democratic forces is to crush the struggle of the Kurdish people – which is led by the PKK – and to carry out a genocide against the Kurds. Turkey seeks to destroy the PKK. It thinks that if it succeeds to do so, it can easily crush all other Kurdish movements and annex the areas inhabited by the Kurds in its neighboring countries. The Turkish state also wants to use the Turkmen population in Iraq and the Azeris in Iran as a pretext to expand its state territory. What we have just described constitutes the national strategy of Turkey. A strategy that might not be talked about openly but which they keep safely stored in their office desks. This constitutes their medium and long term plan. When it comes to short term deliberations, this belligerent policy is used to try to keep the AKP-MHP government on its feet. The Turkish society reacts very sensitively to the claim that its home country is in danger. That is why the AKP-MHP government has accused not only the PKK, but many other forces of fighting against it and has therefore declared them its enemies. This also includes Europe and the USA. This is the kind of impression they are trying to create among Turkey`s society. And some people even believe this.
The AKP-MHP coalition would definitely loose a regular election. Therefore, the AKP-MHP government is in desperate need of a victory. It seeks to achieve this victory by waging war against the PKK and consequently taking control of certain important areas. There is no other chance for the AKP-MHP to win the election. We are well aware of this and are accordingly preparing ourselves for war. In Turkey, oppression and war have been turned into a means for staying in power. The current government is doing this more openly than any other fascist government has done in the past. The mentality of the current AKP-MHP coalition enables it to carry out all kinds of daring acts in order to remain in power.
How do you see the situation evolving in the coming weeks and months?
We definitely expect that the fascist AKP-MHP government will carry out new attacks in order to be able to stay on its feet. Although its has attacked Zap, Avaşin and Metina for the last nine months, it has not been able to yield its desired results. Therefore, the AKP-MHP government might very well start new wars at different fronts. Every single day, it threatens to attack Rojava. We therefore think that the Turkish state is keen to carry out new attacks. By convincing the USA, Russia and Europe to remain silent, Turkey wants to occupy certain additional areas. There have been reports that this issue was the main topic of the meetings Erdogan held with the Russian President Putin and also with US President Biden in the past months. Just like any other fascist government that can see its own end coming, the AKP-MHP coalition will increase its oppression both inside and outside of Turkey. In Turkey, the closing down of the HDP remains on the agenda. The leader of the `Iyi Parti`, Meral Akşener, has claimed that the HDP has relations with the PKK thus contradicting her earlier statements in which she had called the HDP a legitimate and legal party. The leader of the CHP had sent promising messages with respect to the Kurdish questions only to say the exact opposite later. We are still trying to understand what exactly led to these sudden changes of mind.