Interview Mohammed Ameen Penjweni : Peace Process Will End If Turkey Reneges on PKK Promises


by RUDAW 2/8/2013 – Mohammed Ameen Penjweni, a close friend and confidante of Abdullah Ocalan, says that the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has welcomed the idea of gathering all Kurdish political parties for a Kurdish National Conference in Erbil this month.

Today, when Ocalan sends messages from his prison cell, he often includes a greeting for Penjweni, and on occasion has asked his colleagues to consult with him on some issues. In this interview with Rudaw, Penjweni accuses Turkey of not keeping its promises to Ocalan over the ongoing peace process, and warns that, “If the Turkish promises are not fulfilled in the current year, the peace process will end.”  Here is his interview:

Rudaw: Holding a Kurdish National Conference is being seriously discussed again. Will it really take place this time?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: Let me start by explaining how the idea of the conference came to be. In 1980, the Palestinian liberation movement was made to leave the Beqaa plain. The first thing they did after this was to form the Palestinian National Council in Tunisia.  This incident left an impact on Abdullah Ocalan. Since then, Ocalan has advocated for a national conference. He would discuss the idea with anyone he would meet.

Later the idea was seriously discussed between the PKK and KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party). In 1983, when Idris Barzani visited Ocalan in Damascus, both parties signed a nine-point agreement. One of the points of the agreement was holding a national conference. However, the conference was not held back then.

  Since then, Ocalan has advocated for a national conference. He would discuss the idea with anyone he would meet. 

Rudaw: How did the parties agree to have the conference in Erbil?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: In fact, initially there was an idea to hold the conference in Halabja, in order to prevent any party from claiming the ownership of the conference. However, the Halabja idea did not materialize, so it is going to be done in Erbil. The Kurdistan political leadership is in Erbil and it is better for the conference to be held in Erbil.

Rudaw: Why has this time been chosen for the conference, and which party is pushing for it?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: This time PKK brought the subject to a serious discussion. I can say PKK brought the subject into life. PKK was the motor for this conference. South (Iraqi) Kurdistan parties liked the idea and supported it. Even a while ago, a delegation from Qandil came here and discussed the subject with all the Kurdistan political parties.

Rudaw: Now that Talabani is hospitalized and Ocalan is in prison, (Massoud) Barzani is left alone. Do you think without Talabani and Ocalan, Barzani can successfully hold the conference?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: As far as I know, Talabani is aware of the conference and has agreed to it. Ocalan has also sent a letter and thanked the organizers. He asked that Barzani oversee the conference. As I said, Ocalan has congratulated Barzani for overseeing the conference.

Rudaw: Saadi Ahmed Pira, a PUK politburo member in a prior interview told Rudaw that Turkey, Iran, and Syria have been notified about the conference. Was it necessary to inform these countries?

  I can say PKK brought the subject into life. 

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: In fact, it was not necessary to inform Turkey, Iran, and Syria. However, some of the parties want to take their relations with these countries into consideration. But will these countries consult with the Kurds, if they wanted to something similar?! This is an internal affair and did not need to be discussed with them. We all know that there are Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, American, and other countries’ secret services operating in Kurdistan. They take note of every possible thing that happens in Kurdistan. Therefore, I believe asking for permission from these countries was self-degrading.

Rudaw: Some people fear that the conference will not be successful, that it will instead be counterproductive and might unite neighboring countries against the Kurds. What do you think?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: The rivalries between the Kurdistan occupants are so strong that they will not be able to unite against the Kurds. Now Turkey is supporting the Sunnis, Iran supports the Shiites. These two sects are now confronting each other. Also, there are deep economic problems. In my belief, these countries are such rivals that it is impossible for them to group against the Kurds.

Rudaw: How is it that you are very close to Ocalan and the PKK, and yet not a member of the organization?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: In the beginning of the 1990s, I left the Kurdistan region for Syria to escape assassination. There were attempts to kill me because I was close to PKK.

  The rivalries between the Kurdistan occupants are so strong that they will not be able to unite against the Kurds. 

Rudaw: Who wanted to kill you?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: I do not want to mention any names, but I was informed that my name was listed for assassination. So I had to leave to Syria. In Syria I met with Mr. Ocalan. Back then, a few other people were killed in Badinan because they were close to Ocalan. When I was in Syria, I spent most of my time with Ocalan. He talked about many things. He even talked about Nechirvan Barzani. He said Barzani had visited him and he believed Barzani was a capable youth. He hoped that Nechirvan Barzani will play an important role in the future. Back then the fight between Turkey and PKK was at its peak. In 1992, Talabani, Mulazim Omer, and Kamal Burkay came to Ocalan and asked him to stop the fight with Turkey. But Ocalan refused and said that the Turkish state’s policy against Kurds is based on denial of the Kurds. Therefore, we have to make them acquiesce with the power of weapons.

Rudaw: PKK recently held its nine convention. A new leadership was elected. In the convention Cemil Bayik replaced Murat Karayilan. What do you make of this change?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: Karayilan was elected the head of the PKK in the first PKK convention which was held in 2002-2003. In the second convention Ocalan congratulated the participants and asked them to allow the young generation to come forward. He told the convention to elect whoever they see fit for the position, but he also said that he believes Karayilan is a good candidate. He supported Karayilan in a way. Karayilan was re-elected. However, according to the PKK rules and regulations a leader can be elected only for two terms. But Karayilan was re-elected in the third convention. Cemil Bayik supported Karayilan’s third term. According to the PKK regulation Karayilan was not supposed to run the party for the third time.

  According to the PKK regulation Karayilan was not supposed to run the party for the third time.  

In the last convention Cemil Bayik became the leader and he deserves the post. Even when Karayilan was the leader he would not make his decision without consulting Bayik.

Rudaw: Some say after the election of Bayik the peace process in Turkey might fail, since Bayik is a strict leader?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni: Bayik is a very serious leader. He will not subvert the peace process. However, Turkey may. That is because Turkey has not kept its promises that it has given to Ocalan. I would like to say that since I am close to Ocalan, I believe if the Turkish promises are not fulfilled in the current year, the peace process will end.

Rudaw: There are now talks about freeing Ocalan. Do you think he will be freed?

Mohammed Ameen Penjweni:  A law to release ill prisoners has been suggested in the Turkish parliament. If this law is passed, Ocalan may be released too. However, I think something like that will be difficult.