Is KCK preparing for war or peace? /Who is Cemil Bayik?

14 July 2013 /AZİZ İSTEGÜN, DİYARBAKIR – The settlement process, which is raising hopes that Turkey will finally get rid of terrorism, has brought about interesting developments.

Amid the discussions on whether the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants withdrew from Turkish soil and demands for additional steps from the governments, a surprising development took place. The administration of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), which the prosecutors in Turkey define as a shadow state, has changed. Cemil Bayık, known for his close ties with Iran, has replaced Murat Karayılan. But what does this change mean?

The title of the structure headed by Abdullah Öcalan, who is in jail on Imralı Island, is Koma Ciwaken Kurdistan (Kurdistan Union of Communities — KCK). The ninth general assembly of Kongra-Gel, which serves as the legislative branch of this system, was held in northern Iraq. Upon Öcalan’s instruction, the administration and the figures were replaced. The chair occupied by Öcalan represents some sort of presidency. In the new structure, six deputies were appointed. The executive council, which represents the Prime Minister’s Office, was replaced by a system of co-presidency. Karayılan was removed from office and replaced by Bayık and Bese Hozat. Karayılan, Mustafa Karasu, Elif Pazarcık and Sozdar Awesta (Nuriye Kespir) were also appointed as four other members of the KCK General Presidency Council.

At the convention, a decision was taken to strengthen the armed wing of the KCK. In the ninth general assembly of Kongra-Gel, where an idea of war was prevalent despite the settlement process, delegates agreed on strengthening the armed forces and equipping them with training and technical support to respond to any kind of attack. At the convention, where it was stressed that democratic autonomy should be built, the Eastern Plan adopted in 1925 was referred as the national genocide document and Feb. 15, 1925, as the start of the Kurdish genocide. The delegates also agreed on the formation and promotion of academies, communes, cooperatives and assemblies that serve as the main legs of the KCK system in all areas of social life. The participants stressed that freedom will not be possible without building a communal economy.

Some commentators hold that the goal of Öcalan with these changes in the PKK administration is to push the government into a corner in the settlement process. Some, however, believe that Öcalan wants to accelerate the process. According to some analysts, Bayık is best known for his closeness to Iran; he has been the lead figure in the talks between the organization and Iran. The KCK, which wants to create an autonomous administration in Syria, will achieve this goal thanks to the personal ties of Bayık with Iran.

It should be noted that the entire change in the system has been made upon instruction by Öcalan. It is only normal that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), which is holding talks on Imralı, is aware of this development. The strongest message in this development is this: Öcalan rules the organization; other figures are not so important. By this move, Öcalan consolidated his power and proved his domination.

Those who know the organization stress that Öcalan does not allow the rise of any other person. Karayılan has served as the deputy of Öcalan for 14 years, and recently, he has become a media star. In addition, he attracted strong criticism from within the organization. Karayılan’s authority was undermined by developments since the Oslo process, relations with the intelligence organizations and the fiasco associated with the concept of “controlled areas,” which was declared in 2012. Second, the PKK’s withdrawal is pretty slow. This is disturbing Turkey. Third, a chopper carrying Turkish commanders was attacked in Yüksekova. This development, which proves that the process is subject to provocation, showed that some groups in the armed wing of the PKK are opposed to the settlement.

Those who closely follow the PKK expect changes in the European branch and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as well. It is noted that Öcalan is not pleased with the performance of the co-chairs of the BDP and their statements. It is also reported that Öcalan is uncomfortable with the BDP’s attitude to show itself as the sole interlocutor in the Kurdish issue. There are rumors suggesting that a new structure may be created with the participation of some other parties under the umbrella of an organization called the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK). Bayık, known as part of the hawkish wing of the PKK, has actually taken a huge risk now. Bayık will be held responsible in case of problems in the PKK side in the settlement process or if the process is interrupted. A second strategy is to issue a call via Bayık for terrorists to lay down their arms and get back to their homes and families. It is argued that Öcalan would make a call in a few days to ask former PKK members to return to the PKK. The main reason for the appointment of Hozat as co-chair is to send a message to the Alevi people. By this move, a message suggesting that they care about the Alevis is being delivered.

From Turkey’s perspective, there is not one single hint that the PKK would be disarmed. The organization, while praising the settlement process, is empowering its armed wing. The PKK grows with further recruitment and participation. It reconvenes its militants in Kandil where they are subject to intensive training. In fact, Öcalan is recreating the PKK.

Who is Cemil Bayık?

Cemil Bayık participated in the first meeting in Ankara where the foundations of the PKK were laid in 1974. He was one of the founders of the PKK, along with Duran Kalkan, Ali Haydar Kaytan, Rıza Altun and Mustafa Karasu. Born in Keban in 1955, Bayık became the number two figure in the PKK in 2003. With the division in the organization in 2004 into traditionalists and reformists, Bayık assumed the leadership of the traditionalist wing. It is argued that he is close to Iran and represents the hawkish wing of the organization.

“İlk Adım,” an undercover witness in the Ergenekon case, argued that former Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit head Gen. Levent Ersöz and Bayık met at the nearby Hezıl River in 2000 where they exchanged envelopes. It was also noted that a second talk was carried out over a walkie-talkie.

Nuriye Kespir and Bayık were next to Öcalan in the attack against Öcalan in Damascus on May 6, 1996. Kespir was previously arrested in the Netherlands, but she was not extradited to Turkey. Hozat, who was appointed as co-chair, was born in Tunceli. He joined the PKK 20 years ago. Elif Pazarcık was born in Kahramanmaraş; she has been in the PKK as a militant since 1991.