PKK policies in Syria – By Kamal Chomani

Rojava* is a test for the PKK: If they can do what the people want, this can invigorate their popularity in other parts in Kurdistan; if not, the opposite can happen. (12.9.2012 – Kurdistan Tribune)

“A Kurdish youth kissed my hands when he saw pictures of Murat Karayilan in my camera,” a photojournalist told me in Hawler last week. We’d last met, two years ago, with the PKK’s acting leader Murat Karayilan in the Qandil Mountains. The photojournalist had recently been to Kurdistan of Syria.  The next day, I went back to the Qandil Mountains and met several PKK politicians who were very much aware of the situation and latest developments in Syria.

Since Syria’s Revolution began, many journalists and analysts have discussed and often distorted the PKK’s stance and politics on Syria. And many people have been influenced by the Turkish media’s allegations. Some Kurdish journalists and even politicians in the Kurdistan region of Iraq have misunderstood the PKK’s Syrian policies.

A few months after the start of the Syrian revolution, in early August 2011, I asked Murat Karayilan about the PKK’s policies on Syria. I also criticized him about why the PKK didn’t have a clear stance towards Syria. Karayilan replied that the PKK could not defeat Assad’s regime because Assad was so strong from the outset. He also clearly stated that the PKK is against dictatorship but has never supported any Kurdish party in Syria entering any agreement without a one hundred percent guarantee of Kurdish democratic rights in a post-Assad era.

All Kurdish parties and Kurds in other parts of Kurdistan had similar politics except for the PYD, a party which is ideologically affiliated to the PKK. Meantime, other Kurdish parties joined the Syrian Opposition and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s ruling parties preferred this. Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani tried to weaken the PYD’s powerful position in Syria and do what Turkey wanted but, once he realized that this was hard to achieve, he tried not to lose influence and encouraged the different parties to sign up to the Erbil Agreement.

Now the PYD is the strongest party in Kurdistan of Syria, with the support of the mass of the people, and all of them see the PKK as their hero party.

“We have been killed by Turks, Arabs and Persians when they announced their independence and their republics. We should not be bitten from the same hole by the same snake,” a PKK politician told me a few days ago.

I do believe that so far the PKK has had best policies in Syria. Kurds should not be killed anymore. For once, they MUST prioritise their own interests above everything else. If Kurds can liberate their cities via peaceful demonstrations, what’s the logic behind those critics who want Kurds to go for a war that brings bloodshed to their cities, nothing more!

“In Syria, there were two kinds of policies: The first actors were the ones who were more created and supported by the foreign powers; and the second were the ones who had put Kurdish national interests above everything. The second people were from the PYD. The PKK analyzed all the parties’ policies, and so the PKK supported the PYD,” said another PKK politician.

Now the PKK wants Kurds to get their democratic rights in a united Syria as the PYD presses for democratic autonomy for the Kurdish region. They have organized all the fields of the society according to Ocalan’s ideology of Democratic Autonomy, in which every field will lead itself in an autonomous manner.

Certainly, the PKK doesn’t support Assad’s regime and it sees Assad as a dictator. PKK politicians said that “Assad is a dictator but if Assad doesn’t attack Kurds we will not go to war.” One of these politicians underscored: “If they attack our people, we will defend our people for sure. PYD and Kurds there waited till the Assad regime became weaker, then they started the liberation of Kurdish territories.”

Developments have been quick. No one was expecting the liberation of Kurdistan of Syria before the liberation of Kurdistan of Turkey.

There have been many allegations that the PKK and Iran have an agreement. The strange thing is that for all other parties it is fine to do politics according to their interests. But when the PKK does so, everyone criticizes them.

The PKK was in a difficult war on two fronts: Iran and Turkey. Both countries had agreed to defeat the PKK and some Turkish soldiers were seen fighting with Iran’s army because of their familiarity with the PKK’s strategies in war. It was therefore hard for the PKK to fight on two fronts. When Syria’s revolution started, Iran should have done its best to focus on Syria because the fall of Assad will mean a weakening of Iran’s power in the region. That’s why there was a ‘win-win’ agreement between Iran and the PKK. In brief, the PKK agreed not to fight against Iran and focused more on Turkey and Syria for the time being.

The ceasefire between Iran and the PKK has served PKK interests in the region. The PKK can focus on Syria and Turkey for now. PJAK, the Iranian wing of the PKK, has re-organized itself very well. If Assad falls, Iran’s turn is a possibility. Then Kurds there need an organized force inside Iran. For Kurdish parties in Iran it is important to organize their people and youth inside the country, rather than recruiting them to the mountains.

Apart from all we have discussed above, for Kurds the war in Syria is not only against Assad, it is also against Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish rights. The PKK’s strategies have so far almost defeated Turkey’s plots against Kurds in Syria.

PKK politicians clearly revealed that Kurds there will not fight offensively but they will not accept attacks by anyone either. Although they were not expecting a confrontation with Syria’s next regime, they were happy that Kurds there are very well organized and united – the two key elements to protect the achievements.

It is important for Kurds in Syria to pursue their own interests and defend what they have achieved so far. And unification is their best weapon: They should not lose it. The PYD, PKK’s closest ally, is the strongest party in Syria, and they have the right to implement their policies with the cooperation of the other parties. Rojava* is a test for the PKK: If they can do what the people want, this can invigorate their popularity in other parts in Kurdistan; if not, the opposite can happen.

* West Kurdistan