The PKK’s Murat Karayilan: Our Peace Process is not Against any Other Country

by RUDAW  – 1.6.2013 – By Farman Chomani – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Murat Karayilan, the top military commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party says that the PKK is still waiting for Ankara to reciprocate, following the PKK’s decisions to move fighters out of Turkey and into mountain bases of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

He agrees that the PKK should have informed Baghdad about the withdrawal, and says that the fighters will stay in their mountain base, without venturing into the cities. He vows that, unlike leaders of the Kurdistan Region who he says have changed since giving up their armed struggle and assuming leadership, PKK leaders will remain true, even after leaving the mountains to return to civilization. Here is his full interview with Rudaw:

Rudaw: Do you have plans to settle the guerrillas of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the cities of Kurdistan Region?

Murat Karayilan: The withdrawal of PKK is not a long-term decision. The process is implemented step by step. After our withdrawal the Turkish state must take steps and make changes in the constitution to eliminate denial to the existence of Kurds and give the Kurdish nation their rights and freedoms. The guerillas will not enter the cities of the Kurdistan Region; they will be busy doing their work until a settlement is reached.

Rudaw: Has Turkey taken any steps after your withdrawal?

Murat Karayilan: What did Turkey do? It stopped military operations and the peace process between the two sides is going on without hindrance. But there are a few things that Turkey needs to do, for example preparing the conditions to clear the roads from mines. Also, there are many Kurdish political prisoners in the Turkish prisons. Those prisoners have not carried weapons and their only crime was being Kurds and defending their identities. These politicians need to be freed, and changes need to be made in the anti-terrorism laws. Also, the law of 10 percent threshold to enter the parliament needs to be lowered, since it prohibits the Kurdish parties from participating in the political process. Turkey has not done any of these, and it has not declared its policies on these issues. We have fulfilled our duty by withdrawing, and the withdrawal of the guerillas will continue. Most of the guerillas shall withdraw. Now it is Turkey’s turn to take steps. We have fulfilled our duty by withdrawing, and the withdrawal of the guerillas will continue. Most of the guerillas shall withdraw. Now it is Turkey’s turn to take steps. 

Rudaw: What are your plans in the Kurdistan Region?

Murat Karayilan: The Kurdistan Region (south Kurdistan) like other parts of Kurdistan has its own problems. In the south there is the problem of Kirkuk, which I hope would be resolved peacefully. South Kurdistan has more chances to progress as an independent country. We are neutral in our policies toward the political parties of south Kurdistan. We support all of them and we think they should keep their unity. During our stay in south Kurdistan we will have a role in the stability of this region.

Rudaw: How is the attitude of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) toward the peace process in north (Turkish) Kurdistan?

Murat Karayilan: The policies of KRG toward PKK and our leader Abdulla Ocalan are good. Everyone has signed a petition to free Ocalan. The prime minister of KRG has signed it and is working on this issue. I hope he will maintain his assistance.

Rudaw: the Iraqi government contested the withdrawal of PKK guerillas to Qandil Mountain. What do you say about that?

Murat Karayilan: There were some shortcomings from our side. We should have informed all sides about our intentions. They misunderstood our movement and thought we were taking our forces to Kirkuk to fight against them. This is not true and not appropriate. The peace process in north Kurdistan is not against any other country. Our policy in the Middle East is a peaceful one. Brotherhood and democracy of nations are of primary importance for the Kurdish nation and we will not meddle in the issues of other nations.

We hope the government of Baghdad will understand it in this way and be supportive of the peace process. We are not an enemy of Baghdad and we hope the issues between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad will be solved peacefully. They have misunderstood our move, but we would like to tell everyone that our withdrawing forces are not against any group or any other country; we only withdrew to support the peace process. We have been in this region for 30 years and our existence will not affect Iraq or the government in Baghdad. Our only effect will be toward peace and brotherhood. I hope they will understand this.

Rudaw: It is said that you will move your guerillas to west Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan). What is your comment?

Murat Karayilan: We do not need to move our guerillas there, because they have self-protection forces. Our ties and cooperation with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) are old, but we do not differentiate among the Kurdish political parties of west Kurdistan. It is true that PYD is using the leader Ocalan’s ideology in its struggle, but this does not mean that they are PKK.  The ideology of our leader Ocalan is a path and philosophy. We have assisted the PYD when they have problems with the other parties in order to resolve the issues among them peacefully. We do not side with the PYD against the other parties. We want unity among the Kurdish parties in west Kurdistan. We want all of them to share power when there is an authority. The other political parties say that the PYD is marginalizing them, while the PYD says it is not true and that the other parties do not want to join in power with them.

Rudaw: Clashes erupted between the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) and the Iranian regime. What can you say about that?

Murat Karayilan: PJAK and the Iranian government declared a ceasefire on 05/09/2011, and we believe this ceasefire should continue. There should not be a conflict in east (Iranian) Kurdistan at this stage.

Rudaw: Do the United States and the European Union want to remove PKK from their terror list? What are their conditions for doing so?

Murat Karayilan: They have officially stated their support and we hope their words will be followed by action. For example, the leader of PKK is holding talks with the Turkish state. The PKK held talks with Turkey for three years in Oslo. They all know that the Kurdish issue in north Kurdistan is a national one. Turkey denied the existence of the Kurds in Turkey. Turkey has carried out terrorist acts in north Kurdistan. The West must consider this as well, and change their policies toward the Kurds in north Kurdistan. Three Kurdish leaders were assassinated in Paris, and they still have not said anything about that. We are suspicious of Europe.

Rudaw: As a leader of the PKK, what will you do after the peace process prevails?

Murat Karayilan: I will continue my struggle to serve my nation. I will serve wherever my help is needed in Kurdistan. My life is dedicated for the Kurdish nation and it will remain in this way.

Rudaw: The people of the Kurdistan Region criticize their leaders because they are now different from when they were in the mountains. Will you change in the same way after the success of the peace process?

Murat Karayilan: God willing, we will not be like the leaders of south Kurdistan. Our characters will not change after we move to the cities. Now we are not thinking very much about how we will become, because we are still in the first stage and we have a long path ahead of us. We are mostly thinking about the peace process.