Veteran PKK Leader: Turkey Uses Armed Groups to Impose Its Agenda in Syrian Kurdistan

27/11/2012 RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Aldar Khalil, a member of the Kurdish Supreme Council, has been a well-known and active politician since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. Khalil, who joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 1990, is one of the founders of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

He also runs the Movement for Democratic Communities (TEVDEM), and also played a major role in resolving the issues between the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the National Assembly affiliated with PYD. Khalil sat down with Rudaw to discuss a range of issues related to Syrian Kurdistan.

Rudaw: What is happening in Syrian Kurdistan?

Aldar Khalil: Currently, some regional powers along with some Kurdish factions are trying to remove the Kurdish identity from the revolution. They believe that changing the current regime to another one is everything. They don’t care about the future of the Kurds after the revolution. Today, there are disagreements between two groups in Syrian Kurdistan, including one group who believes Kurdish rights must be secured after the revolution and one group where this is not a concern.     

Rudaw: Who are these two groups?

Aldar Khalil: One group is struggling to make sure the Kurds have a strong position in the new Syria while the other one is just fighting for power. The latter group believes that the new Syria should be dominated by one group. They are not for the rights of the Kurds within Syria.

There is also another conflict between the Syrian Kurds and Turkish government but this one is more beneath the surface. The Turkish government will do everything it can to make sure that the Kurds in Syria do not establish their own entity similar to the one that exists in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since its existence became reality, they are forced to recognize it. The Turkish are concerned that the revolution in Syria will bring a similar situation for the Kurds in Syria.

The Turkish government started interfering in the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Syrian opposition with the hope of stopping this from happening. They do everything they can to take the Kurds out of the picture. However, after a year and half of hard work towards this goal, they failed in their attempts.

Rudaw: Are you sure that the Turkish attempts have failed in Syria?

Aldar Khalil: So far, the Turkish agenda has failed in Syria. However, they have not yet stopped working towards this goal. In the beginning, the Turks tried to take the Kurds out of the picture through political diplomacy and media propaganda. But they failed to achieve their goal. Now, they are using a different approach and that is using the armed groups to fight the Kurds in Syria.

However, the current events in Syrian Kurdistan increase Turkey’s concern, because the Kurdish areas are all under the Kurdish control. Turkey is now depending on the armed groups to fulfill its agenda in Syrian Kurdistan, but these groups are not all the same and their priority is to overthrow the Assad regime, not to fight the Kurds.

The Kurds are now a considerable force in Syria. Neither the regime nor the opposition wants to fight them. Most of the opposition leaders in Syria insist that they do not want to make enemies with the Kurds. Turkey is the only player that wants everyone to become hostile to the Kurds in Syria. Some promised Turkey to occupy the cities of Derbasiya, Amude, Derek and Qamishli and cut the oil pipes going through them to Homs and redirect them toward Turkey.  

Rudaw: Don’t you think that, if it was not for the PYD’s armed forces along the Syrian-Turkish border, none of these things would have happened?

Aldar Khalil: Actually, if it was not for the PYD’s armed forces, Turkey would have come and occupied the region. However, having armed forces alone is not enough to protect Syrian Kurdistan. The people must be organized. At the beginning of the revolution, we created community organizations among the people. Some were telling us it was not the time for such a thing; instead, it was time to fight the regime. Today, the Kurdish community in Syrian Kurdistan is well-organized and prepared to refuse Turkish intervention there.

Rudaw: Why is the PYD not allowing other Syrian Kurdish parties to create their own armed forces?

Aldar Khalil: During its last meeting in the Kurdistan Region, the Kurdish Supreme Council created an armed forces committee to run all the Kurdish armed groups in Syrian Kurdistan. From our side, we appointed some people to become the members in the committee; however, three months passed and no one was appointed to the committee from the other side. It is the committee that decides who should take up arms. Even now, the other side has not yet responded to the activation of the committee.

In the past, we trained hundreds of people to take up arms. There is no committee to organize these people and there is no one to support them. These people came to us and the KNC for support. On the other hand, the founders of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) came to the members of the Supreme Council and authorized them as the decision-maker, but the other side has not responded yet. What do you think these people should do? Go home and sleep?

In Sere Kaniye, when the armed groups attacked, all the members of the KNC fled. Only those who were affiliated with the PYD remained and protected the area. After the residents evacuated the area, we provided people to protect the neighborhoods. They said that since we were the only ones in the area, we must protect it. I was not the one who told them to evacuate, but they did. They shouldn’t tell us not to protect their homes. I cannot just sit by and do nothing like them.     

Rudaw: The KNC will make reforms to its council soon. It is said that some political parties inside the KNC work for the National Assembly. These parties might be asked to leave the council and join your assembly. Is this true?

“We will strengthen our diplomatic relations with everyone. We will meet with everyone regardless of whether they are friends or enemies.”Aldar Khalil: If that is the case, there are also some Kurdish parties in the KNC who work for the SNC, which was founded in Istanbul. They should also let these parties join the SNC. What kind of council is it when some of them are working for the SNC and National Assembly while the rest are working with the regime, Erbil and Sulaimani? I honestly didn’t know there were parties inside the KNC working with us; nobody told us about this.

I don’t think there is anyone in the KNC that works for the National Assembly, but every party has its own policy. Recently, some Kurds created a special delegation and took off for Doha, which was a violation of the Supreme Council’s decisions. According to the Supreme Council, delegation members must be appointed by the council.  

Rudaw: You are considered the PKK brain inside the PYD. What do you say to this?

Aldar Khalil: I am the director of the Movement for Democratic Communities (TEVDEM) and a member of the Kurdish Supreme Council. I am from Syrian Kurdistan, and I struggle for its freedom. This is a strange term that is being used for me. I strive to work for unity among the Kurds in Syria. This purpose has brought me to Erbil many times.

Rudaw: There are claims that you try to create gaps between the KNC’s political parties. For example, after you met with one party, suddenly disagreements occurred in the council. Is this true?

Aldar Khalil: As you said, they are just claims. This also proves that there is a lack of trust among KNC’s political parties. A strong political party wouldn’t change its mind after just one meeting with us. We will strengthen our diplomatic relations with everyone. We will meet with everyone regardless of whether they are friends or enemies. We will meet with the Arabs and Assyrians more than we meet with the Kurds. We are not making any parties follow us. I have no ambition to make alliances and use them against others. I have often told the members of the KNC that unity is vital for us. Division in the KNC will also harm our cause. Not one person in the KNC could come forward and say that I told him to cause divisions. It is in our interests for the KNC to be united.