Duran Kalkan: Turkey is in a process of making an important decision
- 19/07/1999 00:00:00
Here is the interview with Duran Kalkan on reactions to death sentence for PKK’s Chairman Abdullah Ocalan in the Trial of the Century, the situation of the Turkish side, the attitude of Europe concerning the sentence, developments in Southern Kurdistan and the latest developments in Turkey.
Q: How do you evaluate the reactions to the death sentence issued at the Trial of the Century?
D.K: The period we’ve just left behind was a time for surfacing of the reactions. Therefore, we did not want to make any statements to interfere with these reactions. Above all, the court sentence is a procedural one. It was not a surprise sentence. Given the current laws, it was the most likely sentence.
A differing sentence would have been a weak possibility. As Suleyman Demirel stated also, this phase which was essentially circumscribed byexisting laws, this phase which did not have much weight in regards to overall issue, is now completed. There are other procedures to come. The problem is, in its essence, not a judicial problem, it is a political one. The decision has also to be political .Demirel too has stated it in these terms, he stated it correctly. In this sense, the decision has not been made yet. It will be made, through debates/discussions during the coming period. Even when judicial procedures were in progress, a detailed political debate took place. This was inevitable due to the nature of the trial. After the court announced its decision, these debates became more intense. Perhaps, Turkey’s atmosphere could not take it, [authorities] wanted to reduce the intensity of the debates and put the issue on the back burner. The Prime Minister himself did it.
That is why other issues are brought forth into the agenda. However, no matter what, the issue has made its entry into the agenda of discussions in Turkey with a weight. It has become part of discussion. Various circles have discussed the issue, they were forced to discuss it. Some even stated that they should not discuss the issue while in fact discussing it. To discuss or not to discuss the issue became debated. Those who said it should not be discussed, were forced to discuss the issue. Some stated that "Chairman Apo’s plight should be combined with the Kurdish issue, others wanted the two issue separated." However, even during these arguments on separating issues such as the Kurdish issue, the plight of the people in Kurdistan and with it they had to discuss the domestic and international situation of Turkey. This shows that the issue, essentially, due to its political nature also, has not only occupied the first place on the agenda in Turkey, but also determined all of it. And this created a response.
The statements of Chairman Apo and his messages have influenced the atmosphere [climate] in Turkey. He is very effective. He influenced everyone, those who agreed with him, as well as those who did not. All circles ranging from political ones to the press, from economic circles to all of the others and segments of people reacted, expressed views and they still do.
Q: Widespread actions took place almost everywhere and in Kurdish diaspora following the sentence. What is the degree of impact of these mass actions on the process?
D.K: Everyone can see that even actions that express a reserved reaction [from the Kurdish side] shake the situation in Turkey excessively, extremely. Such actions represent a deliberate show of tamed reactions. Our party, our army and our people possess a very advanced potential and organization in this respect. Now, the reactions of the past 15 days should be seen as a demonstrative sample of what would come if that readiness is mobilized and put into action fully. If those who insists on carrying out the sentence given at Imrali trial and wander what could happen, they should look at the actions of these last 15 days at least, and it won’t be hard to guess. [Our responses] are sort of very measured, very delicate and contain a careful approach in order not to destroy the last bit of positive-ness that might be there. Imagine how very differently we would react if the situation changes. It is very useful that everyone should understand it this way. They should get the gist of the message and desist, since doing so would personally benefit those who will make the decision.
Q: Turkish officials are indecisive
D.K: It is natural. Obviously, it is them who will ponder and decide. We are developing a democratic approach; it might be liked, disliked, or critiqued. This is the nature of the process. In this regard, we feel partly that there is an improving and maturing approach. In almost all segments there are representatives [of such mature approaches].
This [change] is, in a way, a sign that the coming phase could take a positive turn. Actually, there are such signs. One can see them easily. However, they are not exactly dominant or manifest. They have to be more manifest and dominant so that the process advances in the right direction. The prolongation of [the current ambiguity], is obviously, damaging. Very many adverse events, unwanted events, events that tax the public opinion take place because this process of clarification is not allowed to work its course [in Turkey]. If it is delayed any longer, many more unwanted events will take place. The ones in charge, the ones in responsible positions should not prolong this situation.
Q: Among those who reacted to the verdict there were organizations, parties and institutions from Kurdistan. Do you think their response was satisfactory?
D.K: Our forces in struggle, our people’s forces were incensed by the verdict and responded. This is how they manifested their outrage. Of course, we wish that the other [organizations] forces of Kurdistan had reacted on a par. From different parts of Kurdistan and from friendly organizations we have received statements of support. The verdict was denounced. They announced their objections to the sentence. However, such responses were rather limited. They were confined to specific circles. Very many forces did not respond. Very many organizations said nothing, especially those that have advertised themselves as Kurdistani for so long and those that have even claimed to have led the Kurdish struggle. Some organizations even issued statements to the contrary. As if they were disturbed that the problem was being discussed. Both in Northern Kurdistan and Southern Kurdistan there were such organizations. Very many of them simply said nothing. It is hard to understand why Kurdish organizations that have called themselves the political representative of the Kurds remained mute especially at a time when in Northern Kurdistan, in Turkey and globally people were talking about the Kurdish problem. This is truly shameful. It shows how alienated they are from life and reality. This also illustrates succinctly why the Kurdish issue has not been solved for decades. Also, this says a lot about their capacity as representatives in search of a solution to Kurdish question. Naturally, where there are such organizations, there is no solution to the Kurdish problem. Theirs was a very backward stand. After all, the whole world and circles sympathetic to the Kurds all opposed the sentence. One wanders, was it that they ran out of words to denounce this sentence which concerns the national existence and future [of the Kurds]? Would it have put them under a heavy obligation, had they expressed their opposition to the death penalty?
Their attitudes are truly shameful. One cannot understand it. First of all, our people and everyone else see this [contrast] very well and get to know [these organizations] very well. Everyone sees clearly who obstructs or stops national unity and progress. Naturally, [our people] will increasingly adopt a stance against such [indifference]. We hope that such [Kurdish] circles give up their aloofness and, get ready to enter, at least, in a national and humanitarian framework.
Q: After the sentence, many issued statements in Europe and in various countries that the sentence should be commuted. How do you evaluate this response from public opinion abroad?
D.K: Europe has a very great responsibility in what happened. The trial process also unearthed the attitude of the Europe very starkly. We see now very well how Europe approaches to the [Kurdish] question and how "determined" it is to find a solution. It became clear that it is "a very new approach". Instead of [finding] a solution [to Kurdish problem], Europe’s approach is confined to some very narrow, simple economic interests that center around snatching away from Turkey a few business contracts. It became very clear that Europe does not have a political approach that supersedes its economic interests. When this became exposed during the court proceedings, Europe wanted naturally to show some sort of a reaction.
They wanted to delay the trial. Our Chairman grasped this situation well; he exposed this approach of the above powers and reminded them their obligations and pulled them into the process. In this sense, they [the Europeans] were affected intensely by the trial. They realized that they could not stay on the sidelines of this problem, that they could not extract themselves out of this problem. Therefore, as the trial proceeded to an end, when it reached a decision, they scrambled to adopt an approach that befitted the verdict. This is very basic. It is absolutely not enough. However, it seems that they are inclined to overcome this situation that is non-conducive to any solution, that leaves them no initiative and renders them powerless.
This is true for the whole of Europe, for the European Union, for individual European countries and states. In a sense, Europe is going perhaps through a change in its approach to the problem. It could be said that Europe is moving away from an approach that was centered around a very narrow, simple economic interest, to a political approach that takes into account the problems of Turkey, that of the Kurds and the region. Of course, at this point, these are clues only. How far could it [this European approach] go and who would push the button, are not clear. However, this turn is inevitable and it is clear that the problems cannot be managed with the old simple approaches. The leader of our party has delineated this very well. We believe and hope that certain circles also grasp it better. This is the situation in general. However, we know very well that Germany has a heavy responsibility. Germans know it, our people know it also. And everyone else should know it, too.
[Germany] has a heavy responsibility for the process [Ocalan leaving Europe] taking a turn like this [his capture] and lack of a solution [to Kurdish question] prior to all of these developments. [Germany] should remember this and develop a fitting approach. This is so, both for its own interests and due to the responsibility it bears. We are closely following Germany’s attitude. Its old stance is not acceptable.
Q: The Italian government still holds onto its policies from the time PKK Chairman Abdullah Ocalan came to Rome.
D.K: Italy has some efforts. We hope they will intensify those efforts. The leadership of our party has established an environment of friendship in Italy. He also received friendship. Our leader acknowledged this verbally; he thanked the Italians when he was there. He has friends both among the officials and among the people. This is the foundation from which the Italian position springs forth. This is good and respectable. At least, it is harmonious with their principles. They are in synch. We hope that they go much further. We hope they decide to give asylum to our leader and finalize that decision. We hope that in the international arena and in Europe they take the initiative [topromote a solution]. This is beneficial for them and for our friendship. Of course, there are other powers. As a power responsible for this [affair], the US has a position and a reaction. The US is also responsible for the solution.
From the past onwards, it has had an approach that goes beyond the confines of narrow interests. The US approaches the Kurdish question [in Turkey] within a framework that encompasses a system of [wider] interests. This is a comprehensive approach. Due to this approach, the US is intimately involved with the problem. The US is also leading the fight against us. Everyone knows this. We all know it. It played also the lead role in the last international plot [kidnapping of Mr. Ocalan from Kenya].
Actually, the US responses, too, reflect its role [in the plot]. It did not behave [i.e. did not put a pretentious face] like the others [that were involved]. However, the US has not been able to initiate a fruitful process [of solving the problem]. It is mistaken on the issues of how and where the problem is going to be solved. The US has not found and held onto the forces that could bring a solution. The forces that US deems capable of solving the problem, fail to do so. That is why the US is in such a weak position. While searching for a solution, it ends up with none.
As long as the US insists on its current approach in the region, the success it obtained in other parts of the world will elude it in this area. Kurdish question continues to play the key role [for the success], in this sense.
Everyone and we, too, know very well the extent of the US responsibility/involvement. Given this, we hope [the US] does and will see the reality better. [We hope] it will gradually adopt a more realistic approach taking into consideration the realities of the region and in its search for a solution to Kurdish question, it [considers] the plight of the Kurdish people [in Turkey], too. If the US pays attention to these factors, it will produce solutions, If not, it will fail to take successful steps in the region and will be ineffective.
Q: In addition to debates on the possibility of the PKK splitting up or the war intensifying if the sentence is carried out, there are also the ongoing operations of the Turkish army in both Northern and Southern Kurdistan. Are these operations related to the verdict/trial?
D.K: As I have stated above the [final] decision has not been made yet. We don’t see the courtsentence as a finality. However, Turkey is undoubtedly in a process of making its mind. This decision is one of those rare ones that come up once in every several centuries or so. It is not an easy process. The [final] decision is going to be made during the period that is ahead of us and will be implemented step by step. We hope [the decision] is such that benefits the people and society in Turkey. We hope it leads to mutual progress on the basis of Kurdish-Turkish peace and Kurdish-Turkish brotherhood and brotherhood with other people based on solidarity. This is right and in the interest of everyone. As such, the sentence is wrong and we find it still early to say anything definite. In fact, one should not even talk about it, it does not make much sense. It will bring no good to anyone. [The fear that Turkey] will "split up-divided" are far fetched, unrealistic. Of course, there would always be those pursuing small self-interests making a lot of noise. They may demand separation, this and that. They should not be a problem. You would find them among the Turks and among us too. However, this is not the root cause of the problem. The essence of the problem is different. Everyone must see that the change that occurred among the Kurds is permanent. Especially, [powers that be] must see it better than anybody else.
The PKK must be understood in this light. This [the change among the Kurds] is a structural change, a social phenomenon. No doubt this happened through the efforts of our party leadership, and those of our militants. However, it was also a [n evolutionary] process and a natural one. [The change and consciousness] was an expression of economic, social and political developments. They emerged through such an evolution. Now, it would be shallow to ignore such developments and view [the Kurdish movement] divorced from this reality, as if it emerged in a vacuum, and fantasize that it would crumble and vanish overnight if attacked. It would be an approach devoid of facts and scientific verification. It is clear why one should abstain from such an outlook. Again, it is very clear why one should stay away from these stereotyped and dogmatic approaches/stands. We are striving to overcome such approaches. We want what is in the interests of the people everywhere.
There has been no significant increase in Turkish military activity following the sentence in comparison to the previous times. We have said nothing about this so far, but let me divulge you a thing or two: What the [military sources] have advertised as a large-scale operation, is in fact misleading. I can say that such statements had more of a propaganda value than anything else. One can say the same thing about the military operations against Southern [Kurdistan]. We have not figured out exactly the reason for this [exaggeration].
The Turkish army has not undertaken and operation/activity that surpassed what it has been doing ever since the beginning of the year. Turkish army had entered Haftanin [Guerrilla Camp] twice before. The Turkish army has a permanent force, presence and emplacements in Southern Kurdistan. There were two operations against the Haftanin Camp and similar operations against Metina, Gare and Xakurke. The latest operation was of the same scale as the past operations [mentioned above]. But for some reasons or other, Turkey had not made this much noise about the previous operations. And now, they felt a need to exaggerate the last operation. Reactions of various circles concerning the latest operation were also disproportionate. We wonder why they did not show a comparable reaction against previous operations. Most likely, [latest reactions] are related to the sentence at Imrali and developments that followed. Currently, each country reacts in the light of its own interests. Military operations have been taking place piece by piece in every region of Kurdistan. Against Southern Kurdistan, too, the Turkish army had operations after the decision in Imrali.
Operations are ongoing in Zagros, Botan, Amed, Mardin and Dersim. The operation to the Southcovered a narrow region beyond the emplacements of the Turkish army. Perhaps the operation was initiated at the request of the KDP and with the participation of the KDP. We know that units associated with Nechirvan Barzani [about a thousand as reported by the Turkish press] crossed into Uludere [in Northern Kurdistan] and participated in attacks that swept from North to South.
There was rather a concentration of forces. It was an operation that lasted 5-6 days. It was one of the most unsuccessful ones to date. An expected number of clashes took place, as was the case in past operations. The casualties from both sides were as our guerrilla sources reported.
Q: How do you assess PUK’s statements made during the Washington talks that it would not fight against the PKK? How do you interpret the lack of a change in the approach of the KDP against the PKK?
D.K: Another set of negotiations [between the PUK and KDP] came to an end in Washington D.C. No visible gains were made. For the last few days, both the PUK and the KDP representatives have released public statements. The KDP was first to make a statement. It blamed the US for the outcome. The KDP stated that nothing [fruitful] could be achieved in Northern Iraq via the US approach. The PUK followed it with a statement to the same effect. I guess this summarizes the outcome of the negotiations in Washington, D.C. What emerged in the name of willpower is not very strong at all. The parties from the South did not obtain from the US -whom they trust so much- what they wanted. In a sense, their latest statements reflect a disappointment and hopelessness. It seems that there are powers/actors who are hampering progress and preventing a solution in the South. We have always asserted this: If the Kurdish question in the North, in Turkey, is not solved, "nowhere else will it be solved." [A solution in the North] is now essential more than ever. In fact, one could say that search for a solution [to Kurdish question] has shifted to the North and this will be more of a future trend.
As to KDP’s stance towards us: This party has tied itself with outside forces and remains in their circle of influence. This is a very negative and inauspicious position. The Kurdish National Congress (KNC) issued statements to the effect that Kurdish organizations should solve their conflicts among themselves and strengthen Kurdish national unity. From the very outset we have stated that we would support KNC’s work and respond to its calls positively. We will always abide by its decisions. We think the KNC should put more efforts into this [Kurdish unity]. We will support all efforts of the KNC in this regard since it is in a position to represent the will of the [Kurdish] people as a whole. The KNC should include the KDP and any other organization into these efforts, too. We will do all we can to help the KNC to succeed.
We will see changes in the US policies toward Southern [Kurdistan]. The PUK understands this, but cannot overcome its weaknesses. If they have truly decided not to fight against us –we have not received any official statements from them- until now, it is because they see what is coming. Theirs is a realistic assessment, but a weak response. They should be more assertive. We do not expect them to say "they will not fight against the PKK", but they could very well say, "we should include the PKK in finding a solution to the problem. We have to learn to live together within a democratic system." This is the way to go if the PUK wants to become a national democratic force. The PUK should be encouraged to break the stalemate.
Q: What does Mr. Ulugbay’s, Turkey’s State Minister’s, attempted suicide mean?
D.K: It is an unfortunate event, a sad affair from a humanitarian point of view. However, his attempt also shows how pressured they are. The regime is under stress. Actually, this has been the lot of regime’s officials for some time now. The Prime Minister made a statement on his issue. Some circles are trying to concoct a cheap explanation, this is not right. Prime Minister’s statement says something about Turkey. It is essential to understand it. Turkey is, truly, going through a tough time. It must develop solutions to [its long-standing] problems if new suicides are to be avoided. This is the only way that can mend the weaknesses and strengthen Turkey. Chairman Apo’s assessment at Imrali is correct: "The process of resolving the problem has commenced." This is an unavoidable step for Turkey. The earlier they understand this, the better off they will be.
Q: What do you make of the recent release of the Chairman of the HADEP and the 15 party officials at a time when Kurdish question is going through hot and tense days?
D.K: If the release of HADEP officials is also a step toward finding a solution to the Kurdish conflict, it is timely, even better and more significant. We [the ARGK], our Party and the Kurdish side will respond in kind. Each positive step [from Turkish side] will be answered with a positive step from our side. It is good that everyone sees this thus and approaches us with such spirits to create a trusting atmosphere. We say welcome to HADEP officials and hope that they have a better comprehension of this phase and adopt a more active struggle -which they had pursued in the dungeon-, too. We wish them all success.
- 19/07/1999 00:00:00