Thursday, April 29, 2010

Zübeyir Aydar: ‘Military operations are going to begin’
By Neşe Düzel

Why an interview with Zübeyir Aydar?

The proposed constitutional changes are being discussed and debated all over Turkey. If these changes are realized, it’ll be the first time in this country that the coup constitution’s legal system has been touched. It’ll open the door to the distribution of “fairness” in the justice system. The civil bureaucracy’s tutelage will be filed away. But in Turkey, good news can never completely dominate the public agenda. Alongside positive developments, there are definitely negative ones. While the untouchability of the foundation of the coup’s legal system is being debated, news of military buildups is coming from the southeast. In Kandil, Murat Karayılan is saying he’s going to be assassinated. These are all signals that the situation is becoming more tense and that there’s a serious clash taking place. So, what’s happening? How do the PKK and KCK see the situation? Is an atmosphere of heavy clashes characterized by the explosion of bombs and mines, military maneuvers, and the deaths of youths being entered again? What’s the PKK’s attitude toward the constitutional reforms? I spoke about all of this in Belgium with Zübeyir Aydar, who was arrested in the operation carried out in that country and recently left prison.
Zübeyir Aydar, who was a DEP member of parliament and went abroad the day that party was shut down and has lived in Europe for sixteen years, talked about how he sees the situation, his expectations, and, from his own point of view, under what conditions peace could be possible.

Neşe Düzel: Did you think there was a possibility you’d be arrested, or was it a surprise for you?

Zübeyir Aydar: I wasn’t expecting anything like this. It was a surprise, for sure. I’m not involved in any activities that violate the laws of this country.

ND: On the basis of which crime where you arrested?

ZA: The European Union added the PKK to its list of terrorist organizations in the year 2002. What they’re saying is that “the PKK is on the list of terrorist organizations; you’re involved in activities as a leader of a terror organization’s subsidiary institution.” Generally, they’re saying the same thing to all of us; they’re not leveling charges by saying to us ‘you’ve done this, you’ve done that’ one by one. For allegations they’re saying “you’ve established camps in Europe, gathered youth together and educated them, and collected money from Kurds.”

ND: So with which justification did they subsequently release you?

ZA: The court didn’t find the claims of the police credible. I’m a member of the legal profession. More than twenty people were detained. Everyone was asked general questions. Seven of us were taken in. We were released awaiting trial three weeks later. Actually this is an investigation…it’s not clear yet if a lawsuit will be opened against us. The investigation is continuing.

ND: What did they ask you when you were in police custody?

ZA: They asked questions about Roj TV, Mesopotamia Radio, and the organizational activities in Belgium. My statement to the police was very brief. After that we went before the judge. He asked similar questions. I realized that they intended to arrest us, I didn’t give a statement. Because they said things like “we have the authority to take you into custody.” I said, “I don’t have a lawyer, I’m not giving a statement.” After that we went to another court where they deal with arrests. Lawyers defended us and we also defended ourselves. The arrest warrant with claims such as that we educated youth and collected money from Kurds came after all of this.

ND: In your view, what was the real cause of your arrest?

ZA: This is a completely political operation. Somewhere a decision to take us in was made and these accusations were leveled in order to enable our detention. In other words a case file was put together with political justifications.

ND: Is the political conjuncture in Europe changing?

ZA: Fundamentally, all of these events are developments that have taken place in the period following the bilateral meeting that occurred between American President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan on 5 November 2007 at the White House. At that meeting, Bush said that the PKK is the enemy of America, Iraq, and Turkey.

ND: The former Deputy Secretary of MIT, Cevat Önes, has said that a decision to eliminate the PKK was taken immediately after that meeting. In your opinion, was it a decision to eliminate the PKK that was taken at that meeting?

ZA: Sure, there’s something of that nature. Among themselves they have such a decision concerning elimination. The center of this project is America. Information is coming from Turkey. They’re giving lists to America. Turkey’s saying “I’m uncomfortable with these actions, I’m uncomfortable with these institutions.” America’s also applying pressure in certain EU member countries and in certain areas. In this way some of the European countries are taking action with America’s mediation. All of this is being done for Ankara.

ND: In Turkey, for a while Kurdish politicians have been being arrested in groups under the name of the “KCK operation”. In Europe is it a KCK operation parallel to the one in Turkey that’s been initiated?

ZA: Of course, an operation of that sort has been carried out. For the last year, all of these operations have been carried out as a continuation, one after another. Military operations are going to come following this. Remember.

ND: Remember what?

ZA: An election was held last year on March 29th and despite the support of the entire state and army, at the ballot box the AKP wasn’t able to get the result it wanted. And on April 14th operations began with the police. Thousands of people have been taken in and they still continue to be taken. The name given to this is the “KCK operation” and all of the people being arrested are members of a political party or organization. In the past people would be taken in on the basis that they were involved with the PKK, now they’re taken in because they’re said to be involved with the KCK. Turkey has taken in seven or eight thousand people in the last year. Half of them are still in prison.

ND: What is the KCK?

ZA: It’s our general aggregation of the movement. In Turkish it means Kürdistan Topluluklar Birliği [roughly, Kurdistan Communities Union], it’s something like a union of assemblies. It has an assembly. This assembly is Kongra-Gel. Furthermore, within Kongra-Gel there’s an elected executive council. At the moment I’m a member of it. In the past, everything was the PKK.

ND: What is everything now?

ZA: Everything now is the KCK.

ND: Is the KCK above the PKK?

ZA: Yes, the PKK is a limited segment within the movement which is given the name KCK.

ND: In this situation is it you and your colleagues who are at the highest position?

ZA: Abdullah Öcalan takes the highest position. After that there’s the Asssembly, and following that the Executive Council.

ND: In other words, you and your colleagues are at the top.

ZA: Yes. The chairman of the 31-member Executive Council is Murat Karayılan.

ND: Getting back to the operations in Europe… Not only in Belgium, there were also arrests in France and Italy, and these occurred at the same time. Doesn’t this make you think that there’s a common attitude?

ZA: Of course it does. First it began in France. Subsequently it reached Italy and then Belgium. All of these are related to each other.

ND: Comparing past approaches to the PKK [and current ones to the] KCK in Europe, what sorts of differences emerge?

ZA: Western countries changed their laws following the attacks on the twin towers on 11 September 2001 and the bombings in Spain. Although Islamic groups were targeted more [often], everyone was impacted by this change. Certain things happened to us, too. Also, as I said at the beginning, developments sped up following the 2007 Bush-Erdoğan meeting. For example…

ND: Yes…

ZA: In the case file about us it says “we’ve been following you for three years.” Because political and commercial bargains -- such as sending troops to Afghanistan and buying Airbus planes from France -- are being made in certain places. For example, an operation was carried out against us one month ago, on March 04. On the fourth of March, the Armenian resolution was being discussed in the Foreign Affairs Commission of the American Congress. They pressured Turkey from one side, and from another calmed it down. In exchange for the acceptance of the Armenian resolution, they said “here you go, an operation in Belgium”.

ND: Isn’t it possible that Europe decided not to support any armed struggle following the September 11th attacks?

ZA: Europe never supported our armed struggle. Also, the claims European countries made about us aren’t correct. Here, we’re not part of armed activity. In this country we’re within legal frameworks. My work is politics and diplomacy.

ND: How will it affect your power if Europe adopts a posture against the PKK and KCK?

ZA: Europe has, in any case, accepted such a posture and since 2002 they’ve put the PKK on the list of terror organizations. But here’s the thing. In Europe, governments aren’t everything. In Europe there’s public opinion, there are courts. There are laws. Above all, as operations like these are carried out, people are rallying around us. In Europe, people who haven’t established relations with us for years are coming and asking us to give them tasks to carry out, asking us what they can do. In the past, the most people we’d gather at marches and meetings would be one-thousand. An operation was carried out against us and the next day ten-thousand people marched. Turkey is doing things incorrectly. For instance, as long as its looked at through a security perspective, this problem can’t be solved.

ND: Do you think Europe’s begun to look at the Kurdish issue as a security problem?

ZA: Europe’s bargaining. They’re bargaining with Turkey off of our backs. These countries have interests and are making bids not only in the Middle East, but everywhere.

ND: If Europe adopts a posture against the PKK and KCK, could there be a change in your politics?

ZA: No. Our politics are very clear. Our politics are oriented toward a democratic, peaceful solution. Here we work within the framework of the law.

ND: America also added you to its list of “drug traffickers”. Why did it do that, in your opinion?

ZA: This is completely immoral. On 14 October 2009 three well-known names were added to the list. Myself, Murat Karayılan, and Rıza Altun. It wasn’t enough to add the PKK to the terror list, this was also done. They’re calling this the “Al Capone method”. They‘re thinking, “the mafia leader Al Capone was guilty. There were certain things we were unable to implicate him in. [So] we got him with tax evasion [instead]. Let’s level these ones with the charge of drug smuggling.”

ND: What will the results be of America claiming you’re involved in criminal activity?

ZA: I’d have to be in prison now if this was believed in Europe. But then there’s an established legal system in Europe. In these countries, not everything goes the way the governments want them to. In these countries there are law and conscience.

ND: How have Turkey’s EU membership bid and revisions to certain laws influenced Europe’s view of the PKK and KCK?

ZA: They’ve influenced it negatively. Although the AKP hasn’t taken serious steps on democratization and resolving the Kurdish issue, they do propaganda on these topics in Europe very well. In reality, the AKP -- which has been the ruling party for eight years -- doesn’t intend to resolve the Kurdish issue. I’m not defending the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, the Constitutional Court, the Ergenekon members embedded in those organizations or their fellow travelers. I’m against all of them, because my friends and I were the ones who were harmed the most by this Ergenekon organization, but with this constitutional reform package the AKP is only trying to make changes they need for themselves.

ND: Is the weakening of the military’s and judiciary’s tutelage in this country something that only the AKP needs, in your opinion?

ZA: Fine…I wish that were the case. There’s nothing acceptable about the 1982 constitution whatsoever, but the AKP’s not [even] removing the ten percent election threshold.

ND: Won’t you support the constitutional reforms if the election threshold isn’t reduced? Is the BDP going to side with the CHP and MHP in the referendum?

ZA: It’s not about siding with someone. The AKP isn’t sitting and negotiating with the BDP. In Turkey a very serious constitutional reform is necessary. It’s not valid to use a marginal change to muffle all requests for reforms.

ND: The current situation with the judiciary one of the biggest problems for the Kurds, isn’t it? Is it only a problem for Turks?

ZA: It’s definitely also our issue. The system needs to change. This is also in the interests of the Kurds, but I’m talking about the AKP’s intention. There’s no ten percent election threshold anywhere in the world.

ND: True…

ZA: Look… The AKP’s been the ruling party for seven years. It hasn’t even abolished the village guard system, which is sunken in crime. Turkey still hasn’t been able to come to a situation where the Kurds’ existence is accepted. The point where it’s said that “in this country, there’s a people called the Kurdish people; they have rights” still hasn’t been reached. Turkey still perceives Kurds as a folkloric element. It sees [Kurds] as a sub-identity of Turkish identity. It’s trying to assimilate everything within the monolithic one nation concept. In this situation, the AKP is presenting itself to the outside as if it’s made changes. The AKP is talking about an opening but it still doesn’t want to accept Kurds as political representatives.

ND: Why do half of the Kurds vote for the AKP, in your opinion? How do you explain this situation?

ZA: The state, not the AKP, has a base in Kurdistan. It has village guards and institutional relationships. These people vote for the AKP. Yesterday’s supporters of the CHP, DYP, and ANAP are all now with the AKP. As for Europe.. They’re very open for persuasion on the topic of Turkey. Because now America and Europe are supporting the AKP against the army. AKP emerged like a type of American project. The army was central in America’s policy during the cold war.

ND: Isn’t it like that now?

ZA: In Turkey, America doesn’t now need a militarist administration and the Turkish army like it did in the past. That’s why they’re saying “change” to the army. What America needs now is a moderate Islam like the AKP’s in opposition to al-Qaida, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran. It’s trying to submit this as a model and for that reason it’s calling its relationship with Turkey a “model partnership”.

ND: Today, the PKK is continuing an armed struggle. It’s also stating that it doesn’t have a goal like separating from Turkey. Given that, what’s the goal of the armed struggle?

ZA: This struggle has been going on for twenty-six years. We can’t act like these 26 years haven’t passed. What’s happened during these twenty-six years is a reality. Right now there are thousands of people in the mountains, in prisons, and in exile in Europe; these people are also a reality. We’re saying, “come, let’s find a solution to these matters”.

ND: What do you recommend?

ZA: We’re not insisting on an armed struggle. We want to debate and negotiate this with Turkey. The political road should be opened to us. If the political road is opened to us with our own identities, in that case the weapons will exit the stage. We’re not insisting, “we’re going to settle everything with guns, we’re going to do this and that to the Turkish army, we’re going to this, we’re going to establish liberated zones”. This stuff existed in the past. That was the order of the world. Didn’t you also go through the cold war? Didn’t you also read those theories? Weren’t we all shaped by those theories? Now, the world’s changed. We’ve also changed, and we’re changing.

ND: You’re saying, “the world changed. If the way to civilian politics is opened, we’re prepared to lay down the weapons” but whenever there’s an attempt to open the way to politics in Turkey, if steps are going to be taken on the road to democracy, and if the present military system starts to be weakened, the PKK increases attacks and actions with bombs and mines. It was always like this during the acceleration of the EU [accession] process and when a civil constitution was being prepared. Is it because the PKK is negatively influenced by democratization that there’s this kind of skewed relationship between the PKK and democracy?

ZA: No, it’s not like that. There’s been a unilateral ceasefire since 05 December 2008. But the army began an operation on March 30th. Over the last year thousands of people have been taken in during the KCK operations. Despite all this, we prepared a road map concerning the Kurdish opening. We gathered views from people here and forwarded them to our president. He also wrote something and then gave it to the state. But the state confiscated this road map, it didn’t announce it to public opinion. After that we sent peace groups to the country. [People] were outraged because Kurds were a little happy. The DTP was closed. Mayors were taken in. Now they’re also carrying out operations against us in Belgium. There are also military maneuvers happening all over the place.

ND: What do you mean?

ZA: These soldiers aren’t going on picnics. News of deaths is coming. Turkey isn’t drawing near a solution. Operations are sharply increasing everywhere. We’re defending ourselves. I’m afraid that a period of heavy clashes has been entered.

Interview with Neşe Düzel of Taraf newspaper. Original text published on April 05, 2010