An interview in the mountains…
ISTANBUL- Today England’s Daily Telegraph ran my interview with PKK top commander Murat Karayilan.
He said the PKK would soon declare “democratic autonomy” in Kurdish regions of south-east Turkey. “If Turkey does not accept this, it is their problem,” he said.
Though when exactly a declaration of “democratic autonomy” will be made is something that Karayilan did not go into, the idea is being increasingly talked about. The structure for this autonomy is said to begin at the established municipalities. Then the Kurds will establish their own parliament, president, and other institutions.
To interview Karayilan photographer Kamaran Najm, the founder of Metrography, Iraq’s first photo agency, and I were picked up by a driver in a town in northern Iraq and driven for hours through the Qandil Mountains without knowing where we were going. Hours after we were driven out of the mountains the Turkish military bombed, injuring one civilian.
What was most striking about my time in Qandil was the ease with which the PKK operated there. I had thought in the past that one of the reasons the organization decided to end its cease fire and escalate attacks against Turkey was that they were feeling a degree of pressure from Turkey’s strengthening ties to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
Karayilan appeared to back that up…
“I cannot evaluate the KRG in the sense of good or bad. We know that the aim of the Turkish state is not only to weaken us, but also to weaken Kurds everywhere. It is a strategic approach. After us the KRG will weaken.”
After seeing the ease with which the PKK operated in Qandil, as if it was their own official territory with a checkpoint set up along a paved road only a few minutes by car from a KRG checkpoint, I am wondering how much pressure the PKK really is feeling from the KRG.
Before interviewed Karayilan I had been in southeast Turkey around the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. Kurds there made clear that the conflict had come to a breaking point. This is something that Karayilan agreed with.
“It is not very clear, what will happen after this. Because AKP is pushing towards the hill. They don’t want to stop the military campaign.”
Even after 26 years and 40,000 people dead, Karayilan made clear that until the Turkish government negotiated he would not stop PKK attacks.
“We are deeply rooted in the mountains and hearts of the people of Kurdistan,” he said. “We are able to live another 50 years like this.”