In the previous sections, we tried to present the historical, social, and theoretical approach necessary for a reconstruction of the PKK.1 We analyzed some properties of capitalism—the dominant social system of our age—under global and regional conditions, as well as under the conditions in our country. At the same time, intertwined with this, we have tried to delineate the democratic social development and its course throughout history. We have stressed that one must regard the historical development of projects for freedom and equality as a chain with many links. We have also tried to show how the ideals of freedom and equality get distorted, drained of their content, and integrated into tyrannical and exploitative orders. We attempted to present the reality of civilization in the Middle East within the same paradigm. We used a similar framework to discuss the phenomenon of Kurdistan and the Kurdish question, as well as how to theoretically approach a resolution. We analyzed the formation and development of the PKK as a movement, showed how it stagnated due to internal factors, and argued for the necessity of a renewal through critique and self-critique. Moreover, we analyzed some of the new theoretical elements and political currents found in ecological, cultural, and feminist movements. We also consistently emphasized that a reconstruction of the party will only be meaningful if it embodies all these developments.
Therefore, based on our conjectures regarding all these issues, the rebuilding of the PKK first and foremost requires a concrete analysis of the situation in the world, the region, and Kurdistan. Drawing upon the assessments in the relevant sections above, we hope to briefly summarize the connection between various topics.
Today, US-led global capitalism has neither the option to turn to new colonies, as in the nineteenth century, nor the conditions for the redistribution of the world through war, as was the case in the twentieth century. Whatever the similarities, the new conditions of globalization are different from the old in specific ways. The scientific and technological revolution provides the capitalist system with different ways to make a profit. I refer here to the profit accumulation of the transnational corporations that emerged with globalization. These transnational corporations are the world’s new ruling powers, directing policy at their whim to create legal conditions suitable to their interests. These corporations allow for maximum profits. Nation-states that stand in the way are reshaped and political structures that function smoothly are created. In this way, the system attempts to maximize profits even in a chaotic environment.
All of this is the basis for the intense interest the US-led system has had in the Middle East since the early 2000s. The current political, military, economic, and intellectual structures of the region pose the most fundamental obstacle for the system. A hairball of problems makes the region the system’s weak spot: the Israel-Palestine conflict, oil, the Kurdish question, a radicalizing Islam, a despotic political structure, an economy that produces unemployment and poverty—and, not least, the lack of women’s freedom. The ruling system cannot tolerate this situation, which is the political reality that the political powers in the Middle East refuse to comprehend. They think they can sustain themselves with their classic political thinking and their theory of the nation-state. The US, as the system’s imperial power, feels it must act to meet its responsibilities, while the opposition of the other powers is only meant to keep up appearances for their own people and is, thus, illusory. It is merely their way of saying that they want a larger slice of the pie of power. In the near future, all of the system’s leading powers and institutions will solidify their coalition and act against the region, with the coordination of the UN, NATO, the EU, and the G8 taking shape. Sometimes military campaigns will be carried out against countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, while other countries will face threats, and economic means will be used to force yet others to integrate into the system.
To ensure results, countries and political structures that resist will be driven into bankruptcy with expanding embargos. Ineffectual economies will be hammered with a number of reconstruction measures and will be forced to reform and liberalize. The region will be effectively integrated into the system within the next twenty-five years, give or take. A complete break with the system cannot be expected, because the economic, military, scientific, and technical bases are lacking. Even rebellious “rogue states” will be unable to exist for very long. These ineffectual political and economic structures cannot be sustained by either the ruling system at the top or the broad mass of people below. Under these circumstances, individuals, particularly women, will need to engage in an offensive to gain their freedom.
The system will behave according to its own logic and institutional framework, but the key question will be how will the society, the people’s forces, behave? The people of the region do not have to accept the system as it is. It is becoming evident that they must seek solutions in line with their own goals of democracy, freedom, and equality and not continue on as an auxiliary of the nation-state. The people’s non-state-oriented democratization efforts, encompassing environmental, feminist, and cultural movements that have ties with human rights organizations and civil society, have a transnational significance that is at least as important as the system’s limited democratization efforts and its globalization.
The situation in the world and in the Middle East was discussed in detail in the previous sections, so what follows will only be a short summary. We will, however, examine in some detail the concrete conditions in Turkey and Kurdistan. The critique and self-critique delivered above and my assessment of the problems of reconstruction have already to some degree pointed to the tasks ahead. The following elaborations on a democratic solution will hopefully contribute to a better understanding of the Koma Gel.
Tasks in Reconstructing the PKK and the Time of Koma Gel
If the PKK is to be reconstructed, we must first have a clear understanding of why the old framework ceased to function. We critiqued the old framework in three main areas. First, we understood the concept of “the party” as an extension of the concept of “the state” and as a means that would carry us to the state, even though there is a dialectical contradiction between being a state-oriented party and developing democracy, freedom, and equality, both in terms of essence and of form. The PKK was unable to completely free itself from this concept.
The second issue was the way power was perceived. A party attempting to take power will always hamper rather than nurture social democratization. Cadres formed in this context will not rely on the people but on the authorities, or they will try to be the authorities, because what appeals to them is the life of unearned income that comes with power.
Historically, this is what transformed three important revolutionary currents into denominations of capitalism. Real socialism, social democracy, and national liberation movements focused on quickly gaining power rather than on broadening democracy. This resulted in the corruption of all three currents and their transformation into auxiliary forces of the capitalist system.
My third self-critique related to war. Without understanding the actual nature of war—no matter what sort—we regarded it as a sacred means for the purpose at hand. In reality, except for vital and necessary self-defense every act of war was murder. War was the basis of every exploitative power in history. Their laws and social institutions were linked to and arranged in accordance with war, and all rights accrued from victory in war. This sort of thinking is obviously neither democratic nor socialist. A socialist party should not be state-oriented, strive for power, or embrace war as the determinant that underlies everything.
It has been emphasized that unless the PKK redefines itself, it is entirely possible that it will make significant mistakes and its refoundation will be marred by serious flaws. Our definition of what a party is must correspond to the self-critique presented in this book. It must not be state-oriented and cannot place power and war at the center of this new social transformation. Because power and war are the basis of capitalism, the most recent form of class society, a party hoping to overcome capitalism must exclude power and war as the foundations of society, which will only be possible if communal existence and the democratic stance of society are transformed into a democratic, free, and egalitarian society.
Considering these factors, we can define the party as follows: it has a program seeking a democratic, free, and egalitarian transformation of society, with a common strategy for all social groups that have an interest in this program and based on a broad organization and on forms of action adopted by environmentalist, feminist, and cultural movements, as well as civil society organizations, without neglecting the tactical necessity of legitimate self-defense. In this sense, the party is the leading organization of this sort of social movement.
Theory is indispensable for a party or a movement. Just as the body is unthinkable without a spirit, a party cannot exist without a theory. The name we give to our theory—the fundamental worldview that guides the content of our definition of the party—can still be scientific socialism, provided that it is in the context elaborated here. We could also call it democratic socialism to refer to the triad: philosophy as the most comprehensive generalization of social science; morality as society’s sense of freedom; politics expressing the society’s will for transformation. More important than the name, however, is the content. Theory must embody the paramount generalization of scientific development, and at the same time grasp politics, the will to transform morality and society, as an art. As long as we live under the capitalist system and until the social transformation becomes a natural phenomenon through the continuous concurrent application of social science, morality, and politics, we will need the mentality of the party.
Mentality is the party’s capacity to render meaning, and it is quite clear that the mentality of the party requires a good grasp of social science. Social science, the most recent defining science, which encompasses the whole of scientific development, serves as an enlightening force within a society searching for transformation. While it previously fell to mythological, religious, and philosophical schools to try to cast light on social phenomena, today, following a long march, we are closer to a social and scientific explanation, albeit a limited one. A scientific understanding of society is a great source of strength. In this sense, even a limited understanding of sociology is the strongest aspect of social transformation. But this alone is insufficient. In the final analysis, all mythological, religious, philosophical, and scientific efforts in the history of humanity originated in society and were undertaken in order to understand society, to find and realize solutions to its problems. They do not exist abstractly and at a remove from the society. Without understanding society, we cannot properly understand individuals, material objects, or nature. Ignorance and tyranny lie at the roots of the catastrophes created by the human hand—the state, rulers, and war. We can only overcome these tyrannical and ignorant institutions by gaining an understanding of society. Thus, if the state, power, and war are indeed perverted products of analytical intelligence, overcoming them will only be possible using both analytical and emotional intelligence. Those who occupy themselves with the problematic of the state, power, and war, and, thus, also with peace, must give priority to making the society competent and capable.
Morality must also be an integral part of our party mentality. Morality is actually the traditional form of social freedom. In the final analysis, morality is consciousness. A society whose moral foundation has disintegrated has also lost its freedom. A society without morality is a society in tatters. Therefore, recognizing morality as a basis in any effort to transform society is indispensable. Social currents that make no room for morality cannot be expected to endure. Those who are determined to transform society must never lose their ties to the morality of freedom.
The relationship between the mentality and political willpower is all about practice. Comprehension and morality are only valuable when they become integral to practice and contribute to solving problems. Being moral and scientific in the absence of politics is rife with deception and tantamount to capitulating before the ruling dominant powers or selling out to them. It means becoming part of the power-knowledge structures and official morality. The neglect of this connection contributes to many scientists playing an ineffective or even counterproductive role that is contrary to society’s interests and to numerous reasonable appeals for greater responsibility going unheeded. There is an increasingly widespread and dangerous tendency in our age for individuals to occupy themselves solely with morality or with science or with politics, which opens the door for all sorts of catastrophes. Today, perhaps we need nothing more urgently than an approach that overcomes this disconnection.
This is exactly why our definition above of the mentality of the party matters. If we don’t base ourselves on a mentality of this sort and find a way to act upon it, we will be unable to avoid the same dead end that real socialism, social democracy, and the national liberation movements ended up in, and, like them, will become the system’s auxiliary force. That is why we attach primary importance during the reconstruction process to mentality—an essential component in defining what a party is. The more developed the party’s mentality, the easier it will be for the organization to effectively put its program into practice strategically and tactically. If it fails to do so the loss of what has already been achieved will be unavoidable. Even after successful revolutions, it is rarely possible to prevent the dissolution of the structures they build, as the experience of Soviet socialism makes perfectly clear. It is not, however, simply a matter of the unity of theory and practice. The theoretical content and the mentality orienting the party are also important. An insufficiently coherent theory and mentality that are not clearly in line with our goals will, in the end, lead to a distorted practice. Therefore, we must put the unity of theory and practice on a solid foundation.
For theoretical soundness to be meaningful it must be reflected in the program. The program of a party expresses its fundamental criteria for social transformation. A community that lacks the ability to work out a program or works one out but fails to internalize it can barely be called a party.
What, in fact, is a party?
Etymologically, the word party means part, division, section, and portion. The party, as such, has undergone a long historical development. It is possible to regard the first experienced guiding group in a society as a party. The hierarchy’s first ruling group was also a party. When states were first founded, the ruling clique, the group that organized things ideologically and practically, also constituted the ruling party. The lower society that it fettered to itself mentally and used for production was left without a party. The respective totemic beliefs of clans and tribes were also tantamount to parties. Even community traditions are parties in a primordial sense. To the degree that we are able reconstruct this aspect of history, Abraham’s tribe represented the first serious freedom-loving party of the poor tribes, opposing both the Nimrods of Babylon and Assur and the pharaohs of Egypt. It was both a popular party and a rebellious party that can quite rightly be regarded as an insurgent people’s party. Jesus, on the other hand, divided the Jewish tribe for the first time and initiated a party-like movement of the poor, or, rather, he took an already existing small party, the Essenes, to a new level. Christianity fought the Roman Empire as a party of the poor for three centuries. Mohammad likewise started a revolt against the nobility of Mecca with a small group of poor people. Within Islam, we can regard the Kharijites, the Qarmatians, and the Alevi as party-like movements representing a similar poor tribal stratum and the proletarian elements. The denominations of the Middle Ages were also like parties. Depending on class affiliation or mindset, they each represented certain social groups. And, finally, everyone is familiar with the capitalist party system.
Throughout history, the belief systems and structures of all these traditional movements were actually the same as party programs and organizations. The program is a social creed that is clearly understood, abided by, and realizable. In other words, it is the molding of thoughts and beliefs into principles. Those who are most committed to these principles act accordingly in every aspect of their lives. Without principles or a program, there can be no goal, leaving everyone trimming sails to the wind and following their own weaknesses and desires. Those who base themselves on a theoretical, moral, and political mentality acquired with great effort and concretize it in a program, thereby sketching the concrete principles for social transformation, have already taken the most important step toward building the party. Without these steps, party building will be crippled and will never go beyond a circle of sympathizers. Party building is a serious matter. Sometimes it requires decades of personal contemplation and self-discipline to acquire the necessary virtues and abilities. In the history of religions and denominations we encounter holy men and women who discipline themselves by living an ascetic life as eremites for decades. There are many historical examples of this in the three great monotheistic religions and in Buddhism. We should not hesitate to situ-ate our considerations about the mentality and the program of our party within this historical context.
There are legendary examples of outstanding mentality and commitment to principles among PKK members. Haki Karer, Mazlum Doğan, Kemal Pir, Mehmet Hayri Durmuş, Ferhat Kurtay, Mahsum Korkmaz, Taylan Özgür, Berzan Öztürk, Zîlan (Zeynep Kınacı), Bêrîtan (Gülnaz Karataş), Bermal (Güler Otaç), and many more than we can mention here are exemplary examples of comrades who succeeded in embodying the principles of the party. There is much to learn from each and every one of them. On the other hand, we can also find many examples of treachery, apostasy, corruption, negligence, wretchedness, and superficiality, as well as many who worked very hard but never developed a particularly noteworthy mentality or embraced sound programmatic values.
Programs do not represent unalterable or unrenewable principles and views. Since change is continuous, it is only reasonable to make changes to the program when significant shifts in the situation occur. What should not change, however, is the ongoing serious effort to recognize the fundamental needs of society, to solve society’s problems, and to continue far-reaching party-building efforts. It is the ability to successfully live by these ideas and pursue these goals until one’s last breath. Contrary to what some people believe, rebuilding neither means liquidating everything that exists nor sinking to the level of a mere club. When the task of crafting a new program for the PKK is undertaken, it is important to keep this framework in mind.
In different parts of the submissions before you I have tried to expand on our theoretical views, which are the main pillar of our mentality and will determine the restructuring of the PKK. We have often referred to the features of our theory as systematic views reached in relation to the universe, nature, physics, chemistry, biology, humans, and society. Our theoretical approach, at least at the level of definitions, has been illuminated from the cosmos to the quantum, and from the first formation of the universe to human thought. Instead of repeating these, we will continue to reflect on these issues when necessary. Thus, as we proceed, we must always be accompanied by theory. Those without a theoretical basis cannot easily lead a party movement. The more we ensure theoretical strengthening, the more we can develop our practical skills in problem solving. In turn, restructuring will be successfully achieved.
We will now continue elaborating on the program. In what follows, I will present some proposals that address four core programmatic areas: politics, social affairs, economics, and individual rights.
The problems of states and regimes must be examined at the political level, and as a result the political reorganization necessary to replace the old regimes must, first and foremost, be determined by principles. Up to this point, we have tried to lay out the political approach to our new party building in the concrete cases of Turkey and Kurdistan. A sociological approach to the state and politics has been developed, and we have pointed out the oligarchic and antidemocratic properties of the state, with democracy existing in discourse, but with no development in practice. The Kurdish question proves this. The political realm is far from being democratic. A particular feature of this situation is that all of the parties work as propaganda and agitation wings of the state. Even though society’s longing for democratization is strong, the profound influence of the statist tradition makes it difficult to begin the process of democratization toward civil society, human rights, the environment, or women’s freedom. Despite all efforts at reform, the army’s traditional influence on the Turkish political system is still strong enough for it to remain the decisive political force in the country.
The main demands of our program in relation to the political sphere should include reform that enables the state to be receptive to democracy that goes beyond empty promises. The old PKK program completely rejected the state, meaning that we intended to completely abolish it. In its place, we imagined—albeit not in very concrete terms—something like a Kurdish state. I now think this was wrong, not because it would be difficult to implement, but because as a matter of principle being statist does not concur with our worldview. The immediate complete abolition of any state whatsoever is certainly unrealistic and rings of nihilism and outdated anarchism, but rejecting the Turkish state and demanding a Kurdish state in its place is too simplistic, even more so since neither a Turkish nor a Kurdish state actually exists, as such. The state, as a historical and weighty tradition, always prioritizes the interests of a small minority, with its service in the public realm extremely limited and generally a matter of appearances. Because public realm and general security are important issues that cannot be neglected, I am suggesting a new understanding of the state that dominates in Turkey and in all of Kurdistan, neither calling for its immediate abolition, which would be scientifically unrealistic, nor allowing for its continued existence. The reduction of the concept of “the state” to its classic form, and particularly to the current despotic practices of the rulers, is unacceptable. A better approach would be to reach a compromise on a much more limited and much smaller political institution that is not considered a state in the old sense but is a general public authority that provides public services and ensures general security.
Working with this description, it would be possible to call such an institution a “republic.” Res publica originally meant public affairs, and this comes close to the definition of democracy as the rule of the people. The current state, however, cannot be identified with democracy but must be defined as no more than a state that is receptive to democracy and accepts it, because the representatives of state authority are not elected but are appointed.2
For the Kurds, a Republic of Turkey as we’ve defined the republic represents or should represent a citizenship based on civil rights and freedom and legally recognize the Kurds (including constitutionally). Making the Kurds a legal entity means an official recognition of the Kurdish identity in both a general way and a specific way. To get the Kurds as a people and as a culture to recognize the republic, the republic must recognize them as a cultural entity and a people with political rights. This recognition must be mutual and must be based on legal guarantees.
The Republic of Turkey in general needs reform and a Renaissance Turkey-wide, but particularly in terms of Kurds because of their predominant position. Although there are currently some legal and constitutional amendments being made, they can hardly be described as reforms. As long as the dishonest approach toward the Kurdish question and the denial of the Kurds as a people are maintained, it will be difficult to find a compromise on which to base a new constitution. For the PKK, as a force that regards itself as first and foremost responsible for Kurdistan, achieving compromises between democracy and state rule in all four countries it is divided among is the highest priority. If the states—and this is also true of the Kurdish federal state in Iraq—want to continue to exist in Kurdistan, the criterion must be the provision of the services and ensuring general security that are not directed against the people. The task of the Kurdish representatives is to address these criteria with the responsible state authorities and reach the necessary compromises. A unilateral and unlimited measure by the state is naturally unacceptable if it does not have the consent of the people. If such measures are forcibly executed, the people have the right to resist. Therefore, what is needed is a compromise between the state, as the general public authority, and the delegates of the people who have demonstrated their democratic will.
We could summarize this most important point of the program under the heading “The People’s Democratic Self-Governance in Kurdistan + the State as General Public Authority.” A Kurdistan with this status would come close to democracy, on the one hand, and freedom and equality, on the other hand. In the current historical phase, demanding an entirely stateless democracy would be nothing more than self-deception and adventurism. What we need is a compromise on a state entity whose boundaries are defined and downsized. In fact, we insistently emphasize that this authority cannot be called a state in the classic sense but is a general social institution that is more contemporary and adheres to democracy in substance and in form.
On the other hand, democracy in Kurdistan means electing and supervising the delegates of the people who are tasked with finding answers to their common social needs, particularly their economic, social, and political needs, both locally and in general and at regular intervals. Democracy is not the state’s business; it is the people’s own affair. All the state can do is respect the democratic will of the people. It is only responsible for delivering services, when necessary. In brief, for Kurdistan, a well-defined and agreed upon formula of “democracy + the states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria as a general public authority” could become a fundamental component of the program.
The democratization of Kurdistan is not merely a question of laws; it is a comprehensive social project. On the one hand, it includes resistance against the circles that prevent the people from determining their own identity and fate. On the other hand, it includes all other groups when developing its economic, social, and political objectives and building, directing, and controlling the corresponding institutions. This is an ongoing process. Elections are only one of the instruments used to articulate this will. However, it essentially requires the effective organization and action of the people. It is a democratic process that extends from local village and small-town communes through city councils and municipal-ities to a general People’s Congress and signifies a dynamic political life. Depending on the circumstances, this can be jointly organized as a democracy with the neighboring people or, if this is not possible, it can form its own democratic system.
Democratization is also an important task in the sphere of politics. Democratic politics requires democratic parties. As long as there are no parties and subsidiary institutions that are not state-oriented and prioritize the demands of society, we cannot expect the democratization of political life. The parties in Turkey are the propaganda arm of the state and when they take over the state are nothing but instruments designed to serve rentiers. The transition to parties that focus on social problems and have an appropriate legal status is an important part of any political reform. It is still forbidden to form a party for and with the word Kurdistan in its name. Non-state parties don’t have much of a chance of success, and clearly this must change. The ability to form parties and alliances in the name of Kurdistan is pertinent to the essence of democratization, as long as they don’t advocate secession or resort to violent means.
An understanding of democratic politics and democratic society and efforts for transformation are of particular importance in Kurdistan. Given the despotic character of political phenomena in Kurdistan, understanding and developing democratic criteria is particularly vital. It is not just the center-right that has state-oriented policies that are despotic and rentier-oriented, the same is also true of most left-wing policies. These basic features explain why the people of the Middle East hate politics so much. Once the role attributed to politics is reduced to fraud and repression, it becomes inevitable that society will remain outside of politics, or, rather, that it be the object of politics that dominates. The best method for overcoming this alienation of politics is the art of democratic politics, which has as its goal a democratic civil society and is centered around it. Without a theory and practice built on democratic politics, any effort within social groups will inevitably run the risk of being deceptive. Good will alone doesn’t count for very much. Instead, we must carefully examine the commonalities and differences between platonic loyalty to the people and the art of democratic politics.
Essentially, my submissions to the court give the utmost priority to clearing the way for democratic politics in Kurdistan. Only with the implementation of the universal criteria of democracy can we overcome the culture of submission and subjugation that is prevalent among individuals and institutions. Of late, we have witnessed the use of the PKK’s legacy in the service of extraordinarily undemocratic practices. The fact that the DEHAP did not achieve the desired results in the 2004 municipal elections was primarily because democratic theory and practice have not been adopted and developed as a way to solve the problems of leadership and cadres and how they function. In the other parts of Kurdistan, a despotic style of politics is even more prevalent. What is essential for a free Kurdistan in the upcoming period is the creation of political establishments centered on democratic society and politics that do justice to the concrete historical and social conditions of each part of Kurdistan. In this light, all existing parties, associations, and nongovernmental institutions must be transformed. There is no more valuable work than recognizing, believing in, and implementing democratic politics to the best of our ability.
We are faced with the main task of establishing a democratic means of functioning in all organizations, all manner of work, and all activities in every part of Kurdistan, neighboring metropoles with large Kurdish communities, areas with Kurdish minorities, and, finally, abroad, especially in Europe. At the same time, our people must prove adaptable enough to include the minorities in Kurdistan that they live with and their friends who are willing, as well as prioritizing grassroots organization and activism before all else. The PKK should organize and implement its own democracy. It should follow the existing democratic laws, and in the absence of democratic laws organize its life and struggle around its own democratic rules and statutes. All democratic institutions from the communes to the Koma Gel should elect their leadership annually in regional congresses based on candidates’ success and their capacity to resolve the problems we face. Appropriate methods should be adopted to prepare a system for holding elections and electing office holders from among the candidates. Member of a leadership body should not be elected for more than two consecutive mandates, and they should only be able to run again after a gap of two elections, and then only if they propose fresh projects.
Our people must ensure that they operate a democracy of their own making in ways they see fit in all parts of Kurdistan, in the metropoles, especially in Europe, and should elect the candidates they find the most promising to all levels (from the local commune to the Koma Gel), demand regular reports, and oversee them accordingly. If the states respect the people’s democracy, they will agree to compromises, but, otherwise, democratic resistance using the appropriate means must continue. It is essential to grasp self-democracy—the best path to freedom and equality for our people—and to practice it until victory.
We also require free media in the political sphere. Without free media, the state’s receptiveness to democracy and the democratizing of the political sphere will prove impossible. The demand for legal amendments in relation to the media in Kurdistan should not be based on individual rights but on public rights. Linguistic discrimination in any form must be barred.
Feudal institutions represent an obstacle to democracy. That is why appropriate means must be found to democratically transform the relics of the Middle Ages, such as agaluk,3 sheikhdoms, tribalism, and sectarianism. These institutions are parasitic, numb the mind, and raise obstacles to the development of free morality, preventing democratization as much as the classic state institutions do.
The program for the social sphere should primarily seek to determine and address the problems facing women and the family and the difficulties to be addressed around health care, education, morality, religion, and the arts. The social sphere can be treated as a separate issue for convenience, even though, together with the political and economic sphere, it forms an integral part of a whole. Although the social sphere should be thought of as the truly decisive sphere, it experiences the extreme pressure of being caught between the domination found in the political sphere and economic exploitation. It has come to resemble a disease-ridden body. Increasingly strengthening and defending the social sphere should be considered central to the program. Which is to say, the focus should shift from economics and politics to the social sphere.
Key to the liberation of society is moving away from the time-honored practice of stripping society of its economic means and then giving tiny morsels back to create dependency and establish control. This is how state systems control society. Using the economy to condition society must come to an end. The relentless use of this strategy against Kurdish society has turned our people into beggars. First and foremost, this trap must be eliminated from the social sphere, which means recognizing the right of society not the state to control society’s economic resources. The women, men, and children within the family are the most stifled parts of the system. The system has literally turned the family into dross, an institution that is suffocated by all of the system’s contradictions. Marriage, the wife, the husband, and the children have not yet overcome the old feudal relationships, yet find themselves besieged by merciless capitalist relationships, and, thus, live in absolutely prison-like conditions. While the family is considered sacred in Kurdistan, it has also been totally subdued, by the lack of freedom and financial resources in particular, as well as by problems related to education and health care. The situation of the women and children is a complete disaster. The murder of female family members, a phenomenon known as “honor killings,” is actually a symbolic expression of the predicament of life in general. The women are made to take the brunt of society’s diminished honor. A destitute masculinity revenges itself on women. Under the existing circumstances, the crisis of the family can only be resolved with the overall democratization of the society. Education, publications, and broadcasts in the mother tongue could make at least a partial contribution to this end by reassembling the deteriorated identities of any people affected. Furthermore, special economic support could help the poor families, at least temporarily.
Apart from the state and a small group of collaborators, there is yet the Other form of humanity in Kurdistan about which no one dares to write or speak. Without solving the problem of the identity, freedom, and equality of these Others, it is nonsensical to talk about having overcome the consequences of the dirty war. A unilateral tragic war rages within Kurdish society, its families, and its women, men, and children. The program should seek to clearly, forthrightly, and intensively address this problem and offer creative solutions.
There must be freedom of education both in the official language and in one’s mother tongue. Even if such instruction is not supported by the state, efforts on the part of the people to build educational institutions with their own resources to promote their language and culture must not be impeded. The state and the civil society must also guarantee a functioning health care system as a public service, and artistic activities must be free from constraint, so that artistic movements able to nurture society can develop.
No task can be mastered successfully as long as society is not guided by morality. Acquiring a free morality has to do with society becoming conscious. Therefore, the far-reaching formation of society’s consciousness must not be obstructed. A free society is a moral society, and this should be reflected in all the work taken up within society. The place of religion in social life should also be discussed, and religion should be freed from its ball and chain. Since it represents the oldest social tradition and the conscience of society, it must undergo the necessary reform and be brought into harmony with contemporary science and philosophy. Developing a common language of religion, philosophy, science, and even mythology is key to breaking out of today’s crisis around the nature of the individual. Religion must play its role primarily as part of the new morality of freedom and must consider it a duty to reinterpret the relationship between science and society from its own perspective and present its conclusion to society. This is essentially the role that prophets played. Religion today is more corrupt and dysfunctional than ever before. The main goal of a religious reform must be to help religion regain its functionality.
Another primary concern is restoring the significance the social realm once had. The small minority that controls the state and the economy must cease gnawing on and plundering a society that has survived to date despite the great pain it has experienced and the thousands of years spent trying to destroy it. This minority must accept a basic social policy that shows society the respect and esteem that is due. Protecting society from both this state minority and individual plunder, theft, and assault should be understood as the fundamental task of the program in the social realm.
Freedom in a society can be measured by the freedom of women, and the level of freedom in society determines the overall level of democracy and of the social state that is receptive to it. The centrality of the freedom of women makes it absolutely essential that the issue be addressed as a distinct programmatic point. Our analysis of the women’s question indicates that it is the fundamental reference point for social transformation. Alongside the question of power and war, the question of women is the second key area where real socialism failed. Women and power are two phenomena that are highly contradictory. Women are the first oppressed class, sex, and nation. Without an evaluation of women’s freedom and equality within historical and social development and a corresponding theory, sound practical progress is impossible.
Elements remaining from the Neolithic Age continue to have influence over women in Kurdish society. That being said, women have suffered during every phase of civilization. They have a resilient composition. Clearly, our own age has betrayed them. Were this awareness merged with the universal achievements of feminism, a separate women’s party could play a huge role in the struggle for freedom, equality, and democratization. The founding of the Partiya Azadiya Jin a Kurdistan (PAJK: Women’s Freedom Party of Kurdistan) could be a step toward addressing this need.4 Even though it cannot easily get rid of the dominant masculine mindset, insistence on freedom is of utmost importance. The combined use of emotional and analytical intelligence by women themselves would be the best way to attain the liberation of the women’s world. Mythology, philosophy, religion, and science must all be examined anew from the perspective of women and must be interpreted through free and distinct women’s intelligence and put into practice. Approaching theory and practice with women’s intelligence could more meaningfully lead to a world that is peaceful, freedom-loving, egalitarian, and close to nature, as well as to a life that is charged with beauty. The persistence on PAJK in Kurdistan and the headway that could be made thereby might well facilitate the achievement of the virtues of goddesses, the truthfulness of angels, and the beauty of Aphrodite.
There is no male culture this sort of women’s synthesis could not disentangle, no life force it could not attract, and no action it could not carry out. Unless a female virtue equivalent to the sacredness of the goddess prevalent in mythology is developed—against housewifization and the despotic masculinity that has constantly deepened as a culture of slavery throughout the history of civilization5—grandeur, freedom, and equality in life cannot be achieved. If these values are not reclaimed, life cannot evade being a lost value. This is the framework that the program must articulate on the question of women.
Ecology and Economics
The basic programmatic position in the economic realm should include the transition from an economy based on commodification and profits to an economy rooted in use value and sharing. The economy ramped up by profit has not only destroyed society but has also destroyed nature. We are moving toward an uninhabitable environment. If bourgeois economic policy is not stopped, it will lead the world into a true hell. As a result of the rise of those sections of the bourgeoisie that pursue the goal of maximum profit, particularly the circles profiteering from financial speculation, humanity experiences the most negative sides of globalization. Never before in history has any class pocketed such enormous profits and value Key to the decadence of society is the level of financial speculation the economy has reached. On the other hand, industry and trade, driven by financial capital, have brought about continuous production and market-ing of the most profitable and most superfluous commodities. This, in turn, has led to the formation of the other human who is shaped by the alleged overabundance that the society can neither buy or consume, a human who lives with hunger and poverty that has reached breathtaking proportions. Humanity can no longer live with this political economy. Addressing this problem is, in fact, the true task of socialism.
We can define this task as bringing about the gradual transition from a commodity-based society to a society that produces for use value, from a profit-oriented production to a production based on sharing. This is the political economy of socialism, and the economic principles of the program must be based on this economic policy. Once this economic policy is implemented, unemployment, poverty in the midst of abundance, hunger alongside overproduction, and environmental destruction for profit will cease to be fate. Ecological society is essentially socialist society. All the talk about ecological equilibrium and ecological society only begins to make sense with the transition from the society that is alienated from nature and the environment and permeated by power since the onset of civilization to a socialist society. The liberation of the environment under the capitalist system is an illusion. This system destroys ecological equilibrium to an unprecedented extent. The environmental question will be radically solved to the degree that the current system becomes ineffective and a socialist society system develops. This does not mean that nothing can be done for the environment right now. On the contrary, this emphasizes the necessity to wage the struggle for the environment intertwined with the struggle for a general social transformation in order to more actively advance the environmental struggle.
The program should emphasize that unemployment and increasing prices, poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and extreme commodification, overproduction and the lack of use value are all rooted in the dominant capitalist system and should make people aware that this is not fate, and that these problems can be solved by turning toward a socialist economy. These issues should be directly addressed in articles in the program.
Another issue that should be carefully addressed in the program is the issue of choice between the commodity value and the use value of the goods. The commodification of goods leads to the regime of profit, which in turn leads to the development of divisions, including overwork accompanied by high levels of unemployment, overabundance alongside scarcity, luxury alongside pollution, oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited, masters and the doomed, the oppressor and the oppressed sex, and many other such dichotomies. On the other hand, the production of goods as use value does not lead to these dichotomies but, rather, to developments in society that are socialist in nature. Let me clarify this point with a simple example, the planting of oaks. An oak tree doesn’t have much commodity value, but it does have high use value. Its acorns are valuable, its wood is solid, and the shade it provides is quite delightful. Furthermore, planting trees contributes to solving environmental problems. As well as being incredibly ecological, planting oak trees could reforest the Middle East, which has become barren. A sustainable reforestation program would also create work for many people. Planting and nurturing oaks doesn’t require any complicated professional training. Thus, this simple measure could have positive economic and environmental effects, while simultaneously demonstrating an alternative to the ubiquitous profit-oriented way of thinking.
The internationalist aspect of the program should be elaborated in both its regional and global dimensions. Concretely, Kurdistan is inseparably interwoven into the history, geography, and people of the Middle East, so the need to exclude nationalism is even more obvious. The basis for the catastrophe and dead ends in Israel-Palestine relations and contradictions lies in nationalism. The fact that nationalism based on the nation has been added to religious nationalism has only exacerbated the catastrophe. If, instead, the possibilities for a democratic solution had been taken as the basis, there would probably have been less suffering, and an order that would be more favorable than the current one might have been created. The ultranationalist statist approach has clearly proved itself not to be a solution but to be a policy of terror. Should such nationalist statist currents gain the upper hand in Kurdistan, the result will not be just a single Israel-Palestine-like conflict but four of them. There are a number of conclusions to be drawn from this. The many negative consequences of the conflicts around Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kosovo, and Cyprus, as well as those between the Ottoman Empire and the Armenians or between the Ottomans and the Arabs, are as well known as those resulting from the conflict between the Kurds and Turkey and Iraq.
The best way to prevent the rise of new catastrophes is mustering the courage to comprehensively resolve the Kurdish question through a consistent and sincere peace and democratic reform rather than denial and annihilation or allowing Kurdistan to fade away and fall into mendicancy. We have already presented a concrete formula for this with the example of Turkey, i.e., “the state + democracy in Kurdistan,” in effect, a partnership based on general security and attention to the public sphere, an approach that could be applied to the Middle East in general. Concretely, this would mean “democratization in the Middle East + the openness of the state to democracy = freedom for Kurdistan.” A free Kurdistan is a democratic Kurdistan. In the general global context, one of our tasks is to transform the World Social Forum into a supranational platform for local democracies, into a “Global Democracy Congress” of the people, one that is not fixated on states. The supranational slogans for the coming period may well be a “Democratic Kurdistan,” a “Democratic Middle East Federation,” and a “Global Democracy Congress.”
Individual rights should be included in the program as human rights, and the individual’s freedom of thought, speech, and will must be preserved under all circumstances. No country, state, or society can deprive individuals of the right to freely think, speak, or express their will in their own interests. The primary goal should be to attain the optimal equilibrium between sociality and individuality. In the final analysis, social freedom not based on individual freedom is as doomed to failure as individual freedom not based on social freedom. Fundamental human rights can attain more value without attacking the right to be a society, knowing that they can only exist with a society and by not succumbing to extremely individualistic, irresponsible, and antisocial tendencies.
All this should be based not on the international solidarity of the sort seen in the past but on a supranational approach; solidarity should not be international but, rather, supranational or transnational. People should be able to embrace a solidarity that transcends religion, nation, and class identity. This would make the solidarity of both labor and humanism more meaningful. The program must clearly explain the relationship between democracy and socialism. Socialism is generally defined by “equality,” and achieving this goal is often equated with the collectivization of property, but its link with democracy and freedom has never been explicitly elaborated. It even got to the point where the idea arose that it did not matter how and with what system socialism was established. Real socialism ultimately degenerated into state capitalism. Both theoretical developments and the results of practice have clearly shown that it is impossible to arrive at socialism without a full implementation of democracy and thriving of the above-mentioned freedoms. Socialism cannot be established by the state. Since the time of the Sumerians, the state has engaged in many intense collectivization processes. In fact, states were the agents of the most far-reaching examples of socialization. That being the case, it follows that the state could be called the largest socialist institution. The Soviet experiment was the continuation of this historical tendency. In this sense, it is entirely appropriate to describe the expropriation by the state and such movements for equality as generalized systems of patronage. Instead of an effendi, an aga, or a capitalist, this system essentially plays the same role as the common identity that subsumes them all. It will only be possible to talk about true socialism once democracy means a minimal state and equality is achieved through democratic development. As a condition, it is necessary to determine that this is something that cannot occur without freedom. Equality can only be conceptualized as socialism when equality—as the absence of domination—is combined with freedom. Equality based on coercion can never be socialism. Therefore, only an egalitarian society that is brought about in the context of the freedoms experienced as part of the most extensive democratic practice can be socialist.
This concludes, in rough, my thoughts about a draft program and its theoretical structure. What we envisage is a program that is free from statist and nationalist influences and aims for a social transformation that is democratic and in the direction of freedom and equality. It is not a liberal program, but it concedes a realistic role to individual initiative. It is a program that adopts the line of democratic authority instead of power, freedom instead of social control, use value and sharing instead of liberal commodity exchange and a profit-oriented market, as well as providing the optimal balance between the individual and society. Of course, these are just sketchy propositions presented for discussion and open to change and development.
While the program embodies the essence of the reconstruction of the PKK, organizing determines its form. Just as theory determines the program, the program determines organization. Organization can be compared to a skeleton. Just as the body without a skeleton would merely be a mass of meat, a party without organization would be an equally empty mass unable to implement its will. On the other hand, the appropriate organization of cadres provides a foundation and scaffold upon which society can rise and build. There are, thus, two aspects to organizing: the organization of the cadres and the organization at the base.
Throughout history all formations that resemble parties have had firmly committed and determined cadres. Many groups lacking such cadres have inevitably disappeared into the depths of history and fallen into oblivion. A cause is taken seriously when it is represented by parties and strong cadres.
As we have frequently emphasized, cadres are the militants who have best internalized the mentality and the programmatic principles of the party and enthusiastically try to put them into practice. They are the organizational staff of transformation. They are characterized by their capacity to make the connection between theory and practice and effectively play leadership roles, bringing together mass organizations and activism. Moreover, such an identity should artfully combine social morality and the creativity of politics at a personal level. When we look at the history and the reorganization of the PKK in this light, we can make out many intertwined positive and negative elements. That the PKK is still alive today is primarily due to its brilliant cadres who have provided an example of humanity. At the same time, serious problems with the cadres have prevented the party from achieving complete success. Both the successes and the failures are due to the cadres. A giant hairball of social contradictions has been uncovered in the personalities of the cadres. There were those who were broken when these contradictions were uncovered and others who drew strength from addressing the contradictions. A cadre tragedy, heroism, and betrayal have always been experienced intertwinedly. Despite our educational efforts and attempts to guarantee a good practice, we never fully succeeded in generating cadres who could take the lead and implement the line in an exemplary manner. Our party-building process stalled because of the inadequacy of our cadres, and the most fundamental problem of the upcoming reconstruction process is becoming sufficiently strong cadres.
Solving this problem would facilitate the successful implementation of the program. If we fail to achieve this, new blockages will arise. To be a cadre is a matter of love and passion. It is to devote yourself to your goals with full conviction, determination, and acuteness of mind. Those who don’t possess these qualities and want to reach the top for careerist reasons and to fulfill a passing desire will always deliver negative results. Becoming a cadre requires more than a passing desire; it requires theoretical foresight, a deep commitment to the program, and a dedication to constructing the party structure. Obviously, in this new phase, the organization of cadres must serve to develop these qualities. All serious social, political, and economic organization requires a similar understanding of what a cadre is and the art of leadership. To be successful, this is an essential component.
I have already stressed above that in our determination to reconstruct the PKK we must focus on the serious problems before us. While the most precious comrades became martyrs, and many who survived worked with devotion, there were also those who were opportunistic, careerist, and gang-like, who gnawed away at our values from within. It was as if social reality was almost reborn within the party. Although we were living through some of the most critical moments in our history, there was never a shortage of people who shamelessly hoped to satisfy their personal ambition and craving for power. There were also quite a few who weren’t even as productive as the average worker and lazed around while a lot of work simply remained undone. They hoped to reach high positions in the organization without doing anything. They even tried to instigate an infantile and dangerous power struggle over the legacy of the party.
They lacked the sense of responsibility necessary to realize that while making some arrangements on behalf of the party, we tried to protect the cadres, and in doing so we risked our own well-being. Conscious of the potential tragedy that awaited us, I was, in fact, only trying to act as a worthy comrade. The heavy criticism they received was an invitation for them to take responsibility. That they had to prove themselves worthy of the memory of the martyrs in their thousands and live up to the expectations of the people, because history would not pardon those who failed to do so, was constantly emphasized. Nevertheless, these people lacked the creativity necessary to develop a successful approach. The most calami-tous event was the power struggle over the legacy of the party that began with the “İmralı phase.”
On the one hand, comrades immolated themselves and the people wept bitter tears, and, on the other hand, a power struggle began between various groups that was both in essence and form unworthy of our tradition. This was an enormous contradiction, and it must be resolved with the refounding of the party. If the question of cadres is to be addressed as outlined immediately above, there is no room for assessments based on the balance of power or other similar calculations. There is, however, little likelihood that those who have organized themselves as groups within the party will abandon their thinking and participate in the renewal of the party. Therefore, it would be best to present our theoretical and programmatic understanding and claim our legacy together with those who consciously say, with conviction and determination, “I’m on board,” and in this way reshape our essence.
It is well known that our legacy includes potential cadres whose number and quality would be sufficient to found several parties. We took responsibility for facilitating a voluntary convergence of all these cadres in our effort to build the party based on a far-reaching freedom of thought and free will. The proposal to form a twelve-person preparatory committee for reconstruction was a further step in that direction.6 The problem is not one that can be resolved through speedy appointments. Repeating the past is also out of the question. Our goal is to work with astute cadres who will overcome the errors of the past, show the skill necessary to meet the requirements of the moment, and secure the future, and who never hide behind any inadequacy. After having sufficient successful practice with these qualified aspiring cadres, we will know if they can play a lasting role as permanent members. We can make a decision about those who have taken sides and the various groups that have emerged after in-depth discussion and evaluation, as well as the necessary critique, self-critique, and practical effort. It should, of course, be clear that people cannot work together and form a party as long as old scores remain unsettled.
What is decisive here is not good intentions but clear criteria. We are not, however, entirely breaking all contact with these groups. We will continue to work with them under the umbrella of the Koma Gel. This will prove that a democratic party, above all else, maintains internal democracy. I don’t think that a large number of people is necessary or helpful in a cadre organization. I am quite sure that three to five hundred cadres would be sufficient to carry out the program, to mobilize the masses, and to be represented in all areas of work.
It is only natural that the cadres prefer a productive organization rather than organizing according to mechanical schemes. Appointments should not be made to fill areas and staff positions but should be organized around directly addressing and successfully accomplishing pending tasks. The criterion is the pending tasks and the cadres who can successfully accomplish them. Representative bodies or committees can be created according to need, individually or by the dozens, but because collectivism is essential, at least two representatives for each committee would always be preferable. This promises greater functionality than the classic central committee, political bureau, and branch organizations. However, we should not get caught up in problems of form but strive for solutions suitable to the essence. People who feel they can solve a problem can volunteer for tasks at hand, or there may be assignments by appointment. However, coercion is never appropriate.
In the coming months, the focus could be on assigning sufficient cadres to areas where there is an urgent need. It should be easy to organize one hundred cadres within a period not exceeding six months. Depending on need, however, that number could be smaller or bigger. Both collectivism and individual initiative should be made use of in an intertwined manner. As is generally known, a successful working style requires speed, consistent reflection on actions taken, and determination. The right approach to getting work done in a timely manner is no less important than theoretical and practical competence.
As is well known, everyone—the grassroots, the defense units, those who work in the legal spheres, and those underground—is branded a “terrorist,” making it necessary to work in particularly creative and original ways. Our demeanor and lifestyle should radiate enthusiasm and be attractive. Repugnant behavior is just as dangerous as a provocation.
In brief, you should all get down to practical work after sorting out the cadre policy and its minimal organizing. Exemplary discipline in work is just as important as voluntarism. With a legacy of heroic deeds, we march alongside a people that has risen and is passionately fighting for freedom. Turning to new tasks after a great experience and thoroughly analyzing past practice is not only exciting but also requires productivity and an attitude that does not tolerate failure. Successfully carrying out a task is the clearest criterion for what a sworn oath is really worth and shows us the true substance of a person.
The party’s statutes are another key organizational issue. The general nature of such statutes is well known. They can include sections about the regular congresses, chairpersons elected at these congresses, and a central committee or a party council, as well as a small executive body elected from this body’s members, a general secretary and deputies, central bodies, regional, local, and communal committees and subunits, grassroots branch organizations, sectional organizations for different countries and different parts of Kurdistan, etc. I am not in the position to make an assessment for or against this model. However, we know from experience that this model was always used in a state-oriented manner, served to increase authoritarianism, and did not allow for the operation of the democratic aspect that much. It is difficult to say if this model necessarily produces these results. If people act with an awareness that theory and practice are decisive and that the statutes are unimportant in and of themselves but are only a means for implementing the program, then the statutes could easily lead to democratization. This also depends on the quality of the cadres. Theory, the program, cadres, the statutes, and operations are of a whole cloth.
Each part of Kurdistan may need its own organizational section. The party in each part must neither be completely independent from nor completely dependent on the central headquarters. Organizing as sections may be a more appropriate approach to this semi-dependency. Centralized institutions could include, for example, media and an editorial board, an academic board for the sciences and the arts, and a board for legal and disciplinary issues, while mass organizations could include free women’s units, a union of democratic youth, labor unions, cooperatives, and associations for migrants, farmers, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs, among others. To ensure the sound functioning of such bodies, more specific statutes and a fruitful combination of collectivism and individual initiative would be necessary. There are, of course, other models of statutes as guidelines for internal processes. Here, I just wanted to present a few thoughts on some points I consider important.
I also want to address a few points with regard to the PAJK, which requires a particular approach, particularly in terms of cadre policy, because I think this is important. I believe that the PAJK should have a core group of cadres. The centrality of women’s freedom to the solution of all problems of democratization, freedom, equality, and even ecology is often underestimated. Since we can’t immediately liberate all women, it seems clear that this process needs to start with a small group of cadres. If a core group from the PAJK can’t liberate itself, how can it succeed in liberating the women and men who are perhaps the world’s most problem-ridden? I have made much effort to this end myself.
What we are confronted with is the reality of women as the first slave class, the first slave sex, and the first slave nation in the history of civilization. The confinement of women in private and “public” houses is the practical implementation of this slavery. The source of this repression is social rather than biological. Housewifery and husbandry, in terms of their forms within civilization, are institutions that operate against women and against society in general. The husband is a projection of the political imperator in the domestic sphere, always playing the role of the little despot when it comes to the woman. This has nothing to do with individual intention but must be understood as a reality of civilization.
When we talk about the freedom of women, it is perhaps best to begin with the domestic culture of the mother or of the mother-goddess culture that made great progress with the agricultural revolution. This is why I have chosen the trinity “Goddess-Angel-Aphrodite” as a mythological blue-print. Without tearing down the image of the “simple wife” and the “simple girl,” we can’t develop any feeling for the grandeur, prestige, and beauty of women. According to the criteria of civilization, men are of divine origin, while women are deprived of all criteria that are divine, sacred, angelic, and beautiful.
There is an old, and established concept of “honor” that may be valid in a certain sense—for both the men and women among us. But this concept of “honor” and this culture of husbandry and housewifery is incompatible with my revolutionary aesthetic understanding of life.
I have already tried to explain my concept of “the mother.” In my opinion women continue to be more sensitive to the natural world than men. Men are a kind of extension of women, not, contrary to what is believed, at the center of things. The scientific data clearly indicates this.
The enormous oppression and exploitation imposed on women have led to a situation where they have to conceal and differentiate their true nature to an incredible degree. The fashionable masculine discourse applied to women has led to the most unbelievable narratives, definitions, and language in the name of religion, philosophy, and even science and the arts. In this malicious and degenerate manner, women have even been forced to worship the very things they most disbelieve in. I am fighting for real freedom and an equitable balance of power and, therefore, no one should expect me to participate in or approve of this civilization game. I don’t like the world of the male gods, but at the same time I have a good grasp of its penetralia. It should also be clear that I will not take part in the rituals surrounding the divinities of this world. These divinities, which project themselves as the state, religion, politics, the arts, and science, are only relevant—at least to me—when analyzed, untangled, and understood. I do find the divinity of women interesting and attractive, but at the same time I know that it requires courage and is difficult to achieve. I also don’t believe that a more peaceful, more beautiful, more sentient life, in short, a life worth living, is possible if it is not built on women’s freedom and the strength that makes it possible. On the other hand, a masculinity based on women’s slavery still disgusts me as much as it did when I was a child. I can’t be expected to approve of this abomination.
The phenomenon that we call “love” can determine everything else. By this point, the reader presumably understands that I am insistent on love when it comes to our women cadre policy. In fact, we have tried to develop this approach intertwinedly within a significant cultural and political framework and with a concept of “freedom” and “equality” beyond the dimension of sexuality. This requires a definition of love that can be attained by women breaking away from the culture of slavery, which includes breaking away from the mostly domination-based male culture and assuming a free and equal position within an overall democratic equilibrium in the political realm. This approach rejects the fatal relationship that develops between dominant masculinity, which is superficial and based on sexual passion, and feminine slavery.
This requires an understanding of the divinity that should exist in the relationship between a man and a woman, which is very hard to experience in class civilization in general and in the capitalist system in particular. What we mean by divinity is the great and exciting power of meaning that realizes itself in the emotional and analytical intelligence of human beings over the course of the universal story that, according to the latest scientific data, has lasted fourteen million years. Humans are nature that become aware of itself. Women are closer to this universality than men, as scientific data indicate. When I say women are universal and divine, I mean it in this sense. When this meaning, which makes itself felt in the world of the arts, politics, and science, and during revolutions from time to time, is reflected in the relationships between women and men, it is possible to talk about the divinity of the relationship. This is how it should be. The various religions understand this, but because they are predominantly male ideological and social identities, they have done great harm to the divinity they express by excluding women. We are making an effort to bring about this divinity between the sexes in a balanced, democratic, free, and egalitarian manner. I will leave it at that for now, as this is not the place for further elaboration.
If we accept this premise, the questions are: Do prevailing relationships correspond to this definition of divinity? Are we not, on the contrary, witnessing a massacre of women in their relationships, sometimes physically, executed with murderous weapons, including axes, and—even worse—beaten down with treacherous and empty expressions of love? Is this not the materialization of men’s swinishness? The attempt to legitimize present-day relationship between men and women is perhaps one of the most abominable forms of disguised slavery ever.
Thus, we can talk about the core group of the PAJK consisting of about three hundred women who consider themselves to meet the definitions of goddesses, angels, and afreets (fairy-like creatures, the name comes from Aphrodite) as outlined above. Thus, a woman is a goddess to the degree that she is conscious of her universality, takes her place in the democratic balance of power, is free, and ensures equality in her social relationships. It is clear that a man would not even try to housewifize and dominate such a woman. He can only show his respect and express his affection but cannot expect forced love and obligatory respect or, most particularly, sexist relations from her. A man can only expect love and respect when he has become free and equal within the framework of a democratic balance of power with a woman of similar principles. This should be understood as our fundamental moral principle. If this moral principle is respected, it might just be that the phenomenon called love will emerge. This, in turn, is only possible through the heroism of the struggle for democracy, freedom, and equality. Any other approach is a betrayal of love, and when love is betrayed, creativity and success become impossible. True love in the ranks of the PKK is only possible through heroism that proves itself with success.
But what can we say about the many women and men who leave the organization together? We can regard them as evidence of the extent to which the Kurdish identity has been broken. It is a painful tragedy that while, at forty or fifty years of age, many of our friends do not live in typical slavery relationships, they, nonetheless, have not been able to integrate the kind of love we are discussing here into their thinking and actions. In fact, comedy and tragedy are intertwined. It is as if some of them have gone mad. Others are satisfied with coming together as a man and a woman, and yet others are satisfied only in their dreams. Some of them made marriage a political issue in the organization. Others objectively resorted to “protest” and neglected their revolutionary tasks, because they were prevented from satisfying their urges. In brief, they insisted that their expectations, which were typical for the system, be satisfied. I can understand these friends, but we, as men and women, promised each other that we would achieve freedom and equality when we faced the fiercest tests of our lives. We understood that this promise could only be fulfilled in a free country with a democratic society and avowed to make it so. There is no denying that I have made every effort to honor that oath and our determination.
My recommendation is to carry out the struggle for love as it is outlined immediately above. One must trust women’s sense of justice. Men generally suspect women of all sorts of evil deeds when they are left unsupervised, a suspicion obviously based on millennia of oppression and cruelty. I advocate an approach that is the opposite of the ruling masculinity. Justice, freedom, and equality make up a large part of women’s nature. Or, to be more precise, the essence of women’s sociality is based on justice, freedom, and equality. Moreover, this sociality is peaceful in the extreme. Women are very well aware that a meaningful life requires justice, freedom, equality, and peace. They are also sensitive to beauty, with a superior conception of what it is. When making a choice or taking a decision, they do not resort to war and repression or impose inequality, because all of this runs counter to their nature and their manner of socialization. These issues will be understood to the degree that women are able to act freely. The freer they are, the greater the opportunity to make more beautiful, just, and equal choices. As such, the vitality of the concepts of “beauty,” “justice,” and “equality” in society is firmly rooted in women’s liberation.
A self-confident man should not be an obstacle to women’s liberation in this manner; but he should know that it would require unselfish support. Such a man would not say, “She is my woman,” but would prioritize saying,
“She is a woman who must be free.” Only then will we be able to determine the conditions of the phenomenon of love. To begin with, for women to fully exercise their right to make a choice, the first condition is for women to access equivalent power with men in terms of freedom and equality. To this end, the other prerequisite is the complete democratization of society. The second condition is that men, both within themselves and within the male-dominated society, overcome the principles of domination of women that they have acquired over thousands of years, thereby accepting to arrive at an equivalent power with women. Obviously, a democratic struggle for freedom and equality waged to establish these conditions will bring the individual closer to the phenomenon of love. To begin with, of course, the kinds of love that exist in the current system must be neutralized.
Real bravery can mean something in this context. Such people’s interest in and tendency to love will garner respect. Our brave women and men who consciously risk their lives are also a warning for us not to betray love. They embody the principles and are both the practitioners of the sacred rules of love and its abiding heroes, not only for us but also for our country and our people. At the very least, we should show our respect for these heroes. I know that the above criteria are very difficult to live by, but then what could be more difficult than being fiercely scorched by love! Love is the extraordinary essence of the veracity that drives us to struggle on. Some of those in the PAJK may well hope to be among these heroes—I say this, because I have seen signs of it. At a minimum, we should not put obstacles in the path of those who make this leap and hope to lead a life with a greater purpose. They should discuss this among themselves, and they should educate themselves and make the leap from a cursed history to a history of freedom. They should outline the guidelines for a life overflow-ing with love, affection, and respect. They should make their own decisions about their own organization and their own practice. They should create their own system with their own regular meetings and congresses. They should work to attain the strength necessary for true love. Could anything be more valuable? For a PAJK that attained this kind of strength, there would no longer be insoluble problems or impossible tasks.
Perhaps many, including those among us, will say that the reality of the Kurds and Kurdistan doesn’t allow for this understanding of love. Such a thought is unworthy of the history of our people. The legends of our tradition suit the views presented above. The legends of Memê Alan, Mem and Zîn, and Derwêşê Evdî, all of which take place along the Botan and in the Süphan and Sinjar Mountains, come pretty close to this kind of divinity. It may be difficult to transpose these love epics to our time, but our martyrs and I valiantly shouldered the work required for progress on the path of love. If those who allegedly desire love still do not recognize our efforts, they are blind, troublemakers, or possibly even traitors. What more work in the pursuit of love could you possibly expect from us?
At the same time as you are unable to carry out your revolutionary tasks, you still clearly and shamelessly say, “I want a relationship!” Love in Kurdistan is not like love in a Hollywood film, or in a Yeşilçam film, the Turkish corollary to Hollywood. The love we are talking about requires victorious gods and goddesses as much as wisdom. Even birds build their nests in unspoiled places. Can a love nest be built in a place and or a heart that is completely occupied? Any power under whose wings they seek refuge will, first and foremost, attack the lovers. My own experience clearly shows that it is impossible to live with a woman from the system without betraying your revolutionary duties. There may well be totally typical marriages within our ranks. I see them as servile relationships that seek to maintain physical existence. If we are not to call the friends in these marriages traitors, they must at least properly complete their revolutionary assignments. Furthermore, it is treason when they put their revolutionary assignments at the service of their relationships. Kurdish history wades ankle-deep in treason and treachery, which is generally the result of this sort of relationship. I would further argue that these typical marriages take place at the expense of love. I, for one, still favor an approach that fights for love. There cannot be any limit, age or otherwise, on this. As I have emphasized elsewhere: anyone who reduces love to sexual desire betrays love.
Under the conditions in which we struggle, love is hope, the precondition for success in addressing our duties. It is also passion, will, the power of reason, the quest for beauty, courage, a willingness to sacrifice, and belief that is necessary until a dignified end is reached in peace or war. The strength necessary for success in the struggle for patriotism, freedom, and dignified peace, which is also the struggle for love, will be found in the reality of PAJK; the free man will be created from the free woman.
The People’s Congress
As an organizing tool, the Koma Gel (People’s Congress) is at least as significant as the party, maybe even more so. The People’s Congress, as the people’s basic organizational framework, requires a specific definition for the concrete case of Kurdistan. First, a People’s Congress is different than a party. In parties, the ideological aspect predominates, while the People’s Congress prioritizes the political aspect. It is an expression of the identity of an awakened people demanding its rights and striving for its freedom. It is the shared decision-making and supervisory body for those who desire freedom for the country and democracy for the people, regardless of ideology, class, sex, nationality, opinion, or belief. It is not a parliament or a classic law-making body, but it is the force that can make decisions that enable the people to live free and equal and that can monitor the implementation of laws. It is both a legal and political organ, the supreme non-state-oriented organ of the people. It is not a state organ nor does it represent an alternative to the state. It is, however, one of the most important institutions among those that treat democratic criteria as the yardstick for addressing all of the social problems of our time. It is responsible for making the necessary decisions in the economic, social, political, juridical, ecological, media, and self-defense fields—areas where the state normally aggravates problems rather than solving them—and monitors their implementation. The People’s Congress is the most important interlocutor of the people, both domestically and abroad.
We must be aware of the historical and political circumstances that have led to the founding of the People’s Congress in Kurdistan. A weak and undemocratic bourgeois nationalism, on the one hand, and the existence of repressive nation-states that are not receptive to democracy, on the other hand, made a governing body in the form of a congress necessary. There is no people’s state, but a congress that is the democratic decision-making body of the people is, nonetheless, essential. More clearly: since the national state cannot be the people’s instrument for resolving the national question in Kurdistan but only risks deepening the deadlock, and because the people will not accept the former life of slavery under any circumstances, a People’s Congress is the most appropriate instrument for a democratic solution.
As a result, we are confronted with the fundamental question of whether the nation-state and a people’s democracy can coexist. We can find examples in many European countries, as well as within the federative structure of the United States, proving that it is possible. Even though the bourgeois nationalist state seriously constrains democracy, a certain amount of democratic space remains for the people. Because of their extremely unitary structure, Turkey and the other states that rule over Kurdistan leave very little lawful space for the people to articulate their democratic will. Exclusion is the main principle of the domestic policy. This engenders constant rebellion and suppression. In order to untie this critical Gordian knot, the authority of the People’s Congress, i.e., its decision-making power, must be improved. Until the ruling states enter into a democratic compromise, it will be necessary to continuously develop people’s non-state democratic institutions. That we have not adopted nationalism and the formation of a competing state is not our goal does not mean we are compelled to submit to the current status quo. On the contrary, what is required is the constant development of civil society and democratic institutions to prevent reciprocal nationalist strife. Leaving the ever-increasing problems of society to existing or yet to be founded states will only aggravate problems. A new state cannot be easily established, and if established could not solve the existing problems, in any case. Twenty-two Arab states have been founded, and their problems have only become more serious. The same is true of Africa, with almost fifty states. The EU is only slowly resolving the problems created by Europe’s nation-states. The US is an expression of the unity of fifty states. In other words, an abundance of states tends to increase problems, not solve them. Since the existing states have lost their capacity to find solutions, the People’s Congress, as a non-state democratic body, is the key instrument available to us for addressing problems.
Following a long experience with war, the developed countries have worked out a model along these lines. Other countries, however, are still far from even grasping this sort of solution. As unitary states, they always mistake it for a concession. For them, patriotism and sacred loyalty to their states means sticking by their national unitary state to the point that it decays. In Yugoslavia, in Iraq, and even on the small island of Cyprus, this led to unanticipated results. The Republic of Turkey, for its part, is still far from understanding the function of democracies, regarding them as rivals.
Even though the Kurds were a founding people of the republic, the authorities think they can rid themselves of the Kurdish question by simply denying its existence. They refuse to understand and recognize the strategic role that the Kurds have played in the past and continue to play today. They insist on going the way of Yugoslavia and Iraq, simply relying on military power and the size of the country. The role of the Kurds can be better understood if one compares it to the situation in the United Kingdom, where one small part of Ireland, Northern Ireland, posed a major problem, or to the case for Russia, with Chechnya. If it were to recognize that military solutions can never be lasting, and, in fact, tend to spiral out of control, as well as their enormous cost, the Turkish state would understand how important it is to find a solution. The situation in Cyprus was left unresolved for forty years—to whose benefit? There certainly were numerous losses.
As we move toward a solution by way of the congress, the state and society of Turkey need to be clearly and effectively reminded of the strategic role of the Kurds and Kurdistan. Kurdistan acquiring a status that can be used against Turkey would mean constant problems, economic losses, and political and military threats. Since the formation of the nationalist and tribalist Kurdish federal state in South Kurdistan, it has become clear that its influence will be lasting. Thus, given its current status, Kurdistan has very quickly arrived at a place where it can cause Turkey problems. If democratic solutions are not implemented, nationalist movements will inevitably arise, and a new Israel-Palestine-like conflict that could easily last for fifty years will emerge. What has already happened in Iraq will come into more widespread play, particularly seriously in Turkey, with the PKK. We know the initial conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK was not a pleasant experience, and this time around there will be more comprehensive preparations and planning. The state may choose to rely on its traditional policy of oppression, but it is not yet clear what the Greater Middle East Initiative might bring with it. It is open to all sorts of dangers. The Kurds becoming a strategic element opposing Turkey would have far-reaching consequences, including starting numerous discussions and providing the basis for making new demands of Turkey.
Once it is understood that the use of quick crushing and lulling tactics have not worked and will not work, a renewed round of conflict, whether short- or long-term, will be the most dangerous development.
There’s no overlooking the fact that the Kurds could use their strategic role to ally with any state or power, first among them the US and Israel. Hoping to simply persuade the whole world that the PKK is a terrorist organization is nothing but self-deception. This situation would, on the contrary, awaken the world and create the opportunity to make additional demands of Turkey. Hasn’t Turkey already made quite a few economic and political concessions? It is obvious that this would be the wrong approach, and the Kurds do not ever deserve such treatment. The fact that the Kurdish tribalist forces in South Kurdistan were gifted a federal state to induce them to act against the PKK-led freedom movement has also had catastrophic consequences, and more will come. Not only does the Turkish state employ and pay almost one hundred thousand village guards to prevent the Kurds from supporting and turning to the PKK in North Kurdistan, it has also given the reactionary primitive nationalist tariqa chiefs numerous positions within the state. It is these forces that will enable the creation of a second Iraq. In addition, all of this contradicts the principles of republicanism and democracy. What could a Kurdistan that is economically paralyzed do but explode in the face of all these developments?
During my time on İmralı Island, I have made every effort to overcome this senseless imposition. I am not sure to what extent this is clear. The new AKP government keeps its silence more persistently than any government before it. It apparently thinks it can neutralize the Kurdish question by creating positions within the state for a great number of Naqshbandi tariqat forces. During the elections, these elements received all kinds of state support to ensure their election. A strategic error is being made, and when the consequences quickly become apparent, those responsible will be unable to rectify it.
Significant state-rooted obstacles have been created to block our quest for a shared democratic solution in Turkey. Both internal and external obstacles have been thrown up to hinder the Demokratik Güçler Birliği (DGB: Union of Democratic Forces).7 The exclusion of Kurdish democrats was regarded as essential to national security. All of this is a huge mistake; this is an insistence on the status quo and a deadlock. It is presumed that the Kurdish people cannot go their own way. Complete surrender brought about by hunger and repression is the anticipated outcome, with social policies, combined with diplomacy and internal security, as well as economic and political initiatives, still strictly implemented to this end. All of this is based on a single strategy of confronting the people with a clear dilemma: “surrender or die!” The AKP government has added another component to this policy; the power of religion and the tariqat. The current phase is incredibly provocative, with Turkey insistently creating an impasse. All calls for a “peaceful and democratic solution” remain unanswered and studiously ignored, an approach that could not be expected from any similar movement and that could benefit everyone. We have seen none of the efforts that were made for a comparatively smaller problem, i.e., Cyprus, with the Kurdish question instead being deemed nonexistent. At the same time, hopes were pinned on both a split within the PKK, and US troops in Iraq. If it proves impossible to develop a joint democratic solution, the most positive resolution would be to develop our own democracy based on our own resources. Thus, from now on a congress solution will be on the agenda.
The people of Kurdistan must mobilize for a congress solution in all parts of the country and abroad. In the framework defined here, an extraordinary congress of the Koma Gel should take place in response to the group that recently emerged.8 This congress should thoroughly evaluate current internal and external developments. Necessary decisions should be taken regarding economic, social, political, judicial, and ecological issues, as well as the media and self-defense. An executive council should be appointed. All those who are dreaming of a split and fragmentation will be disappointed.
People should commit all of their energy to a congress solution in all parts of Kurdistan. Because parties are excluded from national parliaments by electoral thresholds, bans, and similar mechanisms, local democratic governments should be mobilized. Self-government units should be elected and take responsibility in every village and neighborhood. Democratic solutions should lead to enlightenment in all realms of people’s lives. Ways to achieve lasting solutions should be proposed. Wherever the appropriate conditions exist, the decisions of the congress should be implemented. An education that meets the needs of the people should be implemented to the degree possible. The people should not be abandoned to beg from the state. There will be no opportunity for the game of preying on the people by keeping them at the edge of starvation. Wherever there are attacks on human rights and cultural freedoms, the people should defend themselves. The evacuation of new villages should be prevented, and the old villages should be resettled. Numerous forms of solidarity should be used to act against hunger. A plethora of new forms of organizing should be developed. Civil society should be extensively organized. Democratic schools should be developed in every residential area to educate the people about their own democracy.
The congress solution will be ready for a democratic solution with any state. It will persistently push for democratic options based on peace and community solidarity and free from secessionism and violence, rather than nationalist oppression and denial.
Moreover, it will make clear that it is capable of defending itself from attack. This isn’t about seceding but, on the contrary, a guarantee of genuine unity. It will be persistently emphasized that this is the most responsible way to prevent further tragedies. Should the states try to crush these efforts, the response will only grow stronger. The people, living under unbearable conditions, will step up their democratic action in a more organized and conscious way. They will not be seduced by nationalist and conspiratorial efforts but will also not refrain from all kinds of activities in the social, political, judicial, and artistic realms and in the realms of media and self-defense. In defining the essentials of this new phase, which we call the “congress solution,” we believe it is our historical duty to call upon everyone to be more attentive and to contribute to a solution before new tragedies arise.
As part of this brief explanation of the definition and orientation of the People’s Congress, we must address some topics in even greater detail. First, we must mention the internal power struggles that began at the first meeting of the Koma Gel. This fractious behavior, which was displayed at a moment of a major theoretical, political, and practical sea change toward a democratic solution, is clear evidence that some people have not understood the essence of democratic politics or what politicization means within the PKK in general—or they have dared to deliberately ignore it. I have already emphasized that such a behavior toward this political experience, which has lasted a quarter of a lifetime, must be subjected to serious analysis and dealt with thorough critique and self-critique. All of this has demonstrated how strong is the tendency to ignore rules, to pay no attention to circumstances, and to fail to evaluate consequences, which, in essence, is unpolitical, as well as being amateurish and failing to overcome cronyism when it comes to matters of power. It also reflects personality traits that aren’t centered on successful work but are either bogged down in ideological templates or caught up in primitive drives.
Actually, I’m very familiar with these attitudes. They existed during the initial formation phase of the PKK as a group and persisted after the party was founded. These attitudes gave rise to extremely arbitrary practices and behavior when the armed struggle began on August 15, 1984, that have still not been adequately addressed. Thus, all this can be seen as the continuation of approaches imposed by those who have not been able to take on any real responsibility over the course of fifteen years of war. My mistake was choosing to treat these people very amicably instead of insisting they behave as our institutions and rules demanded, because my goal was to save them. I always approached them thinking and believing that they would gain experience and improve. The end result of my approach is my current situation.
The fact that I have been unjustifiably instrumentalized once more since I’ve been on İmralı Island is not as painful and devaluing for me as it is for those who have behaved this way and become the playthings of others. They chose this course even though I warned them and provided numerous examples to illustrate my point. I said, “There are some things that you can do when I’ve returned to dust, other things you cannot do even once I’m in my grave, and some things you can never do as long as I am still breathing.” The mountains have an effect that is both liberating and bestializing. Obviously, the liberating aspect has been incorrectly internalized. I warned both the PKK and the relevant states that no one would profit from trying to manipulate me. Let there be no doubt that I am unshakably and entirely committed to doing what is right. I want everyone to understand that even though I may appear helpless and miserable, that is not, in fact, the case. Although I’m not doing splendidly, I wanted everyone to know that I cannot be considered completely devoid of dignity. However, the friends I speak of are apparently thrilled with their way of life and their way of waging war. It turns out that despite everything, I acted and must continue to act maturely.
Regardless of how difficult and important or how simple and unimportant any particular work may be, one must accept it as sacred and do it well. My question is: Do those who triggered this situation have the courage to just once appreciate what I have done to salvage their revolutionary honor? I can barely breathe through a tiny vent, but I continue trying to live by the values of our people’s struggle for dignity, values that should never be underestimated. The situation here on İmralı Island is such that any ordinary person would commit suicide within three days. I am striving for unity and prudence and am trying to stay focused, which is very difficult. Will these friends prove by mature, successful efforts that they are capable of holding on to their dignity?
To this end, I have reflected and made proposals. I truly believed and expected that these friends would successfully renew themselves through an institution like the Koma Gel, thereby salvaging their honor. I also want to remind the friends of something else: this sort of power struggle ends in an ignominious death. They should not deceive themselves. How can people waste time on these “Byzantine intrigues,” given the enormous tasks they have before them? Let’s not debate who is right and who is wrong or use notions like “agent provocateur” or “coup plotter” to escape our responsibilities. Even if this were actually the case, our method of resolving the situation at hand cannot be allowed to put the fate of a people at risk. I have experienced hundreds of examples of this, but I have never neglected the tasks of the moment. You don’t deliberately begin a battle that no one can win. What did the parties to the conflict hope for when they started a fight that would not only hurt them but everyone, all of our people? Even if one side were to win, how would they sell this victory, which would be worse than treason, and to whom?
What is even stranger is that they acted in my name, placing me in a sort of isolation within an isolation, which I find hard to comprehend. These people should acknowledge and explain what they have done. How can someone who is nurtured by their mother every day want her to be unable to any longer provide milk? I have recounted the story of the struggle with my mother. There were obvious historical reasons for it. But what reasons do these friends have? Neither the friends nor our enemy have ever claimed that I have nothing to offer. Why, therefore, do they devalue me? What are the reasons, and who is encouraging it? The answers to these questions are essential for further development.
I want to remind everybody, both those who participated in this and those who could, consciously or subconsciously, end up in a similar situation that participating in the struggle for the dignity of the people requires honorable and determined human beings acting willingly. Those who can’t do this should not join our organization to begin with and should certainly never hold a rank within it. They should not forget that chasing after a rank is the enemy of democracy. But they should not shy away from holding a position, because that often means the absence of any aspirations and goals. Can they actually deny that they have behaved in an undemocratic fashion? I was able to follow some of the developments and must say that even the sultans wouldn’t have employed their methods. How do they intend to justify violating the will of the people who are ready? How can it be that people opposed to democracy to such an extent are still living in our midst? They must at long last understand democracy. If even the most astute of the Turkish politicians have not managed to gain much with demagoguery and despotism, what could these beardless greenhorns possibly imagine achieving? I find writing all of this down quite difficult, and I hope I don’t have to make similar comments in the future.
I am sure that had my friends held my position in the organization, they would have liquidated me a hundred times. And, even so, I continue to march alongside them. But I must add: don’t play games with me. It will not end well for you.
The Koma Gel will work, even though the states attempted to paralyze it from the outside and various factional groups have tried to do the same from within. Let’s talk about the states later. The groups that see themselves as conflicting parties should not forget for even a second that there is only one thing that can save them, successfully addressing the tasks they face.
I’m not in a position to say anything about the substance and the number of people that should be involved in the congress. In addition to what I have already said, I want to repeat my proposal that the board of the congress be elected annually, and that no one be allowed to run for two years following a second mandate. I see this as an important statu-tory democratic stipulation that should apply to all offices in the people’s organization that require special skills but are non-ideological in nature. If one doesn’t want to specifically focus on one-year terms, one could contextualize it as two office terms. In parties and institutions requiring specialization, the limitation on the term of office should depend on the particular situations of the people involved.
Annual plenary sessions in April that may last several weeks would also correspond to historical tradition. Now or in the future, a particular city could be selected as the site for the congress. This would show the strength and seriousness of the congress. It should be part of the general by-laws of the organization that the congress elects an executive, a disciplinary commission, and a chairperson. It is important that only people with sufficient principles and determination are elected to the executive. I have previously suggested that the executive should work as seven committees whose members could be elected from the executive or from the general ranks. In addition, the congress could elect seven corresponding preparatory commissions to make necessary decisions between terms. These commissions could make proposals and contribute to decision-making and supervision based on research. Depending on the particularities of the respective committees, offices, schools, or associations could be connected to them. Units of each of these offices, schools, or associations could be established in regions, towns, districts, and villages down to the lowest levels. Neighborhood and village communes are a basic requirement for any democracy. Based on this organizational template, no group in the population would be excluded from or uninfluenced by congress activities.
A legal or an illegal approach can be taken, depending on the situation, but legality should be the standard course of action. The party resolve can only reach the grassroots through the congress organization. The defense units can also be described as units that adhere to the decisions of the congress, as well as developing and protecting democracy. Relationships with legal parties should take place at the sympathizer level. It would be wrong to run legal institutions by giving orders. The congress should organize the geographical distribution of its members in line with the tasks at hand and the security situation. All these disparate points could be broadly discussed on the basis of practical needs that could be reinforced with sound evaluations and decisions.
The second important issue is how relationships between congress forces and state forces in Kurdistan can be maintained and contradictions resolved. I want to stress in particular that up to this point the maxim “all or nothing” has always been the approach to all power struggles. There has rarely been any room for dual power and democratic authority. The more natural and ordinary occurrence is for the forces of power and democracy to live together with all their contradictions and relations. In spite of constant denial, to a very large extent this is the prevalent reality in society. Concisely expressing this point and drawing lessons from it would be extremely fruitful for a solution. When launching our August 15, 1984, offensive, we acted on the basis of the maxim “all or nothing.” Today, it is better understood by both sides that this is not the right approach. Our current circumstances mean that both state forces and congress forces cohabit the same country.
States cannot disappear in a day or even a decade nor can the democratic stance of the people simply be uprooted and tossed aside. Since permanent war brings massive destruction to both sides, the appropriate middle course should be based on living together and going to war only if it is unavoidable. In the coming period, we should organize our lives and our wars in all of the regions of Kurdistan based on this principle. The states will undoubtedly initially continue to pursue the principle of “all or nothing,” but their attacks can be neutralized by democratic resistance and self-defense. It should be the core task of the democratic struggle and the art of the war of self-defense to find the right way to do this.
In the past, there was a similar phase. But neither side really tried to behave democratically, and both waged war without respecting the rules. Another example of this is Israel-Palestine situation today. Preventing a similar situation from arising elsewhere is of the utmost importance. During the İmralı court process, I proposed a dialogue for bilateral ceasefire and a democratic reconciliation. This was persistently ignored. Our friends could not grasp the importance of the issue either. They saw it as a tactic and nothing more, in spite of the fact that the chaos in the Middle East clearly shows that there is no other meaningful way out.
It is well known that we had some expectations of the AKP government, and that I even wrote a letter to them. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the nationalist and tribal forces want to play the same role in Turkey that they have played in South Kurdistan, this time using the AKP. The traditional and collaborator minority leaders and Kurds in Kurdistan promptly turned away from the CHP, MHP, DYP, and MSP,9 throwing their support behind the AKP, a process directed and guided by the state. A lot of money was spent to eradicate the Demokratik Halk Partisi (DEHAP: Democratic People’s Party). The AKP became the new home address of the gangs and of Hezbollah, which formed in the 1990s. Under the cloak of the Naqshbandi tariqa, they became the state’s new class of guards. This is a very dangerous development that could eviscerate the substance of democratic solution for both Turkey and the people of Kurdistan. The fact that the tariqat and the village guards have been offered an opportunity to influence the people with the support of the state amounts to a new declaration of special warfare.10 In fact, a tacit second Iraq is being created. The integration of the Kurdish collaborators into the state began in the 1950s, making them economically powerful and increasing their separation from the people. More precisely this social stratum was given economic privilege so that it could be used as a gatekeeper against the people. The Kurds partially rallying around the ANAP, and to an even greater degree around the AKP, is on the basis of primitive Kurdish nationalism and the Naqshbandi tariqa.
This is also the nature of the social base of the federal state in Iraq. The Kurdish feudal lords are being seamlessly transformed into a Kurdish bourgeoisie. Every day, it becomes clearer that the US is investing significant energy to bring this about. Kurdish nationalism could well cause major problems for everyone in the region, particularly the Kurds. Some of the traditional collaborationist minorities are also being integrated in this way, allegedly “helping the state.” In this way, ideological gatekeepers are added to the armed guards, and they will constantly harm the people and stand in the way of democratic development to protect their own class interests. In many towns, they have been assisted in carrying out antidemocratic counterrevolutions. In numerous provinces and counties, particularly Van, Urfa, Mardin, Ağrı, Bingöl, Siirt, Bitlis, Muş, Adıyaman, and Antep, state-sponsored counterrevolutions resulted from intense efforts on the part of the government under the protection of the state around municipal elections. We know how much money changed hands and what kind of political manipulation took place. First, the people were pushed to the brink of starvation, and then fake “saviors” were provided. Hunger is not the only means used to discipline the people. They are made to take part in this sort of counterrevolution. Much of the AKP’s behavior has already raised major doubts about its commitment to democracy, particularly with regard to the Kurdish question. The US and the EU listing the Koma Gel as “terrorist” is pure sophistry. The objective is to bolster the traditional collaborators among the Kurds and the minorities to induce them to continue acting as state agents. The events in Iraq are also extremely instructive in this regard.
Of course, the Koma Gel forces will try to forestall this game, but if the states insist on these traditional collaborators, they will deepen the conflicts. The states, particularly Turkey, must develop an approach that enables them to secure a lasting peace and the unity of their countries by turning away from a policy based on these new collaborators, relying instead on the people and their democratic character. An insistence on working with the Kurdish collaborators will only deepen the war and encourage secessionism.
The people of Kurdistan will not allow their country to go from being under the rule of the feudal lords to being ruled over by bourgeois collaborators. I want to once more stress that this would be tantamount to creating a second Iraq or a second Israel-Palestine. In the process of creating an artificial Kurdish bourgeoisie, there was a particular focus on Diyarbakır. Our people in Diyarbakır, having conducted a major struggle for democracy and having prevented the rise of fascism, will not tolerate a green Kurdish fascism either.11 The example of Hezbollah has allowed the people to recognize fascists with a Kurdish mask, like the village guards and the confessors before them. The people will not be fooled just because these people are wearing modern disguises. The state is making a dangerous choice in this matter. In the near future, there will be calls made to the Turkish democrats and efforts to form an alliance, and the Koma Gel will insist on a democratic solution. The workers and people of Kurdistan will not fall for the game being played but will continue to insistently play their historical democratic role.
In the time ahead, there will probably be a dual presence of the congress forces and those of the state. Whether this dual presence becomes confrontational to a large extent depend on the behavior of the state.
If the state attacks the people’s struggle for democratization or the entirely necessary and legitimate self-defense forces, there will be war. If attempts to achieve a democratic reconciliation on all levels are taken seriously by the state, the integrity of the country and the toiling population will benefit the most. The congress forces should be very cautious to avoid being dragged into dead-end war games like those of the past. That said, if the usurpation of their rights is not enough and the state forces attack, the people have the right to defend themselves by any means, a right they will exercise. No state forces, including the Kurdish federal state, should prohibit legal democratic institutions and legal political parties; they should permit their free activity. Finally, there should be a bilateral ceasefire. The Koma Gel forces will undoubtedly be supportive and respond positively to any decision in favor of the path to peace and democratic reconciliation. If the opposite turns out to be the case, the Kurds will respond to these liquidationist and annihilationist efforts in each part of Kurdistan, further consolidating their own democratic position with the most appropriate methods. The Koma Gel’s policies and leadership in the new phase shall deem taking up the struggle based on self-critique and adhering to the requirements of their oaths of determination as the only way to hold on to their humanity and dignity.
A third point concerns Turkey’s efforts to get others to label the PKK and the Koma Gel terrorist, a fundamental aspect of its policy. As we have frequently said, this policy, which is being pursued jointly with the US, is rife with pitfalls. One should never lose sight of the possibility that it will backfire against the state. Powers that appear to support the “terrorist” label but then collaborate politically with anyone they deem suitable are probably more ambitious and skillful in their policy. People ought to be aware that these forces always work to fuel the tension between the PKK and Turkey, hoping in this way to keep Turkey powerless. The long-term consequences of the terrorism charge need to be carefully weighed, keeping in mind what has become of some of those who were once described as “terrorists” by the US. Moreover, it would amount to falling into a trap of one’s own doing if one gets obsessed with the “PKK” name. The reality of Northern Iraq is very instructive in this regard.
Within the Koma Gel solution, the Kurds’ place in Turkish history, as well as in the Iranian and Arab civilizations, must be constantly addressed. The strategic role of the Kurds must be understood and made practical. The Kurds’ neighbors need them to play this strategic role even more than the Kurds themselves do. The decisive factor in the downfall of Saddam’s regime was that Saddam failed to accurately calculate the role of the Kurds. The neighboring states face the same danger. The Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan could unite and develop a joint strategy. If they did so, those who express the greatest hostility would suffer the biggest loss. It is the task of the Koma Gel to understand and play this strategic Kurdish role. That this has not yet happened is due to the treachery of the Kurdish collaborators. Under the new conditions, it will be difficult for them to carry on as before. The Kurds will develop an increasingly clear strategy and move closer to the point at which they can act upon it. The historical examples we have provided of Kurds and Turks living together as tribes and peoples and acting jointly at certain strategic junctures should be well understood. The Kurds did not behave this way to be eradicated from history, but because they recognized it as a political necessity. Important Turkish statesmen have also understood this. If this strategy is not implemented with the Turks but with another power—and there are many contenders, including Iran, the Arabs, Israel, the EU, Russia, Armenia, and Greece—the Turkish nation will obviously be the biggest loser. This outcome shouldn’t be encouraged with simplistic charges of terrorism. The liquidation of the PKK and the Koma Gel is impossible. Moreover, their legacy might be picked up by others in a very negative way at any moment. The Kurds must also understand that opposition, even hostility, toward the Turks is not in their best interest. Kurdish-Turkish hostility is a “lose-lose” proposition. We have a relationship in which a gain made by one side is not tantamount to a loss for the other side. Once the anachronistic thinking about this relationship has been overcome, we will have a permanent “win-win” situation. But, unfortunately, at present, the policy is “the Turks are everything, the Kurds nothing.”
The opposite is, of course, also possible, i.e., a policy of “the Kurds are everything, the Turks nothing.” The current policy encourages that. The insistence on the terrorism accusation and the attacks against the congress forces will obviously get the wheels of the “lose-lose” situation rapidly spinning. It should be well understood that we have gone to great lengths not to take this path. The reasons we adopted this attitude are far from simple. As should be clear, I have taken the historical social reasons into account to arrive at my opinion. A solution based on the Koma Gel is the way to achieve the free unity, democratic reconciliation, and peace that is the most appropriate way to preserve the integrity of the country, the state, and the nation. It is necessary to understand who benefits the most from a policy that takes any approach to a solution out of the hands of the Kurds and gives it to collaborators and anti-republican and antidemocratic tariqa forces. By this point, the genuinely democratic forces in Turkey have probably figured out why they have been excluded by making a thorough analysis of their own Kurdish policy. They have probably learned that no policy, let alone a social democratic policy, is possible if one plays the game of the “three wise monkeys.”
At its extraordinary general assembly, starting from a correct evaluation of the current situation, the Koma Gel should be able to overcome the old parochial character that offers no solution and instead embrace democratic power and prove that the criterion for being a true democrat is successfully carrying out your duties in the context of an institutional reality. This would make clear that nothing short of success in addressing the coming historical tasks will be acceptable. It can play its role successfully by foiling the efforts of the nationalists and feudalists and by doing justice to the requirements for a truly democratic struggle and the necessity for self-defense.
The People’s Defense Forces
The Hêzên Parastina Gel (HPG: People’s Defense Forces) will also continue to play an important role in resolving the Kurdish question. Its role in the democratic struggle as an organization separate from the party and the congress, its relationship with the party and the congress, and how war is to be carried out are all points that need to be clarified.
As people know, our perspective on war when we launched the offensive on August 15, 1984, was based on ideas that we had learned by rote: the national question could only be solved by war and, therefore, war must be endlessly praised, and we seek shelter from the god of war. This was understood to be the highest principle, and people needed to act accordingly, because that was what socialism required. This approach was obviously dogmatic and entirely failed to take historical and social conditions into account. It stated a general principle and nothing more. Marxism didn’t include any analysis of the theoretical problems of war. Marx had borrowed from feudal-bourgeois French historians, and Engels’s limited work on the topic was not particularly clarifying. For the most part, the role that the theory of violence plays for power and the social order was left unexamined. Even though the ruling colonial powers overwhelmingly came from bourgeois societies, national wars were treated like a separate socialist category—a socialist had to wage the national liberation struggle. Because I have already analyzed war in the relevant section of this book, I will not repeat myself here. I have explained that both power and the state are exclusively determined by war and force, that every social order is founded on war to some degree, and that without an analysis of war, we cannot fully analyze either power or society; we can’t even analyze the economy. This is not to say that we see war as sheer evil; the goal here is to examine the place of war and violence in sociality. I hope to explain what and how much can be won and what can be lost in war. In brief, my goal is a sociological analysis of war.
I have always said that the offensive of August 15, 1984, was necessary, although its execution was full of flaws and inadequacies. I have consistently engaged in serious critique and self-critique about this phase of the war, a phase of both great heroic deeds and major perfidy, achievements, and losses. Undoubtedly, the HPG, as a continuation of this great legacy, cannot continue in the old style, but this does not mean that it has no role to play and is going to be dysfunctional. Neither a permanent ceasefire nor peace has been concluded, so we must continue to attend to the problems faced by the HPG, its tasks, and its quantitative and qualitative situation.
To prevent any misunderstanding, I will provide a brief evaluation of the role of violence in Kurdistan. The situation in Kurdistan as a country and in Kurdish society is determined by the law of conquest. From the Sumerians to today, this tradition of conquest is based on the idea that “whatever you rule, you own.” Thus, rule and force are seen to be the basis of all rights. The land and the people belong to those who most recently conquered them. Islam in particular combines this with a supreme religious injunction. Bourgeois nationalism also frantically clings to the principle of conquest. The role of the people is to submit to the conquerors and do what they are told. However, revolutionary principles define war very differently.
The legitimacy of war that leads to oppression and exploitation and, thus, to the right of conquest, is a deception that reflects the will of the oppressors. Not submitting to this but resisting it is a sacred duty. The humiliation caused by war can only be overcome by ending submission. War against oppression is sacred for oppressed people and is the fundamental instrument of liberation and must be resorted to, if necessary, to end the debasement they are subjected to.
State rulers in present-day Kurdistan regard themselves as the “once upon a time” conquerors of this place. They use the right of conquest to justify the permanence of their rule. They don’t see themselves as responsible for the backwardness of the people, for its close to nonexistence, or for the complete lack of freedom and equality. Obviously, there is a big problem here, and the essence of that problem is rooted in force. The people we call “Kurds,” who have worked this land for centuries have never said, “Please, come and subjugate me.” Knowing the nature of our time, how can we overcome this status based on force? There are two ways: democratic reconciliation or, if that proves impossible, using force against force. Living in any other way runs contrary to the time we are in and would mean hunger, unemployment, and lack of culture and language. Had there been fully functioning democracies in the countries where the parts of Kurdistan are located, there might not have been an opening for the principle of force.
Funneling the people’s democratic stance and practice into the wrong channels within the gears and levers of the state, thereby ensuring that they come to nothing, ultimately leads to the loss of their essence. Turning the state into a temple and inviting the people to make a pilgrimage to the ballot box every four or five years, as is the case today, has nothing to do with democracy. Irrespective of the number of parties, elections only legitimize the state and transform the public administration of the people into a deceptive game. That this kind of game is called democracy has to do with the capitalist system’s enormous advertising power. It is the product of a misleading campaign, similar to the insistent attempt to convince a mentally stable person that they are mad, until they begin to believe it.
The people’s democratic stance and practice are primarily about embracing their identity, committing themselves to their freedom, and attaining self-governance. Consciousness of their own identity is based on their history and social reality. When this consciousness is organized, it creates strength, and strength leads to freedom. People cannot liberate themselves without getting organized and growing strong. Once they liberate themselves, the next necessary step is to attain self-governance. It is irrational and immoral to attain freedom but not to be able to govern yourself. Our definition of democracy within this framework is based on a process that creates lasting consciousness of identity, as well as organizational work on all levels among the people. Overall our definition of democracy could also be called democratic action. It could also be understood as the transition from a democratic stance to a democratic practice. Instead of using electoral rituals to bind the people to the state, democratic action means encouraging the people to take responsibility for their own existence and to strive for freedom and self-governance. Running after positions within the state structure and attempting to gain approval from the people in order to rule deal severe blows to true democracy. This is exactly what happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and it constituted the betrayal of democracy, a deeper and more far-reaching betrayal than that which Jean-Jacques Rousseau drew attention to in the eighteenth century.
A meaningful democratic struggle in Kurdistan must occur within the framework outlined here. Otherwise, all we have is the game of choosing our own masters, which is nothing but an occasional assembly of the slaves so they can confirm their masters. A true democratic endeavor can only take place if it is based on the social identity, freedom, and self-governance of the people. There must be a continuous effort to raise consciousness and improve organization. Thus, a true act of democracy would be to assemble with the people and make decisions about how to address their fundamental problems and determine who will be responsible for implementing these decisions. That left, right, religious, and nationalist parties all serve to legitimize the state, entirely lack prestige among the people, and routinely lose at the ballot box is closely related to the facts we have outlined here. The system’s parties can play no role in Kurdistan other than legitimizing the system in the basest of ways. They are dishonest, deceitful, and exploitative instruments similar to the religious tariqat of the past.
Being a democratic party and carrying out democratic action is noble. It was democracy that allowed Athens, which I have heavily criticized elsewhere,12 to put an end to both the Spartan monarchy and the Persian Empire and experience a “golden age.” When democracy is actually realized, it is both a virtuous regime and a school for creating conscious and free citizens who can protect the country and the people from any despot or occupying power. No endeavor in politics is more valuable than democratic action. In that sense, the best guarantee for the people is having sons and daughters who love and nurture democracy. Any state-oriented effort in Kurdistan, regardless of who undertakes it and under what rubric, can only mean the negation of democracy. In today’s Kurdistan, there is no endeavor that is more valuable—that will resolve issues and lead to peace and freedom—than carrying out a genuine democratic effort and building a democratic movement.
However, Kurdistan is still quite far from being a contemporary democracy. The Middle East is experiencing pre-democracy, wars, and chaos. Kurdistan is at the center of this chaos and these wars. Regardless of the angle you approach from, the people’s self-defense challenges are grave and must be addressed. The inability to even use our language—the most basic communication tool—under the contemporary standards is evidence of the depth of people’s self-defense problems. On the other hand, the absence of many of the conditions and means necessary for a generalized war of resistance makes it necessary to narrow and limit the struggle. In resisting the political and military forces of the ruling states, the armed struggle can take the form of low- or medium-intensity warfare or could even be further narrowed down to war waged by small cells. Not resisting at all makes submission eternal. Not eradicating state sovereignty through resistance but making it accommodate democratic reconciliation seems to be the best way forward under the current conditions. The role of the HPG can be defined as promoting and protecting the people’s democracy until a democratic reconciliation can be reached. Paving the way for democratization means that the indirect obstacles posed by the forces collaborating with the antidemocratic state power must be removed.
Another acceptable condition for war would be a war of defense against attacks directly targeting the HPG. As such the HPG must use guerrilla warfare to the fullest possible extent. The tasks of the HPG include solving problems ranging from its own deployment to its relationship with the population, from logistics to training and education, from command structures to political contacts. There may even be times when this is the basic form around which the people and all organized forces revolve, and the HPG will face the task of protecting and developing all democratic efforts.
The HPG has to provide the necessary political and organizational capacity. It also has to make its own quantitative and qualitative situation compatible with the tasks it has to fulfill and determine the required tactics and strategies. It will be responsible for the safety of the whole party, the congress, and particularly civilians who are in danger. While executing its difficult but important tasks, it will be faced with a well-trained military and other security forces.
Another important topic is my role in our armed struggle. The great efforts I made in this area before and after the offensive of August 15, 1984, are well known. Nevertheless, there was an enormous difference between my understanding of war and what occurred in the first fifteen years of that period. Since I have already carried out extensive critique and self-critique about this earlier in this book, I will not repeat it here. Had I known at the time that the deviation was as great as it was, I would have relocated to Kurdistan in the 1980s, certainly by the beginning of the 1990s, at the latest. That many of groups that took on tasks at the time failed miserably had a lot to do with the fact that they either knew nothing about the nature of war, its political foundations, and its ideological background or that their level of consciousness and training was too low. The main reason for defeats and losses was that the commanders didn’t live up to their tasks. The root cause of the situation that I am in should be sought in the same place. My abilities only allowed me to lead the war, both theoretically and practically, in the way I did. It was enough to enact some things, but not enough to achieve what was desired. I must quite openly say that after 1995, it might have been better had I chosen to reflect on the situation more profoundly, rather than endless repetition of what we had already done. Expecting success from the command cadres in 1993 was unrealistic. The offensive from 1993 to 1995 was important, but the insistence on carrying it out with seasoned but unsuccessful cadres led to the well-known repetitiveness. It is now well-established that offensives before that also lacked serious commanders.
That was the context in which my departure from Syria in 1998 took place. I could have gone to our country but didn’t, because I was worried that that might result in our total annihilation. Up until September 11, 2001, I favored an end to the armed struggle in the event of an agreement on a minimum democratic reconciliation, but after 9/11 there was no apparent intention for reconciliation on the part of the Turkish leadership. In my view, we could have launched a legitimate war of defense immediately after the parliamentary elections of November 2002, when it became clear that the government would not respond to any proposal for a solution, but that decision was not mine to make. The conditions of my incarceration are not conducive to such decision-making. It would be wrong to expect orders from me. It is the task of the confident and responsible cadres to make decisions about the way to wage war and the corresponding tactics and strategies based on a comprehensive analysis of the new phase. I have given them completely free reign in that regard. That said, I would not consider it morally acceptable to use war as a coercive factor. War is an act that must only be engaged in to meet the historical and indispensable demands of the people. That is why I said, “Discuss it with the people and make your own decision.” This remains my view today.
I have made some of my theoretical considerations about war clear in the past and have tried to dig deeper in the work before you. I have formulated some fundamental positions about the role of force in our country and the nature of the war of resistance. It should be obvious that these are not in any way orders but just attempts to illuminate the topic at hand.
I have also made some recommendations regarding the state of the women’s units, the creation of autonomous democratic regions, and the specific features of people’s defensive wars. These thoughts and proposals might be worth considering, given that the conditions of war can change in twenty-four hours, and it might be necessary to adapt tactics at any moment. In situations like this, everything can change; I, therefore, repeat that my proposals should in no way be understood as orders. In war, the decisive factor is the will of the fighters themselves. They must arrive at and carry out decisions based on their theoretical and practical knowledge. They themselves are responsible for any successes and defeats, and they must understand this. It is their responsibility to choose or to avoid war based on the circumstances, their strength, their experience, and their theory.
Until now, I have made some remarks that included, albeit indirectly, warnings to the state and our congress forces. When I recently noted behavior that aimed at undermining the decision-making power of the congress, historical responsibility obliged me to suggest the reconstruction of the PKK and, out of commitment to the congress, an extraordinary general assembly. I had to convey my opinions whatever the cost, even if it was the last thing I ever did. Even though the inadequate communication angered me quite a bit, I tried to do the best I could. Finally, I have had the opportunity to succinctly present my opinions on a number of issues in the submissions before you.
I assume that the congress will meet by summer at the latest and hope that there will be no abnormalities. The friends in positions of responsibility face even more important tasks than was the case in preparation for August 15, 1984. Those who accept a position in the name of the party, the congress, or the HPG must proceed with confidence and rely on their own strength. Given the situation, it would be beyond nonsensical to have any expectations of me. No matter how unfit my health may be, I will of course try to show the strength to take things to a dignified end. I must, however, also point out that if they were genuine comrades they wouldn’t have behaved as they have under the current circumstances.
When Kemal Pir heard about the action of Ferhat Kurtay and his comrades, he is said to have said, “It should have been us who carried out this action.” As we know, after that the fast to the death began. I strictly oppose suicidal acts and consider them wrong, but I don’t regard the actions of Kemal Pir, Mehmet Hayri Durmuş, Mazlum Doğan, and Ferhat Kurtay as suicidal acts. They said, “If there were the slightest possibility to live with dignity, we would pursue it and live our lives with dignity to the end.” These words set out the necessary criteria for how life should be lived. In this situation, there was only one thing left that could be done to uphold human dignity. They went ahead with that act of resistance. We know that Hayri Durmuş expressed his determination with the words we succeeded. Their maxim was “human dignity shall prevail!” This is the tradition of our war of resistance, and it must be understood and implemented correctly.
Many friends who were released from prison are now at your side. It would be worth asking what they understand about life. Nobody expects you to carry out suicidal acts—there was enough of that in the period that began on August 15, 1984—that would simply be unacceptable. Nevertheless, there are numerous options for democratic action and a war of self-defense. There is room to move freely without complaining about the spatial and temporal conditions, and, thus, it is undeniable that for your dignity and that of the people the conditions and possibilities exist for experimenting with any imaginable option. We took your self-critiques in the early 2000s seriously and believed that you would develop a successful practice. In the end, however, in spite of our expectations of you, you reduced our legacy to a cadaver, torn in two, and sent it to me. Clearly, this is not what a war for dignity looks like. You are among our people and free humanity, but, most of all, you are in the mountains, which, as the result of tireless effort, hold the promise of freedom.
Let’s not forget that I have made enormous effort to get each one of you to this point, for which I don’t expect any personal repayment. On the other hand, I will never accept behavior that violates the dignity of our people in this way, and not just the dignity of the people; you must realize what you are doing to your own dignity. I, or we, have not done anything or made any mistake that forgives your behavior. I will continue to try to correctly understand humanity’s war for dignity and meet its requirements.
In the last part of this section, I tried to clarify Kurdish phenomenon and the Kurdish question in the light of comprehensive analyses and assessments and to make some proposals for a solution. All of this can also be understood as my response to the concerned circles. Now it is the task of each concerned group to accept their responsibility and respond as they see fit.
As a result of all these discussions, I have indicated some of my own errors and shortcomings with regard to the phase that began on August 15, 1984. The most important thing to note is that in the beginning we were not really clear about what we wanted. I certainly acknowledge that I was not sufficiently clear and could not develop adequate solutions and analyses in the early 1980s. I believe I have made the necessary self-critique in these writings. My second mistake and failure was to be unclear about the actions that had to be carried out. I think I have since gained a better clarity in this regard and have shared my thoughts with the circles I’m concerned with here. At this point, there are two possible courses of action.
Options for Democratic Action and a Democratic Solution
It is obvious that I prefer democratic action and a democratic solution. I have consistently and comprehensively presented my position. That I failed to achieve this clarity in the early 1990s was a serious flaw. Even though these insights were late in arriving, and even though I am the one who made a great effort but also suffered the most as a result, today, on the eve of important developments and historical circumstances, it is very important that I have been able to present a clear and viable proposal for democratic action and a democratic solution. Thousands of activists say that they are determined to carry out the democratic struggle, and millions of people have stood up for freedom. This is the capacity of the militants and people to offer a variety of approaches to problems that can be resolved without a resort to arms. The historical responsibility for the failure to use this opportunity will weigh especially heavily on those who are in leadership positions and others in charge. Freedom for the country and democracy for the people can be achieved by the millions who demand their rights through a variety of civil society and democratic forms of organizing. All that is needed is some time and a democratic political leadership that has internalized democracy, believes in its goals, and is able to build close ties with the people.
Wherever necessary, this could take the form of fighting for law that overcomes undemocratic legality and clears the way of democratic rights and freedom.
No one should insist on squandering the hopes of the people in favor of the remnants of the Middle Ages, while still carrying the traces of their alleged left and social democratic identity. Regardless of anyone’s nationality, sex, religion, or denomination, by keeping to the minimum requirements of being a democrat, there is nothing that cannot be achieved; whether it is peace, camaraderie, freedom, or equality in present-day Turkey and Kurdistan.
The Second Path
If all our calls and warnings go unheeded, if all the hopes and efforts of our people for freedom, equality, and democracy continue to be suppressed by insidious special warfare methods, if practices that are incompatible with the revolutionary principles of the republic, the integrity of the country, and contemporary forms of the state and the nation persist, then the answer will have to be the comprehensive implementation of a war of self-defense. As should be generally understood, this is not our preference. But the games that are being played require that we be well-prepared and not hesitate to launch a war of self-defense, if and when necessary. It is obvious that I could not be responsible for its execution or direction, even if I wanted to. I can neither prevent nor prohibit it. The historical responsibility lies with the states and the people’s defense forces. In their interplay, they will determine the strategies and tactics, with their greater or lesser implementation dependent on their respective forces and capacities. Each side should know the other side well and act accordingly.
Nonetheless, I have to point out that a bilateral ceasefire can be formulated on the basis of extensive items.13 Even the rules to be followed in the event of war can be publicly declared before hostilities commence and be presented to the relevant international authorities.14 A document on conditions for a ceasefire could also be presented. Should we arrive at this situation, we will be at a point where the two forces—the state forces and the congress forces—will be in a situation where one is trying to annihilate Kurdistan and the other is trying to survive under the existing conditions in Kurdistan. It is possible that those caught between the two will be very quickly liquidated. There could be a call made out to them as well. At the very least, civilians, those who are indifferent, children, women, and the elderly should not be harmed. If both sides respect the rules of war, it will keep the door open for a more humane course of events, which might, in turn, lead to a ceasefire and a democratic reconciliation. Quite obviously, logistics and human beings are necessary for survival. The guerrilla’s fundamental pillars are the mountains and the people.
War can develop in the mountains, the city, or the villages. Roadblocks and confiscations are a common practice on both sides. Recruiting and levying of duties are also a common practice. In order to live, everyone must understand how they can determine and implement their goals.
I don’t think it’s necessary to expand any further on these topics. It is my sincere hope that this scenario will never arise. I wanted to point to the possibility of this scenario as a warning to both sides. It is, of course, entirely possible that things will develop in a much worse way. If we think of the tragedies in Israel-Palestine and Iraq, it is obvious that this is by no means empty conjecture. My analysis of the conspiracy against me obliges me to point these things out. In my opinion, there are no problems with Turkey, including the framework of the democratic integrity of the country, that cannot be solved if the state makes a genuine commitment to democracy. What makes the most sense to me and is in accordance with the requirements of my belief is to strengthen the historical cooperation between our peoples not only through contemporary and democratic principles but also through freedom and equality. There is no question that I’m prepared to make any sacrifice necessary to bring this about. Nothing is closer to my heart than trying to prevent the shedding of a drop of blood of one single person or anyone having a painful moment. Equally clear, however, is that the significance of all of this can’t be detached from my humanitarian, social, and popular identity, which I have discussed here in detail. At any rate, outside of these issues there can neither be an aspect of life that can be understood nor a possibility to live it.
One might perhaps ask what the topics I have dealt with up to now have to do with my lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The developments occurring every day under the aegis of the Greater Middle East Initiative show how closely connected all these topics actually are. Without an analysis and understanding of Western civilization, neither my trial nor Turkey’s relations with the EU and the US can be properly understood. In turn, without analyzing these relationships correctly, we cannot respond in the appropriate way to the problems of life that have now turned into a chaos or hell faced by the Turks, the Kurds, and all of the other peoples of the Middle East. Despite the claims made, the fact that the EU and the ECtHR separate lawsuits from their social context and individualize them indicates how far this whole process is from one that favors human rights and democratization. This reflects the disorder of extreme individualism and the selfishness of European civilization. I will devote the concluding chapter of my defense submissions to an analysis of this point, to show that justice for the individual is only possible if it accompanies justice for that individual’s society. I will prove that our individual freedom passes through the freedom of the society to which we belong.
1 This section was meant as a contribution to the then pending summer of 2004 general assembly of the Kongra Gel.
2 In Turkey, provincial governors appointed by the state have much more authority than the regionally elected representatives of the people. This is a particularly serious problem in the Kurdish provinces, because municipal politicians have very little influence and are, among other things, prevented from promoting the Kurdish language at a local level.
3 A feudal unit governed by an aga or a lord.
4 The Partiya Azadiya Jin a Kurdistan, the political-ideological organization of the women’s movement, was founded in 2004.
5 In this phrase, the author uses the neologism karılaşma, which in English would be something like “housewifization.”
6 Öcalan proposed a preparatory committee for the reconstruction of the PKK but did not name any potential participants.
7 The Demokratik Güçler Birliği (DGB: Union of Democratic Forces) was an electoral alliance of Kurdish and left-wing parties during the 2002 parliamentary election.
8 After the congress, a group led by Nizamettin Taş, Kani Yılmaz, Hıdır Yalçın, and Osman Öcalan split from the Kongra Gel.
9 Like the AKP, Necmettin Erbakan and Recai Kutan’s Islamist Millî Selâmet Partisi (MSP: National Salvation Party) came out of their predecessor parties, the Refah Partisi (RP: Welfare Party) and the Fazilet Partisi (FP: Virtue Party).
10 The term “special warfare” refers to all forms of irregular, psychological, and economic warfare.
11 Green is the color of Islam.
12 See Abdullah Öcalan, Özgür İnsan Savunması (Neuss: Mezopotamien Verlag, 2003).
13 The Kongra Gel published a document to this effect in August 2006.
14 The HPG said that it would abide by the Geneva Convention, and after the mediation of the NGO Geneva Call, it signed the Ottawa Convention against anti-personnel mines, on July 18, 2006.