AK Party Deputy Chairman for Publicity and Media and former Mardin MP Orhan Miroğlu conducted an interview with Pınar Işık Ardor for Global USA readers.
What is the meaning of the last meeting held between the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and his lawyers after 8 years? Are we going to experience a renewed solution process [Turkish-Kurdish peace process]? What will the United States’s response to the call of Öcalan? Has conjuncture changed in the Middle East? What will be the stance of Kurdish voters in the Istanbul mayoral election?
Miroğlu, in his latest book (New Century, Kurds and Independence), argues that Atatürk understood the Kurdish question properly and now we should renew his ideas regarding the Kurdish issue. So, who will renew those ideas and how?
FORUM USA- Pınar Işık Ardor
On the day when the Supreme Electoral Council decided to rerun the Istanbul elections, Abdullah Öcalan met with his lawyers for the first time since 2011. And the details of this meeting were shared with the press. Then various claims were made in this regard. Let's start with that day. Was that a coincidence? There are some people who think the two incidents are connected.
“State Paradigm in Charge Again”
It was not a surprise at all. From the very first day on which Öcalan was put into Imrali prison, we have always seen this in his relationship with the state. The state is starting to be engaged in talks with Öcalan due to a problem regarding PKK. For instance, during the events of October 6-7; there was a relatively milder climate than today. Recommendations on solution to the Kurdish question have been discussed. It was a good time with regard to the closure of dispute period affecting Turkey significantly. Precisely at such a time, the events of October 6-7 erupted. It is one of the reasons why Selahattin Demirtaş is currently on trial. Some people lost their lives as a result of his call. During the events of October 6-7, the state held talks with Abdullah Öcalan based on ending the street protests. Öcalan sent a message to Qandil and those who ruled PKK about ending the protests and settling the conflict. The statement of Duran Kalkan from Qandil made after 2 years was very interesting in this regard. “If we wouldn’t get this message from Öcalan, we were in favor of continuing the process during the events of 6-7 October”, he said. “We had planned a civil rebellion in the Eastern and Southeastern parts of Turkey until we overthrew AK Party government, but Öcalan prevented us from realizing it,” Kalkan added. And now, timing of this talk is remarkable. Apart from MPs, 2-3 thousand people are on hunger strikes, and eventually on death fast. Obviously; the fact that 2-3 thousand prisoners face the risk of being at the edge of death, whatever the reason is, is a problem concerning the state paradigm and bringing it into action at a time when Turkey needs stability and discusses its national issues thoroughly. We can say that the state paradigm is in charge again.
It's hard for us to tell it to the world. Are there prejudices, aren’t there?
Beyond doubt. The call from Öcalan for ending hunger strikes was first rejected by Qandil's spokesmen. But it seems that this attitude was abandoned later. Apparently, a statement will be made on behalf of the detainees and prisoners who are on hunger strikes, and the hunger strikes will be terminated. One of the aims of hunger strikes was the abolition of Öcalan’s isolation. The isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan seems to have actually been lifted.
We should be aware of this: There is an organization constantly keeping Turkey busy. It carries out foreign-backed terrorist attacks against Turkey. Moreover it demands to have a part in the elections in Turkey. And it succeeded in it. We have seen it in the last elections. It followed a different strategy in the Eastern and Southeastern parts of Turkey than in the West. I'm not in favor of interpreting these strategies like it is the politics established by the HDP. Everybody says that HDP will implement these policies in the West, and those policies in the East.
Öcalan said, “We are now at the stage of withdrawing our armed elements beyond the border”. But it didn’t happen. There are some controversies on Öcalan's influence and authority. Did the terrorist organization quit obeying Öcalan?
“Ocalan Couldn't Actually Remain in The Terrorist Organization”
It might not be right to say this. But it illustrates that Öcalan's political influence on PKK cannot be maintained as before, starting from the time he got imprisoned on Imralı. Time is not on Öcalan’s side in terms of his relationship with the PKK. The fundamental actors of changing conjuncture in the Middle East have changed their opinions about the PKK. It became a part of the proxy wars in the Middle East, and Öcalan was out of this process. If he had actually remained in it, we could have faced with an utterly different picture. When you look at the writings of Öcalan you get a clear impression of Turkeyism, albeit in theory.
However, what he says isn’t the reality.
Yes, true. But Öcalan, starting from 1990’s when he was associated with President Özal through Jalal Talabani, when Talabani was a mediator, have made statements expressing commitment to Turkey. But how much did his organization pay attention to those statements? We can understand it was not the case when looking at the past conflict.
So, how will the PKK hearken to him now?
“Such a Terrorist Organization Never Goes on Under The Initiative of Its Leader”
The PKK raided a military outpost in Taşdelen on the day when Talabani would come to Turkey to share with President Özal the details of his talks with Öcalan. More than 30 soldiers were martyred. When Talabani went to Öcalan and said, “Why did you do such a thing? Altough We have started a process, you raided an outpost”, Öcalan responded, “I swear I haven’t got the slightest idea.” Many aspects of that period were hidden. We are facing with the same situation in Bingöl massacre in which our 33 soldiers were martyred. Şemdin Sakık and Öcalan had accused each other. Öcalan expressed that he hasn't had a slighest idea and Sakık claimed that Öcalan was aware of the protest. However, the incident was carried out without Öcalan's knowledge.
Abdullah Öcalan may have intended to try different things in the terrorist organization he founded. However, such an organization never goes on under the initiative of its leader. Here, there is a structure destroying human identity and honor. When violence and terror come to the forefront, it is not easy to provide the control over it, especially in the Middle East. However, it would not be right to conclude from what I have said that Abdullah Öcalan is very good and that the PKK is very bad. The relationship between the organization and the leader has been severely broken, and this is because the leader is under arrest.
Istanbul elections are going to be re-run. On June 23, you will demand votes. What should AK Party do for getting Kurdish votes?
“The Relationship Between CHP and Kurdish Voters Has Been Based on Fear”
This has to be discussed. Our Kurdish citizens in the West are expected to make a decision. They must trust their own political memories. First of all; it is a contradictory to their struggle for democracy, to make a political choice according to the patronizing messages they get from some. They have been struggling for democracy for 20-30 years, and some random people come and tell them to vote for the CHP. Why should they obey what the others have said? In the political history of the Turkey, the relations of the parties coming from the idea of the CHP with the Kurds have never continued. I am challenging them to show at least one relation. There is no such relation. Only Erdal Inönü tried to establish a healthy relation; however, it had failed. Inönü expelled 7 MPs from the party because they had participated in a Kurdish conference in Paris. The most important actor of the expel was Deniz Baykal. The relationship between CHP and Kurdish voters has never been a relationship based on mutual political interest since the beginning of Democratic Party got on the stage of history. It has always been a relationship based on fear. Particularly during one-party period, Kurds voted for CHP, though they were afraid of CHP. This fear was so great that it led Kurdish voters not to vote for the for Democratic Party in the East/Southeast but rather for CHP in the 1946 elections. Because even the establishment of Democratic Party was perceived as a move of the state by the Kurdish citizens. If AK Party had not taken to the stage of history in 2000’s, it would not be possible to talk about Turkish-Kurdish political relations today. If it hadn’t already happened, Turkey would have spoken of a federation today. AK Party has been an assurance of our unity in such a historical process in which the ideas based on separatism prevailed and the developments in the Middle East were feeding those ideas. Turkey has a need for a party for all Turkey, not the parties confined to the regional border such as CHP and HDP. This party is none other than the AK Party under its current conditions.
How about consevative Kurdish voters? What is the difference between them and secular Kurds?
“It Is A Historic Mistake for Kurds to Vote for The CHP”
No one can know how many conservative voters there are. Let's move on. Kurds now have a common understanding of ignored rights of an ethnic community, which have been ignored for 100 years, whether they are conservative or secular. In this respect, there is no difference between a Kurd who voted for the AK Party and a Kurd who voted for the HDP in the East. (because of democracy, new constitution and disappearance of denial process).
There is an delusion at this point. HDP is not a representative party for these rightful demands. It is no longer an addressee in this regard. HDP is simply blocking these rights. Reasons of vote shift from HDP to CHP in the 11 metropolitan cities should be investigated well. Demands for equalization in political representation are an important factor in Istanbul. Kurdish population living here do not intend to be a passive voters who cast a vote in the elections and are not active in the decision-making process. They want to be active and take part in central politics, so to speak, to get rid of street politics. A social segment is likely to make a mistake while embarking on a quest. Therefore, the fact that Kurds voted for the CHP in Istanbul is a historic mistake. HDP voters who casted a vote for the CHP in the local elections of March 31 made the wrong choice, as much as 2 million HDP voters who casted a vote for “Yes” in the 2017 Constitutional Referandum made the right choice. It is not relevant that Imamoğlu was elected as mayor.
If our Kurdish citizens migrated to Istanbul 17 years ago have sustained their lives in Istanbul, it is quite much because of AK Party that made life easier for them. I think neither public nor Kurdish voters know what CHP thinks about this issue.
James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria, said, “The president is aware of the traditional and political links between much of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] Kurdish movement and the PKK. We are working to establish a safe zone with Turks and our local allies.” Is the US changing its policy now?
“Turkey-US Confrontation on Kurdish Question.”
It’s not possible he isn’t aware of the link. There is no difference between US Middle Eastern policy during Obama period and Trump period. People will read this interview in the US. In 2016, Joe Biden asked to meet with 1-2 MPs from each parties when he came to Turkey. He wanted to meet with me from AK Party. I took part in this meeting with permission from the authorities of my party. Joe Biden said, “Our national interests are not overlapping with those of Turkey in Syria.” I took the floor and asked him that if he had ever thought why they didn’t overlap. He asked in response “What is your opinion about the reasons of the disaccord?” “Because, in Syria you support an organization that have been conducting a bloody struggle against Turkey for 35 years. Therefore, it is not possible for Turkey to overlap with your national interests and this will lead to a deeper conflict. You did it in Northern Iraq. Why have our common intrests overlapped in northern Iraq? Has there ever been a conflict in northern Iraq? No. It was because Kurdistan Democratic Union that you supported there was controlled by Talabani. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has never had a hostile attitude towards Turkey. In Iraq, our interests overlapped, but they don’t in Syria. The organization you have supported there has been carrying out terrorist attacks aganist Turkey at the same time,” I said. “These ideas are very interesting. Do you always express them?” Biden said. This deep confrontation brought Turkish-American interests to a different level. Turkey-US confrontation in the Middle East is fundamentally based on the Kurdish question.
“Turkey Needs A National Policy in The Middle East”
CHP, MHP, AK Party and HDP should hearken to this. Turkey needs a national policy in this issue. Foundations of this national policy were more or less laid. And the leader who has realized it was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. PYD had around two thousand militants; however, it has now 100 thousand militants. Delivering the Kurds into hands of the PYD is not the solution in the global sense that we call the Kurdish issue in the Middle East. What leads to confront us especially with the global actors is going to confront us with Iran in the near future. This is also the case with Russians. There is no significant difference between the Russian stance on the Kurdish question and American stance.
Well, don’t we have a Middle Eastern policy?
“In The Middle East, Eeveryone Has An Ideal Enemy.”
Yes, we have. However, they have to be renewed and reconsidered. Because the conjuncture has been constantly changing. Now the current agenda is the possible war between Iran and the US. The US will not go into a war. Strategy pursued by the US is the proxy war. In the Middle Eastern politics, everyone has an ideal enemy. You can't even exist without this ideal enemy. They have created DEASH and it became the ideal enemy of everyone. By means of this ideal enemy, Americans told Kurds, “You see, DEASH will come and capture you in Erbil”. And DEASH was stopped just 10 kms away from Erbil. They told the same thing to Baghdad, “DEASH is approaching Baghdad. Be smart. Without me, you can’t even exist.” All of them was carried out by means of an ideal enemy such as DEASH. Ideal enemies will also be created for the case of Iran. Who may be? Balochs, Azeris and Kurds... This will also be a proxy war. Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan has thousands of guerrillas ready for war. We have never been a country like Iran, Iraq or Syria. Yes, maybe Kurds could not be the “persona grata” in the first years of the Republic. However, the struggle of being the “persona grata” has always continued in Turkey. Now, there is a party and leader who intend to continue his political life by ending this struggle. However, the opposition front is making efforts to prevent both this party and leader from reaching their goals.