In an interview, Cemil Bayik, the co-chairperson of the executive council of the Kurdistan Communities Union, a Kurdish political organization committed to implementing Abdullah Ocalan's ideology of democratic confederalism, and one of the leaders of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), makes clear that a Turkish vote on April 16 in favor of constitutional changes to give the Turkish president broad powers will only lead to instability; that the PKK is not afraid of intensifying the war if the Turkish government continues to refuse to negotiate a peace deal; and why Kurds are central to a peaceful and stable Middle East. Once again, the PKK calls on the international community, particularly the United States, to mediate between the Turkish government and the PKK and to resolve the Kurdish question in Turkey.
Bayik, a Kurd from Turkey, was born in 1952 in the province of Elazig. He is one of the founders of the PKK in 1978, and has been the backbone of the PKK ever since. He was appointed as deputy secretary-general, the No. 2 man of the PKK after Ocalan. Being the leader of the People's Liberation Army until 1995 (these days the PKK's military wing is called the People's Defence Forces, or HPG, led by Murat Karayilan) and the director of the Mahsum Korkmaz Academy, the PKK's training camp in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, made Bayik one of the top PKK military leaders, as well as an influential party thinker.
Bayik was asked regarding the PKK's response if the "Yes" campaign wins the Turkish constitutional referendum, Bayik said "We will support any constitution that allows more freedom and strengthens democracy, which is our criterion to support constitutional changes. The draft constitution, if approved, will take Turkey in a completely opposite direction, which will benefit neither Kurds nor Turks. Therefore, if the referendum does not pass, it will halt the hegemonic trend, benefit Turkey's democratization and could create new opportunities for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem, for which we have repeatedly called but the Turkish government refuses to commit. However, if the "Yes" campaign wins the referendum, we believe the war which was resumed on July 24, 2015 will intensify. After the failed coup last year, the state of emergency was declared, which is nothing new. We saw the same development after the 1980 coup. We have been engaged in our struggle for 45 years, and various governments of Turkey have failed to suppress our movement."
Bayik added that there is no doubt that the Kurdish question is gaining international attention, despite the Turkish government's intensified efforts to downsize the movement. The past political context, which necessitated certain powers to remain silent about the Turkish genocides against Kurds, no longer exists. Therefore, "we call on all global powers to play a positive role and force Turkey to accept peaceful negotiations to the Kurdish issue."
PKK have declared before that if Turkey is ready for a peaceful solution, the government may invite its allies to monitor the negotiations. This is still PKK's approach, which Turkey continues to refuse and its allies have not taken the necessary steps to start negotiations. He stated "We are very optimistic about Donald Trump who can encourage Turkey to seek a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. We are ready to engage any party that serves peace and stability."
Bayik said that they are always ready for peace. However, how can you have peace when the government continues to believe that there is no Kurdish issue? The Turkish government is opposed to Kurdish rights even in Syria, let alone in Turkey. Erdogan attempts to show that he is not opposed to Kurdish rights by having good relations with the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party] in South Kurdistan [Iraq], but the main aim of his relationship with the KDP is to oppose the PKK. Imagine that entire towns in Northern Kurdistan [Turkey] are demolished; thousands of activists are jailed, including the co-chairs of the HDP. How would these kinds of acts lead to peace? They are forcing us to surrender. The dust may clear, but it will not lead to peace.
"If the government refuses a peaceful solution, and the international powers remain silent, then we have no choice but to continue our resistance. There will be no peace, unless Turkey undergoes the process of democratization." Bayik concluded.
The Interview was published on Al-Monitor