Beşikçi: Inviting Iranian envoy morally and politically wrong

iiiRenowned Turkish sociologist and activist Ismail Beşikçi says inviting an Iranian consulate representative to the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament last month was “a wrong decision both morally and politically.”

“Inviting the envoy of a regional power which hangs its Kurdish opposition activists, is wrong,” said Beşikçi referring to Mohsen Bawafay, a representative of the Iranian Consulate in Erbil, who attended a crucial session of the Kurdistan Parliament earlier in June to discuss the upcoming Kurdistan Regional Government presidential election.

In an interview with Rudaw, Beşikçi said the ISIS war raised global awareness about the Kurdish struggle for self-rule. The Turkish scholar, who spent 17 years in prison for his defense of Kurdish rights in Turkey, said Kurds should hold their long awaited independence referendum, form a unified army and be prepared to defend themselves. He also said Kurds in Rojava, Syria have a historic opportunity for independence despite regional adversity. Beşikçi called on the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey to adopt Kurdish national politics and capitalize on “Kurdish values.”

Rudaw: How would you define the Kurdish Question and how do you think it emerged?

Ismail Beşikçi: In the 1920s when the Middle East and Near East were being formed during the era of the League of Nations, no position was given to Kurdistan as a country. Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine were established with the support of Great Britain while Syria and Lebanon emerged with the direct backing of the French government. As a result of the coordination between the imperial powers of Britain and France the region was carved into pieces. Kurdistan was not even regarded as a colonized or occupied country. For instance, the borders of the colonized countries of the time have remained intact, but the case is different for Kurdistan. The imperial powers did not recognize Kurdistan as an independent country nor as a colony. After the Second World War, Britain with the support of Iraq, France, Syria, Turkey and Iran quelled Kurdish uprisings and hindered their national struggles. The fate and future of Kurdistan has since been decided by these powers. Of the world’s 210 countries, 40 have fewer than 1 million for their populations and have even much smaller lands than the Kurds. But Kurds who are a nation of 50 million with their own vast lands have no country of their own. This is called the Kurdish Question.

Rudaw: Do you think the independence of South Kurdistan is within reach?

IB: There should be a referendum in South Kurdistan. If in the referendum, 95 percent vote for independence, then it will have major support. We need to be aware of the position of Turkey, Iran and other regional powers that do not want independence for Kurdistan. The issue is that Kurds want independence. If they go for it, no one can stop them.

Rudaw: Is the position of the regional powers as well as the world powers important in that regard?

IB: It is really difficult to decide the fate and future of Iraq and Syria. But these two states will not go back to the old structures. The Sykes-Picot treaty as well as the achievements of the League of Nations has been undermined severely. But Iran and Turkey will have continued impact on the future of Kurds for some time. President Barzani’s remarks about independence have upset Iran. Iran is now in full action to stop Barzani.

Rudaw: What is the main condition for independence?

IB: The key precondition is the existence of an army. An army that is the Kurdistan Army. Political parties cannot achieve independence on their own. Neither will democracy thrive that way. An equipped army is a challenging power. Iraq and the other nations that don’t want arms to be delivered to Kurdistan fear in fact Kurdish independence. Kurds should do their utmost to have heavy weapons. It is the precondition for the establishment of a state. Together with that you need to introduce a system of taxing and banking. You need to fight corruption and bribes. Farming and domestic products must be enhanced. It is important to have relations with democratic nations like the US, Australia and New Zealand. I think for that reason President Barzani’s term in office needs to be prolonged. And of course you need to maintain good ties with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Rudaw: This is true even for Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava)?

IB: When Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) was liberated, the three cantons in Rojava were connected. The regions, which the Assad regime had disintegrated in the past, are now reintegrating. The conditions for Rojava to become independent are worth examining. They too need to get hold of heavy weapons and take the step towards establishing a state.

Rudaw: Some of the powers, which are regarded as imperial, want to see an independent Kurdistan. Do you think we are seeing a shift of politics here?

IB: ISIS is not a regional threat only in Syria and Iraq. It is a threat to the world. Kurds are confronting ISIS now. This confrontation is conducted across a vast area and with very modest weapons. Now when people speak about federation and Kurdish state, no eyebrows are raised. This was possible due to the Kurdish struggle.

Rudaw: So you mean that the emergence of ISIS was a reason for Kurds to promote themselves in the international arena?

IB: In a way that is the case. When ISIS attacked Kurdistan, the international community became more and more familiar with the Kurdish Question. They saw that Kurds are alone a power to count with. After ISIS attacks, the disputed regions were back in the hands of the Kurds.

Rudaw: How do you assess the political process in Turkey after the June 7 elections?

IB: Up until recently, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other parties in Kurdistan had been ignored and sidelined. But after the elections we saw that it is in fact the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that is losing weight. Now all the municipalities in North Kurdistan are in the hands of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). It is important to empower local administrations and reinforce them.

Rudaw: Some believe that HDP’s policy to become more Turkish helped raise the national awareness among Kurds in the country. What do you think about that?

IB: Becoming more “Turkish” reduces national awareness among Kurds. The AKP, CHP and MHP are all Turkish parties. What do these parties want? They want, for instance, independence for Palestine. But they oppose Kurdish independence. When you as a Kurd say that you are a party for all of Turkey, then you also need to do as they (Turkish parties) do. Which is why I think this HDP decision is not in the best interests of the Kurdish people. Becoming “a Turkey’s party” means that you break away from the Kurds and Kurdish values and adopt Turkish values. This from a Kurdish angle is not a correct one. You need to be a Kurdistani party. This is the main issue. If the HDP wants, it can become a party for the Kurds. They need to be Kurdish and Kurdistani. They need to see into the reasons why their name is associated with terrorism but not freedom and law.

Rudaw: What about Turkish interference with Syrian affairs? Is there any such thing?

IB: I don’t think Turkey is interfering in this way. Turkey wants to halt Kurdish movement in Western Kurdistan. It says it will prevent any change of demography in Syria. While the Syrian regime has been constantly changing the demographics of these areas since 1960s. Liberating Gire Spi was a reverse to the normal.

Rudaw: How do you view the collaboration of Peshmerga and the Kurdish fighters in Rojava against the ISIS?

IB: Indeed the struggle of the Peshmerga and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the right one. Kurds should put aside internal conflicts. If Kurds unify instead it will be a great step forward.

Rudaw: In these circumstances, what is the position of Turkey toward South Kurdistan?

IB: From the 1980s up to 2000, speaking of South Kurdistan was taboo. Now this taboo has been lifted. I think we see a similar situation in Rojava. Turkey will be obliged to recognize Rojava just as it did so in regard to South Kurdistan.

Rudaw: What is the position of Kurdistan in the Middle East?

IB: After ISIS attacks, the Kurdish Question has been under the spotlight and moved forward. In the coming years Kurdish demands will increase and world powers will take them more seriously.

Rudaw: Some say that Iran wants to hinder Barzani through Kurdish political parties in South Kurdistan. Do you think Barzani will face the challenges alone?

IB: To invite the Iranian representative to a Kurdish parliament session was wrong both politically and morally. Inviting the envoy of a regional power, which hangs its Kurdish opposition activists, is wrong. Why would you invite them when this is the position of Iran? Especially considering the fact that an important issue, the issue of governance in Kurdistan, was on the agenda.