by Reşad Ozkan
|Layla Zana speaking to Rudaw in Germany. Photo Rudaw.|
Last week, Rudaw met with prominent Kurdish politician and MP Layla Zana. Zana was in Munich, Germany to attend a conference about the history of Kurdish migration to Europe. In an interview, Zana discussed the current political situation in Turkey and the Kurdish struggle for self-determination.
Rudaw: In the conference you mentioned the importance of a referendum whereby Kurds can determine their own future. What exactly do you mean by that?
Layla Zana: We mentioned referendum for the Kurds. Why referendum? The Kurds have been demanding a status in the Meddle East for almost a century, but the governments of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq don’t want anything for the Kurds and they try their best to make sure that Kurds stay under their authority. Sometimes these countries are against each other and you sense that there is no agreement between them. But when it comes to the Kurdish issue they are all united. The Kurds in Syria, Turkey, and Iran are still being oppressed and divided. Fortunately, the Kurds in Iraq have some kind of semi-autonomy. According to the United Nations resolutions self-determination for the nations is also a right for the Kurds.
The policy of coercion must end toward the Kurds. The Kurds should have the right to decide their future on their own land. Why have the Kurds not united yet? It is because the Kurds have been divided and they followed tribal methods. Freedom, autonomy, Federalism, and independence are also the right of the Kurds. For example, Turkey can create a federal system like Germany. Ankara can decide on the federal issues and the Kurds should decide on regional issues. The Kurds should determine their future through a referendum. We will accept the results of the referendum which could be autonomy, federalism or independence for the Kurds in Turkey. The Kurds should be able to decide their future like any other nation in the world and the world must accept that.
Rudaw: Is the current situation in Turkey suitable for a referendum? Will Turkey accept this suggestion?
Layla Zana: Yes, I believe so. Today, the debate is not whether the Kurds exist or not. The Kurdish issue must be resolved. There is currently federalism in southern Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Region has been recognized in the Iraqi constitution and the important part is the name which is mentioned as Kurdistan. We see that Turkey still doesn’t want to use the name Kurdistan for that region which has been recognized by Iraq itself. It is surprising. The Iraqi constitution accepts this fact but the Turkish law rejects it. For example, people of the Quebec region in Canada go to the polls every four years to determine their future. Some people vote for independence and others want autonomy and federalism. The people of Quebec can express their voice through voting. This is the people’s voice and no one can disrespect it.
I believe it is time for the Kurds to decide their future through referendum as well. Whatever the people demand should be expressed through a referendum. The Turkish government wants to solve the Kurdish issue its own way. It is obvious that the AKP government and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are deceiving the Kurds. TRT6 TV channel was the former government’s project not AKP’s. The Kurds don’t want to fight, but the Turkish government forces them to carry arms and fight. If the Turkish government intends to solve the Kurdish issue through dialogue, then they must expose the evidences behind all those oppressions and genocides that they have committed against the Kurds.
Rudaw: Turkey is writing a new constitution. How does the Kurdish movement want to shape the new constitution?
Layla Zana: In the new constitution they mention individual rights for the Kurds and we tell them we are not individuals but a nation. We want what the rights of a nation are. There won’t be any hope for Turkey unless the Kurdish issue is resolved. Some Kurds in Turkey want autonomy. The question is how many Kurds out of the 20 million want autonomy? There has to be discussions on this issue as well. I believe Kurds should be able to decide their future for themselves. It is true, at first we demanded autonomy, but today the Kurds in Turkey believe autonomy is not enough.
Rudaw: Why is there no unity among the Kurds in the Middle East?
“If Kurds had been oppressors they would now have their own country and
Layla Zana: There are many Kurdish parties and organizations that demand different things for the Kurds and they have different opinions. The nations of the developed countries in the world determined their own future. Why can’t the Kurds determine their own future as well? The Kurdish nation has been living on their land for a long time and they embraced others, they shared their land and wealth with them. The Kurds were never hostile against other nations. The Kurds have never oppressed anyone. They have always helped those who were in need.
But unfortunately, many times the Kurds were stabbed in the back by the same people they had once helped. The Kurds are both oppressed and humanist. If Kurds had been oppressors they would now have their own country and identity. Whenever the Kurds demanded their rights they were stopped and the international community didn’t take the side of the Kurds. They always used terms as “rebels, tribal, and terrorists” for the Kurds.
The Kurds have weaknesses, too. But where do these weaknesses come from? The enemy has total control of our land and it has penetrated our nation. The Kurds didn’t have enough courage to establish this unity among themselves. Each Kurdish party from a different region in the Middle East says ‘let’s not interfere in each other’s affairs’. It would be much better if the Kurds were to have a strong relationship in all parts of the Middle East because the Kurds are like one family that has been forcefully divided over four regions.
by Reşad Ozkan
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