Friday, August 24, 2006
Turkey’s own Trojan Horse

By Tanya Goudsouzian

The PKK are more an instrument in the hands of the ‘Turkish state’ than a thorn in its side, says Kurdish activist Xecê Yasar. Turkey intends to benefit from the PKK’s presence in Iraqi Kurdistan by sparking a fresh bout of Kurdish infighting. This, she says, is one of the reasons hindering KRG involvement in the matter.

Xecê Yasar was seven years old when she learned the price of being a Kurd in Turkey.
For every Kurdish word she mistakenly used in class, she was forced by the teacher to
put a coin in the penalty box. Today, Xecê puts great store in her words. Editor of the
“semi-clandestine” Rizgari (freedom) newspaper and head of the leftist Rizgari political
movement, she is an active proponent for the rights of Kurds, and especially women.
She believes the Kurds in Turkey have come a long way since 1923 through what she
calls, “a culture of political disobedience”.

“We have challenged every restriction the state imposed upon us,” she says. “There
was a time when the word ‘Kurd’ was illegal, and the local media went to great lengths to avoid uttering the word ‘Kurdistan’, even when referring to the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] or KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], and reducing [Iraqi President] Jalal Talabani and [KRG President] Massoud Barzani to ‘the two tribal leaders’.”

Today, Kurdish rights are among the top issues to be considered in the talks concerning Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

“What the Kurds want is to be viewed as equal partners on the negotiating table where the Turkish state’s accession to the EU is concerned,” says Xecê, over a cup of tea at the Astera restaurant in Slemani’s Parki Azadi (Freedom Park).

Xecê never uses the word Turkey, as she considers it an inaccurate and exclusionary term to denote the boundaries of the modern Turkish state, not to mention discriminatory toward those peoples, such as the Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds and Laz, who have lived in the region for centuries, even before the Turkish invasion in the 11th century. (She is among those who advocate the moral and political obligation to change the country’s official name to Anatolia – a bid which had been launched in the 1960s, and has obviously not been taken seriously by the Turkish authorities.)

“The law of self-determination for any nation is one of the basic principles of democracy in Europe, and it has been accepted in many countries, such as the right of the Catalan in Spain,” she says. “This is what the Kurds want the Turkish state to acknowledge. Once this fundamental right is recognized, what we do with it is our business, whether it is full-fledged independence, confederation or federation.”

Comparing Turkey to Canada, “where many nations can belong without the need to deny their ethnic identity”, Xecê stresses how “the Turkish state denies the existence of other ethnicities within its borders”.

“From the very beginning, since the creation of the Turkish state in 1923, there has been a campaign to Turkify the nature of the state,” she says. “For the Kurds, this was worse as there was an active academic campaign to prove that the Kurds were nothing but a backward form of the Turkish nation. They called us Dagli Türkles [mountain Turks].”

Xecê does not take too seriously the Turkish threats to turn eastward should the EU prove difficult in the accession talks, and in light of the recent Iranian show of solidarity with Turkey in launching offensives against the PKK, based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

“There is a power struggle right now between various elements in Turkish society; you have the military, which effectively controls politics, and you have a capitalist bourgeois community, whose interests lie in the West,” she says, explaining that dollars and sense are more likely to dictate Turkey’s course, rather than empty threats to ally with Iran.

“Iran and Turkey have many differences, but these differences are set aside when it comes to the Kurdish question,” she says. “Here, they are very much in sync and present a united front.”

While she has no doubt that Turkey may indeed make good on its threats and take military action against Iraqi Kurdistan, she does not believe it would be in the interest of the Turkish economy, nor would it ever escalate to the proportions of the ongoing war between Hezbollah and Israel. Xecê has her own theory. She believes the PKK are more an instrument in the hands of the “Turkish state”, than a thorn in its side.

“The PKK presence in Iraqi Kurdistan is like Turkey’s own Trojan Horse, which it has sent to Kurdistan in order to destroy the Kurds,” recounts Xecê. “The PKK may have once been a Kurdish movement, but since the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, it has been controlled by the Turkish army.”

She believes that the PKK is not a conventional political movement, but more like a cult, whereby followers blindly obey their leader.

“The PKK take their orders from Ocalan, and Ocalan takes his orders from the Turkish army,” she maintains. “This is why any PKK activity is necessarily to the advantage of Turkish interests.”

“Whenever the PKK carry out an incursion, the Turkish army responds by sending in Turkish soldiers, most of whom are Kurdish anyway, so when they announce Turkish casualties, the reality is that the state has managed to kill Kurds and pretend as though it is fighting terrorism.”

While the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is now faced with a quandary, under pressure from Turkey and Washington to crack down on the “terror” within its borders, Xecê insists that this is all a trap to turn Kurd against Kurd.

“What they want is to spark infighting between the Kurds of Iraq and the PKK,” she explains, adding that this is one of the reasons hindering the involvement of the KRG.

In 1971, Xecê was sentenced to two years in prison, where she suffered unspeakable torture. It is something, she says, that is mentally blocked from her memory. In 1980, immediately before the Turkish military coup, Kurds were routinely rounded up on a variety of ambiguous charges. And it was in 1980 that her father passed away.

“He saw my youngest sister return to her prison cell, after suffering torture by electrocution, and his heart never recovered from the shock of that sight,” recalls Xecê. “He died only a few months later.”

In 1980, Xecê joined the peshmarga fighters in the Nawzeng Mountains on the Iran-Iraq border. Two years later, she trekked on foot for nine months to reach the Levant, and two years after that, went to Europe to work the conference circuits. It was in 1992 that she arrived in the Iraqi-Kurdish city of Slemani. Today, she still writes regularly for Rizgari online ( and lectures on European history at the Slemani University.

Printed with permission. From Soma