Session 4: New Middle East order, threats and opportunities
Part 1: Intervention of Nechirvan Barzani (PM, KRG)
Part 2: Intervention of Gultan Kisanak (Diyarbakir, Turkey)
Part 3: Intervention of Barham Salih (Former PM, KRG)
Part 4: Questions & Answers Session
Transcription of Gültan Kisanak (Co-Mayor of Diyarbakir, Turkey)
First of all, I greet you with respect in the name of Amed, in the name of our people and especially in the name of Kurdish women.
I would like to thank all the institutions and individuals who supported and organised this conference.
I hope that the conference goes well and that it will contribute to peace in the Middle East.
By and large, the world started to change and dissolve against the backdrop of authoritarian state models, democratic struggles and globalisation.
In the Middle East also, authoritarian states have entered a period of change. We are experiencing the pains of this change. Sadly, this period goes by with difficulties and clashes.
There are a number of reasons for this. It is not possible to explain all of them here. However, we can put in order some of the historical reasons.
The states in the Middle East could not create an outcome of nation-building that develops social dynamics.
States that were established on paper as a result of international negotiations, that were carried out behind closed doors, were used as a straight jacket for the people.
States in the Middle East, and artificial borders that were drawn with a ruler, established artificial nations that were based on migration and assimilation.
The differences did not matter. The dominant nations prevailed over the states.
At that point, regional states that did not include different national identities and beliefs entered a period of forced change.
Peoples search for freedom came face-to-face with the approach of the authoritarian hegemonic national state.
However, by taking the power of sovereign states, radical Islamic movements tried to build a new authority that does not take into consideration different beliefs and ethnic identities.
They want to drown the struggles of a more democratic Middle East in the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Therefore, change in the Middle East is painful and conflictual.
Kurds find themselves exactly at the focal point of this clash.
In this context, of contractions and clashes, Kurds experience their own nation-building.
In light of this general evaluation, I want to discuss the situation in Turkey and in North Kurdistan.
As you know, North Kurdistan experienced a long conflict. Kurds never accepted the pressure against their national identity and culture.
Uprisings and massacres were experienced. However, in the last 30 years, clashes that are described as “low-intensity war” were experienced.
Occasionally, a cease-fire was declared. Nevertheless, it was not possible to turn these cease-fires into a permanent peace.
In 2006, a dialogue between Kurds and the state started, in order to solve the problems through discussions.
The dialogue which started in 2006 continued; even if it was interrupted from time to time. In 2013, during the Newroz celebrations, Mr. Öcalan announced his “declaration for a democratic solution and peace” to the international community.
He made a call to the state and the government for the commencement of a period of negotiations for “a democratic solution and a permanent peace”.
Addressing all the people who live in Turkey, Kurdistan and even the Middle East, he said “come together to build a democratic future”.
The government did not give a clear response to this call.
Dialogue continued, but without taking clear steps.
A variety of dialogue processes did not transform into a period of negotiations.
The government got used to employing a different language at the table and a different language on the street.
The esteemed Prime Minister and nowadays President spoke using language that mobilises nationalism.
‘Election process’ it was called. They wanted to favour this language. Having said that, this language fuelled and agitated the street.
The government’s approach to Kobani became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Since the day that the civil war in Syria started, Turkey has become the backyard of all radical jihadi groups.
These groups met all sort of needs, including people, money and weapons over Turkey.
However, from the start an embargo was implemented against Rojava Kurdistan. Humanitarian aid that was collected by the Kurdish people reached Rojava, albeit under very difficult conditions.
They did not take a clear stance against atrocities that were experienced in Sinjar. They did not support the Region of Kurdistan that faced a very big wave of refugees.
When Kobani started being besieged by ISIS, Turkey put a proposal for a “buffer zone” on the table while concentrating military forces on the border.
Kurds said “we can defend our land, our people. Open a corridor, do not hinder Kurds from helping each other because this is enough”
Turkey for long time resisted this, it didn’t accept it. It argued that “either ISIS will capture Kobani or the Turkish army will enter”.
It followed an approach that is irrational and illogical, to the extent that it declared people who resist in Kobani as “terrorists”.
Constantly, soldiers and police intervened against civilians who came together on the border to give support to Kobani.
In reality, The President [Tayyip Erdogan] showed with his words “Kobani fell, it will fall” that he expected the fall of Kobani.
All these constituted a serious offense to the Kurds and anyone who has human feelings.
I am sure that you have closely followed all the developments. I don’t want to continue further, but this is a reality: “the peace process experienced a heart attack during the Kobani developments.”
During the Kobani developments, the relationshiop between the governments and the Kurds suffered a deep trauma.
The remark “What is the connection between Kobani and Diyarbakir” became the best manifestation that the government has not sufficiently understood the Kurdish problem.
The Kurdish problem is a problem of one people. Kurdish people do not have basic rights.
Even if Kurdistan were separated into four parts, the Kurdish peoples heart and sentiments would be one.
In addition, in Kobani, there is resistance that shows the exit path to the whole of the Middle East. This should be claimed and supported. A democratic Middle East should be claimed.
One mind cannot solve the Kurdish problem, leaving alone Kobani, Kirkuk, Sinjar, Rojava against the attacks of barbarous ISIS.
Despite all the negative moments we have experienced, we are still open “to a democratic solution and to a peace process.”
Most importantly, Mr. Öcalan and the Kurdish movement insist on the process of dialogue and negotiations, staying fixed to the call made during the Newroz in 2013.
Again it is not simply the Kurds in the north. All Kurds in Southern Kurdistan, Rojava and Rojhilat support and possess the will for this solution.
The Kurds are always together, in Turkey and Syria. Being close to dialogue, negotiations, democratic solution and peace is an opportunity for the Middle East as well.
This opportunity should be evaluated well.
Kurds defend democratic values, a pluralist democracy, equality between women and men and freedom of all identities and beliefs.
One example is South Kurdistan. A second example is Rojava Kurdistan. All people and beliefs are respresented in the administration of the Rojava Canton.
Kurds suggest a “democratic autonoumous” model in Turkey as well.
It’s not only for Kurds, but for the whole of Turkey. The strengthening of local administrations and upgrading to the regional autonomous model will contribute to the solution of the democratic problems of Turkey.
The biggest part of Kurdistan and the biggest Kurdish population is inside Turkey. In this period of change, it is not possible for the Kurds, one of the most ancient peoples of the Middle East, to remain without a status.
In addition, the Kurdish movement gives strategic importance to the Turkish-Kurdish relations and wants to elevate them to that level.
The government should quickly put aside in a corner the wrong policies that they followed in Syria and participate in the international coalition and help Kobani in a drastic way.
They have to show that they want to build a strategic friendship. People never forget the hand of friendship when it is extended to them.
We believe that we will win in Kobani. But what we want is to win together. Kobani should win and the basis should be created for the progression of a solution process in Turkey.
As I finish my speech, I greet everyone and especially the women who resist in Kobani, Sinjar, Makhmour and Kirkuk.
Women were the raw material of this resistance. The whole world witnessed the heroic resistance of Kurdish women for human values.
The resistance in Kobani became a historical point. From now on, everything will be discussed “before Kobani, after Kobani”.
Again this resistance became an opportunity for the Kurds to come closer to each other and conduct collaborative operations.
The fact that guirilla fighters went to Sinjar, Makhmour and Kirkuk, and that Peshmerga went to Kobani is tremendously important.
I believe that this approach of carrying out collective operations should develop even further. From now on, the duty that falls upon everyone should come to fruition. The National Congress should be convened.
This stands in front of us as a historical responsibility. Those who resisted ISIS on the front did what fell upon them. Now its the turn of the Kurdish politics.
In the process of a deep clash all over the Middle East, taking a common position that protects democratic and national values, Kurdish politics and political actors can search for peace and solution for all people.
Today in this conference we discussed the process of change in the Middle East.
Generally, in all meetings and discussions, Kurds can do the biggest contribution to the Middle East peace. The Kurds are mature.
It is possible to build a pluralist, free, democratic future that is based on equal laws. After having expressed my beliefs from my heart, I would like once again to greet you with respect.