The spanish anarchist site alasbarricadas.org interviewed last month members of the exiled Kurdistan Anarchist Forum. Here is the full interview:
Where are you based? I mean, are you living in Kurdistan or in exile or have you emigrated to other places inside Turkey or abroad?
KAF We are mainly based in different countries in Europe: UK, Germany, France and Sweden. We are Kurdish but originally from Iraq not from Turkey. We all immigrated to Europe at different times but all for political reasons.
How did you become an anarchist? And other Kurdish anarchists? Is Kurdish anarchism old? Do you ‘fit into’ any particular tendency inside anarchism [anarchist-communism, insurrectionalsm, anarchist-syndicalism, eco-anarchism, etc.]?
KAF We all came from different left organisations, for example, communist parties that were controlled from Russia and China, and other Bolshevik organisations. We became Anarchists the hard way, after first being in a number of different political tendencies like:Maoist, Stalinist, Marxist and Leninist. Our ideas and activities changed gradually within these movements. Then when these struggles failed we looked for a different direction. Eventually we realised that Anarchism is the only way to achieve proper Human Liberation. This is what we mean by we became Anarchists the hard way.
As far as we know there were no Kurdish anarchist groups, organisations or parties, but that does not mean there were no individual Anarchists. Do not forget that Iraqi society at the time was almost a prison for its people, and the entire society was suppressed and oppressed by the Regime. The only political books and information available at the time were Communist Party ones coming out of Russia. These views, as you know, were against anarchist ideas and full of propaganda against them. As far as we know there were no anarchist books in Iraq except one from Joseph Proudhon, and the reason why this was available was because Karl Marx had rejected Proudhon’s politics, philosophy and economic ideas.
The names or terminologies for us are not very important. What is important for us is setting up local groups within local communities and making connections with other groups whether on a national or international level. We are happy to have links with all types of anarchists and anarchist groups as long as they do not intervene in our work and struggle against this current system and its representatives (i.e. the state and corporations). Saying that, we would say we are closest to Anarchist Syndicalism and Anarchist Communism.
Do you support national liberation / self-determination for the Kurdish people ? [I’m not necessarily meaning if you support the creation of the Kurdish state]
KAF We are fighting for Social justice. We are against every type of discrimination, sexism or racism or exploitation whatever its basies, whether it is nationality, sexism or religions [Exportation whatever on the ground of sexism, sexism that has its basis in sexism?]. We fight to create an anarchist society that is free of all types of exploitation in order for its citizens to enjoy their full rights and duties.
However, we don’t support any type of state and we would not participate in any activity whose idea was to create any type of state. But we are in favour of breaking the centralization of the state.
What are your relationships with Turkish anarchists? Are you close to any particular group?
KAF We have contact with one of the Turkish Anarchist Groups based in Switzerland (Karakök Otonomu Türkiye / Isvicre ). They operate a radio station there. We also have contact with a Kurdish Anarchist Group that are more Anarcho-Communist.
In addition, we have contact with a group of anarchists from Jordan (Jordanian-anarchists) and Iran (Anarchist Geography ) but in practice we are not that close to them for different reasons.
Do you have any relation with other foreign groups [Germany, Greece, Armenia, etc.] ?
KAF Yes, we have contacts with anarchist groups in the UK (Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG), Germany (Anarchistisches Forum Köln and anarchosyndikalismus.org ) and France (CNT-AIT info). We actively work with them.
As to the Kurdish movement, could you explain to us the present situation in the area? Is there [cultural/ethnic/political] repression? how hard is it?
KAF You question is not clear as to whether you mean in Iraq, Iran, Syria or Turkey. However, if you mean the Kurdish movement in Turkey, there are a few Kurdish organisations, but among them the PKK is the most active and largest party. However, since their leader was arrested their tactics and strategy have changed. Currently they have split into 4 organisations: Iraqi Kurdistan, Irani Kurdistan, Syrian Kurdistan and Turkey Kurdistan. In each, they have their own party and Freedom Fighters. In Turkey at the moment the PKK have stopped militant fighting against the Turkish state, and are in a position of no war, no peace.
There is a lot to talk about in response to your question which cannot really be answered here.
Are there any Kurdish anarchists in prison? What for? have any Kurds become anarchist inside prison?
KAF We cannot answer this question as we do not have specific information about this.
In Spain we know PKK, because the Basque nationalists (among other leftists groups) have some links with them. What can you tell us of that political organisation? How big or important is it? Is there still some guerrilla warfare? Are there still mousiest/Maoists?
KAF We touched on this in the previous question. We believe that the PKK is a Stalinist, Maoist and terrorist organisation that was created in the climate of terror, suppression and oppression. The military, fascist and racist government in Turkey pushed the situation further and further until the announcement of the birth of a radical, popular but suicidal organisation, the PKK. In our opinion they serve neither their cause nor that of the working class. In fact, what they do by their actions is give justification to the military government to damage the Kurdish question nationally and internationally. they ( PKK & Turkish Government) have caused the destruction of so many Villages and small towns, displacing million of people, killing so many innocent people.
The Turkish government and the PKK actually help each other. The PKK makes the Turkish government stronger, and the working class issue much weaker. At the same time, the way the Turkish government has tackled the problem has made the PKK stronger – at least in some parts of Kurdistan.
These actions by both of them have made the working class and anarchist movement in Turkey weaker and weaker.
Are there other groups apart from PKK acting against Turkish army/state in Kurdistan?
KAF There are certainly other Kurdish Groups active against the Turkish government but these do not use guerrilla tactics. They believe in struggling against the government through peaceful ways. They will use any possible kind of struggle that serves their cause but avoiding armed struggle. We are not sure there are any groups apart from the PKK using armed struggles against the Turkish government.
What is your relationship with other leftists groups?
KAF We do not have any relationships with other leftist groups.
What has been the influence of Iraq’s war in Turkey/Kurdistan? Has political repression risen? Has the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq [virtually independence] improved the desire for the independence of Kurds in Turkey?
KAF The Iraq war period was probably not a good time for the PKK. During this particular period, all the PKK’s enemies, including the USA, Western countries, Iraqi and Kurdish main parties (PUK & PDK) and their forces, got together and controlled the territories as they were happy to fight the PKK if it was necessary. In fact, the PKK was surrounded by all the forces mentioned above. At the same time Turkey was in a good position to fight the PKK without fear from USA. America was happy to support this dirty war and closed its eyes to it and its victims as long as Turkey let the big powers use its land as a base for the occupation of Iraq.
We do not think that during the Iraqi war the repression & suppression was beyond its normal levels. This was because the PKK kept a low profile and stopped any major operations or attacks.
The spirit for Kurdish independence in Iraq might have increased with the setting up of Kurdish self-rule in Iraqi’s Kurdistan but did not help or support the Kurdish question in Turkey for two reasons:
The Kurdish Self-rule in Iraqi’s Kurdistan, as before, has always been very much in a compromised position with the Turkish government for political, trade and economic reasons. so that they did not mind to sacrifice all Kurdish and their cause in Turkey for their own safety and survival.
By setting up Kurdish self-rule in Iraq it meant Iran, Syria and Turkey became very close as there is a ethnic Kurdish minority in each of their countries. With an alliance between the three of them the PKK became a major enemy, and this squeezed the PKK movement in Turkey. Further, Turkey managed to force the leaders of Kurds self- rule in Iraq to cooperate with them in fighting against the PKK although most of the time the Kurds would fight them alone, but with the military support of Turkey especially By Fighter Planes.
How is the economic situation there? Is there any kind of labour resistance / radical unionism in Kurdistan?
KAF The economic situation for Kurdish self-rule, until the war, was very bad. But, since the collapse of Saddam Hussein it has been getting much better. The USA have spent a lot of money there to bribe people and also to isolate Islamic terrorist groups and the PKK as well.
After the uprising in 1991 many organisations emerged and most of them were leftist – from women’s movement, union, student – and they tried to unite. In addition to this a strong worker movement emerged at the factory level which they organise themselves. There was also very good links between them and the unemployed organisation (Unemployed Trade Union in Kurdistan). These groups could never overcome their leftist influences, and their methods of struggle, organising tactics and their strategies were exactly the same as the Bolshevik and Social Democrat parties who were gradually getting smaller and smaller until they completed disappeared.
You have talked about the Uprising in 1991. Could give us more information about what have happened?
KAF To answer this question we need a brief explanation of the Iraq situation before the Uprising in general and Kurdistan in particular. There was no doubt that Iraq-Iran war brought a disaster on Iraqi and Iranian people and at the same time it weakened the regime in Iraq. Both governments in Iraq and Iran have had their motivation to go to war and for different reasons while both of them were in a big crisis.
During the Iraq-Iran war there was a feeling that the Iraqi regime had lost power over its own people. This was to some extent was right when people in Iraq saw their life had got worse, things had got very expensive and we had to wait in a long queue to get it, every day hundreds or more dead bodies returned to the parent and relatives, the hospital, schools, the rest of the offices, factories , companies with many more of offices or the administration were getting empty either because they had been called by the regime to join the military service or because many of them refused to join the military service and had gone underground or had been transferred to protect the streets, public places in case of riots or uprising. In addition to this people were very well aware of the propaganda machine about the war, aim of the war, the future of the war that all was a pure lie.
The regime on one hand tried to bribe those families who had lost their son, daughters, parent in the front lines of the war, on the other hand tried to suppress and oppress any opposition voice by using a very heavy hand.
In Kurdistan, because of the existing Kurdish movement, although it was becoming very week and many of them had abandoned their struggles by moving to the neighbouring countries or Europe, USA or Canada, the regime has used a few different tactics from what he used it in south and middle of Iraq, like: using chemical weapons, the Campaign of Anfal(1) and moving all the far villages from the town to a concentration camps and destroyed all the original villages and the people’s belongs even their cattle, animals whatever they had in the villages.
The situation in both parts of Iraq, south and north became intolerable and pushed people to make complaints, small protests in different areas.
When the war finished the regime in Iraq became weaker and its crisis was getting deeper and deeper. So Saddam Hussein tried to find a way to get out of these crises. So the only way to get out of this was launching another war in the gulf. Of course this happened with approval and the support from America, CIA. The consequence of the war was terrible as thousands and thousands of soldiers and ordinary people were killed and made the situation unbearable.
By the time when the war ended the situation were getting ripe for emerging so many different organisations against the regime in south, middle and north of Iraq, particularly in north, Kurdistan. The Iraqi forces have already evacuated in many places and have lost control over the distance Areas from the main towns. At this time the whole Kurdish movement became very week and was almost about abandoning its entire army struggles.
By 1991 the time had arrived for uprising, A few months before March 91 some of the lefties organisation prepared themselves for something like, later called Uprising by contacting most of the rest of the origination and the individuals, collecting weapons and bringing them to the big towns, publicity preparation and the starting points with the starting places. In the end the uprising happened and almost whoever was able to get out of home has taken a part in it. In a matter of a couple of days most of the small towns and a couple of big towns had fell under the control of people. The people had used revenges against the regime agent and spy and people from the Intelligence organisation (Istkhbarat) in a barbaric way by killing and executing so many of them that people thought they had a contact with the regime and have blood on their hands without trial, court or any thing.
When the people realised that the regime’s force completely defeated then the Soviets ” Shura”(2) in the neighbourhood, school, hospital and the rest of places of work have been set up by the workers, student, the local people and the member of the lefties, communist organisations to carry out the necessary work in the community. The situation was getting serious and dangerous for the high class, the bosses because this experience was about to spread in everywhere in Kurdistan and even in Iraq. The US, Briton and the regions especially the neighbouring countries have observed and examined the situation very closely and seriously. So they tried to abort the Uprising before completely succeed and spread in elsewhere. The first step was to revive their agents in Kurdistan in getting close to whole organisation and fraction that involved in Kurdish movement while at the time of uprising and before that they almost disappeared especially in the army way. Then they intervened directly to send their own spy and agents and give advice to the forces that were in the opposition against the uprising because they have already lost control and influences among people. Many of the individuals who have already left Kurdistan went back and gradually with the support and help of CIA and MI6 took control on almost every administration. At the same time they created a situation and persuaded people or at least did not mind when people had taken whatever was valuable including most of the equipments in hospitals, schools, universities and the rest of the government’s building. To stop this disorder, they organised the police and soldiers forces. At the same time they tried to weaken the Shuras by using various propaganda against them, taking over their buildings, asking the organisation to register themselves with the government and getting permission for protests, rallies and demonstrations.
This new administration by 1992 became stable and almost was in control everywhere with the entire support of US, Briton and Europe. There was the first election in May 1992 for Kurdish self-rule parliament. The election was fake and both major originations PUK (Kurdish united patriotic) and KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) between themselves decided they won the election by 50% each of them and they set up their own government. By 1994 when the Kurdish self-rule was completely established with the support of west and USA, the Shuras had been disappeared and the trace of Uprising you could only find in the history museum. And now it was the time for the internal war between PUK and PDK over money, power and influences. This war lasted until 1998 and ended under the threat of USA.
Of course there was another factor for defeating the people’s movement and its Uprising. The threat of the lefty’s organisation to the Shuras was no less danger than the USA & the rest as they used this threat in a different way. The struggles between themselves to control the people’s movement and its achievement, the Shura, were a great threat and badly damaged the movement by making it very week. They all were happy to sacrifice the Uprising to their politics.
(1) Anfal: It was a campaign was launched by the government against Kurdish people in 198os (the first Anfal was in 1982 and second Anfal was 1988) in this campaign the regime evacuated the entire people for the far villages, the number estimated by 180,000 people who are completely disappeared.
(2) ” Shura” Soviets, The Council of the worker
What is your opinion on the so-called revolt in Iran? Is it possible that from that reformist’s fighter could arise a solid anarchist faction?
It might not be realistic for us to be so optimistic to expect from current revolt a solid Anarchist movement will be emerged. But before we are coming to that conclusion we need to remind ourselves that the CIA and the West brought Ayatollah Khomeini and his party to power in a reluctant way. We say in a reluctant way because almost everybody in Iran was involved in the Uprising, therefore USA and the West was between couples of choices: Ayatollah Khomeini or people’s power. In other words between a minor enemy and a major enemy, so they have gone for the minor enemy. In the same time they thought it will be easy to control the Mullah s power or tame them especially after involving Iran in a long war with Iraq. They knew that the war given them a great benefits and advantage as first the war is the best weapons to defeat the powerful resistance that had existed there before the uprising. Secondly the war makes both regimes in Iran and Iraq very week and through this they can play a big role in controlling the situation and finally bringing back the USA & the West forces, their politics into the region, in addition to achieve financial gain .
And now 30 years is too long and USA could not have big influences over the regime to achieve what they wanted in the first place. In the same time people have had enough with the regime. People’s life in respect of freedom, economic has not got better and certainly their Social life has got worse, this is apart form that almost every family in Iran lost one of its beloved during the long war between Iran and Iraq that lasted for 8 years.
This situation is getting worse day by day and people lives in a big fair there when they hear that the so called “ international community” using sanction against them or the idiot regime may involve them in another long war.
We can say that the people were looking for some sort of crisis that can be happened and opens a door for them to protest against the regime. We believe that the election was a perfect pretext for people especially when some powerful people with the support of USA and some countries in the west could be seen supporting the protest. However, the protest has become very bloody but surely no everybody is on the side of the “Green revolution”. As we said above the majority of people in Iran have been fed up with the regime and the situation and they want changes. The demonstration and the protest were emerged from every section of the Society. We believe the vast majority of the protests are nothing to do with Mossawi or his supporters, but while the regime is very brutal as we saw it in oppressing the protester, it was difficult for people to come up independently and in obvious way demanding the regime change. They need to express there unsatisfaction and their hatter against the system through or under umbrella of the powerful people that who are a part of the System because of a couple of reasons: 1- if they came out without connecting themselves to the main stream of the protester they would have been faced a savage, brutal; suppression that cause so many death. 2- Again if they came out as independent groups there was a possibility for Moussawi and the rest of the powerful people who supported the protest to reconcile with the government. This could be happened because both of them, the government and the opposition, would face a very serious danger that threats the entire regime and their politics.
However, we think the protest will be continuing, stronger and goes forward that may some major changes take place by the end of the year. We are aware of that the Anarchist movement in Iran is strong but we are not sure whether they can organise themselves against the authoritarian, the power to achieve what they have been struggled for in the past and also whether they have got a lesion from the past.
We have noticed that some Kurdish Social movements are more and more fed up with those Maoists parties, leftist political groups and their practices and they are being progressively substituted by an anarchist/ grassroots practice. Is this affirmation?
That is true. People are fed up with them and from their experience they realised that these originations have already bankrupted but as we mentioned in our answers to your previous questions we have not seen the Anarchists movement neither in Kurdistan nor in Iraq. While everybody is fed up and wants changes, a huge number of the population has organised themselves in the movement called “Changes, movement for changes”. This has not yet formed it selves in the party or a proper organisation yet. They are not really different from the old organisation or the current one that is leading the Kurdish Self-rule. We believe that this like the many before will be a failure experience as well.
Whether later on people substituted by anarchist/ grassroots practice? It is difficult to be optimistic about this. But we are very much sure the grassroots movement in the nearest future will organise themselves and may form some Anarchist or libertarian origination. Please refer to our answer to your previous question for as to why we believe there is a ground for emerging Anarchist movement.
Do you think anarchists ideas can develop well in Kurdistan? Are there some communitarian traditions similar to the anarchist practice? [In some places this situation happens; Kropotkin put it well in Mutual Aid]
KAF We definitely believe anarchist ideas could develop in Kurdistan. It is not just that we believe in anarchism. Anarchism is the right struggle and will be a very strong movement in the near future because:
All the old ways of struggles from guerrilla war, to sham voting, to relying on the various kinds of leftist organisations from PUK, KDP, Communist party, all Islamic groups, liberals and Communist Worker Party have all been shown to be bankrupt and cannot escape from complete defeat as they lose the confidence and trust amongst poor and ordinary people.
There are many, many basic rights that have already been won in the Western, US, Canada and Scandinavian, but in Iraq or Kurdistan these basics are still a main or daily demand among the ordinary people. Again the corruption that infected every level of administration from the bottom of society to the very top (like Parliament) has recently become a major issue and has become the top priority of the list of demands that people are struggling for.
The relationship between individual people within the community is still extremely strong and this makes it very easy to trust each other and have collective action or struggles.
Final words… you can say what you want …
KAF We are trying to do our best to write on different Kurdish websites to persuade people of our politics, going to Kurdish Seminars, and translating old Anarchist texts and articles. We are also making people there aware of what is going on in the rest of the world.