Following are excerpts from an interview with PKK leader Murat Karayilan, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on May 3, 2009.
Murat Karayilan: We in the PKK want to act responsibly, after our progress of recent years in both the military and the democratic senses. Now we want to embark on a political phase. We are convinced that the time has come to resolve the Kurdish problem peacefully and through dialogue. Therefore, our next move should be towards free identity, free will, and democratic autonomy. This is how we can resolve the Kurdish problem in Turkey. If Turkey stops its military operations against us, just like we have stopped our own military operations, and if it accepts the hand we have extended in peace, we can resolve the Kurdish problem by ourselves.
The democracy of Turkey, and the granting of Kurdish linguistic and cultural rights, as well as the rights in terms of Kurdish identity, within a geographical framework, will guarantee the resolution of the problem. We do not need anyone to come from across the ocean to resolve our problem. We should resolve the problem ourselves. We, the people of the Middle East, who live on this land, should resolve our problems ourselves.
We do not say that the problem can only be resolved with weapons, but if Turkey insists on a military, armed solution, we are fully prepared to defend ourselves. We have sufficient power to respond, as we have proven in the past. If, despite all our efforts and our calls for a peaceful resolution, Turkey insists on a military solution, we will prove to it once again that we are capable of defending ourselves and fighting back. We have confidence in ourselves and in our strength. We are ready both for peace and for war, although we prefer a peaceful solution.
Turkey always wants to embarrass Iraq and Southern Kurdistan [Iraqi Kurdistan]. There are five million Kurds in Iraq, or maybe a little more, but there are 20 million Kurds up north, in Turkey. Turkey entirely rejects the existing federal system in Iraq. Turkey is unhappy about the Kurdish experience in Iraq. That is the source of the problem. Because Turkey is afraid of the Kurds within its borders, it wants to deny the free will of other Kurds, outside its borders.
This problem will not be resolved militarily. It has been twenty-five years now. The Turkish army has not managed to destroy us, nor have we managed to drive the Turkish army out of Kurdistan. Neither of the two will happen in the future. Therefore, if we think rationally, the solution lies in dialogue. This is our conviction.
Turkey is deliberately trying to blow this issue out of proportion. The problem does not lie in our presence here, in South Kurdistan. The issue is the Kurdish problem within Turkey. Turkey is deliberately trying to shift the problem beyond its borders, and says that it is being attacked from South Kurdistan. In the past, it claimed that the attacks were coming from Russia. Then, it claimed that Syria was supporting us, and later, it accused Iran of this. Now Turkey is claiming that the problem lies in northern Iraq, and it is accusing the government of the Kurdish province of supporting us.
They are constantly making new claims. The main problem is that Turkey denies that there is a Kurdish problem within Turkey. Turkey now wants to send its army to Afghanistan, and to create a role for itself in the Middle East. Turkey is asking the United States to resolve the PKK problem, and in turn, the US is asking Iraq to do so. I believe the [American-Turkish-Iraqi] committee was formed for this purpose, but I don't think this measure will bear any fruit, because the committee was formed on false grounds. Our problem lies in Ankara, not in Baghdad.
The Kurdish problem is a regional issue. They should provide a plan for the resolution of this problem. If they claim that they will resolve the problem by force, I say to them: We will conduct resistance and defend our honor. Let them present a democratic plan for a resolution. We are ready from that.