Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) Executive Council member Adem Uzun has accused Western countries of also being responsible for what he called “the rise of the Erdogan dictatorship in Turkey.”
Speaking to Sidar Dersim from Yeni Ozgur Politika, Uzun assessed his organisation’s activities in 2016 and said Kurds had achieved important gains in the diplomatic sphere.
Uzun said they had reverted from a “negative diplomacy” centred on victimisation to a “positive diplomacy” centred on explaining the social project they were implementing across the world.
The KNK member also criticised European states’ “hypocritical” stance on Turkey: “Some officials of EU states are saying that if they delay any longer it will be impossible to stop Erdogan, but they are not doing anything.”
Below is an edited version of the interview, which was originally published in Turkish.
Could you assess the diplomacy work you did in relation to European institutions in 2016?
2016 was, like in other spheres, a very difficult year of struggle in the diplomacy sphere. We came face-to-face with the Turkish state and other colonialists in this area as we did in other areas. We presented public opinion, states and relevant international institutions documents and information on the isolation and inhumane treatment of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan, the occupation of Rojava, attempts to take over South Kurdistan [KRG] and the war and human rights crimes of the Turkish state in Kurdish cities that declared self-rule. Despite deficiencies we unmasked the Turkish state.
How did these states approach the issue?
They were hypocritical. Despite some positive results, states did not take any serious steps, like sanctions against the Turkish state; this is because of economic, political and military interests. These EU states also have a responsibility in Erdogan’s journey to dictatorship because he took courage from their delayed, ineffective and short-sighted policies. Some officials of EU states are saying that if they delay any longer it will be impossible to stop Erdogan, but they are not doing anything.”
Kurdish gains in Rojava were also an important agenda in the diplomatic sphere. What are the developments in regards to this?
The popularisation and legitimisation of the struggle and system in Rojava was an important agenda. We tried to support the work already being done for this. We can safely say that Rojava has been accepted as a fact and interlocutor in the international sphere. Is this enough? No, but important developments occurred in 2016.
What is the structure of your organisation, the KNK, like?
The KNK’s joint diplomacy committee is formed of almost all Kurdish parties -except the KDP- Assyrian-Syriac and Yazidi organisations are also part of our committee. It is engaged in work for all parts of Kurdistan. We have relations with many EU representatives, UN and US officials. We also work in Latin America and South Africa.
What were some of the differences in the work you did in 2016 compared to previous years?
We are improving and gaining experience in what we call ‘People’s diplomacy’, [based on forming ties and relations with the public rather than state institutions]. People from many different countries are showing an interest now. It is important to turn these into lasting friendships. There was improvement in this sense in 2016 and Kurds’ friends formed committees, received educations and visited Kurdistan to witness developments there. International media also showed more attention to what was happening in Kurdistan in 2016.
Until now the discourse of our diplomacy was negative and founded on the victimisation of Kurds. We were constantly voicing the violations and abuses Kurds faced. Yes, this was true but you cannot engage in diplomacy just based on this. For a while now we have been conducting ‘positive diplomacy.’ We are talking about our projects, forming relations based on realising these projects and negotiating. So we have become an actor at the table.
The Kurds are no longer an object that others can assign roles to. They are now an active force and actor in the region. We are working and acting with this knowledge. The Kurds are experiencing a revolutionary period, or their ‘golden period’ now because the former status quo against Kurds has crumbled and now all political balances are being recreated. This affords Kurds great opportunities in all areas, including diplomacy and foreign relations.
So what can be done for a more effective diplomacy, both centrally and locally?
The struggle in Kurdistan and the Freedom Movement has not been represented in the way it deserves and correctly in the international sphere. As a people we are new in many areas and lack experience, this is true of diplomacy too. We do not have educational institutions; universities etc. in the normal sense and have recently started building them. We are learning things through trial and error and even though we are not where we want to be we have taken important strides.
Of course we do not have the required budget and personnel for the scale of work we do. We do not have the means our opponents have. This is also why our main perspective is ‘people’s diplomacy’, because to overcome our problems we are spreading our work to the local level. We are turning our deficiencies into strengths. We have advantages too of course. We are right and defending a just cause.
What is the role of Kurdish women and youth in diplomacy?
As the Freedom Movement has developed, the Kurdish woman has come to the forefront of the struggle. The 30-year struggle, organisation and development of Kurdish women is legendary and of historic importance.
Today the Kurdistan Women’s Movement is known and respected internationally. Diplomacy-wise there are important things it can do and they are aware of this. They have their own external affairs organisation and work with us too. There is potential for great gains in this regard. Finding answers to some of the world’s fundamental contradictions-conflicts by employing the Kurdish movement’s ‘free women’s ideology’ can take this struggle centre-stage. Before, the women were only being applauded for their fighting and self-defence, but now people want to know the paradigm and its founder [Ocalan]. I think this is very important. Kurds are now proposing solutions and projects for the contradictions and conflicts of the world.
On the other hand there are tens of thousands of Kurdish students living in Europe. There is also a growing group of Kurdish academics. If these circles become active it is a great potential for lobbying and diplomacy. This is also a part of people’s diplomacy.
How are your relations with other Kurdish parties and organisations from other parts of Kurdistan?
The KNK has existed for 18 years and has had an External Affairs Committee since it’s founding. We didn’t and don’t think this is sufficient though. With the Islamic State’s attack on Sinjar and South Kurdistan, an opportunity to work with other organisations in the diplomatic sphere arose. In 2014 we formed the Kurdistani Political Parties and Organisations Joint Diplomacy Committee under the umbrella of the KNK. Since then we have been working with the external affairs committees of more than 30 organisations. With the inclusion of other organisations this committee continues growing and is being taken more seriously. This is the first time this has been done in the history of Kurdistan and it needs to be developed.
And finally what about the demands of Yazidis and other peoples living in Kurdistan?
Developments in the four parts of Kurdistan, the problems faced by our Yazidi people, the situation of our Assyrian-Syriac-Chaldean communities is always on our agenda. For this we have formed, alongside the Friends of Kurds group, two groups for the Syriac and Yazidi people in the EU Parliament.
In 2016 we tried to be active in all areas and address all the issues concerning us. We also tried to improve our diplomacy committees at the local level and broaden ‘people’s diplomacy’. Despite room for improvement I believe we did a good job.
The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) is a coalition of organisations from across Europe, formed by exiled Kurdish politicians, lawyers, and activists.
Interviewed by Yeni Özgür Politika
Translated by KurdishQuestion.com