"The people who are executing PKK's struggle, including Bayık and Karayılan, have been there for 25 years. We don't have any general that has served in the Southeast more than two years. "
~ Avni Özgürel.
~ Avni Özgürel.
Here is part 2 of the interview between Taraf's Neşe Düzel and researcher Avni Özgürel (Part 1 is here):
ND: Has drug-trafficking been used in financing the struggle against PKK?
AÖ: Of course it has been used. From the Southeast to Edirne (NW Turkey), drugs were transported along with official escorts. The people who got involved with this, after some time, said, "Why should I endanger myself on the mountain while there is an option to share the drugs and to extort and to form gangs? Why should I go into PKK and collect information for JITEM?"
ND: However, in Aktütün, there was the case that there was no lack of intelligence.
AÖ: That's true. For the Aktütün raid, there were additional things, let alone receiving intelligence. There are TV's that are close to PKK; they have their publications. For instance, in Roj TV, "on 21 August our congress is assembling in Qendil" they broadcast. The administrators, including from Europe, joined this congress. Cemil Bayık, Murat Karayılan, all of them were there. The meeting lasted for ten days and there were scenes and interviews in Roj TV. 21 August means two weeks before the Aktütün raid. PJAK also joined PKK's congress, which lasted until 30 August.
ND: You mean Iran's PKK also joined?
AÖ: When PKK said, "we have serious casualties because of Turkish aerial attacks", the head of PJAK, which is a branch of PKK in Iran, joined the Qendil congress and PJAK's chief Hacı Ahmet said, "From now on our first target is Turkey," all these things happened ten days ago. In Qendil there weren't just three people, there were twelve hundred people that assembled. However, the armed forces did not have a single aerial operation in August.
ND: Why didn't they do that?
AÖ: We have to explain this. People want to know the answer to this question. If you are willing to finish PKK, and if you are so angry, PKK's whole administrative groups were there. PKK could have been annihilated. This congress did not take only one day, but ten days. Let's say you could not see those people who came to the border, you said the geography is very mountainous, and so forth. Haven't you even watched the party's television? After this congress, seventeen youths were killed at Aktütün. Right after that, police were shot in Diyarbakır and there were some explanations or statements that were labeling the journalists who were asking about the errors in this incident as traitors to the country.
ND: Our army is fighting in the Southeast for years, and they must be very experienced in this. How come these kinds of raids are still occuring?
AÖ: If you send the youths, who have eight months of military training, and you send them to fight against PKK at the very far point of the border, this is a normal result. Look at the people who were killed at Aktütün, they were inexperienced kids. The people who are executing PKK's struggle, including Bayık and Karayılan, have been there for 25 years. We don't have any general that has served in the Southeast more than two years. Whoever stays there longer than that goes crazy.
AÖ: In advanced countries, the people who serve in hot zones more than one or two years, the army gives them a new assignment, say in airports, for a six month period in order to rehabilitate, to let them see people. We don't have such a thing. One time, an old friend of mine came to Istanbul and I took him to an entertaining place. There, at the table, he became like he would use his weapon against me [saying] "we are dying there and you are dancing here". He had cut himself off from the real world.
ND: Back to Aktütün, what happened there and what will happen there?
AÖ: Now we are sending a new unit to Aktütün. Now you imagine the family that has a son that has been sent to this place again. After one year they say they are going to move the garrison 300 meters away. Why are you defending there? You are defending a 300 meter height? As an excuse they say, "Well, in Lausanne our borders were drawn wrong and for that reason let's form a buffer zone". They are making very stupid suggestions and supposedly they are going to tell this to Iraq. Iraq will say, "Okay, form a buffer zone"; but they will include, "You form that buffer zone within your borders. Why do you think particularly of my territory when you suggest a buffer zone?" they will ask. Nevertheless, until Arbil (Hewler), that region is also mountainous. Where are you going to form the buffer zone? Besides, the US will say, "We gave you Öcalan and you could not solve the problem; we are giving you intelligence and you cannot solve the problem again." And when we come to the Iraqi regime, we are pressuring them, and still it's not doing anything.
ND: Don't you think the people who've been trained as chiefs of general staff are thinking with this logic?
AÖ: In politics, despite their failures, they do the same old thing. Similarly, they do the same old thing in the military as well. Everyone does their period [of service] and retires, and I don't think they know comprehensively about the region's history very well.
ND: Okay, but how can we explain the fact that the ommission of the intelligence that was received way before? Don't they take the intelligence seriously?
AÖ: There will be two consequences of the Aktütün investigation. Either you will say, "We received all the intelligence and we did all the evaluation; however, we could not complete the required protection web with helicopters within six hours." In this case, those responsible for this failure must immediately be taken before the highest military court. Or, "There may be intelligence, but we did not give credibility to its occurrence". Then, this means this will lead to questions of your military capabilities and your chief of staff's capabilities. If the Aktütün investigation does not take those responsible, who are in a command level . . .
ND: What will happen?
AÖ: This means there is a very hopeless situation in Turkey. This investigation must end up with finding the responsible commanders and give a satisfying explanation to the public, and take these people who were responsible in front of the military court.
ND: An operation that is known way ahead of time, and that is being watched through aerial surveillance, how can it not be prevented?
AÖ: This incident definitely must have several responsible parties in various positions. Otherwise it is not very credible to say, "It is not Aktütün; these scenes being broadcast are all lies"--this kind of fake explanation--Publishing these radio transcripts [of HPG guerrillas], all these are lies. It is hard to be very persuasive with this mentality. In Turkey, including the armed forces, every institution must be held accountable. If you spend all the world's money for Foca [in Izmir] and you say that you do not have money for the Aktütün garrison, someone definitely question this. And I think they must do so, too. In Turkey there was a very serious change. People are now asking, they are questioning, and they are not seeing the people who are silent.
ND: Okay, when one knows about a raid like Aktütün ahead of time, with deterrent precaution, can we stop such raids?
AÖ: Of course it would deter. In the Aktütün raid, the people who condoned the implementation of this raid, or the people who did not take sufficient precaution, in whatever position they are, those people, whether in the rank of general or a force commander--any position--they must be taken before the public. And the Chief of General Staff's statement that "the investigation has started and the result will be declared" this must be considered as a commitment. On every occasion, the press must ask the chief of general staff what is the result of the Aktütün investigation.
ND: A while ago you touched on the issue that the Aktütün garrison would shut down. Even last May, after it had a raid, why was such a garrison not shut down after that raid? Is not shutting down such a place consistent with military logic?
AÖ: Of course it is not consistent. I went to Aktütün. It is a ghetto-like place. Indeed it is a guarding garrison. In a raid, it gets damaged remarkably; however, Aktütün seems like an honor issue for our army. Of course there is a moral meaning about those people who were martyred there, but indeed all these border garrisons are actually graveyards. We never know what's going to happen to those kids. It is not certain there. When an artillery shell explodes, we don't know how many people will die. All these border garrisons must be removed.
ND: Can the borders be protected without garrisons?
AÖ: Well, what's going to happen by protecting there anyway? Is the place that you defend your country a place 3,000 meters high in the mountains? You get down on the slopes of the mountain and prevent infiltration there. These border garrisons were established for those Iraqi villager smugglers who were bringing kaçak tea, tobacco, cigarettes, and drugs. And they put four jandarma [there] in order to tell those people to raise their hands and surrender. They have established those garrisons with this mentality. These garrisons were not established to prevent guerrilla attacks. The problem is not where the garrisons are located; the problem is the existence of these garrisons. There is no profit or gain from these garrisons. Until this time they could not even prevent any single entrance.
Part 3 tomorrow.