ISTANBUL: Akcam Unveils History Of PKK’s Internal Executions


Today’s Zaman
April 2 2012

Listed on the hit list of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), Taner Akcam, an academic at Clark University in America, told
the Cihan news agency that the PKK killed its opponents not only in
Syria but also in Germany.

Stating that he is optimistic about the police investigation of
executions within the organization, Akcam advocated an approach that
does not make moral distinctions between unsolved murders committed
by the state and those by the PKK. Noting that before the Sept. 12,
1980 military coup the PKK murdered people from almost all political
movements and organizations, Akcam said that founding member Abdullah
Ocalan was pursuing a “time-gaining strategy” in terms of violence.

Akcam is known internationally for his scholarship on the Armenian
issue. He was a student leader in the 1970s and is now an expert in
Turkish left-wing and Kurdish politics.

Unsolved murders are being ignored Arguing that unsolved murder
investigations in Turkey are not addressed well, Akcam said: “There
isn’t a strong political will behind the investigations. Politicians
have failed to give attention to Ayhan Carkın’s testimony, the
Kurdistan Communities Union [KCK] trial in Diyarbakır, or unsolved
murders committed by the PKK.

Everybody seems to be advocating for their own unsolved murders.”

Demanding that a serious inquiry begin regarding unsolved murders from
the 1990s, Akcam stated that what is essential in reopening these
investigations is to repair the damaged sense of justice in Turkish
society. The way unsolved murders are handled may pave the way for
creating a strong and common sense of justice within the community
again. “If you can’t develop a common sense of justice within the
society, you destroy the possibility of living together.”

PKK members asking for democracy and opposing Ocalan killed Saying
that in 1983 he received a phone call from either the National
Congress of Kurdistan (KUK) or Kurdish political activist Kemal
Burkay’s organization in Germany, Akcam stated: “They informed
me that the PKK imprisoned a group of its members and it tortured
them. Back then we still had close relations with Ocalan and so I
made some attempts to call.” Akcam recounts: “While we were eating,
some men came in and whispered something in Ocalan’s ear. When he saw
that I was looking at him curiously, he said to me: ‘We have a man;
he has a mental disorder. We took him into custody and imprisoned
him. He wants to quit our organization. Anyone who wants to quit our
organization is insane. No normal man quits our organization.’ At that
moment I thought that this was very odd but still I thought that that
man really had a health problem. It is because in that period there
would be people who came from Turkey from very difficult conditions and
who had serious psychological problems. We also had such friends. They
would come to me and say, ‘I can’t do it here anymore. I want to go
to Europe. I no longer want to be active in the organization.’ We
would send almost all such people to Europe. Yet there were some who
opposed this. But in the end we would send them to Europe. As a result,
I thought this might be such a person with psychological problems.

However, it turned out that this man was someone who wanted democracy
and opposed Ocalan within the PKK. By means of the information from
either the KUK or Burkay’s organization, I figured out that Ocalan
detained those who politically opposed him.”

Speaking for the first time about the PKK’s murder of a young member
named Zulfu Gök in Frankfurt, Germany, Akcam added: “We had a
friend named Cetin Gungör [code name Semir]. He was from Dersim,
which has a special meaning for me, and he was Armenian. He was
a member of the PKK’s Central Committee and in charge of the PKK
in Europe. He was detained by Ocalan because he wanted democracy
within the organization. He was confined in a house in Köln. Semir
successfully escaped this house. He knew he was going to be killed. He
came to us to Hamburg. We weren’t capable of protecting him. I had
Semir meet with Amnesty International, the Social Democrat Party
and the Green Party, as well as some other organizations. He sought
protection but couldn’t receive any. Since we couldn’t protect Semir
in Hamburg, he went to Sweden and hid there. I guess it was one or
one-and-a-half years later when Semir attended a cultural night for
the first time and they killed him that night. After this happened,
we and some other organizations, as a political network, released
a manifesto that condemned the PKK harshly. Then the PKK launched a
campaign against us. In their magazine Serxwebun they targeted me by
calling me ‘Little Enver, Little Ataturk’.”

PKK killed member for protesting murders Recounting how PKK member
KurÅ~_at Timuroglu was murdered because he protested the murder of
Semir, Akcam stated: “I had started hiding before KurÅ~_at’s death. In
the meantime the German police received intelligence that my father
in Hamburg was going to be killed by the PKK. My father lived under
police protection for 24 hours a day for about one or one-and-a-half
years. KurÅ~_at was the eighth person they killed. They killed one
person among Burkay’s supporters in Hanover and one other person from
the group named ‘KurtuluÅ~_’ [Salvation] in Switzerland. They kept
killing people within their group. They committed around 20 political
murders in Europe.”

Mahmut Bilgili was a lawyer who quit the PKK in Holland. Akcam told
him the PKK was a mafia-like organization and it killed whoever
spoke out. Akcam says that despite the fact that Bilgili kept silent,
he was killed in Holland.

“What is most painful is that the leaders of some organizations who
were on the same side as people killed by the PKK started to adopt
a policy that praised Ocalan and the PKK. They did not object in the
least to pursuing this policy on behalf of the left wing. Then I became
the common target of almost the entire Turkish left wing,” said Akcam.

Describing how he knew Resul Altınok, a member of the PKK’s Central
Committee who was killed by the organization, Akcam noted that he
attempted to save the man but could not prevent his being killed.

In 1974 Ocalan was the representative of the faculty of political
science within the youth organization dubbed the Ankara Higher
Education Association (AYOD); Akcam recalled that in those times there
used to be two separate views among Kurdish students in Ankara. One
supported organizing Kurdish youth with Turkish youth, and the other
supported organizing them separately. Because Ocalan was against
Kurds establishing a separate student organization, Akcam recalled,
there were people who called him “nutty.” Pointing out that Ocalan had
sympathy for activist Mahir Cayan, Akcam stated: “Ocalan would say,
‘The ideas of Mahir Cayan can’t be put into practice in big cities.

His theory is written for Kurdistan. We all need to go to Kurdistan
and start an armed struggle there.’ He believed in this argument and
going to the Kurdish region; he organized his party there.”

Akcam thought that opposing the PKK’s executions would not be very
meaningful and successful if a political will could not be found to
investigate thousands of murders committed against Kurds in the 1990s.

He believed that until the Kurdish issue was addressed, opposition
to the PKK’s executions could be considered holding back the Kurdish
movement. “Addressing both unsolved murders of Kurds and the executions
within the PKK should be treated as foundational to Kurdish expansion
and democratization,” said Akcam, adding that confronting the murders
should lead to establishing peace and social tranquility, not to
war. He emphasized that all murders committed in the past should be
approached “as a part of confronting our own history.”

Reiterating that the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) isn’t
an independent party, Akcam argued that the BDP had to consider “how
the PKK would react” before making a statement. Arguing that a lot of
problems would be solved if the PKK had the BDP represent it in civil
politics, Akcam said the PKK, however, could not do that, as that would
be inconsistent with the PKK’s ideology. Emphasizing that for Turkey to
become a fair country the PKK and the state should discuss the murders
openly, Akcam said, “I guess that if we can’t succeed in examining
the murders committed by both sides in an unbiased way and with the
same sense of justice, we can’t establish solidarity within society.”

‘I know how Å~^erafettin Elci fled’ Reacting to Å~^erafettin Elci’s
statement that “the PKK only killed the ones who confessed to police
and betrayed the PKK,” Akcam said he does not understand why Elci
needed to lie. “Brother Å~^erafettin, it wasn’t rarely that he fled
and hid from the PKK. I do know how he escaped and hid from the PKK. He
needn’t have lied.” Akcam noted that he knew the National Intelligence
Organization (MÄ°T) had an impact on Ocalan’s own movements. Stating
that he knew the father of Kesire Yıldırım, who had married Ocalan
in 1978, was a member of MÄ°T, Akcam added, “When we met in Syria years
later, he told me: ‘They wanted to use me and I wanted to use them,
too. I hardly survived till Syria.’ As a result he was aware that he
led MÄ°T to establish the organization and Ocalan made use of this
opportunity. Besides, taking the current situation into consideration,
I don’t think such theories bear a lot of importance.

There are more than 40,000 deaths. The 20-year war is a reality now.”

Ergenekon case a chance for historic confrontation The Ergenekon case
is an important investigation, Akcam said.

“Actually, this case could become a symbol for Turkey’s confrontation
with its history and for establishing its future but it seems the
board is letting this opportunity pass by. Ergenekon is a branch of
Ä°ttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti [Committee of Union of Progress (CUP)].

Through this connection between Ergenekon and CUP, Turkey can confront
its history and establish a democratic future. However, the politicians
don’t have the vision to do this… That is consistent with the logic
of war. When the PKK started the armed struggle, the Turkish Republic
indirectly helped the PKK in order to avoid the emergence of another
alternative to the republic,” said Akcam, adding that rather than
democratization the state pursued the policy of letting Kurds kill
other Kurds for the purpose of controlling the Kurdish movement.

Explaining that when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)
swept to power, he observed for the first time a slight change in
the government’s policy towards Kurds, Akcam expressed that people
are now suggesting that the Kurdish issue should be addressed in ways
other than armed struggle.

The PKK and BDP haven’t paid enough attention to Ergenekon trial Akcam
pointed out that if the PKK and the BDP push more strongly for the
Ergenekon trial, this could make quite a contribution to the solution
to the Kurdish problem as such an attitude would help in analyzing its
background. “It’s because the Kurdish issue in the 1990s was confined
between Ankara’s General Staff and the PKK’s Kandil. And these two
options cooperatively suppressed any kind of democratization within
both the Kurdish movement and Turkey, as they collaborated in terms
of their interests. Therefore, confronting this case will pave the
way for democratization in Turkey.”

According to Akcam, “pursuing this trial will unveil intersection
points between Kandil and the General Staff in Ankara. It will be
shown that the mindsets of these two sides and the way they perceive
humans and society are similar. This will show us the limitations of
our mindset as a society. We can’t pursue the Ergenekon trial strongly
enough because we are confined by the limitations of our mindsets.

Actually, there is only one condition for Turkey’s taking its place as
a serious power and as a government both in the region and also the
world. It is reckoning with the limitations of our mindsets. It is
being able to reckon with our perception about violence and with our
worshipping violence. Actually, what should be done is quite simple:
We should avoid all kinds of distractions and improve democratization
and liberties. We must be able to say ‘No one but God can take away
the life He gave.’ We must get to the point of saying that a political
murder is a murder regardless of on whose behalf and against whom it
is committed. All the rest is a tall tale.”

Noting that a new constitution creates a big opportunity, Akcam said
he no longer believes the AK Party will make a new constitution, and
education and language issues should be resolved without waiting for
constitutional change. He added that local autonomy should immediately
be enacted within the framework of European Union agreements.