Das Island, UEA
“I swear to take into consideration the will of my people in all circumstances... and to work for the liberation of Kurdistan”. One by one, the 65 members -- 6 women and 59 men -- of the new Kurdish parliament in exile went to the podium and solemnly read the oath in Kurmandji or in Sorani, the two main dialects of the Kurdish language. After this ritual, in The Hague, which underlined the success of the Turkish policy of assimilation, since quite a few new deputies who usually speak Turkish stumbled on the Kurdish words, Ismet Cheriff Vanly, who, as the eldest new deputy (he was general Barzani’s representative in Europe in the 1960’s), chaired the meeting, emphasized that “the Kurdish problem was not a question of minority, but of a people entitled to freely determine their own future”.
It would be easy to dismiss this “parliament” as a new PKK propaganda ploy, especially given that the voting procedure was, at best, somewhat unorthodox. The 65 new “deputies” were elected by a body of “delegates”, themselves elected by Kurds living in exile. Both elections took place without any form of public scrutiny. “What kind of a parliament is that”? grumbled the sceptics. But the strong reaction of both Turkey and the USA, which protested the events in The Hague, as being a set up orchestrated by a “terrorist group”, as well as the large number of journalists and international television teams that covered the event prove that the whole exercise was far from being a futile one.
The 65 deputies were elected to office on march 26 by some 500 delegates chosen by about 200.000 Kurds of the diaspora living in Western Europe, Russia and the Caucasus, Australia and America. Considering there are at least half a million Kurds living in Germany alone, this figure seems disproportionately small. But the organizers appeared quite satisfied, claiming the German authorities tried by all means available to prevent the organisation of the elections, and actually succeeded in several cases in forbidding the political meetings or festivals that were a cover up for the elections.
Even so, not all the deputies sworn in The Hague were selected by elected “delegates”: some of them were appointed on a quota system, like four representatives of the Assyro-Chaldean minority, one Yezidi, several Alevis, and six women. The number of women representatives is surprisingly low. But, claim the organizers, “this reflects the level of social emancipation of the Kurdish diaspora which is far less developped than inside PKK”, whose military units include between one third and one quarter of women members.
There is definitely a strong PKK hard core in this parliament, with 12 representatives of ERNK, the so-called political wing of PKK, including such heavyweights as Ali Sapan, its spokesman for Europe and the real strong man of the new parliament; Sherafettin Kaya, its newly elected speaker and a wealthy Kurdish businessman, former chairman of the DEP, who is quite close to the PKK. The “Kurdish parliament in exile” also includes six former DEP deputies and various “independent” personalities, among them AbdurRahman Durre, representative of the “Kurdish Islamic Union”!...
Clearly, the new parliament is made up of personalities who may be considered to be standing within the PKK’s sphere of influence. The absence of any representative of the other Kurdish political parties, such as Kemal Burkay’s Kurdistan Socialist Party, is a serious shortcoming. Apparently, the KSP and the other Kurdish parties were invited to join the parliament once almost everything had been set up, and they politely declined to sanction what was all but an “accomplished fact”. However, such as it is, this assemby represents an effort by Abdulla Ocalan to widen his movement’s political basis.
“This parliament in exile is a first step towards the creation of a national parliament”, said Ali Garzan, PKK representative in Europe. “Our aim is not to remain in exile but to go back to Kurdistan and to set up a Kurdish national parliament that will represent all Kurds and form a government”. Despite the fact that he spent almost half his life in Turkish jails (born in 1957, he was jailed for 16 years, from 1977 until the end of 1993) Ali Garzan is a soft spoken person who convincingly explains why the Kurds were forced to create this parliament in exile: “We, the Kurds have no rights in Turkey”, he says: “Look at what happened to the DEP deputies, they hardly spoke about the Kurdish rights when they were members of the Turkish parliament, but they are in jail”!
Ali Sapan, PKK spokesman for Europe, and now deputy speaker of the new parliament in exile, confirmed his conviction that there is “a difference between a party and a people... The people altogether must be represented through all its components”, he stated. “In international diplomacy, the Kurdish people will from now on have an address, which is: “Kurdish parliament in exile, avenue Louise, Brussels”. “This parliament will take important decisions, such as deciding whether or not to implement a cease-fire... It is also going to be active in the economic field”.
When asked how the parliament in exile could claim to take any economic decision, Ali Sapan answered: “Look, I am going to confide this piece of news: I personally have already met representatives of the World Bank to talk about the pipe-line project to export Azerbaidjan’s oil through Turkey. I told them that they should get our agreement for this project, if they want to build a pipeline through Kurdistan. If they don’t get it, we shall prevent it”....
Ali Sapan and his friends know that Turkey will reject the “parliament in exile” just as they forbid any form of Kurdish association. “But we shall ask them: with whom do you want to talk? Is there anybody who can represent the Kurdish people? If they want to solve the Kurdish question, they must get in touch with this parliament... if not, we will do everything necessary to make them change their mind”. It is clear that the uproar raised in Europe by the Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan last March facilitates their task.
(The Middle East magazine, June 1995)
Droits de Reproduction strictement réservés © Chris Kutschera 2002
(work in progress)
Cherif Ali, Iraq