Ayata: Our resistance is a historical necessity
"Our resistance is not the result of an arbitrary decision, but a historical necessity,” said Muzaffer Ayata from the Central Committee of the PKK.
Muzaffer Ayata is a member of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). He is a co-founder of the freedom movement and was arrested in 1980, a few months before the military coup, and severely tortured in the military prison of Amed (tr. Diyarbakir). He was sentenced to death for "separatism" and the death sentence was commuted to a forty-year prison term in 1991. In 2000, he was released from prison with a lifetime ban on political activity. He was imprisoned again in German exile. After his release, he immediately rejoined the freedom struggle as a leader of the PKK. In an interview with ANF, Ayata draws historical connections.
It was just the 42nd anniversary of the military coup of 12 September 1980. What consequences do these events still have today?
The coup of 12 September caused great destruction in Turkey. If you look back, you can say that it is the origin of today's fascism and Erdoğan's genocidal policies. Erdoğan and his policies are feeding off 12 September. Today, Turkey is still governed with a racist-monist constitution that denies the Kurds and legitimises the genocide against them. This conception of the state, which has its roots in the Committee for Unity and Progress, became law in Turkey with the 1924 constitution. The constitutions in Turkey were almost all drafted by the military. The military did not allow the internal dynamics of society to develop, to fight and to organise. A lot of blood was shed for the coup on 12 September. The MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and the commando camps were created with the help of the state, just as the massacres were implemented by the state. Without the support, approval and help of the state, such movements cannot emerge and develop in Turkey. No racist or fundamentalist movement in Turkey has ever emerged without the will and consent of the state. Hizbullah, which claimed to act on behalf of the Kurds, was also used in this way and caused the most terrible bloodshed. With 12 September, it gained the greatest power.
12 September was also the beginning of the process in which the Turkish-Islamic synthesis was made official state policy. Erdoğan is a product of this policy. He established the monist and fascist regime that the generals had not dared to implement at the time. Today, the fascist leader Erdoğan is trying to complete what the generals left unfinished. Erdoğan says: "We were against the domination of the military, we abolished it", but this is a lie. On the contrary, he extended tutelage to all civilian sectors and religious institutions. The state could not establish such rule before. September 12 is a day of enmity against the Kurds and against all values of humanity. The current AKP/MHP government is following the same strategy as the putschists did back then. With its "defeat plan", the AKP/MHP fascism has proclaimed the elimination of the Kurds and their freedom movement. It said: "In 2023, there will be no more Kurds, we will suppress and destroy them." This is exactly what happened on 12 September.
When we speak of 12 September, one must also think of what happened in the prisons and the deep wounds that were inflicted there. How was the focus of the attacks chosen then?
The prisons became the scene of great struggles. Starting from the reactionary mindset and actions oriented towards militarism and the nation state, and supported by the USA and NATO, fascism turned to prisons at a certain point. Thousands of militants and cadres were put into prisons. Prisons like Mamak, Metris and Amed were the central dungeons. There were prisons of the Martial Law Command in Adana, Erzurum and Elazığ. The places where the struggle developed the most and where the most people were imprisoned were Mamak, Metris and Amed.
What was special about Amed?
The uniqueness of Amed resulted from the struggle of the PKK and the fact that Amed is the historical capital of the Kurds. For this reason, Amed was chosen as a special target. There was also repression in other prisons, but Amed was specifically targeted with a racist, destructive plan to destroy Kurdish identity and its organisations. This plan, of course, met with resistance from PKK cadres and other forces. In Amed, the PKK was to be forced into treason and confessions. It was thought that if the PKK was broken, defeated and liquidated, the others would not be able to resist. In other words, they started with the PKK because it was the strongest and most resilient and had the broadest base among the Kurdish population. The PKK resisted on the basis of Rêber Apo's [Abdullah Öcalan] ideology because it relied on its own strength and consisted of committed, self-sacrificing people who tried to break every link with the ruling order and resisted everywhere, at all times and under all conditions.
Could you give an example of this?
The most outstanding examples were comrades like Kemal, Hayri and Mazlum. Before their arrest, these friends played an important role in the foundation and development of the PKK and its spread in Kurdistan. They were highly respected, loved and respected throughout the PKK structure and created this love and respect through their work, awareness, sacrifice and humility. There was no financial power nor was it about their own career. They created everything out of themselves. On 14 July 1982, they entered their great death fast against fascism and they fell in September. Mazlum lit the spark of resistance on Newroz. As a modern Kawa, he lit up Kurdistan and became a vanguard of resistance. Of course, actions like hunger strikes require great willpower. Such things require clear thinking, decisiveness, resilience and perseverance. To complete a death fast is a very difficult form of resistance.
The death fast that began on 14 July was carried out under difficult conditions. The fasters endured the pain and agony of their bodies melting away gram by gram. It was not easy for these people who "loved life so much that they were ready to die for it" to accept death. The commitment of Kemal and the others who had started fasting on 14 July, their attachment to life, can be summed up in these words. In other words, they knew what they were doing. They knew the history and were aware of the social situation. They were aware of what fascism was up to. That is why they risked their existence and their lives to stop fascism's extermination project. Their actions had profound historical consequences.
What were the consequences of this resistance?
They showed the level of militancy, dedication and sacrifice of the PKK. They implemented their resistance in the most impossible place. They fought in the most besieged, most isolated place, where the possibilities were most limited. In this way, they created a benchmark for PKK militancy. The courageous struggle that is taking place today comes from there. It is not something that came about spontaneously. The militancy, the level of thinking and the determination of Hayri, Kemal and Mazlum are the nourishment, the basis and the driving force of today's courage. No one can distort this reality.
Kemal Pir fell on 7 September. He was the first of the comrades to fall. Hayri then fell on 12 September, Akif Yılmaz on 15 September and Ali Çiçek on 17 September. These anniversaries connect 1982 and 2022. 40 years have passed since then, but they still live on in our struggle, our history, our war and our resistance.
Have the PKK's goals changed?
Just as Turkey has not given up its goals, the PKK has not given up its resistance. It will never give up. The historical confrontations and struggles continue. As long as the project of annihilation and denial of the Kurdish people does not end, war and resistance will continue. The fact that we are resisting so massively and staking our lives is not the result of an arbitrary decision. This should be common knowledge. It is a historical necessity. We participate in this struggle voluntarily. We do not live comfortably, our resistance is born out of necessity. Because we know; there is war, death, dungeons, torture. Our thinking, our ideals and our conscience demand that we stand against tyranny and injustice. The great death fast of 14 July showed the role that this free will struggle plays in history, that it can thwart fascism, that it brings confidence and hope to the people. Fascism was defeated in prison. The Turkish state, the junta of 12 September, had to put an end to the torture, to the attempt to break the movement in the dungeon of Amed. So, it accepted its defeat. The Kemals, Hayris and Mazlums are undefeated, they are still alive today and have passed into society.
Many guerrilla fighters today bear the names of Hayri, Kemal and Mazlum. We will continue to pay our debt to them with gratitude.