Guerrilla Haki Zilan who survived the KDP attack in Xelifan: "They wanted to kill us all"

Guerrilla fighter Haki Zilan, who survived the KDP's massacre of a guerrilla unit in the region of Xelîfan, said, "The goal of the attack was to take no prisoners. It was about killing us."

During the night of August 28-29, a unit of seven guerrilla fighters in Xelîfan northeast of Hewlêr (Erbil) was ambushed by the KDP, which rules southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Five of them were killed and one HPG member was apparently captured in a wounded state. HPG fighter Haki Zilan, who survived the attack, spoke to ANF, telling the following:

"My name is Haki Zilan. I had been in the Qandil area for some tasks. After my tasks were finished, I was set to go to the Behdinan area. We were seven guerrilla fighters who set out for Behdinan. Two of the friends in the group were couriers. Before we set off, our friends from the commandant's office warned us and said, 'Take measures against any provocations and problems.' We left in the evening of August 23. The KDP units had already attacked three of our comrades in the Bêxme region of Xelîfan some time before, and we had heard nothing more from them. Because of this and the sensitivity of the situation, we were very cautious.

We got as far as the Zap River without any problems. We were on the road at night so that we would not disturb anyone and not be seen. During the day, we stopped and observed our surroundings. We did not approach civilian settlements or military posts. We took long detours to do so. During the night of August 28-29, we reached the Zap. The place where we arrived at the river was very wide and shallow. We chose this place to cross the river. We wanted to go into the water and then make our way towards the Behdinan Mountains. We kept looking ahead and checking the terrain. There were no bases or checkpoints in the area, neither of the KDP nor of other troops.

The KDP opened fire without warning

So we crossed the Zap and reached the other bank. Heval Serdem was in the front. He was one of our couriers and walked ahead of everyone else. Right behind him came Şoreş Colemêrg, Şoreş Mêrdîn, Tolhildan, Axîn and Brûsk. I was walking behind. There was not much distance between us. We lined up as a guerrilla column and set off. When we were barely a hundred meters from the river, a hail of bullets descended on us without any warning, shouts or warning shots. We were pinned down. We had moved some distance from the water and there was a flat field in front of us. We didn't know who had attacked us at all, the attackers were positioned in the hills that dominated the flat terrain. They were shooting at us incessantly with heavy weapons.

The goal of the KDP was to kill us

It was really a very treacherous ambush. The goal of the attackers was not to stop us or capture us, but to massacre us. As their bullets rained down on us, our friends fell to the ground. I, too, threw myself to the ground. My friends Tolhildan, Axîn and Brûsk fell right in front of me. They were so close to me that I spoke to them, but they did not answer. They were right in front of me, so all the bullets hit them and I remained unharmed. I could hear their last breaths. I was near a rock formation and jumped between the rocks.

The first hail of bullets lasted 15 to 20 minutes and was continuous and intense. Under this shelling, I called loudly for Heval Şoreş and Serdem. But I got no answer from them either. It was completely dark and it was impossible to see your hand in front of your face. My gun slipped out of my hand in the confusion. When the friends did not respond and the shelling was only one-sided, I realized that they had fallen. The attackers kept shooting at us from 2:30 a.m. until dawn. I was trapped and couldn't do much. So I retreated a bit and camouflaged myself. I couldn't see them, but I could hear them well. In the morning, as the sun rose, the silence was replaced by the sound of KDP armored cars. I could tell by what they were saying, but also by their vehicles, that they belonged to the KDP. They came directly to the scene.

Then there were repeated shots at the place where we had been ambushed and where the friends were still. Shots were heard from M16 assault rifles. After that, I heard nine shots and then another twelve. Each time they were shots from a different weapon. If the friends were still alive, they would have been killed at that moment. After that, the shots stopped completely.

It was the memory of the six friends that kept me going on the way back. I always had the feeling that these comrades were with me and guiding me the whole way. Sometimes I would walk along the paths and talk intently with Heval Tolhildan. Sometimes, when I was tired at night, I felt Heval Brûsk by my side. Feeling these friends gave me the strength to fight and keep walking. My eyes were always on the old paths. I was looking for old equipment or shoes from the guerrillas. So I wandered through the terrain for a long time. After walking for days, one day I saw a tarp under a cliff that looked like it was from the guerrillas. I got hope and I realized that I was now close to the friends. Now I was looking for them in every valley. Then I remembered what Heval Şoreş Mêrdîn had told me about his time in the Black Sea region. I remembered it because the friends in the Black Sea region were often alone for days or weeks. They tended to their wounds themselves, were hungry and thirsty, but they continued to fight. I took this important experience as an example.

I had previously spent two days in the place where I had camouflaged myself. Then I set out to reach the guerrillas. I decided to look for friends in Behdinan. I didn't know Behdinan, but I had to tell my friends what had happened. I had lost my shoes in the hail of bullets and went barefoot. I cut fabric from my clothes and wrapped it around my feet so I could walk. When I was farther away, I could see the place of the ambush from a distance. There was no military position there.

Back with the guerrillas after 16 days

I entered a forest. A path led through the forest. As I followed the path, I suddenly met two friends under a tree. This encounter triggered an indescribable joy in me. I felt as if I had been reborn and newly joined the Party. I was even happier than when I joined the Party. I called out to the friends, 'Are you Hevals?' [Comrades] They replied, 'Yes yes - we are Hevals.' I asked the two friends the same question over and over again. Then I told them what had happened. The friends were very surprised that I reached them. I asked them what day and date it was and realized that I had been traveling for 16 days. It was a very meaningful coincidence, because one of the friends was called Hêvî (Hope) and the other Roj (Sun). For me, it meant that I was going toward the sun, that is, the party, with great hope.

"The underhanded attack of the collaborators must be made known"

It is clear on what basis this ambush was laid. The goal was not to take prisoners or injure fighters. It was to destroy our group and kill its members. If that was not what they were after, then at least they would have given a warning. All the members of our group dreamed of going to the mountains of Dersim, Serhad and Botan and fighting for a free Kurdistan until their last breath. They pursued this intention in all their ways. Especially the patriotic, honorable youth of the Kurdish people in South Kurdistan, those who pick up the weapons of these comrades and stand up for their cause, should know how these collaborators and servants of the Turkish state launched the attack. On this basis, all Kurdish youth should stand up for this cause. I will follow in the footsteps of the martyrs until the end."