Mustafa Jumʿah, Kurdish politician:
»The PYD has weapons and we don't. They will kill us all.«
KURDWATCH, August 16, 2012—Mustafa Jumʿah (b. 1947 in ʿAyn al‑ʿArab [Kobanî]) is Vice President of the Kurdish National Council and Secretary of the Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria (Azadî). On June 24, 2012, he was kidnapped by members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD); since his release, he has been living in Iraqi Kurdistan. This interview, in which he speaks in particularl about his party's relationship to the PYD, was conducted a few days before his kidnapping.
KurdWatch: In early June, the PYD attacked, kidnapped, and subjected members of your party in ʿAfrin to severe public criticism. Why your party in particular?
Mustafa Jumʿah: In the ʿAfrin region, our party does the work of the Kurdish National Council. Political seminars were held in the villages in which the PYD attacked us. Thousands of people participated in events. There were political discussions about the Kurdish question, and there were political initiatives. The PYD wants to show that it is the only party, that it alone has supporters, and that the people do what the PYD wants. After we became active and the people saw that we have many supporters, the PYD started causing problems. It attacked the villages, sometimes with three to four hundred people, and kidnapped our friends. I believe that the main reasons for these attacks were our activities and our clear position on the Syrian revolution. The PYD does not currently support the revolution. The PYD claims to be for the revolution, but its actions are directed against the revolution. The PYD fights those who support the revolution.
KurdWatch: Along with the Azadî, there are fifteen other parties in the Kurdish National Council. Do you mean to say that these parties do not support the revolution or are not active in ʿAfrin? It is indeed true that since the start of the revolution, there has hardly been any Kurdish National Council activities in ʿAfrin, your party included. Why has your party only recently become so active?
Mustafa Jumʿah: About ten of the parties represented in the Kurdish National Council essentially do not exist in ʿAfrin or only have one or two members there. This is the situation throughout Syrian-Kurdistan. The parties are not equally strong. There are parties that don't even have fifty members in all of Syria. I won't identify any party by name. There are, however, two or three parties that exist in ʿAfrin. This includes the Azadî, the Democratic Yekîtî, and ʿAbdulhakim Bashar's el‑Partî. Regrettably they are not supporting the revolution as expected. Therefore we felt obligated to become active. Unfortunately, our activities have decreased again because the PYD has pitted itself against us. Within the Kurdish National Council, there was the opinion that we should avoid conflicts with the PYD. The Azadî then organized three, or four small initiatives, but even these were attacked. Then at the beginning of the year, all of the Kurdish parties in ʿAfrin organized a large demonstration with fifteen to twenty thousand participants. The following Friday, the PYD prevented any demonstrations. Sixty-seven of our fellow party members alone were injured, but also members of other parties. Admittedly, the participation of other parties was minimal. Still, people demonstrated. A significant reason why other parties have no influence here is that these parties do not oppose the PYD. The Azadî is different. The PYD doesn't like this; that's why they primarily attack the Azadî.
KurdWatch: Did activities still take place after the demonstrations were attacked?
Mustafa Jumʿah: There were no further demonstrations. That was the decision of the Kurdish National Council. The Council decided that we would not carry out any other initiatives in ʿAfrin in order to avoid conflict with the PYD.
KurdWatch: Haven't there been any political events recently?
Mustafa Jumʿah: We were forced to abide by the decision of the Kurdish National Council. Nevertheless, there have been expectations recently that the Kurdish National Council will become active in ʿAfrin. We were told that the Council couldn't continue as before. Thus we made the decision to hold seminars. The seminars were conducted by our party members. That was the reason why we came into conflict with the PYD.
KurdWatch: How many seminars were held?
Mustafa Jumʿah: Recently we held four seminars; then this attack occurred.
KurdWatch: The PYD claims that the Azadî attacked it with bombs.
Mustafa Jumʿah: That is absolutely untrue. We haven't attacked anyone. The PYD spread this claim via Ronahî‑TV and other media. The PYD has attacked villages with three to four hundred fighters. It has stolen cars and other property. After the PYD kidnapped people, we decided that we would no longer negotiate with them. The PYD wanted to meet so that they could return the kidnapped victims to us. We refused a meeting and said they should deliver the kidnapped victims to the Kurdish National Council in ʿAfrin. Thus far we have not met with the PYD. We have not made any mistakes. We have worked for the Kurds; we have done political work; we had no weapons, and we haven't hurt anyone.
KurdWatch: There is fighting around ʿAfrin and the Free Syrian Army already has some regions under its control. On the internet there are videos of young Kurds who do not sympathize with the PYD and who claim to have formed armed groups to fight against the regime. Is that true?
Mustafa Jumʿah: No. None of our young people have reached for weapons and none are ready to do so. Certainly, there is fighting in northern Aleppo. One could even say that the Free Syrian Army has all of northern Aleppo under its control. To a certain degree, it has taken over the administration of these districts. In southern Aleppo there is also heavy fighting. But as far as the Kurdish youth is concerned, that is exaggerated. I know the situation there well. There is absolutely no such thing. We don't want that either. We still have hope that the Kurds will not arm themselves because the regime is not entering our region. We know exactly why we are doing what we are doing. We want the Kurds to do their work peacefully. We do not believe that the PYD has the right to bear arms. Others also should not bear arms so that we don’t end up fighting against one another. Sooner or later the Kurds might turn these weapons against one another. I'm afraid there would even be deaths. We hope that there will be an agreement between the PYD and the other Kurdish parties, so that the PYD will lay down its weapons. The PYD has built checkpoints in the streets. This has led, in part, to dissatisfaction, and some people have destroyed the checkpoints. The PYD organizes demonstrations and characterizes these people as dishonorable. It calls on the people to protect the checkpoints. Few people have heeded this appeal. The PYD is now calling anyone who did not respond to its appeal dishonorable. The checkpoints and weapons in the hands of the PYD will bring the Kurds into an unfortunate situation.
KurdWatch: The People's Council of West Kurdistan declared today that due to the attack near al‑Malikiyah, it would arm its checkpoints in the Jazirah. What do you think of this decision?
Mustafa Jumʿah: The PYD checkpoints were already armed. The PYD is now acting as if it were forced to arm its checkpoints. They want to make clear that they are prepared to kill. I hope that it won't come to that. I was in al‑Qamishli yesterday. The PYD armed its young people with knives and positioned them in front of the Qasimo mosque. There were about one hundred masked people on patrol around the district of al‑Hilaliyah; all one could see were their eyes. They looked as if they were prepared to kill people. They were all armed with iron rods and knives. This is how they carry out their demonstrations. Can we Kurds allow something like this in our regions? I say that what is happening here is bad and presents a great danger to Syrian-Kurdistan. Foreign forces are behind this development. We had hoped that someone [the government] in [Iraqi‑]Kurdistan or the Kurdish National Council would take control of the situation. Regrettably, no positive decisions have been made in this regard. We had to push hard to get it [the Kurdish National Council] to adopt a declaration condemning the PYD's kidnapping of our friends.
KurdWatch: In Iraqi-Kurdistan, there was an agreement signed between the PYD and the Kurdish National Council How did this agreement come about? Whose initiative was it?
Mustafa Jumʿah: One of our delegations has been in the region for some time, and the PYD had also sent a delegation there. Apparently the meeting came about with the help of President Barzani's office. The president's office felt it was important that the Kurds in Syria overcome the current situation together and end the oppression by peaceful means.
KurdWatch: Why an agreement in Erbil? Can Barzani put pressure on the PYD? Shouldn't such an agreement rather have been signed in Qandil? Representatives of the Kurdish National Council were in Qandil, why didn't they sign this agreement there?
Mustafa Jumʿah: I am also of this opinion. I have said that the office of the President is taking on an important role. It is good that the agreement came together under its authority. But this agreement will not be successful unless the PKK also signs it. Why is the signature of the presidential office on the document and not the signature of the PKK? Then the agreement might have been a success. In the coming days, the Executive Committee of the Kurdish National Council will discuss the document and decide if we will agree to it or not. The People's Council of West Kurdistan also has yet to sign. In talks that our committee held with the PYD, the PYD always said that mistakes were made. But it always makes the same mistakes. In the streets, it does what it wants. Nothing happens as agreed.
KurdWatch: What did the representatives of the Kurdish National Council achieve in Qandil?
Mustafa Jumʿah: I don't know exactly what was discussed. We were not given information about the conversation. We learned from the press that Hamid [ʿAbdulhamid Hajji Darwish] and Muhammad Musa were there. But those two are not members of our committee for holding talks with the PYD. Members of that committee should have traveled there. This agreement should have come together in Qandil; then the PKK would have also taken on responsibility.
KurdWatch: You say that you learned from the media that members of the Kurdish National Council were in Qandil. Why is that? Don't you have any agreements?
Mustafa Jumʿah: That's how it is. And there are other such examples: We only learned of our delegation's participation in the Conference of the Syrian Opposition in Istanbul after they were already there. The coordination is rather weak. Since the leadership of the Kurdish National Council has different political leanings, everyone does his own thing and doesn't worry much about the others.
KurdWatch: Don't you have a joint caucus in which decisions are made?
Mustafa Jumʿah: Yes. We have the General Secretariat. The General Assembly of the Kurdish National Council takes place every six months; the Executive Committee meets every two months, in urgent cases a session can be pushed forward, and sessions of the General Secretariat can be held every month or even every two weeks. Ismaʿil Hami and I are on the Executive Committee. Unfortunately there is no communication. We had hoped that this committee would work more efficiently and that our Committee for Foreign Contacts would send us reports with the signatures of all of the representatives. Thus far we have not received any reports.
KurdWatch: One scenario for Syria is that the regime falls apart, there are no more security organizations, and anarchy breaks out. In such a scenario, won't committees be needed to protect the people? Committees like those of the PYD? Shouldn't the Kurdish National Council also make similar preparations?
Mustafa Jumʿah: Yes, that is all true. Unfortunately, the PYD is ahead of us all. If the Kurdish National Council wants to play a role, it has to work with the PYD's People's Committee. The PYD has prevailed. It is organized and visible everywhere. It is bringing all of the regions in Syrian Kurdistan under its control. And it doesn't accept anyone working alongside of it. For the PYD there is only the PYD, and anyone who wants to work must do so under its patronage.
KurdWatch: You are holding the PYD responsible. But for the past year, the Kurdish National Council has not created a single committee to protect the people. Isn't that primarily the fault of the Kurdish National Council itself?
Mustafa Jumʿah: Yes, that is true. Unfortunately we have not made any such decisions. A few months ago, I suggested to the Executive Committee that we establish committees to protect the people in case the regime withdraws from the area, so that there is an alternative to the PYD. In a pinch, we could also work together with the PYD. No one supported the suggestion. I will say it again: The Kurdish National Council cannot make important decisions. If no joint decisions can be made, this means that one or two parties must become active. At the same time, this is a mistake. We wanted to become active in the name of the Kurdish National Council.
KurdWatch: If the Kurdish National Council is not performing its duties, it is your right as an independent party to develop activities.
Mustafa Jumʿah: It is our right. And at least in ʿAfrin, we have made use of this right politically. But the PYD has arrested and tortured our members. Once again: the PYD has weapons and we don't. They will kill us all.
June 22, 2012