‘We are working for independence for western Kurdistan’

Dr Jawad Mella is president of the Kurdistan National Congress. He was born in Syria in 1946 and has fought for the cause of Kurdistan, both within Syria and in exile, all his life. Dr Mella was interviewed by Harem Karem.

Can the Assad regime survive?

No way: the Assad regime will fall exactly as the regimes of Egypt and Tunisia have fallen. We are now in the time of a tsunami of freedom which covers all the nations of the world. The dictators will not survive and Bashar Al Assad is the worst dictator in the Middle East.

What is the likely outcome of the Syrian uprising?

This is what we want:

  1. The dictatorship of the Syrian regime will fall.
  2. Bashar Assad and his supporters will be brought to justice.
  3. The proclamation of Syria as a democratic society with full recognition of all ethnicities and religions.
  4. Freedom and self-determination for all nations in Syria ratified through a general referendum.
What needs to happen now to ensure the defeat of Baathism in Syria?

To ensure the defeat of Baathism, a strong decision needs to be taken by the Security Council to establish a no-fly, no-drive zone in Syria and to establish a Kurdish Government for the Kurds in western Kurdistan with its own army to protect the Kurdish people from any attacks by the terrorists of Baathism and their allies in the area, such as Hizbullah, Hamas and small groups of former Saddam Hussein officers who ran away from Iraq and have been protected by the Syrian regime since 2003 – and also the Palestinians of George Habash and Naif Hawatmeh who have been protected by the Syrian regime for more than 50 years. Israel, Iran and Turkey are the best allies to the Syrian regime as well. If someone asks, ‘How come the Palestinians and Israel are allies with the Syrian regime?’, I will tell them that Hizbullah is the biggest enemy for Israel and the US and yet at the same time it is allied with Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, who came to power on an American tank.

How confident are you that the situation for Kurds will significantly improve after Assad falls?

No guarantees, and everything is possible in politics, because this situation is very much dependent on the Kurds themselves. For example, the Iraqi constitution in 1958 in its third article said that the Kurds are partners in the country, but the Kurds refused to be partners and fought the Iraqis for about a half a century to obtain autonomy! I can’t say more than that but I will pray to God to give us the wisdom of Mula Mashhour. He lent someone 100 pounds but the man refused to return the money because there were no witnesses and no papers. So Mula Mashhur called the man to attend in front of the court. Mula Mashhur told the Judge: I gave this man 1000 pounds and, because there are no witnesses and no papers, he ignores this debt. The man stood up and strongly said: Mula Mashhur is a liar, it was 100 pounds only, not 1000 pound at all. Mula Meshhur turned to the Judge and said: Did you hear that?

According to some reports, Syria’s Kurds have not been at the forefront of the current uprising. Is this true and, if so, how do you explain this?

Unfortunately, yes, it is true for the following reason.

The Kurds demolished several Al Assad statues and the biggest one was in the city of Amuda. It was bigger than the statue of Saddam Hussein but the heroes of the Kurds demolished it without any American soldiers and while Al Assad was still in power. The Kurds burnt the Syrian flag and 35 bases of the Syrian regime in the Kurdish areas and raised the Kurdistan flag everywhere and cleansed Kurdistan of Syrian forces for a couple of days during the great uprising of March 2004. But during this uprising none of the other Syrian cities joined us and we paid a very high price alone: until now many Kurds have been afraid to be left alone again.

Why is there so much factionalism and fragmentation among Syrian political organisations?

The Syrian secret police are very powerful: they could split up the Syrian Communist Party – which was part of one of the strongest movements worldwide – into four parties. But the poor Kurds have had no one to support them, nationally or internationally, and so the Syrian secret police could split up the KDP in Syria into more than 20 parties and groups. I remember that in 1964 the KDP was the only party for the Kurds in Syria. I was leader of the KDP organisations in the Damascus and Beirut regions from 1964 to 1968, during the time of the Kurdish leader Apo Osman Sabri. I think that very soon – when the Syrian regime loses control – the Kurdish movement will once more be united and strong, just like during the time of Apo Osman Sabri.

Do you support calls for autonomy for the Kurds within Syria’s boundaries?

We are demanding and working for independence for western Kurdistan which is occupied by Syria.

You know that our country Kurdistan, together with Armenia and the Arab countries, were self-ruled by their own leaders and princes under the Islamic umbrella called the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years. Germany and its ally the Ottoman Empire were defeated in the First World War by the winners, the British and French Empires. As always happens, the winners took over the properties of the losers which were Kurdistan, Armenia and the Arab countries. Initially the British and French Empires recognised the Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. But three years later they changed their minds in the 1923 Lausanne Treaty.This ignored the existence of the Kurdish people and their country Kurdistan, established the new Turkey and 22 Arab states, divided Kurdistan into five pieces and gave them to its neighbours. The western part of Kurdistan came under Syria and now we want our country, western Kurdistan, back and free again to be ruled by the Kurds. Syria has taken a part of Kurdistan and so we are not taking a piece of Syrian land but rather claiming back our own land.

You have said that the Kurds of southern Kurdistan should have proclaimed a Greater Kurdistan Parliament after the fall of Saddam in 2003? Could you explain this? How do you think the pan-Kurdish movement should be developed?

Yes, exactly, because I thought that, when we have freedom in any part of Kurdistan, we should take advantage of this and make it a base to secure freedom for the other parts of Kurdistan. But the thinking of the leaders of southern Kurdistan was different. Their attitude is that they will not take care of the other parts of Kurdistan but will instead concentrate on defending themselves from attack by Turkey, Iran and Syria. However this approach actually means that the attacks on southern Kurdistan will never stop – for example, the current attacks on the Qandil mountain range. The result is that we Kurds have divided ourselves and this makes the occupiers of Kurdistan happy. But they will keep asking for more and they will be prepared to unite against us.

What were the key things you learnt from your time as a Peshmerga leader?

I was a political and military leader, belonging to the Political Bureau of the PASOK party, during the Iraqi-Iranian war from 1982 to 1984 in the mountains of Sourain and Qandil. I have personally participated in several battles and I will never forget them. One was in the Qandil mountain, starting in the areas of Pisht Ashan and Ash Qolke on 1 May 1983 and lasting for three days and nights with no food, no drink and no sleep for 500 Peshmergas. About 100 Peshmergas lost their lives. I can say proudly that the Peshmergas are very good fighters and, when they face any problem, they find solutions and very successful solutions really. I would like to mention one example. During the battle mentioned above we faced a river that was blocking our way. How could 500 Peshmergas cross it to the other bank? It was very fast and wide and the water was deeper than my height. Without any orders, the tallest and strongest of the Peshmergas jumped into the river and formed a human chain with their bodies so that all 500 Peshmergas could go across the river over the shoulders of this human chain.

Yes, our Peshmergas are always the best – naturally and without attending any military training courses.

What are your key objectives today?

I am preparing myself to go back to western Kurdistan and to establish our Kurdish Government there soon.

How can Kurds living in exile do more to help the cause of Kurdistan?

After I arrived in the United Kingdom I established the Kurdistan National Congress on 14 April 1985 because, from my experience in the Kurdish movement in all parts of Kurdistan for about 50 years, no one organisation or tribe or area or city can gain freedom for the Kurds and the independence of Kurdistan. It is necessary for all organisations, tribes, and personalities of the Kurds to be united and accept each other and sit at a round table as mentioned by the Kurdish philosopher Ahmed Khani about 300 years ago.

In addition to my main duty promoting independence for Kurdistan, I have run several campaigns:

  1. I received an official invitation on 2 May 1988 to attend the United Nation’s Headquarters in New York regarding the 8,000 Barzani Kurds who disappeared in Iraq. I attended the meeting with Dr. Vera Saeed Poor, Dr Ahmed Osman and Dr Isfandiyar on 23 May 1988 and the result of it was to put Iraq on a black list for abusing human rights, even though at that time the US, UN and the whole world were with Iraq in its war against Iran. I have had the same campaigns for the Fayli Kurds, Anfal and Halabja victims.
  2. I have collected 2,000 signatures from world-famous personalities to put pressure on the UK government to have a Kurdish language section at the BBC World Service, alongside the 29 languages it currently broadcasts.
  3. I have collected many thousands of signatures from the Kurdish community in the UK and their friends worldwide – such as Lord Hylton, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Lord Jeffery Archer and Baroness Cox (all members of House of Lords in Britain), Senator Arrigo Boldrini (member of the Italian Congress), and Senator Bob Filner (member of the US Congress) – asking for a Kurdish representative at the UN. Together with a group from the Kurdish community in London, I presented the lists to the UN representative in London on 26 November 2002 .
  4. I have collected 10,000 signatures from the Kurdish community in the UK asking for a referendum on the issue of independence for Kurdistan.
  5. I have established the Western Kurdistan Government-in-Exile, Rojava TV and Radio, the Kurdish Museum, Library and Archive and the Osman Sabri Academy to teach Kurdish children their Kurdish language in Britain…. and many other activities.

Now I am an old man but really I have become young, happy and optimistic since I met you kak Harem and learned of your campaign on the UK government website for independence for Kurdistan. I have noticed that the young Kurds in exile, such as you, have started to forge ahead and take over the work which I began a long time ago: well done kak Harem.

4 Responses to ‘We are working for independence for western Kurdistan’
  1. Alan Abdulla
    September 6, 2011 | 13:26

    about time the other parts of kurdistan seek independence then re-unite for a greater kurdistan

  2. Barry
    April 1, 2012 | 00:44

    The next piece of the puzzle would have to be the Kurdish region of Syria. That would be wonderful if you could do that. Again, I wish you all the luck in the world. I’m Jewish myself and I love Kurdistan. I really wish it could come back – you guys are the best and a great force for good in the region.

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