Erdoğan should re-initiate peace process, says veteran Kurdish politician Leyla Zana

Veteran Kurdish politician Leyla Zana broke her silence for Gazete Duvar. In an interview, she talked about the end of the peace process, the possibility of a new process, her thoughts on recent politics and her experiences since 2015.

Vecdi Erbay / Gazete Duvar

Leyla Zana is a Kurdish female politician who learned life, politics, state, resistance and organization in the 1980 coup regime prisons. She has had an impact on the Kurdish people with her attitude, words and deeds since the day she entered the political scene. She was one of the pioneers in the active participation of Kurdish women in politics, and many girls born in the 1990s were named Leyla.

She played important roles in pro-Kurdish parties. What she said and did was watched carefully not only in Turkey but around the world. She carried out diplomacy as a Kurdish politician in Turkey and around the world. She took the floor in the most difficult times and did not hesitate to speak her mind.

During the peace process, she went to İmralı Island and met with Abdullah Öcalan, and also met with Masoud Barzani in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She remained in prison for more than 10 years, and became parliamentarian four times.

Leyla Zana has a place in my memory mostly with the struggle she gave in prisons. I think her struggle there has been a source of inspiration for many Kurdish women. This causes a considerable sense of pride. Moreover, this state of pride does not belong only to Leyla Zana, but also to the people and the form of politics that gave rise to it.

I will leave the floor to Leyla Zana, who seems to have withdrawn from politics for about eight years.

Is Leyla Zana retired from politics? Is she offended or angry? What kind of life did she lead during the years when she did not appear in public? Why did the peace process end? Erdoğan said on October 8, 2015, "I did not say that the peace process has been abolished, I said that it has been put on hold at this stage. If things go well, the process will be on the agenda again." Is a new process possible?

We talked about all this and more at her village house. We talked for more than two hours, I asked many questions that came to my mind and that I thought the public was curious about, and she answered every question sincerely. Thank her for hosting me in her house and speaking to Gazete Duvar after so many years.

We have not seen you making a statement about politics for a long time, nor have we seen you in a political environment. During this time, important developments took place, elections were held. I guess many people like me are wondering what Leyla Zana has been doing during this time. Why did you prefer to remain silent?

First of all, I would like to express my pleasure to meet you. Although I have been offered interviews by many journalists for years, it is only now, when you are in front of me, that I begin to think about where I should start and what I should say. In 2015, we experienced a political earthquake. We reached a point where the political interlocutor really stopped. In that process, when we came face to face with the masses, I saw that we had no answers to give. This is one of the reasons why I kept silent. I kept silent out of embarrassment towards our peoples and the Kurdish people. There was a process in which hundreds of people lost their lives. They were all young. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes and lands. Where did these people have to migrate to? Were they able to feed? Were they able to shelter? Was anyone taking care of them? We couldn't do anything, I couldn't do anything and it was devastating.

Society is waiting for an answer and you cannot give the answer. This caused me to go through a seven-year mourning process. I was deeply wounded. Life does not consist of elections. If the mass comes to the politician's mind only during elections, this is problematic. After all, society has given you a responsibility and you have to deal with its problems. You have to be sensitive. You have to take care of it. Because we couldn't take care of it, I can say that I experienced a political earthquake in my own inner world. I still haven't seen Diyarbakır’s Sur distrcit. I can't go and see it, I don't feel ready.

You just mentioned a period of mourning. Is there also resentment?

No, this cause is much bigger, much more comprehensive than any personality. Can you sulk against the cause? When you resent the cause, you resent yourself. Resentment is not anger. When we failed to respond to the problems of society, then I faced the question 'who and what are we serving?' And I asked myself these questions for a long time. What could we have done that we couldn't do? Okay, the system was attacking the Kurds with all its violence in every dimension. There is a system based on your denial. But how much did we stand up for ourselves? How could we fall into this trap? In my personal opinion, it was a trap. Why was the danger not foreseen? Look, when we look at Israel and Palestine right now, we lived through this in 2015. At no time in history have our corpses been left on the street for seven days. Even in the most difficult times, we were able to go and collect our bones and bring them back. But Mother Taybet's body was left on the street for 7 days and even her children couldn't go and get it. In Cizre, a tiny child was put in the freezer by his mother. Every time I hear the word "freezer" I experience that moment. If a mother puts her child in the freezer out of desperation so that the body integrity of her child is not destroyed, this is a shame on all of us. All this led me to a deep questioning.

If we are talking now, can we say that this process of questioning is over?

As someone who came from that period, you know that our political history was shaped in part by the prison resistance. And today prisons are in resistance again. When we look at the history of Turkey, prisons have never been off the agenda since the 1946s. People who have been in prison for 20-30 years shouldering the process for this cause are on hunger strike again today. And I don't think their voices are heard enough. Elections don't end. Every few months elections are on Turkey's agenda. And everyone is indexed to the elections. So where did this democratic struggle come from? How did it develop so much? Can we ignore this?

This is one of the reasons that I talk. From the Kurdish perspective, the democratic struggle started with the prison resistance. So how can we forget our own roots? How can we ignore such a vital issue? This is a criticism first to myself, and then to the general public... A person struggling in prison has nothing else to do but to starve their body. They go on hunger strike to resist and day by day they start to melt. Why did people in prison go on hunger strike? When we look at it in relation to the Kurdish question, in this darkness where there is no solution and security policies surround us all, these people are trying to break the isolation. This is their only agenda. They are not saying ‘we want this for ourselves.’ They are saying that this problem was blocked with the beginning of isolation. 

You are no stranger to hunger strikes…

I will never forget. The resistance started by Hayri (Durmuş), Kemal (Pir), Ali Çiçek, Ferhat Kurtay in prisons created mass power. At that time, they awakened and enlightened the public opinion by destroying their own bodies against those horrible practices, and made the brutality known. And they turned into a huge cry. We all started to become more sensitive and worked to support them on legal grounds.

Yes, your life and political identity are not very independent from prisons. It was shaped in prisons.

My political identity was formed in prisons. They turned into a school for us when we couldn't put two sentences together in Turkish. It also became an organizing space for us. It turned into a ground of consciousness for us.

In fact, by the way, you also got to know the state.

From time to time I would say to my friends, "I got to know the state in prisosn, not at universities or during military service like you." It was thanks to these people that we learned about the democratic legal struggle. People started to get to know each other there and we started to act with the question of what we could do. We were a group as all families of prisoners. We were going to Siirt, Urfa, Batman, Mardin during the day and working in our own city centers at night. We were trying to sensitize the masses. When the People's Labour Party (HEP) was founded, they said, "We need to transfer this existing potential somewhere." We were very opposed at first. We were very much against it at first. Why should we give this potential to someone else? So that they could create their own potential... Because that potential emerged with a lot of effort. And the pioneers of this were friends in prison. If everyone had spared their own families, this potential would not have emerged. No one saw their own family outside the struggle.

As a result of their tremendous resistance inside prisons, prisoners’ families took the position to support them outside. They became politicized, conscious and turned it into an organized network. Now, since our past experience consists of such self-sacrificing, solidaristic and organized people, if there are some developments we don't like today, I say we need to go back to the roots. It is said ‘look for what you lose wherever you lose it.’ As we move away from our roots, there is a retreat in the masses. The people never give up their cause. This has been tested and seen many times. I shouldn't say because of the destruction we have created, but because of the shortcomings, the people withdraw themselves. Otherwise, they are committed to the cause to the end. But we have a mass with the political depth and foresight to think that when they don't like us, they should teach us a lesson.

Gazete Duvar Diyarbakır Representative Vecdi Erbay and Leyla Zana

So they take a stand when necessary. Was this the attitude in the last parliamentary and presidential elections?

Of course they do. Every political party has to keep its base alive and give hope. If you don't do this, if the political party is positioned like an association, problems arise. The masses question. Nowhere in the world has any mass force acted so selflessly. No political party has been able to survive despite so much destruction. What parties have we seen, right? When the ANAP came, it spread great hope, but then it disappeared over time. But despite having thousands of prisoners, despite being the target of thousands of unsolved murders, despite experiencing so much destruction, Kurdish politics is still alive and still defends its values. This is a tremendous thing. No party can be this resilient.

Maybe the number of MPs is not always decisive, but could the decrease in the number of MPs in Diyarbakır be related to a reaction of the people in Diyarbakır, the mass we are talking about? Or was there something else?

No political party would take its base and make them vote for another political party without expecting any return. This is against the nature of politics. There can be certain collaborations. From time to time you can join forces within the framework of principles, I don't say anything about that. But you cannot take your own base and transfer it to another party. The system is playing a big game here. I don't know how much we are aware of it. It forces us to choose between two groups. There is a CHP that has made us suffer the pain of the world for a century, that ignores us and positions itself on the basis of our being ignored. The other one imposes the understanding of the ummah. The aim is to force Kurds to choose between the two. No, we do not have to choose. One has practiced great oppression for 80 years, the other is positioned as the continuation of that oppression.

Why should we have to choose one or the other? We are neither supporters of the CHP nor the AKP. You are a political party; your color, identity, discourse, organizational style and base are different... Isn't it because of the CHP leader's attitude that all of our current party executives are in prison? Thousands of our people are in prison, in exile, but they can't even be on the agenda. There is a game here too. People naturally questioned these things. I am watching the new leadership of the CHP. I hope they will take a responsible and courageous approach to the democratic and peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue, taking into account these warnings of the masses.

After the 2023 elections, people who lived through the 1990s started to say, "The Kurdish people need the spirit of the 1990s". Young people did not live through the 90s, but they learn from what they read and listen to, and they too want the spirit of struggle of the 90s. But what is the spirit of the 1990s? 

We didn’t have a single institutional space. We didn’t have an association. There was no political party. As I said before, HEP was founded on this base. The 1990s was a period of all kinds of material and moral poverty. Parallel to this, there was a great spirit of solidarity. Let's say if there was a loss in the Hilvan district of Urfa, this mass would come together immediately. Everyone makes a contribution, even in a small way, according to their power. This is one thing. Secondly, intellectually there was an understanding of serving a cause. There was no notion of position, authority, interest, or rent. As such, a great sense of ownership and a tremendous spirit of solidarity emerged.

When did this break down?

This first started in 1999 with the municipal elections. Everyone who paid a price in this struggle is valuable. We have thousands of casualties. It was not right to categorize and position the families. They should have already been taken care of. All their needs should have been met. For this, rent-seeking tools such as position and office should not have been used. Unfortunately, at that time politics became two-headed and an organization process was initiated through Families of Values ("Değer Aileleri"). This was a great danger and in the end we received a very bitter response. Some were hurt, some were upset, some withdrew themselves. Because they didn't deserve this. Most of them were people who really believed in the cause. When you mix the cause with daily politics, deterioration begins.

You said “let's not mix Families of Values” in 1999. If there are drawbacks to this, why is it allowed to continue?

There are two dimensions to this. One, there is a system-related dimension. The system is very ruthless. It specifically targets every developed person and either leaves them to rot in prison, exile or destroys them. The second dimension is that we have structural problems. The people developed by massing around a cause. We are talking about people who are victimized, oppressed and have no rights, who are socially, politically and economically disregarded, and at the same time have deep wounds and thousands of prisoners. The source of the problem is fundamental. If a realistic analysis had been made at the time and the party had positioned itself accordingly, maybe we wouldn't have so many problems today. The HEP was born as a protest movement. The people demand a different demand, daily politics imposes a different reality.

The demand is first to be able to exist with legal security, not to be troubled by native language, not to carry their dead bodies in a bag or a cardboard box. If the state discriminates and disregards its citizens to such an extent, then the state should ask itself: "Do I want to live with these people or not?" And it should make this clear. Likewise, political parties should also clarify their stance. "Yes, I want you, but I want you without a will. Just give me your vote and the rest will fall into place." Can such a thing happen?

Why are we still experiencing today what we saw in 1999?

Some people were first politically shaped under the influence of the CHP mentality. It is not easy to get rid of this mentality. They say "maybe it will change", but we are facing a problem that is too gigantic to be left up to maybe. We have been subjected to denial for over a century. We don't even have a name. They say "we are all equal", where are we equal? Can I be equal to those who do not tolerate my grave? Can I be equal to whoever changed my village name? How can we be equal if the law exists for some and not for others? There are a lot of parliamentary proceedings in Parliament. Can I be equal if Kurdish representatives are constantly being thrown out of the parliament? Can I be equal if trustees are appointed to municipalities and the will is ignored?

Can a mentality that defines my language as an 'unknown language' be my equal? At the root of all this is a process of denial. Before you ask, I told this to a state official in 2023. I said, "It is a very difficult process. Because we are the denial of denial. More precisely, we are the rejection of rejection. This system rejected us. And we positioned ourselves by rejecting it. Our measures of acceptance and rejection are not yet clear. Since our acceptance and rejection criteria have not been clarified, there has been a chaotic environment."

Speaking of elections, there was a reporting in Gazete Duvar recently. Is Leyla Zana running for mayorship? This was of course backstage information, but did you receive an offer from the DEM Party?

The people honored me four times. I owe it to my people to the end. Whether we deserved it or not, I leave that to history. Without my knowledge, in 1991, I realized that I was a candidate for deputyship. I never had such a request. I was never a candidate for a position or office. There is a cause and I approached this cause sincerely to see how I could contribute to it. Has anything changed for me since 1991? No, nothing has changed. There was already a crisis at the swearing-in ceremony in 2015. This is also a paradox. You look at the name of the Parliament, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. We look at the cover of the Constitution, the Constitution we don't like, the Constitution that should be thrown away. It is the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. But we look at the logic of the text of the oath. There is a racist and monist discourse. It is based on Turkishness. Either you will feel and express yourself as a Turk or you will stay out of this.

I said Turkey instead of Turkishness. And the temporary Speaker of the Parliament at that time (Deniz Baykal) did not accept my oath. When he refused, I was asked to swear again. I refused. I said, “I made the right statement, you are the ones who are wrong, not me.” I walked out of the Parliament that day and never came back. I haven't set foot in Ankara for eight years. I have a cause, not a position. I don't have the luxury to say, "This cause doesn't concern me." It is my embarrassment that silences me or makes me sit in this village. I am ashamed to my people. I have no debt, gratitude or embarrassment to anyone else. I am grateful, ashamed and indebted to my people. It is on this basis that I am making this interview. Now the children of the mothers are on hunger strike again. I believe that with every bite of food, those mothers are choking. It makes me ashamed to remain silent. Then I would be ashamed to be human. This is the issue here. Otherwise, I don't care about MPs or mayors.

You are a human of struggle. Doesn't living for 8 years in the village bother you at all?

I have never given up the struggle. As I mentioned before, this is a mourning process for me. Also, people like us should be able to take an appropriate position if we are asked to share our opinions, suggestions, contributions, experiences. We can share what we have accumulated, our experiences. This is not something to be underestimated. Experience is a completely different thing.

The 1990s were undoubtedly very difficult, but for example TÜSİAD was able to prepare reports on the Kurdish issue. Using this example, what do you think has changed in Turkey from yesterday to today?

The Republic was founded on the denial of the Kurd. The Kurd has two identities, one material and one immaterial. One is their belief with its cultural dimension, the other is their existence, language and status with its political dimension. The state took away both of these identities. It has drawn Kurds into the conflict by conspiring against them. Right now, civilian settlements are being bombed in Rojava, cross-border operations are being carried out non-stop, Southern Kurdistan is being hit by missiles. Women, youth and civilians are being killed in political assassinations. No human being should fall to the ground on the grounds of "national security" or "survival" anymore. No one understands better than us those whose homes are on fire in this geography. I also feel the pain of the families of poor soldiers in my heart. There are people of conscience in this country among Turkish intellectuals and democrats. 

Back to your question. This is one of the things that has not been understood and overcome since the 1990s. The reports prepared by TÜSİAD and some other organizations have shown that they really don't know the Kurds. I have also expressed this in the courts: "Yours is now a pathological case beyond objective data. Since you have always seen the Kurd as a painter, a bagel seller on your street, a servant in your house, you cannot abandon those habits. You are experiencing the dilemma and pain of how can I accept the Kurd as my equal." They are very aware that nothing can stop the Kurds now, and in fact they can see it.

Society is changing, it has changed, what has not changed is the perspective of the system. That's where the problem lies. If posters of Sheikh Said are hung on the city walls by young people, it means that even if you execute all of us, someone will get up one day and continue this cause. This cause will not end. Because this cause is far beyond individuals. This case is beyond any institutional sphere. The state says I don't like you, I don't recognize you, but I won't let you go free. However, this land is rich and deep enough to embrace and nourish everyone. You have reduced the people to the position of beggars. What right do you have to do this?

A peace process was launched in 2013. Then it collapsed and the issue evolved into a more difficult point. You were a politician who was involved in the process. What happened then? Why did it end?

In 2006, I was invited to Norway as part of diplomatic work. I was asked, "How can we contribute to the solution of the Kurdish issue?" After long discussions, I emphasized two main points. The first was that the conflicting factions should gather around a table, and the other was that the Kurds should come together. Because if the Kurds are scattered, they can neither contribute to the democratization of Turkey nor to themselves. Each part has its own uniqueness. Considering those uniquenesses, they need to come together on common grounds and face the coming storm. These were realized to a certain extent until 2009. In 2009, the guarantor problem arose because Turkey said "I can only deal with the Kurds" and unfortunately that dialog process was also disrupted.

In 2012, we had a meeting with the then Prime Minister Mr. Erdoğan. Deputy PM Beşir Atalay was also there. I expressed what I thought: "The black holes of this system cannot be patched. This constitution has to be changed somehow while you are the prime minister. It is a shame, don't force (this constitution created) by the 1980 fascist regime on this society anymore."

We also talked about the issue of Kurdish interlocutors. I said, "You will sit and negotiate with whoever has created this conflict. Mr. Öcalan is there... You should sit and talk to him. The Kurds have representatives. We can only overcome this process if we deal with them as a whole, within the legal framework, without separating them from each other, without putting them in opposing positions. You have to make every sector a partner in this problem. This is not a problem that can be solved only with the ruling party or only with a section of us. It is everyone's problem. If democratization is not being achieved, it is because of this problem. If fascism is taking root so much, it feeds on this problem. As long as the Kurdish problem is not solved, you cannot prevent fascism. This is why human rights violations never end." 

During the meeting, I also explained how to approach the solution of the problem: "Approach this problem strategically, not tactically. If you approach it strategically, it will pave the way for Turkey. The world needs Turkey and Turkey needs the world. We also need each other. We are one of the owners of this geography. You have to open up to the world." I expressed many other things to him and made it clear who the addressee was. The addressee is clear. Mr. Öcalan is the one who thinks the most about the Middle East.

What did he (Erdoğan) say?

Let me not say that for now. The process in 2013 was a historical opportunity in many respects. Not only for the Kurds, but also for the peoples of the Middle East.

He (Erdoğan) must have demanded some conditions.

He said, "(the PKK) should disarm." I said, "It's not realistic. On what basis will they disarm? Do you have a project? Where are we going to bring these people? Where are we going to position them?" I was that clear.

Was Erdoğan becoming prime minister a tactic of the system?

They wanted to try the ummah approach. Kurds are already a part of this ummah. Can I purify Kurds of their originality and characteristics and connect them here only in the context of belief? The system calculates this. I said, "Even your sitting here is the result of this calculation." Because everything had been tried, only ummahism had not been tried. That was also tried. This is the result of the policy they have been implementing since 2014-2015. I wonder if we can intimidate the Kurds again by scaring them, destroying them, imprisoning them. Can we pull them back for another 100 years? Small calculations. Think bigger!

The peace process in 2013 actually progressed a bit in the way you demanded. Because they formed a committee of wise people. They went all over Turkey, held meetings. Meetings were held with Qandil (PKK headquarters), political parties, prisons, diaspora and all sides. Now we come to the question that is always asked: Why did the process break down?

There were those who wanted to resolve this problem without Öcalan and Erdoğan. You will face a lot of risks and some people will want to move forward by leaving you out of this business. Would you accept? Difficult. It's that clear. This is the first time you're hearing this, right? I say this with confidence because I told this to some other people. I will not name people. Those within the AKP said to me, "Do you know, (the ones on your side) disrupted this process to exclude Öcalan." So I replied, "I know something else. The process was disrupted because you wanted to make this happen without Erdoğan." I didn't get a single answer. The person in front of me remained silent.

Okay, but Erdoğan was strong then, and he is still very strong. How could he allow this?

Let's remember, in the elections of June 7, 2015, Erdoğan (AKP) lost the majority in the Parliament for the first time. The peace process continued despite the difficulties experienced. I claim that if a formula could be created to prevent re-election, if the conscientious and sensitive public opinion in Turkey, democratic forces, some of the Kurds and Erdoğan could stand against the security mentality, the process could have developed differently. The decisions of the National Security Council definitely had an impact on the disruption of the process, but the fact that it was disrupted only by the decisions of the Council cannot be the only answer. Government power was important to solve this problem. I said it then, "If we go to a second election (November 1, 2015), I'm afraid we'll be missing even the 1990s." At that time, they tried to establish close contact and met with Erdoğan. But it was too late.

What kind of a contact?

I don’t know. Leave that much to the researchers. I would also like this process to be clarified.

We hear mutual accusations from both AKP and DEM Party members regarding the disruption of the process. But we cannot learn almost anything concrete about the reasons for the breakdown of the process. It seems like there is always an effort to hide something from the public?

Believe me, I do not know what was talked about between the two parties. I was limited to diplomatic work focused mostly on the Southern Kurdistan Region. I don't know what was being talked about. I did not take part in the routine delegation meetings. Only in our last meeting, Mr. Öcalan had criticisms regarding the Dolmabahçe Memorandum text.

Was that text bad? Did Öcalan find it inadequate?

The Dolmabahçe meeting was meaningful and important for the public. I am not familiar with the details of the content and preparation phase of the text.

Would Öcalan solve the issue? Did he have such power?

Of course he had. He still has. He is one of those who know the problem best. Because after all, it is his predictions that have kept this huge movement alive for at least 40 years. It is his idea. Now, when the Kurdish movement is mentioned, only conflict comes to mind in Turkey. However, this has a cultural and philosophical dimension. There is a level of organization to this. This has a modern lifestyle. In other words, a renaissance took place among the Kurds. He said in a meeting, "I couldn't make a revolution."

"No, you are successful," I said. "There has been a revolution in the Soviet Union. The dictatorship of the proletariat was established. But it lasted 70 years. But you made a mental revolution. The most concrete and striking example of this is the Kurdish woman," I said. He smiled when I said so. He asked, "Do you think so?" I said, "Yes, I think so."

You were discussing some issues with Öcalan, weren't you? You weren't going to İmralı to just get instructions?

Of course. We witnessed his very respectful approach on this issue. “I wouldn't say 'do this on my behalf.' But you are free to do whatever you want on behalf of your own people. Do it in the name of the people," he said.

You say that Öcalan could have solved this problem, he was determined, that was his intention. Have you felt such determination in Erdoğan? Was he really willing to resolve the matter? Because it is observed that the Kurds have great doubts about this issue.

Öcalan said, “Even the most glorious war is not more valuable than peace. Because war corrupts. The peace process would glorify." There may be missing things, but effort is required. Destruction is easy but construction is very difficult. “We will go step by step,” Öcalan said. So, was the entire government approaching strategically? As I just stated, there was the same confusion as us. They positioned themselves by linking everything to the elections and saw such a picture as appropriate for the people of Turkey.

Did the peace process end without Erdoğan's initiative?

Mr. President said, "I put the process on hold." I think it is necessary to take it out of the hold and deal with this issue from the beginning. Without wasting time... But it seems they are not making such an effort. Can I explain that there is no tolerance for delaying time anymore?

When we look at the Middle East in general, conditions impose this on everyone. Kurds are not in love with death. Kurds do not have an intention to destroy the state anyway, they seek for rights, and since they are ignored, they have to resist in some way. When we look at it from the state's perspective, its debts have now exceeded billions of dollars. So how will you pay this debt? If peace prevailed, who would these lands not feed? You don't need to buy wheat or lentils from Ukraine. If you develop a dialogue and healthy cooperation, we have the resources that can warm and feed Europe. Energy, time and resources with the government and opposition should be spent on this. This problem started to burn everyone.

Why didn't this happen in 2013?

Let's say we didn't work hard enough. We couldn't explain it enough. I'm talking about both sides. The state did not develop enough measures or determine a clear stance. We were also very dispersed in terms of diplomatic, political and mass dimensions. We were disorganized in structure. Nobody was sharing anything with the other. There was such a problem.

Was the information not shared?

If the information is not shared, you can't do anything even if you are at the top. Because you always have this anxiety: What can I do that won't cause any harm? I don't want to be in a position to cause harm. Just the opposite. When I consider my own reality, I take a position to contribute. If information is shared, clarification is achieved. If clarification is achieved, it will be reflected in practice. At that time, clashes were continuing in city centers and news of deaths were coming from everywhere. We were trying to go from Midyat to Cizre with our MP friends and our party organization. Because terrible news was coming from Cizre and we wanted to break the blockade and reach our people. Of course, the security forces tried to prevent our passage at every point with all their might. So we decided to go on foot. The last time we were stopped in İdil, we stayed there with our friends to have a evaluation meeting.

At the meeting, it was decided that a group of friends would try to cross the barricade set up there and go to Cizre, while the rest would make a statement to inform the public. I was also asked to make the statement. There, I called out to both conflicting parties and said that if the deaths did not stop, I would start a death fast in order to emphasize that we could do everything to reach Cizre and stop the deaths. A few hours after this statement, contact was established and the clashes stopped for a while.

We were able to enter Cizre the next day. My goal was to prevent the deaths of these young people, these civilians. As I just mentioned, if you do not have information about a process, you worry about whether you will harm the process or not. It was said, "If you go on a death fast, know that thousands of people will die with you."

"My goal is to stop these deaths. If even one person goes to death with me and I survive, I will never forgive myself, I can't handle it," I said. I couldn't do it. If the goal is to stop the deaths and I am moving away from that goal with my actions, then I have to stop there and swallow my words in order not to cause the death of even a single person. For the first time I swallowed my words. Otherwise, when I look at it from a political perspective, I have acted and lived according to what I thought until today. 

What do you think about the South? Let's say starting from the peace process... You also had contacts there.

We are grateful to everyone who worked to achieve peace. At such a time, it is necessary to remember Jalal Talabani and give him his due. Throughout his life, he strived for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. Of course, Masoud Barzani and Nechirvan Barzani also made very important contributions to the peace process. The ruling powers feed on the dispersed and fragmented state of the Kurds, unfortunately. Unnatural political borders have already torn people apart. However, Kurds are not rivals to each other. While Kurds are struggling for existence wherever they are, they are also going through the process of getting to know and understand each other. What kind of relationship network will be developed, how will it be transformed into a permanent, durable and productive one?

For all these, it is necessary to talk and establish dialogue. Kurds should be able to provide their own unity. Turkey should respond to Rojava's calls for peace and dialogue not by bombing, but by establishing diplomatic relations and contacts, as before, and develop neighborhood relations, just like the relationship it has developed with Southern Kurdistan.

You are hopeful, I understand. But have you received an offer like "Ms. Leyla, there is a possibility of a new process, would you join us?"

Let's not talk about it. From time to time, people may seek my opinions. I share with them what I have told you. I express my thoughts with all segments of society without any censorship. Daily politics and the cause are both separate and complementary. If you separate one from the other, it remains incomplete. That's why daily politics must be done. But one must act with the awareness that there is a cause. This cause is bigger than Leyla, bigger than individuals. This case was built on solid foundations, whether we were there or not. Our audience is solid. I have infinite trust in our people. I have great hope for the youth. I can only be happy if we have been a source of inspiration or contributed to the tip of a needle.

How is your health?

I’m fine.  

What are you doing in the village? How is your day going?

Rather than reproaching life, it is best and most correct to give life its due. I'm trying to do justice to life. All the people of the world from different races are side by side in my library. From time to time, I look at the library and say, how beautiful they are standing side by side as brothers. They all think differently, they all have different colors, they all scream differently, but they don't let each other down.

What are you reading? 

Biographies interest me more. I also love history.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently reading Süleyman Demirel's biography written by Tanıl Bora. It is an important book because it sheds light on history.

Do you listen to music?

I can't stay without music. I listen to Kurdish songs. But I also love Turkish Classical Music.

Are you coming to the city center? What do you do when you come to Diyarbakır?

Very rarely. When I come to the city, I feel suffocated. Because everywhere is concrete. First of all, our climate is not so suitable for concrete. Our climate is suitable for the basalt stones of Diyarbakır and the white stones of Midyat. It's too hot. Stone keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. This pile of concrete suffocated us. That's why I avoid concrete. I've seen enough concrete and iron, it took me 10 years in prison. I want to be able to step on the ground and get involved with the soil. This is my daily life, we are a part of natural life...

How do you follow the news?

Tightly. I follow the entire agenda between 12 and 4 o'clock at night. I follow everything about the Kurds. I follow the developments regarding Turkey's democratization and economy. I listen to the voices in the diaspora. I don't turn on the TV. I think television has become obsolete. Because both the ruling media and the opposition media are biased. 

Don't you get bored of living in the village? Because you are an agile person both in nature and in character. It seems like a person like you always wants to do something. It seems to me that you are not the kind of person who will sit at home and follow politics from home.

I have a nature like this: I struggle so much while making decisions. I don't make decisions easily. But when I decide, I know how to be happy with it. Rest assured, I am as comfortable as if I had never held a position or traveled the world. I am at peace with myself on this matter. But it's true, sometimes it seems weird to me too. When I have time, I immediately embrace books. I see different lives there, I hear different voices. I am satisfied both emotionally and mentally.

So what would take you out of the village? What takes you to Ankara?

I hope it won't be needed. I don't know what will take me away. The interests of our people will take me away. Nothing else could take me. Whether needed or not, everyone is on their own path anyway. I hope there won't be that need.

Is there anything else you would like to say that I haven't thought of asking?

The problems are really serious. I know that. I am aware that our friends' responsibility is not easy. I can see that social expectations are very high. The people never leave their leaders alone. This is actually our difference from other political parties. That's why I have absolute faith in this mass power. They will protect and develop their institutions. The current (party) administration is doing well, I follow it. I respect all of their work. I send them my greetings and love.

(English version by Alperen Şen)