Kalkan: Societies unable to defend themselves will not be able to avoid extinction

Comprehensive interview with Duran Kalkan, member of the KCK Executive Council, on the broad topic of self-defense within society.

In a new comprehensive interview, Duran Kalkan, member of the KCK Executive Council, spoke about the broad topic of self-defense within society. 

Kalkan analyzed the necessity of organizing self-defense of society on all its levels, in order to form a free life according to Democratic Modernity as an alternative to the current system of Capitalist Modernity. In particular, he examined the situation of Kurdish society and the currently prevailing inadequacies, also on the part of the Kurdish freedom movement.

Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan once stated that “societies that are unable to defend themselves will not be able to avoid extinction”. What does this statement mean for Kurdish society today?

This statement of Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] expresses that for Kurdish society today, self-defense is more important and urgent than anything else. It is more important than bread and water, since the prevailing genocidal mentality and politics are trying to destroy Kurds. If we cast an eye back into history, we see that many societies that were unable to defend themselves were destroyed and erased from history. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the genocidal mentality and system aimed to destroy the self-defense mechanisms of Kurdish society and raise awareness about them. In the ongoing 100-year genocidal attack, awareness about self-defense and its practice in Kurdish society has been eradicated to a great extent. It is known that the Kurds were brought to the brink of extinction in the mid-1970s. The emergence of Rêber Apo and the struggle of the PKK are essentially an attempt and effort to stop this process and instead create a free existence. After fifty consecutive years of struggle, these genocidal attacks have been broken and weakened considerably. Though the genocidal mentality and politics have not yet been completely defeated, they are carrying out all kinds of attacks on the basis of the international conspiracy to achieve their goals. Of course, first and foremost, it aims to completely destroy Kurdish awareness about self-defense and its organization, and therefore it is particularly attacking Rêber Apo and the guerrillas. They are their primary target in order to achieve their goals. In this respect, the reality and existence of Rêber Apo and the guerrillas represent the national existence of Kurdish society. They symbolize self-defense consciousness, organization, and action. In this sense, the PKK can be called the self-defense movement of Kurdish society. In order for Kurdish society to continue its existence and live free, it is necessary for Kurdish society to understand the reality of Rêber Apo and the guerrillas correctly and embrace it strongly. In practical terms, all Kurds who take up arms must educate, organize, and mobilize themselves with the consciousness of self-defense. Society needs to bring itself to a level that can resist, break, and defeat any genocidal attack.

Kurdish society, youth, women, children, the elderly, the general politics, cultural-social institutions, in short, every part of society is under attack by the occupying Turkish state. The state and its institutions have become the biggest security threat to Kurdish society. How will the people protect themselves against these attacks, what kind of self-defense should they develop, what should they do?

In fact, the reality of all nation states is the destruction of society. In other words, nation states aim at the destruction of sociality and the stateization of the individual. Therefore, nation states and their institutions have become the biggest security threat to societies. In Kurdistan, this social extermination is practiced at the level of genocide. The states and institutions that rule over Kurdistan mainly want to destroy Kurdish society. This extermination mainly takes the form of cultural genocide, i.e. assimilation at all levels, but it is also accompanied by physical massacres, displacement from Kurdistan (deportation) and changing the demography of Kurdistan. An all-out genocidal attack is being waged against Kurdish society. How can Kurdish society protect itself in this situation?

First, it has to realize that it has a serious security problem and that it faces genocide.

Secondly, it has to realize that it is the state and its institutions that aim to destroy it. In other words, it will have to reach a correct understanding of the state and enemy so that they will not call state forces and institutions ‘security forces’ anymore.

Thirdly, it has to realize that only it can ensure its own security and feel responsibility on this basis.

Finally, it has to form self-defense consciousness, organization, and action to ensure its own security. In other words, it will have to educate and organize itself on the basis of self-defense and defend itself in the face of attacks. There is no other way or method.

Kurdish society cannot simply speak of ‘self-defense’ in a subordinate clause and thereby close the topic. It cannot afford to approach the issue of self-defense incorrectly and inadequately and place self-defense or its own security in the hands of others. Today, some people think that if they say ‘self-defense’, their security will be ensured. This is wrong. Another wrong approach to self-defense is not recognizing the reality of the state and the enemy correctly and looking at them as ‘security forces’. To fragment the content of self-defense and to see it only as a matter of consciousness or only as a matter of organization and action is also another inadequate approach. Some people define self-defense only as a state of consciousness. This is undoubtedly insufficient. Again, some see self-defense only in practical terms, that is, as organization and action. Undoubtedly, this is also insufficient. Self-defense includes all of these together. It includes the integrity of consciousness, organization, and action. Seeing self-defense only as consciousness and not transforming it into organization and action is just saying nice things. On the contrary, seeing self-defense only as practice and not seeing its consciousness dimension leads to all kinds of mistakes and wrong practices. It is absolutely necessary not to fall for such mistakes and not to define self-defense according to one’s own whims. It is a topic that needs to be approached correctly and applied successfully.

The answer to the question of what to do in this regard also emerges. First of all, Kurdish society will have to understand the concept of self-defense correctly, adequately, and successfully fulfill its requirements in practice. For this, it will have to see itself as responsible for its own security and not leave its security to others. They will have to acquire the correct self-defense consciousness and educate themselves correctly. Education should not only be at the level of knowledge but should also become the basis for organizing and equipping oneself in every aspect. These are very essential; if they are not present, and if one does not act and live accordingly, then one cannot do anything in the face of attacks. The rest is to act carefully and cautiously and to show the courage and sacrifice to form a defense against any kind of attack.

In fact, what we assess as one part of the problem is the approach and expectation of some that someone else should do these things so that they do not burden them. Societycide and genocide create such a state of mind and understanding in societies and individuals. This is the reason why they are discussed so much but are not practiced as much as they should be. This means that societycide and genocide have been quite successful. The first thing to do, as an answer to this, is to completely eradicate this state of mind and understanding, to wipe it out of our minds and hearts. If we do so, we will find the right and adequate answers to the question of what we need to do to ensure our own security. Unless we do so, no valid solution can be found, no matter how much we discuss and search for it. Therefore, correcting mistakes in the approach to self-defense comes first and foremost.

It is becoming more and more striking every day that the existence and freedom of Kurdistan and Kurds cannot exist without self-defense. Ensuring this is, of course, the main task of the whole population. Some autonomous organizations are organizing actions, but we see that there is more expectation from the guerrilla and professional forces. What would you like to say about this? How should people as a whole participate in the self-defense mechanism? How can all parts of society play a role in this?

In fact, not only Kurds but also no other individual, people or society in this world can exist and live freely without self-defense. Self-defense means security. Security is one of the three basic conditions of existence, along with nutrition and reproduction. If an individual, people, or society ensures its security through its own strength, if it can feed itself through its own strength, if it creates the conditions for reproduction, then it can continue its existence and live freely. There is an unbreakable link between security and freedom. Those who cannot ensure their security cannot be free. Those who leave their security to others become their slaves. Only those who provide their own security can live free. Therefore, anyone who wants to be free and live freely must ensure their own security. There are no buts to this. Anyone who has fallen into such a situation has actually lost a lot of his or her freedom.

When we look at history, we see that the lives of all clans, tribes, and peoples were based on self-defense. The tribal and clan life of the Kurds and the clan life of the Turkmens are all based on self-defense and were therefore free. What does this mean, or how was this realized? It is very clear that everyone, men and women, who can hold a weapon is trained in self-defense, learns how to use weapons, organizes on the basis of self-defense, and when faced with an attack, everyone fulfills their duties. This is the life of a free society.

It is well known that this situation changed with the emergence of power and the state system. The power and the state took the weapons and tools to ensure security from the hands of society, gathered the power for itself, and declared itself as the ‘security force’. Since the patriarchal mentality, hierarchy, and male dominance constitute power and the state, all security has been monopolized by the state and particularly men. On this basis, women and the whole society have been constantly disarmed, rendered powerless, and dependent on men and the state for 5,000 years. Now it is clear that if one really wants to get rid of this situation, the task is to take the weapons and power out of the hands of the state and men. For this, it is imperative that women and the entire society achieve the right security consciousness and train, organize, and equip themselves on this basis. This is how the reality of a warring people is formed, which is a phrase used very often by Rêber Apo. This is an inevitable point.

The current understanding and attitude of many, which shows the expectation that security is provided by the guerrilla or professional forces, is in fact an understanding and attitude that accepts male and state domination in advance. One cannot be free with such an understanding and attitude. First of all, it is necessary to change this approach and adopt a correct attitude toward security by clearly seeing the inseparable link between freedom and security. For this, it is necessary to fight against any kind of wrong understanding. Undoubtedly, revolutionary forces must lead this struggle, our party must lead this, and the process of forming a Democratic Nation must be completely on this basis. The most active force in the struggle on behalf of all this is the press, broadcasting, art, and literature. They must both struggle against the wrong approaches and replace them with the right ones. Societies have already been subjected to nation-state genocide. Kurds have already been under genocidal attack for a century. Therefore, they cannot be expected to get rid of these wrongs by themselves. Societies need to be educated with a correct understanding of security. The main task lies with those who are responsible for educating society. The party and guerrilla leadership, the press and broadcasting, art, and literature have to fulfill this task. The main problem we face today stems from the weakness and inadequacy in these areas. The forces in charge and responsible for educating society must know how to overcome these inadequacies and weaknesses and fulfill their duties successfully. The problem can only be solved if people and society are given awareness oft self-defense at the right and sufficient level, if  mistakes in this regard are corrected and weaknesses are overcome, and if society is trained and organized on the basis of self-defense. There is no other way.

Your guerrilla forces are also part of self-defense. What is its concrete role in this context? Do you think that your guerrilla forces are left alone in this resistance and that they are not supported enough? If so, what should be done to ensure that the guerrillas and the people’s self-defense complement each other in the struggle against fascism?

The role and mission of the guerrilla in self-defense are leadership and guidance. It is true that today it is solely the guerrillas that are waging the war. In this sense, it can also be said that the guerrilla is alone. Still, this should not be expressed as ‘the guerrilla is left alone’. In the recent past, such views have been expressed in different ways. We have discussed and evaluated this situation in all its dimensions. We have re-evaluated and planned the concept of self-defense according to the mentality of Democratic Modernity and have concretized it in the form of the professional guerrilla, which is the vanguard, and local self-defense, which is the basic force. In other words, we consider the guerrilla and local forms of self-defense in a holistic manner. According to this definition, the guerrilla is the main force that trains, organizes, and manages self-defense. Therefore, if self-defense is weak and the war is currently being waged on the shoulders of the guerrilla, the guerrilla itself is mainly responsible for this. Since the people cannot educate and organize themselves, and since this education and organization should mainly be done by the guerrilla leadership, the guerrilla leadership is mainly responsible for the weakness of self-defense. Rather than criticizing others, the guerrilla gives self-criticism for the current situation and foresees eliminating the deficiencies on this basis.

For guerrillas and local self-defense to complement each other, both must be trained, organized, and mobilized together. Our party and guerrilla leadership are responsible for this. The work of the entire party and guerrillas must mainly be focused on this. In other words, it must educate, organize, and mobilize people, especially young people and women, on this basis. It must correct the existing misunderstandings about self-defense among people and ensure the emergence of a correct self-defense consciousness and practice. Of course, everyone who calls themselves patriotic and libertarian must also know that they have a duty within this, believe that free life is only possible through self-defense, and embrace their duty on the basis of the consciousness given by the leadership of the party and the guerrilla.

In its current state, there is a serious illusion in Northern Kurdistan. There is a fascist and genocidal dictatorship, but it is thought that this dictatorship can only be overcome through legal organization and democratic mass action. This understanding is not correct. Fascism means total attack and war. The anti-fascist struggle can only succeed if it is developed on the basis of revolutionary warfare. However, in its current form, the masses are given the wrong understanding that results can only be achieved through a narrow struggle for peace and democracy. The press is responsible for this, along with the organized forces. This false awareness must be corrected immediately, and the masses must be made aware that only total resistance against the fascist-genocidal dictatorship on the basis of anti-fascist revolutionary warfare can bring success. So far, almost everyone has made serious mistakes and shown shortcomings in this regard. These must first be eliminated and corrected through self-criticism. It is necessary to make correct propaganda and education on the basis of an ideological and strategic line, to tell the people the truth, and to make it possible to fight against the fascist-genocidal system correctly and holistically with such a correct education.

Rêber Apo once asked society, 'If they can commit a massacre in Amed, how will you defend yourself? Will the guerrillas come and save you from massacres?' drawing attention to the vital importance of social self-defense. Since the day this assessment was made, there have been many massacres against the people. In this context, what should society, the people do, and how should they organize their defense?

We, as the party and guerrilla leadership, take the criticism of Rêber Apo upon ourselves first and foremost, and we are self-critical. Like I stated before, people cannot educate and organize themselves. The party and guerrilla leadership have the responsibility to do this. Rêber Apo wants people to be educated and organized correctly and adequately on the basis of self-defense. We are determined to accomplish this task, which we have not been able to do sufficiently for various reasons so far. In this context, let our people, especially the young people and women, believe in and trust us. Of course, we will do our duty. Society must be open and ready for such education to discard old misunderstandings and acquire a new understanding of self-defense.

Also, as I have stated before, the understanding that the fascist-genocidal system can be overthrown only through narrow legal organization and democratic mass action is not correct. Our people must free themselves from this wrong understanding. They must convince themselves that the fascist-genocidal mentality and system can only be overthrown through total resistance on the basis of revolutionary people’s warfare, and as a requirement of this, they must participate in and support the guerrillas and self-defense activities. Weakness is experienced on this basis. Not all patriots are working to join the guerrillas. We know that there are so-called patriots who prevent their own and their relatives’ youth from participating. Obviously, there is no such thing as patriotism. We must throw such people out of our midst. There is not enough participation and support for those working for self-defense. There is too much legalization and legalism. There is a situation of losing the revolutionary stance and becoming too reformist. It is absolutely necessary to overcome this legalist-reformist understanding and style. It is necessary to understand the self-defense war correctly and to know that the first condition of patriotic duty is to participate in and support the self-defense war and to act accordingly.

At the same time, we must educate ourselves and our environment with the right patriotic consciousness. Acting with the awareness that we are waging the most relentless war for existence and freedom in history, we must both involve ourselves in this war and live according to the requirements of it. Everyone must pay attention to the way they live, act, and work. No one should act as if we are not under genocidal attack. Everyone should be organized. No one should act randomly or wander around alone, but they should always live and work in readiness for any possibility of attack. The same must be done as a people against the possibility of any kind of massacre. We will provide our own security. The state forces do not provide security; on the contrary, they want to destroy us. So we cannot entrust our security to such a force. We cannot live unprepared, either. We must always be prepared, and at the same time, we must be able to resist and defeat the attack without hesitation. This is a new situation and understanding. But it is a reality that has been experienced in the historical past. The fascist, colonialist, and genocidal mentality distanced us from this reality and revealed the current reformist-submissionist understanding and attitude. So we must bring this reality to consciousness and free ourselves from any understanding or attitude that means reformism and submission.

Every day, women are murdered solely for being women. The state has a systematic policy of extermination, specifically against women. For example, Nagihan Akarsel was murdered in the middle of the city in Sulaymaniyah. The Iraqi representative of the Turkish state openly claimed responsibility for this massacre. Regarding the situation of women, Abdullah Öcalan once stated, “They should not go down to uncanny social areas without guaranteed self-defense.” How can women’s self-defense be developed? What does self-defense mean for women?

A few weeks ago, the coordinations of the PAJK and KJK issued a joint declaration on self-defense and called on all women to acquire a proper self-defense consciousness and to accordingly organize and take action. As the PKK, we agree with this declaration. Of course, the situation of women in today’s world is much more severe than ever before. It reveals the true face of the male-dominated power and state system and the last form of Capitalist Modernity. In fact, the situation of women indicates the situation of society. It is not only women who are being driven away from awareness about self-defense and its organization, but also the whole society. This is how slavery, oppression, and exploitation were developed.

Obviously, the oppression and massacre of women are not one-dimensional but multi-dimensional. Under the current system of Capitalist Modernity, there is actually no life envisaged for women. The system has enslaved the whole society, and women have been made the slaves of the slaves. There is absolutely no way of life left for a woman other than to become what the male state wants her to be and to serve it. In this system, the woman is openly murdered both spiritually and emotionally, intellectually and physically. The law and all the rules of the system are structured around the slavery of women. The number of women murdered in Turkey in the first four months of 2024 was announced as 185. Almost every day, two women are murdered. These are the known and visible ones; of course, the unknown and invisible massacres of women are tens of times greater. Therefore, self-defense is vital for women more than anyone else.

In the current environment, self-defense is the only way for women to survive and live freely. Other than this, it is not possible for women to protect themselves from harassment, rape, and massacres. In short, self-defense is vital and inevitably necessary for women more than anyone else. This is the only way to gain free consciousness, will, and life. In order to keep society under slavery, the current system attacks and fears women the most. Of course, overcoming Capitalist Modernity and building Democratic Modernity on the basis of the free individual and the democratic commune will only be possible and successful on the basis of women’s freedom. On this basis, an important women’s consciousness and organization are developing. If it is not harmed by petite bourgeois perversions, a correct and effective women’s organization and struggle will develop on the basis of self-defense. The experience of self-defense and freedom struggle developed by Kurdish women on the basis of YJA Star is a concrete example for everyone with the successes it has created.