AN INTERVIEW WITH MAHIR WELAT

Armenian News Network / Groong
June 11, 1998
By Onnik Krikorian


    Mahir Welat is the official representative of the National Liberation
    Front of Kurdistan (ERNK) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to
    Moscow and the former Soviet Union. He is also a member of the ruling
    Central Committee of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish
    Government has to date made two assassination attempts on his life in
    Russia.

    Mahir Welat was visiting Armenia to attend a Kurdish academic event in
    Yerevan and to tour Yezidi villages. A transcript of his speech at one
    village is currently under production.

    This interview was conducted by Onnik Krikorian during research
    undertaken in June for the Kurdish Human Rights Project investigating
    the situation of the Yezidi minority within the Republic of Armenia.

    As such, it forms part of a series of interviews with Yezidi, Kurdish
    and Armenian representatives. A report on the situation of minorities
    within the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with a focus on the
    Kurds, will be published this year by the Kurdish Human Rights
    Project.


OK:	Could you please identify yourself and your position?

MW:	I am a member of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) and representative of all of the Kurds living
within the territories of the former Soviet Union, and at the same
time the representative of the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan
(ERNK).

It is for 24 years that I have been in this movement. I have been
working in almost every part of the world. I have spent 10 years of my
life struggling, fighting, and now I have come to Alagyaz.



OK:	Are you Yezidi or Moslem Kurd?

MW:	I am a Moslem Kurd but I also honour all religions. We all
[the Kurds] used to be Yezidi in the past. Some of us were forced into
becoming Moslem, and Yezidism is considered to be one of the most
ancient of religions. From this religion - Zoroastrianism - came many
other religions.

For a time the Kurds forgot about their Zoroastrianism roots but now
it is our intention to return and to educate ourselves again.
Zoroastrianism is considered to be the most "democratic" of religions
because it has never forcibly converted. There are many different
religions, and many people worship different things in Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Parliament in Exile [located in Belgium] is also
considered to be the most democratic of Parliaments in the world
because it has representatives from many different religions. So, we
involve all of the different religions in many different activities.

We consider that religion should not be the cause of quarrels between
people - we consider that it should be a source of some inter-
communication and co-ordination of people's activities. It should
help people understand each other and not make problems and
difficulties.


OK:	This interview forms part of a report that myself and another
journalist are undertaking on the situation of minorities within both
Armenia and Azerbaijan. In your role as an ERNK/PKK representative,
what are your opinions on the situation of minorities in both
republics?

MW:	Here in Armenia the Kurdish problem is a general problem.
There are many different nations living here in Armenia. After the
collapse of the Soviet Union some national problems came into being,
but nowadays we do not have these sorts of problems.

The attitude of Armenia towards national minorities is considered part
of the generosity and graciousness of the Armenian people. In the
future we hope that the Armenian Government will pay even more
attention to those national minorities, and it will be even more
generous if it can do that.  I have not much information on what is
going on in Azerbaijan. They also have many nations and if we consider
their national policy I would say that it is very bad. For those that
show loyalty towards Azerbaijan the attitude towards them is
normal. But towards those such as the Kurds their attitude is quite
different. They do not have normal lives.


OK:	It is a suprise to see so many ERNK and PKK flags flying here
in Armenia, and so many photographs of Abdullah Ocalan [Chairman of
the Kurdistan Workers Party - PKK] on the walls. The Turkish
Government accuses the Armenian Government of supporting the PKK in
terms of weapons and of provoking unrest in Turkey. Has your
prescence, and PKK support amongst some villages, resulted in any
action from the Armenian Government?

MW:	We can say it is as if we have a common enemy. It is this
situation with the Armenian people historically. We have one enemy -
Turkey and Turkish policy. Whatever the propoganda from Turkey about
weapons from Armenia it is propoganda against the Armenian Government.
That is the policy.

We have many problems in Kurdistan and Turkey is trying to make it
more complicated, with more problems, and also bigger. That is why
they have such a policy. They say such things to make enemies of
friends.

The Armenian Government is a democratic government and is going
further in terms of that democracy, and the Kurds are people living in
Armenia. The people living here are citizens of Armenia, but they
support the national liberation movement in Kurdistan. They support
it, and they are never afraid that anyone will blame them. The
Armenian Government up to now did not help us because the Armenian
Government is in a difficult situation itself.

Everyone knows that Turkey supports Azerbaijan with weapons,
economically, and with its policy, but no-one has problems with
that. We hope that one day Armenia will be prosperous and at that time
Armenians and Kurds may be able to support each other against Turkey.



 Copyright Onnik Krikorian. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.


--
Onnik Krikorian is a photojournalist, journalist and communications
consultant in London. He has travelled to Turkey to cover stories on
media censorship and human rights abuses for 'The Scotsman on
Saturday', "New Internationalist', and 'The Journalist' magazines. He
may be contacted at onnik@clicks.co.uk. His Photographs of the Kurds
and Yezidi in Turkey and Armenia are available directly, or through
the London-based Panos Pictures photo agency.
Redistribution of Groong articles, such as this one, to any other media, including but not limited to other mailing lists and Usenet bulletin boards, is strictly prohibited without prior written consent from Groong's Administrator.
Copyright 1998 Armenian News Network/Groong. All Rights Reserved.

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