AN INTERVIEW WITH HEYDAR ALI, CAUCASUS REPRESENTATIVE OF KONGRA-GEL

Armenian News Network / Groong
September 13, 2004
By Onnik Krikorian


    Heydar Ali is the Caucasus Representative of the People's Congress
    of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel). This interview was conducted at the
    office of the Kurdistan Committee in Yerevan on 24 August 2004 and
    is part of a follow-up series of interviews to work on the
    division within the Yezidi minority in Armenia conducted during
    June 1998.  Translation from Armenian to Kurmanji Kurdish and
    vice-versa was provided by the Yezidi Head of the Kurdistan
    Committee, Charkaze Rash-Mstoyan.


YEREVAN, ARMENIA


ONNIK KRIKORIAN: What is the Kurdistan Committee and when was it
established?

HEYDAR ALI: The Kurdistan Committee was established as an organization
in Yerevan during 1992. One of its main aims is to introduce Armenian
society to the Kurdish National Liberation Movement in the Middle and
Near East as well as to provide the local Kurdish community with
information on the movement.

The second aim is connected with social and economic issues in Armenia
and the Caucasus and to integrate the Kurds of the region into the
National Liberation Movement so that they can act as one, united
force. This means that the Kurdistan Committee supports and provides
assistance to local Kurdish communities whose problems are mainly
those related to human rights and cultural issues.



OK:	Can you give me an example of human rights or cultural
concerns?

HA:	The state of the local Kurdish community is very bad but we
are not differentiating between Armenian and Kurd by saying this
because Armenians are also living in a very miserable
situation. However, I would like to mention education. There is
nothing in the law that obstructs the education of the Kurds in
Armenia but in practice there are many obstacles.



OK:	Are these obstacles mainly financial?

HA:	There are of course financial problems but there is also the
very unfortunate division of the community. Now, some Yezidi speaking
Kurdish say that it is instead a separate Yezidi language and the
artificial situation h as been created where some Yezidi say that they
are not Kurds. It is only in Armenia where this artificial division
exists and there are two reasons for this.

The first is ignorance. The local community is largely uneducated and
too steeped in tradition so hasn't had the opportunity to develop
their minds.  The second reason for this division lies with the
Armenian mass media and officials who are conducting an official
policy that is unacceptable to us and which seeks to distort the
historical truth.

Certain circles and officials are using this artificial division in
the community for their own interests and to line their own
pockets. Religious representatives such as the Sheiks are also using
this division to maintain their own positions despite the fact that in
South Kurdistan, among hundreds of thousands of Kurds in Iraq, the
Yezidi say that they are Kurds.

In Armenia, the language of the Kurds is Kurmanji [a dialect of
Kurdish] but there is now an attempt to call it the "Yezidi language"
and to deny the fact that the Yezidi are Kurds. In fact, the Yezidi
religion is the original faith practiced by the Kurds before most were
converted to Islam -- just as Armenians were pagan before most
converted to Christianity and some adopted Islam.

My two colleagues in this room are Yezidi and are involved with the
Kurdistan Committee. There are few Moslem Kurds left in Armenia. When
10,000 people went on to the streets of Yerevan in support of Abdullah
Ocalan, they were Yezidi and not Moslem Kurds.

The Yezidi and the Kurds are the same nation and because they are
citizens of the Republic of Armenia, the Government as well as the
Intelligentsia must reveal the historical truth in order to heal this
division. However, certain circles are instead contributing to this
split. It is impossible to build a democratic state based on the
ignorance of such people. This artificial division can not contribute
to the democratic development of this country.

Of course, it is possible that when the Moslem Kurds and Azeris left
Armenia at the beginning of the Karabagh conflict that some Yezidi hid
their Kurdish identity because they were frightened but it is also
possible that certain political circles had an interest in this. On
this point, I would like to say that the Kurdistan Committee is not
pressurizing anyone with regards to their beliefs and whether they
want to be called Moslem, Yezidi, Christian or Jew.

Unfortunately, there are also Kurds in Armenia that are also joining
the sects such as the Jehovah Witnesses.



OK:	What happened in the 2001 Census? In an interview I held with
Vladimir Chadoyev, Chairman of the National Union of Minorities, in
June 1998, he said that there were plans to ask the question "Are you
Yezidi or Yezidi-Kurd?"

HA:	They artificially created this division and came up with the
figure of 41,000 Yezidi and 1,519 Kurds, stating that these two groups
spoke different languages. This was such a shameful event that has
never happened anywhere else in the world. Religion is not mentioned
-- only that there are this many Yezidi and that many Kurds in
Armenia.

If they are giving this figure of 1,519 Kurds then it should be
pointed out that there are definitely not this many Moslem Kurds in
Armenia. At most, there are 500-600 so this means that the remainder
must be Yezidi-Kurds. The Kurdish community did not know that the
officials that came around asking questions were conducting a census
and that the results would be used to officially divide the
community. They didn't understand what objective this process had.

It was also confusing and unintelligible for us and when the shameful
results of the census were published we distributed 5,000
questionnaires in the community. Every one of them was returned
stating that those who filled in the forms were Kurdish by ethnicity,
Yezidi by religion and that they spoke Kurdish. In the census, they
instead asked "are you Yezidi" and did not ask about ethnicity or
religion.

If you ask my colleague, Charkaze Rash-Mstoyan, the head of the
Kurdistan Committee and Editor of the Mesopotamia newspaper if he is
Yezidi he will say yes. If you then ask him, however, if he is a Kurd
he will also say yes.  This is a very sensitive issue that was used at
an official state level. We don't have any concrete information on
what question they asked to determine language but I repeat again that
certain circles and officials are exploiting the situation for their
own interests.

Despite this, in a general sense, the attitude of Armenian society to
Kurdish issues is otherwise positive because Armenians and Kurds have
lived together for centuries and from a political perspective, we have
some common interests. We can't say that there is a dark and hidden
nationalist agenda among Armenian intellectuals because it is also
true that there is a positive approach to Kurdish issues from some
Armenian political forces such as the Dashnaks.



OK:	Isn't the problem that the term "Kurd" can also be considered
a political statement?

HA:	In what sense?



OK:	To say that you're a Kurd can be considered a political
statement and especially in a country such as Armenia which borders
Turkey. At the same time, because of the variety of religions and
dialects that divide the Kurdish nation, the term "Kurd" also
represents an attempt to break down those divisions in a nation that
is otherwise estimated at anywhere between 20-45 million people.

HA:	In that sense, Armenia's position is more favorable towards
the Kurds because 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the
Genocide. However, to deny the Kurdish identity in Armenia is a
violation of international human rights obligations but yes, you are
right. It is well known that throughout history, Kurdistan and the
Kurds have been divided and that this is a special policy conducted by
very powerful countries in the world to weaken us. The division
between Kurds and Yezidi is another manifestation of this.

Our National Liberation Movement is uniting Kurds and helping them
recognize their own national interests. In this sense, the Kurdish
National Liberation Movement represents a new era in Kurdish
history. In the Near East, Kurdish society is forming and is now so
well established that it can not be ignored for any longer.


--
Other interviews conducted with representatives of the Yezidi
community in Armenia as well as political and academic figures were
also published through the Armenian News Network / Groong in June 1998
and can be found online at: http://www.oneworld.am/journalism/yezidi/
or http://www.groong.org/orig/yezidi-index.html
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 2004 Armenian News Network/Groong. All Rights Reserved.

| Home | Administrative | Introduction | Armenian News | World News | Feedback |