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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His Photographs of the Kurds and Yezidi in Turkey and Armenia are available directly, or through the London-based Panos Pictures photo agency.
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