Interview with Zeylan Vajin, Co-chair of PJAK, an Iranian Kurdish political party
The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) is an Iranian Kurdish opposition movement aligned with the Kurdistan Communities Union. It was founded in 2004. The movement maintains bases and positions in the Qandil Mountains area adjoining Iran's border with the Kurdistan Regional Government controlled part of northern Iraq. MECRA spoke to Zeylan Vijan, co-chair of PJAK, in August, 2020
On PJAK's current operations?
Joint chair of Kurdistan Free Life Party - PJAK: PJAK's military operations in East Kurdistan are in the form of legitimate defense. We have not declared war on Iran since the foundation of our movement. Rather, we have always emphasized that we will respond to the attacks of the Islamic Republic and its affiliated forces within the framework of legitimate defense. The Kurdish community in Iran in all social, political, cultural, economic and biological dimensions is the target of the regime's constant attacks. These attacks need to be responded to. In other words, our struggle has been to repel the attacks of the regime and push it back from the areas of our people in East Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) is not a purely military organization and does not consider the struggle to be limited to the military dimension. In all cultural, social, political, economic dimensions, it has a program and a project and tries to organize the people. Also, our guerrillas have an active presence in the geographical depth of East Kurdistan and will take action if necessary.
What is your view on cooperation between Iran and Turkey?
The core differences between Iran and Turkey are very serious and have historical depth. These deep-rooted differences and long-standing enmity have created a certain mistrust that eliminates the possibility of friendship and alliance between them. The two countries are afraid of each other and constantly monitor each other's actions and behavior, and as soon as the opportunity arises, they do not avoid weakening each other's position.
The differences between Iran and Turkey are much greater than what they have in common. The two countries, both of which have historically been involved in the Kurdish issue, have always looked at the world from the other side. Of course, in some cases and issues, they are in agreement and it can be said that they have similar behavior or equal performance; The Kurdish issue, for example, is one of the fundamental issues in their relationship. At present, they do not want and do not allow the Kurdish issue to be resolved democratically and peacefully. Both countries are opposed to any democratic change in the Middle East. Despite mutual distrust and mutual fear, they believe that a common and similar destiny awaits them, and that any change in one of these countries will have a profound effect on the other. Due to this common fear of the future, we see their mutual cooperation. In short, the cooperation and interaction between them is in conflict with the interests of the peoples of the region and leads to the exploitation and plunder of the Middle East and the creation of crisis and tension in the region.
If your main point in raising this question is their cooperation on the Kurdish issue and their joint attacks, we must say that cooperation and concurrence are evident in this regard. Resolving the Kurdish issue in each of these countries means offering a solution in the neighboring country. Both countries are aware of this. This has a historical background and is not limited to this point in time. Iran in particular uses the Kurdish card in its relations with its neighbors. Both countries have regional ambitions and dream of returning to the era of the Safavid and Ottoman empires. In the meantime, the Kurdish people have always been sacrificed and massacred. The progress made in the Kurdish people's struggle in all four parts of Kurdistan, the managerial and operational cooperation presented in Rojava and the establishment of a coexistence system that has been accepted as a model by the peoples of the region, is the biggest obstacle to the aggression of both aggressors. We believe that if the two countries cooperate in resolving the Kurdish issue, they will be in a better position instead of opposing it and starting a democratic process. But for now, both countries are moving towards a more cruel, fascist style governance. The critical situation of both countries, the proximity of their operational borders in the region and the constant confrontation and tension of the Shiite crescent and the Muslim Brotherhood have made the option of using the Kurdish card a priority.
What will PJAK do in the face of the IRGC’s threats? Is PJAK waiting for a large scale incursion by the Revolutionary Guards deep into Kurdistan?
Despite the fact that we are still committed to the issue of firearms and have responded to the attacks of the regime within the framework of legitimate defense…we have always stated that we want the Kurdish issue to be resolved democratically and peacefully within Iran. We are aware that this demand will not be possible only unilaterally and requires the cooperation and interaction of all parties. This demand, the democratic solution of the Kurdish issue, has been and is our main and constant priority, it is definitely not our only option. Therefore, Iran should consider this issue and act based on this fact. Due to the sensitive and difficult situation that Iran is currently in, it has to pay attention to the Kurdish issue at the domestic level (East Kurdistan) and in the region, and needs to find an appropriate attitude and behavior in order to find steps to find a solution. In this situation, any military action outside the borders by the system of the Islamic Republic is not a simple matter and will be sensitive and will have consequences. Although sometimes conflicts are not carried out with all due diligence, for us it does not mean the likely beginning of a war.
The important point is that the IRGC's threats are not limited to us. They attack all the people of Iran. Our choice from the beginning has been and will be to confront the threats of the IRGC. In this regard, we have consistently improved our operational and military capabilities….The Revolutionary Guards is a political-military-economic mafia and all ‘cultural’ work in Kurdistan has been entrusted to them, which is in fact a cultural genocide. In all these dimensions we are struggling.
The IRGC's threats are not limited to us. They attack all the people of Iran.
It is not true that we are waiting for a comprehensive operation or invasion, as you say, outside the borders of Iran and inside the territory of Kurdistan. Basically, using the word waiting, in our view, carries a kind of passivity and does not convey the proper meaning. As a dynamic, active party on the scene, we have never been in a defensive or conservative position. Most of our operations are in the depths of the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran and our influence is clear to everyone.
In your statements, you mentioned the role of ‘mercenaries’ and their involvement in the martyrdom of your comrades in the recent bombings, but did not mention a name or a title. To whom were you referring?
Unfortunately, South Kurdistan (ie KRG area) suffers from political, institutional, social, and infrastructural instability due to the interventions of countries in the region and even world powers. These interventions have caused the internal crisis of these countries to spread to southern Kurdistan and involve them in these crises. These countries are also creating chaos and crisis. To do this, they organize and create agents of influence. Due to the fluid and amorphous nature of the environment and lack of establishment, especially in terms of management and institutions, a suitable environment has been provided for espionage and intelligence activities. Although it is not pleasant to relate, there are people who cooperate with the spy organizations of these countries. This, of course, is common all over the world and should not be considered a feature of the society. In particular, the influence of the Turkish MIT organization and the IRGC intelligence is evident.
It is clear that without the role of fifth columnists and agents, Turkey would not have been able to carry out these acts…We have to admit that there are even people who cooperate with hostile states but their affiliated organizations are not aware of this. Therefore, it is necessary to apply some considerations. They are intelligence agents who are affiliated with the Turkish and Iranian regimes. Factors that are known to us and in due course, appropriate answers will be given to them.
What changes do you expect in the event of the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
The policy and performance of the system are by no means in the interests of the people and we are witnessing increasing pressure on the people on a daily basis. It is necessary for the system to pay attention to the will of the people and to find a solution to the problems with the participation of the people.
Unfortunately, the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has not paid attention to the demands of the people and does not make any effort to solve the problems that have arisen, but in various ways demands the continuation of its existence and survival. It is possible that it will be able to extend its rule and domination to some extent and provide opportunities for survival, but this situation is not stable. The ultimate solution is democratization and it is necessary for all forces, currents and spectrums to be able to live together in a coexisting atmosphere based on equal opportunity. The natural and demographic geography and cultural and social context of Iran are suitable for a democratic system. In Iran, there is a richness of national, religious and cultural diversity that has coexisted throughout history and is conducive to coexistence. If there is no democratic basis for coexistence, we will see war, conflict, misery. Therefore, the unity of the peoples and the joint struggle and effort to create and build a democratic Iran are fundamental tasks, and this must be guaranteed by a democratic constitution.
Our power lies in building relationships and establishing relationships
PJAK has never waited or is waiting for a suitable opportunity. In previous questions, we answered that we are actively present in the field and have repeatedly provided solutions and projects to solve problems and issues in Iran….Our power lies in building relationships and establishing relationships. PJAK is working on the vision it has developed and is moving forward with the program…We emphasize again that waiting means being passive and relying on others. The future is made by today's actors, of course, with an understanding of the existing social reality. We in Iran are one of the parties to the issue and the need for constructive interaction to build an alternative system is obvious. Not every collapse means entering a better space, as we have seen in many revolutions.
In your opinion, what damage did the assassination of Qassem Soleimani do to Iran?
At the beginning of 2020, we witnessed significant events, one of which was the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes. The event showed that regional developments have entered a new phase and some of the balances will change, and as the intensity and speed of change increase, forces and factions will enter the field more openly. Qasim Soleimani was a key figure in the Velayat-e-Faqih system and the executor of the system's policies in the ideological, political and military fields at the regional and supra-regional levels. For this reason, this event dealt a very serious blow to the system and had far-reaching effects on the strategy of creating the Shiite crescent and the interactions of this current.
Let's not forget that Iran makes good use of the human factor and Iran's operational capability in the field depends on this. Iran's historical presence in the region and knowledge of the social context has given this ability to the system and it has nothing to do with the Islamic Republic. The regime is currently using this historical legacy. Qasim Soleimani was one of the major exporters of the Islamic Revolution. But there are still people from the Middle East and Africa to Latin America who are doing the same kind of work. However, considering that a part of Iran's policy in the region, as we have mentioned, is being carried out in the form of direct human relations, and in this case, his personal skill and experience play a key role, Soleimani's removal is very important in this case. The non-governmental diplomacy, or better to say informal diplomacy, is being carried out by the IRGC.’