Kawa Azizi: “PKK has been recruiting children since its foundation”

In an exclusive interview with Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (IKHRW), Kawa Azizi, an expert on Kurdish issues, criticized the PKK for recruiting children, while stressing that “due to the PKK’s defeats at the war with Turkey, the number of guerrillas decreases, the organization recruits the children to compensate its lack of armed men, but recruiting children as soldiers has been as  a part of the PKK’s policy since its foundation. In particular, the PKK has been using and continues to use them in armed attacks.” The detailed interview of the IKHRW with the Kurdish expert is below.

Dr. Azizi, following the killing of a large number of senior PKK cadres, why do you think the PKK / PJAK has recently focused on recruiting the children?

-As the number of PKK guerrillas and senior members decreases, the group recruits the children to fill the gap, but the issue of recruiting children as soldiers has been and is a part of the PKK’s policy since its establishment. In particular, the PKK has been using and continues to use them in armed attacks. For example, if we look at the photos of Abdullah ‌Ocalan at the PKK camps in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, we will see the child soldiers in a parade of armed members, Ocalan greets the child guerrillas and almost all the armed members on the photos are children. That dates back the 1980s, so the recruitment process of child soldiers has been part of the PKK’s activities. It has been, so nothing new has happened. On the other hand, we know that international and even domestic laws prohibit the recruitment of children in armed conflicts. The general rule is that people under the age of 18 should not take part in the war.

You mentioned the international laws that have been passed to protect the rights of children. On the other hand, the PKK claims to defend the rights of the Kurds, and these children are also Kurds while their rights are being violated. What is your assessment of comparing the two approaches?

– I still could not understand why the PKK should be called as Kurdish. I am quite sure that the PKK is a big problem for the Kurds. There is no doubt on this. It was not established to solve the problem of the Kurds, but to create a new problem for the Kurds. That is, the PKK is a big problem for the Kurds. It is not for solving the Kurdish problem, but it is a part of the Kurdish problem.

Many other Kurdish experts are of the same opinion and have recently discussed on the PKK’s activities in the Kurdistan region. What is your assessment of recent developments and the activities of the PKK?

-A question is raised. What is the PKK doing in Iraqi Kurdistan? Why should it be here and what is its role? It is a military presence. In response, we say that the PKK has no right to come to the Iraqi Kurdistan. If it aims to fight Turkey, it has to go to Turkish Kurdistan, where the mountains and geographical location are much more difficult to cross than the ones in the Kurdistan Region. It should not be in a Shangal/Sinjar nor Qandil. For example, it has been activated against the Kurdistan Region in Sinjar while encouraging and inciting Yazidis against the Kurdistan Region, claiming they are not Kurds. I see no Kurdishness in these actions of the PKK. I do not see any trace of Kurdishness in the PKK’s alliance and enmity with the groups and countries against the interests of the Kurds.

Some say the PKK aims at destroying the official status of the Kurdistan Region. How realistic is this claim?

The main issue is not whether it wants this official status to disappear or not, but the important issue is the result of the PKK’s approach. You see, the Turkish military, under the pretext of the presence of the PKK occupy more and more the Iraqi Kurdistan recent years. They have settled in the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan deep for about 50 kilometers and have officially occupied this area. Dozens of Turkish military bases have been established in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. Another point is that 600 Kurdish villages have been evacuated and displaced, and gradually the Turkish army has taken control of the villages and the PKK retreats. In Sinjar and the southern regions, it only creates problems for the Kurds. The PKK does not accept the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, and we know that Sinjar is also part of these disputed areas. The PKK opposes the implementation of the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad. This approach of the PKK is openly anti-Kurdish and it is very clear that the organization wants to begin a war with the Kurdish Region. The question is addressed to the PKK: “Is your duty to fight the Turkish army or the Kurdish Region?”

Recently, a report was published in which the mother of Benjamin Farajzadeh, a child soldier who managed to escape to the Kurdistan Region after being abducted and joining the PJAK for several months. His mother says her son is held Parastin, the intelligence of the KDP, but Parastin refuses to hand him over and may even sell him, like other dissident members and fugitives from the PKK / PJAK, as a mercenary to the KDPI (HADAK). What is your assessment on this news?

-I suggest you to accept my statements as a document. Lashkar-e-Roj does not need these children. More than 6,000 people have now announced their readiness to join Lashkar-e-Roj at the headquarters of the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Party in Erbil, Dohuk and other cities where the displaced Syrian Kurds are settled, but we are not ready to accept them.

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