Armenian News Network / Groong By Onnik Krikorian November 30 1998 Gegham Manukyan is a member of the Central Committee of the Dashnaktsutiune, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, HHD) in the Republic of Armenia. He was interviewed during festivities celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] organised by the Yezidi [Kurdish] community in Armenia, and staged at the Russian Theatre in Yerevan. The Russian Theatre was full to capacity with Yezidi dressed in the Kurdish colours of red, yellow and green, and waving PKK and ERNK flags while live Kurdish music played. Representatives from Armenian political parties and other groups and organisations in Armenia voiced their support for the Kurdish national liberation movement, and for Abdullah Ocalan, President of the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK]. Along with other Armenian political figures invited, Gegham Manukyan was in attendance to deliver a message of support to the Kurdish people on behalf of the Dashnaktsutiune, Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the Republic of Armenia. YEREVAN, ARMENIA OK: Are you here today as an official representative of Dashnaktsutiune? GM: Yes. OK: Does this mean that Dashnaktsutiune considers the Kurdish Question in Turkey is an important issue, and that Armenians should be concerned with what is occurring to the Kurds in Turkey? GM: Armenians must respect the wishes of any nation that wants to be free, anywhere in the world. OK: At the moment, many people are calling Ocalan a terrorist, and the PKK a terrorist organisation. Are you worried that you might be supporting an organisation that many consider terrorist? GM: No leader who wishes his nation to be free can be considered a terrorist, and those that consider Ocalan a terrorist, are actually the terrorists themselves - the Turkish leaders are involved with the mafia. - And I think that in time people will consider Ocalan similar to Arafat. He was once considered a terrorist, and now he has been awarded prizes for peace. OK: And interesting too, because Dashnaktsutiune itself was considered a terrorist organisation [Dro]. in Armenia. Perhaps "terrorist" is just a political label? GM: Yes. I was in prison for three years. Do I look like a terrorist? [laughs]. It will be better when the Kurdish problem is solved not through force, but through political dialogue, and I am sure that this will happen now. OK: I have been following closely the events in Italy [Ocalan's arrival]. It seems inevitable that people will have to realise the importance of negotiating some form of autonomy for the Kurds in Turkey. However, if the Kurds do get some form of autonomy how will you feel as an Armenian when you consider that some of this land is considered historically Armenian? GM: It is a problem between the Kurds and Armenians, but we can solve this problem. We are discussing it already. According to Ocalan an agreement is possible. OK: I came here in June to look at the Yezidi minority in Armenia, and found the community to be split. Some Yezidi consider themselves Kurdish - and support the PKK - while the others are trying to define themselves as definitely not being Kurds. Are you aware of this split, and that the Kurds in the hall today are mainly Yezidi - perhaps there are only one or two Moslem Kurds from Turkey? GM: This is a very complicated question - a matter of ethnology - about the origins of the Yezidi and the Kurds. Only on a scientific level can this be solved, but everybody should be free to decide to call themselves either Kurd or Yezidi. OK: It is Interesting because it appears that all of the Yezidi outside of Armenia consider themselves Kurdish, and the division only seems to exist in Armenia. Whatever the reasons, there is no mistaking the fact that the Yezidi speak Kurmanji [Kurdish], and I noticed that at the end of your address to the audience so did you. GM: [laughs] I learnt Kurdish in prison. I was in prison in Armenia with three Kurds. They were refugees from Iraq, they traveled to Iran, and through Nakhichevan to Armenia. They were arrested and imprisoned - they taught me Kurdish. OK: Kocharian has already stated that Ocalan would not be allowed political asylum in Armenia, and some people are concerned about PKK activities here. What response do you have to these concerns? GM: The PKK has representatives in many countries. Most of these concerns are as a result of Turkish propaganda, and it is absurd to suggest that there are PKK military bases in Armenia. -- Onnik Krikorian is a journalist, photojournalist and new media consultant who has spent over three years working on projects surrounding the Kurds in Turkey and the Caucasus. His work on the Kurds can be seen online at: http://www.freespeech.org/oneworld/photo/ and his photographs of the Kurds in Turkey and Armenia are to be published toward the end of December in the next edition of "Armenian Forum".
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