Sakine Cansiz is history, the embodiment of the feminist face of the Kurdish liberation movement. She is the woman that spat in her torturer’s face in prison. She did not scream when they cut her breasts: “As a militant of a just cause, I was ashamed to say ‘Ah’”. She is the woman with the scarlet-red hair, flooded with life, a fountain of love. She worked out every morning, she was ethically vegetarian. She will go down in history as a firm believer in freedom and the just cause of the Kurdish movement. She is no terrorist. She is a hero. She was even respected by her enemies.
Her soft eyes, her beautiful smile in spite of all the horror she went through were a source of encouragement and strength for an entire nation. How sad that the world only got to know her in death. The last time I saw her felt like a farewell. I’m proud to have known a piece of history…
I didn’t know Fidan Dogan, because for me, she was Rojbin. I first met her when I was in elementary school and fell in love with her right away! She taught my sister and me a French nursery rhyme called “Trois petits chats”, three little cats. The last time we met was during the Kurdish hunger strike in Strasbourg, April 2012. She was always energetic and incredibly smart. Her smile was contagious. I would’ve hugged her firmer, kissed her, and told her that I will never forget her smile, had I known what would happen to her in this city she so loved.
She was buried on her birthday. But her death gave birth to thousands of Rojbins who will look up to her and keep her alive. She is no terrorist. She is brilliant. She is our Rojbin…
I never met Leyla. She was only a few years older than me, and every single one of her friends that I know speaks so highly of her. She, too, is no terrorist. She is one of us. I’m sorry we could not share any memories, and I’m so sorry she died so young…
On January 9, 2013, these amazing Kurdish women, activists for our people, revolutionaries, were cold-bloodedly assassinated in Paris.
Sakine's mother mourned: "My beautiful daughter, you loved your people so much - that is why you died..."
The Saturday after, we, as Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Tamils, Basques, Palestinians, Germans, French, Italians, socialists, democrats, feminists, hundreds of thousands of us, united as one, occupied the streets of Paris and besieged the capital of this country that once colonized us. Flowers, flags, pictures, and candles now decorate 147 Rue Lafayette.
Sakine Cansiz devoted her existence to a just cause that she represented in its beauty. She could’ve led an average life, if she wanted to, but she freely chose to be a freedom fighter. She reminds me of the cause, the duty I inherited from my parents and from all the people, who suffer and die so I can have a self-determined life, a free life. I’m proud to have known two of these immortal, amazing women. And in every step I take in life, I will make them live forever…
In the war between the Turkish state and the gender-egalitarian PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), of which Sakine Cansiz is a co-founder, the assassination of free independent women must be understood in terms of violence against women. Killing women who stood up for her people and for women, is not just political, it is also a patriarchal murder: feminicide!
This is the fate of our nation. Our hearts barely recovered from the trauma of the Roboski massacre, in which 34 innocent Kurdish villagers were killed by the Turkish army, when Paris gave us a new wound. And no matter how deep our pain, we’re always the “terrorists”. One time, a Kurdish newspaper in Germany was busted by the police. They confiscated even the flowers and plants. My father asked one of the officers: “Is this flower terrorist, too?!”
We live in a scary system, a blood-stained, ruthless system that executes our most precious friends, most fearless fighters, and with them, our hopes. In this system, right and wrong are artificially constructed, as we praise economic hangmen in their corrupt fortresses of gold as role-models, congratulate white-collar killers on their latest bloodshed, as they step on the podium that consists of the backs of the poor, and scare dissidents who dedicate their lives to justice with prison, torture, and death. Personalities and institutions responsible for the greatest wars in the world, either by active participation or silence, receive peace awards.
People see the order of the Middle East endangered and Kurds, the biggest losers of its artificial, inorganic structure, now emerge as winners. To sum it up, Turkey is forced to negotiate with Kurds, Syrian Kurds are on the rise, Kurdistan Regional Government is the most prosperous and democratic part in Iraq, and even Iranian Kurdish parties start to unite. But the same colonial forces from last century want to repeat history. As I write, the city of Kirkuk is under attack by the Iraqi army. Turkish-funded jihadists attack Syrian Kurdistan. Kurds in Iran are executed regularly. The West provides Turkey with arms, though it is the world champion when it comes to imprisoned journalists, stone-throwing children receive life sentences, American drones are used to kill 34 innocent villagers, and so on and so on. We’re used to that already.
People think ideally of America and Europe with their pretty little institutions, but are oblivious when it comes to trading arms with one of the world’s most dangerous states. Kurds are criminalized in Europe, where the states sell arms to Turkey and cover their buddy’s back. Police in different European countries recruit spies among Kurds. What does the United Nations even mean, if the same global pattern of oppression is repeated over and over again? Covered up, modernized, and sold with a different name? It is no coincidence that all conflicts always benefit the same powers and oppress the same people. We cynically sigh, when France promises to find the murderers of Paris. In an era of security, these women were watched by the police at all times, yet professionally executed. We don’t have conspiracy fantasies. We just stopped believing in the system a long time ago.
We don't want revenge, we want our human rights, we want peace. Kurds are not the evil "terrorists" the world wants them to be. Our cause is legitimate, our demands are just. Recently, the real faces behind civilian killings in Turkey, blamed on the PKK, were revealed, and it turned out that Turkey’s "deep state" was responsible for them. My father was tortured in prison; his friends were abducted and killed under torture. Living in exile, he hasn’t seen his village in 18 years. He never held a gun in his hands, but they call him “terrorist”. These are no Hollywood stories, but real tragedies that every Kurd in every part of Kurdistan knows individual and unique stories about.
We are the nation that chants slogans at our funerals. We are the nation whose members, young, old, can give an accurate definition of the word “fascism”, based on personal experience. We made several states finally agree on something: that no matter what, Kurds must lose. We are the massacres of Seyh Said. Halabja. Sivas. Maras. Zilan, Dersim. Roboski. We are countless deaths. I’m against war, but the PKK is the Kurds’ self-defense, it’s a natural outcome of all the pain the Kurds have suffered. It’s the result of international policies that criminalize every step Kurds take, a response of solidarity with cultural and physical genocides, great minds in torture dungeons, jailed parliamentarians, beaten mothers on peace protests, assassinated authors, fearless hunger strikers.
Forces that shed our blood with their tanks, bombs, and torturer minds deny our existence, but complain, when Kurds raise a guerilla-army to defend themselves against more trauma. The word "terror" has to do with who is in power and who opposes the status quo that always benefits the same powers. A monopoly on the term “terrorism” is inadequate, especially as the greatest anti-terror agents have the dirtiest hands themselves. How we forget spectacular alliances between the US and first-class dictators when it fits us! How we forget all the abducted people that mysteriously died, killed by the Turkish state! How fast we forget that Europe hosts so many asylum-seeking Kurds, because governments sell weapons to Turkey, as politicians superficially criticize their dearest ally! Fragile is history’s memory!
Organizations classified as terrorist can be scratched off the list with one signature once it fits the new political situation of the big players. If you’re a Kurd, a thought crime makes you terrorist in Turkey. A stone-throwing elementary-schooler is terrorist. Twelve-year old Ugur Kaymaz, who went shopping with his father and was insidiously shot, was terrorist. Terror. So much terror. It must be a Kurdish gene! Look at these terrorist women in Paris, how free, self-confident, intellectual, open-minded, and kind they were – so loved by their people, they must’ve been awful- real monsters! If the media-puppets that call them terrorists had met these wonderful women, they’d scratch their heads on how such strong, independent, humane people, yet struggling for peace, after all the tortures they endured, could be terrorist, yes, terrorists, the same way “Al-Qaeda” is defined.
Sakine grew stronger after facing unimaginably terrible things and yet believed in a peaceful solution, instead of bearing hatred. She was tortured, imprisoned, she fought in the mountains for a self-determined life, for my right to be free. Incredible that a bullet in Paris took her life. She was supposed to see peace, after all her sacrifices…
The bullets on Sakine, Rojbin, and Leyla hit all of us! The bombs of Roboski rained on all of us! We won’t tolerate another loss. We channel our anger into activism, claiming the death of these women as our responsibility to continue our struggle, because they did not die in vain. They will live forever.
We have hope, after all. After the farewell ceremony in Paris, in which we, as women, took the lead to demand justice for this great loss of our nation and humanity, chanting “Jin, Jîyan, Azadî” (Woman, Life, Freedom), we all knew that thousands of Sakines, Rojbins, Leylas were born. As their parents left the ceremony hall, Sakine's father said: "You will not forget my daughter!" A good friend of mine and of the fallen women gave me a firm hug after we said goodbye to our three beautiful flowers in Paris. She, too, is a hero. She hugged me, wiped my tears away and said: “Our struggle must go on.”
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Your Middle East.