PJAK’s Herekol: Sara is the pioneer of the women's revolution

"The level that the Kurdish women's movement has reached today is the result of Sara's resistance. She is the pioneer of the women's revolution", Avesta Herekol of PJAK said on the seventh anniversary of the murder of Sakine Cansız.

On 9 January 2013, Sakine Cansız (Sara), co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and symbolic figure of the Kurdish women's movement, was shot dead in Paris by a contract killer of the Turkish secret service MIT together with her comrades Fidan Doğan (Rojbîn) and Leyla Şaylemez (Ronahî). No one has been convicted for the murders to date.

ANF had the opportunity to talk to Avesta Herekol of the Martyrs’ Council of PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan - Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê) near Shaho, a mountain in the Eastern Kurdistan part of the Zagros Mountains. In an interview with our agency, the long-time guerrilla fighter talks about the people behind the assassination in Paris and the motive behind it.

"If we take a look at the history of Kurdistan, we see that whenever a person took a leading role in the revolt against genocidal politics, he or she became the target of counter-insurgency. The pioneering spirit of Sara, her attitude and resistance attracted the attention of the enemy. Therefore, measures were taken to maintain sovereignty over the Kurdish women," Herekol said.

The life of Sakine Cansız represents a chronology of the Kurdish liberation struggle, so to speak. Sara was not only the only woman who fought actively within the organisation from the foundation of the PKK on November 27, 1978 until her death, but also a pioneer of the Kurdish women's liberation movement. Already during her lifetime she was considered a legend for her resistance in the prison of Diyarbakir (Kurdish: Amed), where she was subjected to severe torture.

The triple murder of Sakine Cansız and her comrades took place at a time when a process of solution to the Kurdish question was initiated in Turkey and talks with Abdullah Öcalan took place on the prison island Imrali. The murders were understood as an act of sabotage aimed at torpedoing the peace dialogue. The assassination was also a targeted attack on the resistance of Kurdish women. The work of Sakine Cansız and her pioneering role in the women's liberation struggle was of historical significance.

"The international community admittedly perceived that a certain state played a special role in this conspiracy. But in reality it was implemented by various forces that were already involved in the international conspiracy*. At the time, France was making a big fuss that nothing would happen without its knowledge. In other words, the conspiracy would not have taken place without the consent of the French state. There was no doubt that France was aware of this massacre," says Herekol.

Abdullah Öcalan assessed the targeted murders of Sara, Rojbîn and Ronahî as a continuation of the international conspiracy in cooperation of several states, which was initiated on October 9, 1998 and culminated in his deportation to Turkey on February 15, 1999 in violation of international law. For him, the Paris killings were "well thought out" and "more serious" than the Sarajevo attack. The triple murder would be tantamount to a declaration of war, Öcalan said on 9 January 2015 during talks at Imrali as part of the peace process.

"In Paris, the place where Clara Zetkin fought her battle, the women's movement was intended to be stabbed in the back in the person of Sakine Cansız. The Turkish state finally says quite openly: 'No matter what you do, we will continue to pursue our reactionary aims. Even though it was achieved in physical terms, the Paris killings paved the way for one of the biggest rebellions of women - not only from the perspective of women in Kurdistan and the Middle East, but worldwide. This resistant rebellion has opposed the conspiracy," says Herekol.

With regard to the Kurdish people, Turkey has a long tradition of genocidal counterinsurgency. Especially the Northern Kurdistan province of Dersim, where Sakine Cansız was born in 1958, was declared as an enemy and a direct object of bestial culture of destruction.

"Sakine was born into the resistance of fighting women. She recognized very early on the reality of a nation that was robbed of its culture and its right to exist.In the end, she did what everyone thought was impossible: She called for resistance and drove it to its peak. Basically, Sara's struggle was a source of great fear for the enemy. That's why she was attacked."

Avesta Herekol describes Sakine Cansız as a militant personality whose “whole life was a struggle".

"The level that the Kurdish women's movement has reached today is the result of her resistance. She is the leader of the women's revolution and we all feel connected to her. With her resistance in the dungeon of Amed, Sara became a symbol of our struggle. It was this resistance that paved the way for women in all parts of Kurdistan. In Rojava, Arîn Mîrkan and Avesta Xabûr entered the stage of resistance. In Rojhilat it was Shirin Alam-Holi. With every day, the women of Kurdistan intensify their struggle against the genocidal understanding of power. This is thanks to the mastermind Sakine Cansız,” stressed Avesta Herekol of PJAK.

* Kurdish society refers to the period from 9 October 1998 to 15 February 1999 as the "international conspiracy". In the course of this period, Abdullah Öcalan, mastermind and most important political representative of the Kurds, was declared persona non grata in Syria. Previously, the then Turkish President Süleyman Demirel had issued an ultimate threat of war against Syria if the country continued to grant protection to Öcalan, who had been living there in exile since 1980. While Turkish tanks rolled up at the border, US warships in the Mediterranean reinforced the NATO partner's threat. Ankara was also supported by Israel, with whom it had had a close military partnership since 1996. Syrian President Hafis Al-Assad could not withstand this pressure and called on Öcalan to leave the country.

On 9 October 1998, the PKK leader left Syria by plane for Russia. A few days later Ankara and Damascus signed the Adana Agreement, in which Syria undertook not to tolerate any more PKK activities on its soil.

Meanwhile, Öcalan underwent an odyssey through various European countries over a period of months, only to be finally abducted from the Greek embassy in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on 15 February 1999 and handed over to Turkey in violation of international law. Since then he has been held on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara.