The Fifth Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Sakine Cansiz

Published January 7, 2019

The Fifth Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Sakine Cansiz

During the night of January 9-10, 2013, Sakine Cansiz and her colleagues Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemaz were murdered by a Turkish intelligence agent in Paris.

Sakine Cansiz (Sara) knew early on she wanted to become a revolutionary. Not only did she succeed in this, but she was a pivotal force in the women’s movement.

Early on, she organized women in neighborhoods of Bakur (Northern Kurdistan) and became a founding member of the PKK. She was subsequently arrested in May 1979 by the Turkish state and tortured for her refusing to turn on her comrades.

It was in prison that she developed the strength of steel that she is reknowned for. In this context she relentlessly stood up to the guards, mocking the nationalistic songs they forced prisoners to sing, and demanded time with male comrades. Her fighting spirit inspired her imprisoned comrades, as did her care for their well-being: massaging their beaten bodies and finding them warm clothes when ice took over the cells.

Her resilent and revolutionary attitude set such a tone for the possibility of survival that she inspired the phrase that has become synonmous with the Kurdish freedom struggle: Resistance is Life.

In 1991, national politics shifted and many political prisoners were pardoned. Sara rejoined the movement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where the PKK, ASALA, PLFP and other revolutionary groups trained together, but insisted on going to the mountains. Here she joined the guerrilla struggle, intent on making a women’s army, convinced that liberation could only happen with the emancipation of women. In 1995, the women’s army was established in the Qandil mountains and organized the first Congress of the Women’s Movement. In the mountains, they studied, trained and fought the Turkish army. Their example became an inspiration for women in civilian areas.

“In my utopia you must struggle for freedom all your life.” - Sakine Cansiz