Justice for Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez!

This is in remembrance of three Kurdish women who fought against fascism. They were murdered in Paris on this day 8 years ago.

On January 9th 2013 a Turkish man with links to the Turkish security service shot three Kurdish women in the head at the Kurdish Information Center in Paris. They were Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez. All three were active and organized in the struggle against fascism and patriarchy in the Kurdish freedom movement. A couple of days ago, a memorial service and march was held in Paris in their honor, demanding that Turkish president Erdogan be brought to justice for these murders.

Violence against women is highly political, especially against politically active women. These murders show that Turkey has the power and the freedom to act in Europe as well. To this day, no one has been convicted of these murders. 

Today we want to remember and respect these three women. Fidan Doğan was a representative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) in Paris and Leyla Şaylemez was a member of the Kurdish youth movement. Sakine Cansiz, or Sehid Sara, was one of the founding members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The PKK (founded in 1978) experienced terrible repression by the Turkish state in its early years and many founding members and activists were imprisoned. Many Kurds then, as today, were forced into Turkish nationalism and assimilated into Turkish identities. Conditions in prison were appalling and torture and violence were common. Sakine Cansiz continued her political work in prison and it is said that she and her comrades managed to survive well together against the torture and insults from the guards. Sakine was released from prison in 1991. 

Sakine Cansiz

In the 1990s, there was a so called “divorce” in the organization between men and women in the PKK party. After being released from prison, Sakine started organizing among women and set up women’s armed forces that functioned separately from men’s counterparts. Everyday patriarchy was found to cause problems that weakened the position of women. Therefore, the autonomous organization of women was considered necessary and was also supported by the PKK ideological leader Abdullah Öcalan. It was however organized as a joint effort in collaboration with the men, and this organization of women was considered to be the path to freedom for all. Today we see that this organization and ideological development has shifted away from old-fashioned Marxism-Leninism and the idea of nation states. Instead, there has been a shift to free democratic confederalism, the best-known ongoing project of which is Rojava (now known as the Autonomous Administration in Northern Syria). The ideology of freedom developed by Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK’s way of organizing have led young Kurdish women – and now other women in the Middle East – to play an important role in the war against both ISIS and fascist Turkish state. 

We also want to remember others who have continued the work of Sakine, Leyla and Fidan. One of them was the female politician Hevrin Khalaf, who was brutally executed by Turkish-backed jihadist (and former ISIS fighters) in 2019 when Turkey invaded northern Syria. This Turkish attack is still ongoing although it has not been reported in the mainstream media since 2019. The Turkish state and the KDP party in Bashur (South Kurdistan/Iraqi Kurdistan) have recently begun a dangerous cooperation against the PKK. This would mean a civil war between Kurds, which would benefit Turkey. All this jeopardizes the struggle and tradition that Sakine has been building.

As we learn about these women, their struggles, and their ideology, we can continue their work by spreading the message. Sakine struggled against fascism, and we too should fight fascism here and now. We are part of an extensive anti-fascist tradition and movement, and especially after the recent fascist coup attempt in the United States it is becoming increasingly clear that our struggle needs to be strengthened. We take the example of Sakine, Fidan, and Leyla, and we remember them and all struggling free women with respect. 

As an anti-fascist and feminist network, we send particularly warm and revolutionary greetings to all rebel women, to those who continue on the path of Sakine, Fidan, and Leyla, and who show that the struggle against fascism and patriarchy continues. We also send warm and revolutionary greetings to all the comrades of Sakine, Fidan and Leyla, and to the movement from which they come. 

For our Finnish comrades that are not familiar with this struggle we recommend this documentary about Sakine: “SARA – My whole life was a struggle”.

The first two volumes of Sakine’s biography have been translated into English, we warmly recommend both. “Sara: My Whole Life Was a Struggle” and “Sara: Prison Memoir of a Kurdish Revolutionary” can be found at good bookstores or can be ordered through your local library.