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Female PKK Warriors, “won’t stand for male dominance”

October 7, 2008

I originally published this information in October 2008, events have not improved very much since that time, and a lot of death marks the path of PKK.

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update iconTurkey and the PKK: The Kurdish women who take up arms

The execution-style killing of three women in Paris last week threw a spotlight on the murky struggle between Turkey and its Kurdish rebels. But how did women from such a conservative society rise to prominence in a paramilitary organisation? ~ Women have been at the heart of the Kurdish movement almost since the formation of the PKK in 1978, when it was strongly influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideas. … PKK attempted to reinvent itself as “a social movement with self-administration at local level, an alternative type of economy, ecology and feminism as central pillars”.

The group is perceived by many Kurdish women as a means of empowerment.  … The PKK, which Turkey, the EU and the US list as a terrorist organisation for its attacks on Turkish security forces and civilians, is a highly capable force.

It has battled the huge Turkish army for nearly three decades, in the name of greater Kurdish autonomy.

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  • Female PKK commander says “women grow up enslaved by society”
  • Female fighters in Iraq say their struggle with Turkey is more about women’s rights
  • U.S., Turkey, Iraq and NATO have dubbed the PKK a terrorist organization
  • Male military head of PKK says his group is ready for a political solution

Female fighters: We won’t stand for male dominance

“We want a natural life, a society that revolves around women — one where women and men are equal, a society without pressure, without inequality, where all differences between people are eliminated,” says Rengin, the head of a female battalion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Most of these fighters go by a single name.

Rengin joined the PKK in this mountain enclave in 1990, when she was just 14, after she says Turkish forces killed her father. She says she wanted to fight for Kurdish rights and women’s rights.

“Women grow up enslaved by society. The minute you are born as a girl, society inhibits you,” she says. “We’ve gone to war with that. If I am a woman, I need to be known by the strength of my womanhood, to get respect. Those are my rights. And it was hard for the men to accept this.”

Much of the outside world views the PKK with suspicion. It’s been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, Iraq, Turkey and NATO. The PKK has fought Turkey for decades to establish a Kurdish state. Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict.

Today, the PKK’s ideology revolves around a belief that global crises and injustice are a result of millennia of male-dominated rule. Here, the women run their own assaults and have their own command structure. All tasks are shared, both on and off the battlefield. Discipline is paramount to survival, they say, and weapons are always clean and never out of reach.

Back in 1998, the fighters say, their now-jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan declared the group “a women’s party.” It was initially difficult to accept, says Karim, a 42-year-old male member of the PKK.

“There was an intense discussion about the role of women,” says Karim.

“We didn’t want to accept it at first. Women by nature are physically weaker, and in war that hits you like a boomerang. You need to watch the way you fight, the way you move. So we were against this. We didn’t want the women with us because it makes combat tougher on us. But Ocalan said in his book, if we are really trying to create a new society, we have to develop women. If women are enslaved, then so are men.”  

In the camp, Yildiz, a round-faced 20-year-old, says: “We don’t have a goal of fighting.”

She says she joined the PKK when she was 17 because she felt society was suffocating her, as a woman and as a Kurd.

“Our struggle is about many things: Changing people, returning to core values, getting rid of society’s ingrained enslavement. When I came here, I realized the social injustices so much more. How could we have lived like this for so long? How could we have accepted this for so long?”

Leaning forward, she pulls her vest around the two grenades that each fighter carries. “I felt different from the first moment that I got here,” she says. “In the city, the atmosphere is crowded, full of people and cars. Here, there is that silence and beauty of nature. It’s so different.”

The fighters may seem cut off from the outside world, but they have a regular supply of arms and food brought in on mule convoys. They say they stay well funded by Kurdish expatriates all over the world.

Turkey intensifies fight against terror, Iraq incursion possible

Turkey considers launching an incursion into northern Iraq to target the terror organization, and considers the proposed buffer zones between two neighboring countries as it intensifies to crush PKK.

The women rebels who are ready to fight and die for the Kurdish cause

The Kurdish fighter tied back her hair in a scarf and hoisted a rifle over one shoulder before darting farther up the rugged mountain to escape the threat of a possible airstrike.

“Get as far away from the camp as you can,” a second rebel told The Times, pointing to a steep slope and indicating the fastest way down.

A third added: “We are seen as a terrorist group, so what do you expect?”

The women are mostly former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters who say that they now pursue more of an educational and co-ordinating role in support of Kurdish women’s rights. Airstrikes have become a regular hazard as tensions rise between their outlawed organisation and the Turkish Government.

Women play a crucial role in the PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades in a campaign that has cost more than 30,000 lives.

At first the Turkish Army did not take the women rebels, who have been part of the PKK’s armed struggle since it was begun in 1984, seriously.

“Then they realised that the women are as tough if not tougher than the men,” said Surbuz, an attractive woman with short, bobbed, brown hair.

“After this the soldiers stopped distinguishing between the male and the female fighters. I think they are now more afraid of the women because the women are more disciplined and they will never surrender.”

“We will either kill or be killed,” she added. “For me it is freedom, success or death. It is simple.”

Pictures of women who have been killed or taken their own lives dotted the walls of three rooms inside makeshift huts where members of the group live and operate.

As well as being willing to die for their cause, the women in the PKK avoid sexual relationships, feeling that having sex with a man, even a fellow fighter, undermines their goals. “If you could create a society of feminist men then that would be okay,” Zilar Sterk, a second Kurdish rebel, said.

Surbuz and Ms Sterk, along with about 20 other women at the Qandil mountain base, belong to an umbrella female organisation known as the High Commune of Women (KJB).

The passion of defending one’s homeland, family and dignity crosses gender lines.  Regardless of cultural rules, regardless of custom or religious restriction, women are humans first.  Human nature does have fight or flee ingrained.  Mammals demonstrate the nature of a vicious female defending, protecting and nurturing their own.  Nature made a plan that has been corrupted by human arrogance.  Social and religious restrictions have tried to subdue mother nature, males who fear female powers, must do everything they can to reduce perceived gender threats. Natural women are not the image men prefer, its all about power.  The role of women in war is ressurecting natures original plan.  Dogs, cats, horses, cows, gorrillas, all mammals, show us every day which gender is most dangerous.  Hat tip to the KJB for stepping alongside mother nature, regardless of their being labeled terrorists.  Perhaps they are, but, perhaps they’re just defending their own.

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25 Comments
  1. November 10, 2008 9:40 pm

    KurdistanPKK, Thank you. Terrorists are always in the eye of the beholder, because they inflict pain. Retaliation for historical injustices and injury is the motivation for more retaliation, injustice and injury. We all become terrorists until the young have run out of blood.
    The consequences? Whole generations will have been lost to historical grievances. It is sad. There will be no winners. Exhaustion will overcome the survivors who must remain alive to tell the real story. History has a way of controlling the present. My hope for all your passionate warriors, is that your leaders will find it in their hearts to talk again. Change history. As long as each side is determined to annihilate the other, the blood will continue to flow along with tears. Hatred alone is self destructive. I follow both sides of this story with sadness. I do respect that the PKK recognizes that grievance is not exclusive to one gender.

  2. November 10, 2008 8:22 pm

    Very good article! Its time for the world to know who the real terrorists are!

  3. October 16, 2008 5:10 am

    Turkey is one of the most dictatir rejime in the world,untill today kurdish language banned in turkey,30millinon kurdish in turkey they dont have any civil rights,example turkish have over100 tv chanels.kurds dont deserve 1,there is no single kurdish channel,recently bit pressure by EU,and american went in thr region,kurdish got hour program in state TV per week,this your britherhood,justice equilitiy ,how we can leave with this junta state,turks committed genocide agianst kurds 1915-1925 over millinon kurds been killed,2millin armenian 1,30 grreek sypriot,in 1937 in dersim sity killed over 100 thousnd kurdish,Pkk come to sop this genocide,and kurds will neve give for there rights,we have right to live like other nation independent and peacfully,kurds is 50 million people in middle east,biggest nation in the world,under occupation under facist rejims turkey,iran.seria,iraq.about 2 millin kurds live in EU and rest of the world,becouse the brtuality of rejimes,and nearlly 5 millino kurds displaced to istanbul and other turkish citeis, for more info visit gurilia womens,

    http://www.gerila.tv/ peace and love

  4. Cigdem permalink
    October 12, 2008 5:46 am

    Tolga,just a stupid reply haa, What do you think now? You are king.. Language is not important , important one is the thoughts of people. I think you had better get your ass up, and try to meet more people to improve your communication to understand people. You are also so simple like your behaviour.

  5. Fatma permalink
    October 12, 2008 5:45 am

    I JUST SHAME ON CNN AND THE PEOPLE SUPPORTING TERRORISM… I HOPE YOU BECOME VICTIM OF THESE TERRORISTS….

  6. Hülya permalink
    October 12, 2008 5:37 am

    Tolga the terrorist
    It is not important to use a wrong word..The most ımportant one is to communicate.If u understand her ,then there is no problem….

  7. tolga permalink
    October 10, 2008 4:03 pm

    cigdem the nationalist,
    you just got pissed off again to hear the news from your imperial bosses, ha..
    why don’t you just learn english before opening your big mouth?

  8. Cigdem permalink
    October 8, 2008 3:53 pm

    Deniz, If you are leaving in Turkey, please go out from our country. We do not want to see you. Because you do not have a country and BE SURE that you will not have a country…BE SURE BE… BE SURE….

    Also, it is so strange that CNN doing this job, A big media should not be so simple…

  9. Murat permalink
    October 8, 2008 1:08 pm

    “If they do it, it is terrorism! If we do it, it is counterterrorism” Chomsky

  10. adnan permalink
    October 8, 2008 12:45 pm

    pkk is a terrorist organisation who killed over 30,000 people included turkish and kurdish.
    they were killing their own people especially the people not to take part in their organisation and also their source of income is coming from drugs,contraband trade,tribute e.t.c.i am really unhappy for the innocent young people in pkk who are cheated for money,good life and so-called independent kurdish goverment by their leaders.when the fascist leaders of pkk live in luxury,the people are sent to fight with turkish army.
    here it is the inside of pkk…
    im my opinion pkk,some europe governments included present turkish goverment and of course USA are in contact.they do not want to end up terrorism because terrorism is a good source of income for them and it s for sure that the chaos in anywhere of the world especially middleeast suit somebody’s!!!!! purpose

  11. Deniz permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:59 pm

    And how come Izzet cares about women rights while he says nothing about the reasons of why thousands of young people choosed to fight on the montains?You are a liar Izzet.

  12. izzet permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:51 pm

    Correction for the first question:
    Why don’t pkk fight against Kurdish feudalism in that region?

  13. izzet permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:50 pm

    Questions: why do pkk fight against Kurdish feudalism in that region?
    Why don’t these women fight against the feudal leaders who exploits them both as a person and as a woman?
    Why don’t these freedom fighters fight against raping of male freedom fighters?
    Does anyone know the relations of APO (Ocalan) with women in pkk?

  14. Deniz permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:23 pm

    Anyone who wants to learn more about the “Turkey’s war over Kurdish culture and so people” can check Human Rights Watch’s webside, also could find more on Kurdish Human Rights Project’s webside. If you want to see a documentary about the lifes Kurdish women guerillas and many interesting interviews ,just type Women of Ararat in youtube. Kurdish people and their children on the mountains PKK is aiming a free, democratic life in peace with all brother nations of the world as we all deserve.

  15. Deniz permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:09 pm

    Since 1923 Kurdish language and culture was banned in Turkey, Turkish army killed millions of Kurds, burned their villages, tortured civil people, jailed thousands of people because of their political ideas.since the 80’s 6 legal Kurdish political party were banned, 10 elected Kurdish MP were jailed for ten years, one was killed by kontrguerilla. The last legal Kurdish party could enter the senato but the 7’th party is about the be banned too now (DTP). This is the 28’th Kurdish revolt since 1923 when the founders of the new country decided to asimilate all ethnic minorities by blood baths.Millions of civillians were massacred, Armenians (1915), then Kurds.
    In this last revolt Turkish army burned more then 3500 Kurdish villages and forced Kurds to leave from their lands. almost 30000 people lost their lifes since 1984, 20000 of those PKK members and civillians and 10000 is soldiers and officers. PKK had declared cease-fire many times and but Turkish army and their puppets goverments refused any peace talks and kept running military operations aver PKK

  16. Anonymous permalink
    October 7, 2008 3:32 pm

    do you know why this women at the kandil? because there are many men at the kandil! yes this women at the kandil because of sex!!! they are sexslave and many of them is kidnapped!!! they aren’t fighter. PKK= ETA=el kaide.

  17. sencer permalink
    October 7, 2008 3:11 pm

    whoever and whatever, terrorist is terrorist. They are not fighting for the right of kurdish people and they don’t represent kurdish population anymore. We are happy to live with our turkish bother shoulder on shoulder, side by side as we did in the past in dardenel war, during the independence war. Becom female doesn’t stop killing the innocent children of whom are kurdish origine at the same time. Theirs activities will not help democratic steps in turkey, in contrast, it jeopordise the situation of kurdish population who are expected more job, education, healt, democracy.
    On the other hand, It is shame to make propoganda of PKK which is one of the dirtiest and bloodlest terrorist organization in the world.

  18. Jasmine permalink
    October 7, 2008 2:19 pm

    PKK IS A REAL TERRORIST!…IT IS NONSENSE THAT THEY FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS.BEFORE I CAME TO TURKEY I BELIEVED THAT KURDISH PEOPLE WERE TREATED BADLY,BUT WHEN I CAME TO TURKEY,I SAW THE REALITY..
    I AM A FOREIGNER LIVING IN TURKEY AND I SEE THAT BOTH TURKISH AND KURDISH PEOPLE LIVE HAPPILY AND THEY HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS.THEY ARE FRIENDS,NEIGHBOURS EVEN COUPLES …THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY DIFFERENCE FROM TURKISH PEOPLE REALLY..
    AND I LEARNT THAT PKK KILLED MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE,BABIES,SOLDIERS IN PAST.IF IT ISN’T A TERRORIST GROUP.WHAT IS IT THEN?
    —SO, I SHAME ON CNN TO PRESENT NEWS SUPPORTING A TERRORIST GROUP.—

    I INVITE PEOPLE(ESPECIALLY CNN WORKERS) TO TURKEY TO SEE THE REALITIES …TO SEE THAT THEY HAVE THE EQUAL RIGHTS,LIVING STANDARTS…

    ”I INVITE CNN REPORTERS TO COME TO TURKEY AND INTERVIEW KURDISH PEOPLE,WOMEN LIVING IN TURKEY.PLEASE DO COME AND SEE THE REALITIES…AND DECIDE IF PKK IS A TERRORIST…”

  19. October 7, 2008 2:11 pm

    I understand the animosity from each side of this story. The history driving both Turkey and Kurdistan has erupted through frustration and unwillingness to negotiate or mediate. This feud will continue as long as reactionary behavior prevails and perception is driven by political rhetoric.
    Each side sees injustice and intrusion by the other. Behind these factions are human beings that retaliate according to the damage they have endured. My article focuses on the gender side of this conflict and human nature as it was originally designed.

  20. Alper permalink
    October 7, 2008 2:03 pm

    If you want to promote use of terror to achieve sickening goals, I recommend presenting Al Qaeda terorists as innocent people fighting for gay rights. 🙂

  21. Ali permalink
    October 7, 2008 1:52 pm

    I feel bad for you fasist-turks! (This is not a racist term; There are millions of good Turkish people too. I am just talking about those who are in love with their oppressors…

  22. October 7, 2008 1:50 pm

    These indoctrinated Turks are very funny people.

    None are more hopelessly enslaved than those Turks who falsely believe they are free!

    And look who do they blame? CNN… As if their media is objective 🙂 🙂 🙂

  23. elusch permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:17 am

    they are terrorists. this article is a piece of junk. i think CNN proves that itself isnt unprejudiced at all by publishing such a news! its has improper aim obviously. i really dont understand people cant see this fact!!!

  24. October 7, 2008 8:17 am

    LeganAlien, I have been in Turkey and I saw how Turkish state repress and oppress its own citizen (not only Kurds). I cannot believe how much blind you are. How do you explain yourself those lynchings, lawlessness, Susurluk, Jitem, torture, diseperance, killings supported and run by Turkish state. Turkish stste is the real terrorist…

  25. LeganAlien permalink
    October 7, 2008 8:00 am

    PKK, which is a brutal terrorist organization, killed more than 30 thousand people in Turkey and this ridiculous article is basically saying that these are the people fighting against male dominance. Before writing such a crap, read more first, they killed 17 people just 3 days ago. This is ridiculous.

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