The infamous fascist military coup d’état on September 12, 1980 in Turkey constitutes a major turning point in the history of the country. It launched a period that normalized violence, suppression, censorship, torture and extrajudicial killings, and targeted the revolutionary forces in Turkey and Kurdistan in particular.
As result of military coup, 650.000 people were arrested, 1 million 683 thousand were investigated, 7,000 sentenced to death penalty, 517 executed (50 by hanging), 98,400 sentenced for membership in an illegal organization, 388,000 had their passport withdrawn, 30,000 were forced to go into exile, 171 died as a result of torture. 937 films were censored, 14,000 people were stripped off their citizenship, 299 inmates died in prison, and 400 journalists were sentenced to a total of four thousand years in prison.
Prison No.5 was constructed in the Kurdish city of Amed (Diyarbakir) to serve as a concentration camp especially for revolutionary movements. This prison was created and run by high-ranking Turkish generals and largely operated beyond the law. The structure and system were designed to break human willpower, honour and dignity, to alienate persons from their ethnic and political identity and to force them to surrender and accept becoming an informant. In addition to physical violence, psychological torture was used through methods such as false testimonies, evidence falsification, manipulation of news and information. The forced Turkification process in the prison was based on the nationalistic ideology of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Prison No. 5 became laboratory of any form of torture experiment.
While many thought that the fight was over, the resistance of PKK members in this prison became a symbol of hope in the revolution. On March 21, 1982, which the Kurds celebrate as the new year’s day and a day of resistance – “Newroz”-, one of the founding members of PKK, Mazlum Dogan took the resistance to a new dimension when he set his cell on fire with three matches and sacrificed his life. His last message was “Resistance brings victory, surrender brings betrayal”. On May 18th of the same year, four other PKK members, Ferhat Kurtay, Eşref Anyık, Mahmut Zengin and Necmi Öner continued Mazlum Dogan’s resistance by putting their arms around each other and setting their bodies on fire. When other comrades tried to stop the fire, the four comrades responded“Do not put out this fire, this is the flame of freedom”.
Self-sacrifice is form of action that must be understood as an outcry and plea to end the injustice of oppression against the Kurds. During the fight against ISIS in Kobane in Rojava, Arîn Mirkan, a commander of the Women’s Protection Units YPJ sacrificed her life and became a symbol of resistance and dignity against ISIS fascism. Similarly, self-immolation symbolises the agony of the injustice experienced. Self-immolations as well as ‘suicide killings’ are not supported as political means by the movement. The fallen ones (Şehîd) are of high ideal value in the movement and are remembered for their selfless idealistic stance in their fight and life for the freedom of their society and for revolutionary ideals.
Below, we publish the letter by the four comrades, Ferhat Kurtay, Eşref Anyik, Mahmut Zengin and Necmi Öner, before their self-immolation action.
The light of any fire that is lit will break through the darkness that the enemies knit around us
To all our comrades and to humanity!
In this age, class consciousness and national consciousness are taking on new dimensions. Humanity raises the flag of freedom against captivity and colonialism ever higher. In order to protect oneself and to ensure one’ s self-defence, the proletarian follows his historical tasks step by step. All over the world the struggles of anti-imperialists, anti-fascists and anti-colonialists are progressing with pain, effort, life, blood and suffering.
It is thanks to such resistance that imperialists no longer exist in many places of the world. It is thanks to these resistances that the existence of the imperialists is threatened. The same fate threatens colonialism. Fascism is also condemned to die a little more every day in the face of the revolutionary steps taken by the people and the proletariat.
Our age is an age in which revolutionaries and anti-revolutionaries find themselves face to face in a fierce struggle. It is an age in which every day the compass swings more towards revolution. An age in which we move closer towards a future which the peoples of the world and the workers are longing for.
If the wheel of history continues to turn today, we owe it to the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Cubans, Palestinians, the Kurdish people, the Russian, German and Bulgarian proletariat, who paid for it with their blood and their lives.
The war for the national independence and freedom of the Vietnamese people, crowned by an internal victory, has been a major milestone in the history of world revolution. The invaluable contributions of this revolution became a light for oppressed peoples in their struggle for liberation.
Every step of national liberation struggles comes with great pain and demands great sacrifice. This long-term struggle requires first and foremost that people die for their independence. These are the circumstances in which the national independence and freedom of a people has evolved. To feel and see victory on the horizon, one must believe and trust the struggle.
In order to achieve national independence, one must become one with the people. In order to organise, one must know and understand the people and teach them to believe in liberation. This requires the right vanguard. With such a vanguard, all difficulties will be overcome and all doors opened.
If we look briefly at the history of Kurdistan, we see a lack of organisation that has led to chaos. We see collaborators, submissive characters – traitors and class enemies – who, in the name of leadership, have plunged their own people into ruin to further their own interests. The freedom struggle for independence was nipped in the bud by the unscrupulous, invasive, vicious and brutal oppression of the colonising states. Despite all this, our people have left us a legacy of resistance. If such an insurgent people as the people of Kurdistan, who shed so much blood for independence, who buried so many children, had had an vanguard, a leadership that had not become alienated from them, Kurdistan would have gained independence ten times already.
It was this people who broke the rule of the Assyrian empire. This people founded the empire of the Medes, which rose like a sun in the Middle East.
This people carried the torch of independence, defending it against the invading armies, the conquering emperors who had come from the East, the West and the South. These people were starving, homeless, but carried on their love of independence in the vast mountains.
This people lived with their language, their culture and produced Mem û Zîn, Ehmedê Xanî and Feqiyê Tayran.
It was this people that pitted the love of independence against the colonialism of the Turks, Persians and Arabs with the uprisings of Ubeydullah, Bedirhan, Beydinan, Yezdan Şer, Revanduz, Sason, Agirî, Zîlan, Palo, Genç, Hanî, and Dersîm.
They defeated and were defeated in turn, but they were never cowed by their defeats. This people took Bese as an example, who threw herself from the precipice of a mountain, refusing to surrender and to fall into the hands of the enemy. This people lived on with the memories of countless young, courageous fighters who blossomed like roses from the bloody earth.
Through years of being silenced through bloody oppression, for the longing for independence thought to have been destroyed, for the spirit of resistance and the contemporary spirit, the PKK’s birth has driven the organisation that it embodies with a new, more enthusiastic, eager and determined spirit.
Upon its foundation on an ideological, political and organisational level, the PKK became the target of the vigorous attacks and conspiracies of Turkish colonialism. One of the founders of the movement, the great communist pioneer and internationalist Haki Karer, became a victim of such a conspiracy. The murder of our comrade Haki showed us the challenges faced by the revolutionary struggle in Kurdistan.
When the first steps of organising the population and people’s struggle were taken in Kurdistan, it became imperative to use revolutionary force in order to overcome the difficulties that arose. This was indisputable for the survival of our struggle. In this respect, the physical death of Haki was also a milestone in deepening our struggle. The murder of Haki made us understand that death in the struggle against colonialism must be seen as a part of life.
Today, in Diyarbakir prison, the enemy is trying to smother our unique party, the hope for the salvation of our people, through its attacks on our person. This is a struggle for life and death. Wars can be lost, but we cannot afford to lose, because the consequences would be so severe. The responsibility would be painful and unbearable. We cannot afford to lose this war. When we entered this path we worked under a flag of immaculate resistance and we must carry this flag in the same clean condition. We have no choice. To live under this flag and raise it, there is no other way than resistance.
Our great pioneer and comrade Mazlum has shown us this in the past. As in all times, we are living through a very difficult and painful situation in the dungeons of Diyarbakir. In such a situation Comrade Mazlum became a symbol, sacrificing his precious life. Our party leadership [Rêber Apo] has exemplified the standard of responsibility with Comrade Mazlum.
Yes, our party expects us to resist. Under these conditions of imprisonment, in which we have no weapons, the party expects us to inflame our lives and our blood.
The light of any fire that is lit will break through the darkness that our enemies knit around us. Each fire kindled will destroy the subjugation and the walls of betrayal, lead us to our people and magnify the hope the people see in us. Every fire that is lit will be connected to the fire that Comrade Mazlum lit with three matches and will augment it. This fire will shatter the torture and the abominable aims of the colonial fascists.
The enemy is barbaric, the enemy is ruthless, the enemy is determined to reach his goal. If we do not say “stop” now, we will not only be ashamed of ourselves as revolutionaries, we will even be ashamed of ourselves as human beings. If we do not leave this prison in the name of our party, in the name of our people, with our heads held high, future generations will curse us for it. No excuse will spare us from our people’s desire for justice.
We, as well as our people outside, experience in the dungeons a time of death and survival. The way to overcome this is obvious. The experience and heritage of our party history has left us a great tradition of resistance. This tradition must be maintained. Today, however, it is more crucial, more vital and more necessary to maintain this tradition of resistance in Diyarbakır prison, where the enemy attacks mercilessly in many dangerous ways to destroy us and our people.
No one who organises himself within the party, no person, no honourable Kurdish Welatparêz [patriot], no sympathiser and supporter of the PKK should flee from this responsibility. Everyone can do something. And we must all become aware of what our party and our people expect of us and we must fight with this awareness.
With this action we will practically demonstrate the responsibility, trust and conviction we feel towards our party, our people and progressive humanity.
You should know one thing well: from now on the Turkish and Kurdish people will be with you. We are the successors of Haki in Antep, of Xelîl in Curnê Reş [Hilvan], of Besey in Dersîm. We are the successors of Mazlum Doğan in the prisons. We are not afraid, you should not be afraid.
Down with colonialism!
Down with imperialism!
Long live the PKK!
Long live the struggle for our national liberation!