After Turkey’s Military Intelligence Organisation (MİT) on 6 May 1996 attempted to assassinate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in Syria, a young Kurdish woman, Zeynep Kınacı, nom de guerre Zilan, took the decision to avenge this attempt and to protest against Turkey’s repression of the Kurds.
On 30 June 1996, Zilan walked into a Turkish military parade in Turkey’s eastern city of Dersim and ignited a bomb on her body. Ever since, the name Zilan has been an epic symbol of resistance for millions of Kurds and every 30 June, Kurdish activists and their friends around the world commemorate Zilan, never allowing her name be forgotten from the memory of the Kurdish freedom struggle.
On the 25th anniversary of Zilan’s death, the Command of the Free Women’s Units (YJA-Star), the all-female military wing of the PKK, commemorated Zilan in a written statement.
“We commemorate with gratitude all our martrys and our Commander-in-Chief Zilan, who exploded the bombs which have been used by the fascist, genocidal, colonialist Turkish state to silence the passion for freedom and the rebellion against the slavery of the Kurdish people and of the Kurdish women, in Dersim, a city which has always been used as the Turkish state’s laboratory for its ‘special war’ against the Kurdish people,” stated the Kurdish female fighters.
The Star-Congress also organised a memorial for Zilan in Aleppo. “Martyr Zilan, who was the pioneer of the women’s struggle, showed us the truth by breaking the chains,” said Fatma Hesen, a member of the Star Congress who spoke during the ceremony.
“We have learned by our experiences that a unique individual takes a step forward and paves the way for a process which is stuck in a deadlock. They take a new step, they build something new. By doing so, they become a symbol for their nation, for their people, for the whole world,” she added.
The Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Party (PAJK) Coordination also issued a statement to commemorate Zeynep Kınacı and saluted her in person on behalf of all female Kurdish fighters who are now actively fighting in the Zap, Metina and Avashin regions of northern Iraq, where Turkey has been waging a massive military campaign for over two months.
“The practice of the guerrilla and the militance of democratic modernity is the characteristic of the revolutionary people’s militant struggle. This stance of the guerrilla represents the militance and revolutionary spirit of our era. The self-sacrificing guerrilla who take part in the Bazen Zagrose and Cenga Xabur revolutionary actions present the devotion and militant attitude of Commander Zilan,” read the PAJK statement.
These are her own words from the open letter she wrote before her action that were addressed to Abdullah Öcalan: “Our fight under the leadership of the PKK has saved the Kurdish people from its total destruction and led it onto the road of liberation. To inspire a people whose national values, soul, consciousness and identity belonged to the enemy, to stand up and fight, demands a great sense of responsibility, historical knowledge, courage and determination.”
In his speech of 30 June 1998, Abdullah Öcalan commemorated Zilan with the following words: ”
“In the martyrdom of the PKK that begins with Haki Karer to Sema Yüce with whom this martrydom reached a sublime level, they represent the courage, the distinctive characteristic of the PKK, which is also the main source of its strength.
“The martyrs are the biggest source of strength: they represent the courage of the PKK. They represent the devotion, an unbounded devotion. They signify something so much bigger that neither the narrow purposes of a gender, a class or a nation can ever define. They are the most advanced, the most hard to achieve level of the most dignified humanity.
“This truth of the martyrs is actually what runs the PKK and its battle. So, are you searching for strength? Look at these people. Are you looking for devotion? Look at these people. And we should all look at these people. Do you want to be focused in war, do you want full success? Look at these people.
“Do you want to reach the level of freedom in your life? This matter, which we briefly call as the ‘free life,’ comes with no questions, but with its solutions. These people realised this solution. Maybe they are individual symbols. However, they are also the creative power of ever-fulfilling life, of the free will and the unity of a nation. That is why these people have always been appraised just as much as Gods and Goddesses throughout history.”