On September 12th, 1980, the Turkish military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government, destroying political and cultural institutions across society.
In the aftermath of the coup, martial law was imposed. Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested, and five hundred people were sentenced to death. People were denied all basic political rights.
Sakine Cansız, one of the co-founders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was one of just two women to participate in the PKK’s founding congress in 1978. She is considered a pioneer of the Kurdish women’s movement.
In May 1979, she was arrested along with other members of the PKK and sent to the Diyarbakır E-type Prison.
She spent years in jail in Diyarbakir, where prisoners were subjected to inhuman treatment and torture. The prison became a symbol of the 1980 coup due to the human rights abuses that took place during the period of military rule.
Cansiz was the first woman from the Kurdish freedom movement to mount a political defense in court. She continued to lead the Kurdish movement while in jail, becoming a “legend among PKK members”.
In the mid-1990s, she went to Europe to take responsibility for the PKK’s European branch and deal with the group’s civil affairs.
Sakine Cansız was assassinated in Paris on 9 January 2013, along with Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez.
She wrote her memoir in Turkish, in the mountains of northern Iraq (South Kurdistan) in the mid-1990s. The book, entitled ”Sara: My Whole Life Was a Struggle,” has been translated into German and English.