“In the story of the PKK, there are several memorable moments which always remain alive in one’s memory. We have taken our place in this story.” These are the words of Kevser Eltürk, nomme de guerre Ekin Wan, who was a Kurdish fighter of the Free Women’s Units (YJA – Star), an all-female armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkish armed forces stripped and displayed the body of Eltürk after she was killed during an armed clash with the Turkish state forces on 10 August 2015 in the eastern city of Muş in Turkey.
The torture and acts committed on the deceased body of Eltürk caused massive outrage and has been the subject of protests by women all over the world. Human rights activists and political commentators have strongly criticised the necro-politics of Turkey and its armed forces that has led to gruesome acts being applied on Kurdish individuals and bodies since the 1990s. Condemnation of such inhumane treatment of a deceased body has come from several sections of society.
Women took to the streets in Turkey and in many countries of Europe after this shocking and unforgettable treatment of Eltürk, chanting the slogans, “Ekin Wan is our honour”, “Ekin Wan is the stark naked symbol of our resistance” and “Women wore resistance as a piece of cloth against the state’s brutality.”
The days following Eltürk’s death and public revelation concerning how her body had been abused led to turmoil and conflict in eastern and south-eastern Turkey, as democratic self-government declarations and declarations of resistance by Kurdish citizens were also made. The state employed extreme violence against the protesters.
The self-government declaration in Varto, where Eltürk was killed, was issued on 13 August 2015, and it also showed that the cruel practice of the state to terrorise Kurds by their actions against Eltürk did not stop their active resistance, as a Kurdish community, in the way the Turkish state authorities had hoped.
Unfortunately, the inhumane treatment and abuse of Eltürk’s body, in death, does not represent the last occasion in which such types of acts have been perpetrated by the Turkish armed forces.
Even during the 1990s, it has been documented and revealed that the Turkish state adopted a widespread war strategy – which was often referred to as a “dirty war policy” by the Kurdish politicians – that employed acts of kidnapping, torturing and forcibly disappearing Kurdish activists.
Amputating the body parts of the killed Kurdish fighters, even making “souvenirs” with these body parts, dumping deceased bodies in garbage-processing sites, exposing their bodies in front of state buildings and dragging them in the streets tied to armoured vehicles have only been few examples of such practices of Turkey’s war strategy against the Kurds that have been publicly exposed.
Similar tactics have been applied since 2015 during the increased armed clashes that have taken place and in the intensified siege conditions and operations that have been conducted in eastern and south-eastern cities. There have also been initiatives that have sought to disrupt the mourning processes and funeral rites of Kurdish families, paying their last respects for their loved ones and to prevent them from practicing their burial and funeral rituals. Cemeteries have been desecrated as well.
Kevser Eltürk was born in 1986 in Navre, a village in the south-eastern province of Van (Wan). She joined the YJA – Star forces in 2008 when she was 20 years old. She has become a symbol of how dead bodies of Kurds and Kurdish women, who actively participate in the Kurdish liberation struggle, have been targeted by the cruel ‘irregular’ warfare of the Turkish state.
“Ekin went to the mountains because she could not accept the cruelty against her people. Ekin never submitted to any men, she has such a struggling soul. She was the youngest in our home: she was the apple of our eye. She was such a sweetheart,” said Gülistan Eltürk, her sister, in an interview after her sister’s death.
Describing her sister as a “free spirit,” Gülistan described her stance as follows: “She always had a stance against violence against women. She used to say: any hand reaching out to attack women should be broken.”