The Daugh­ter of True Path, Sakine Can­siz

The Kurdish Globe - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS - By Behrooz Sho­jai

Years ago my pro­fes­sor in the His­tory of Re­li­gions de­part­ment was giv­ing a lec­ture about the his­tory of Is­lam. He was giv­ing an ac­count of the tragedy of Ker­bela, where Hus­sein, the grand­son of the prophet Muhammed was slain by Yezid ibn Mu’awia, the sec­ond caliph of the Omayyad Dy­nasty. “The com­mon sense would ar­gue against such a stupid mil­i­tary en­ter­prise, in which you will meet 5000 well-armed army when the num­ber of your troop is about 72 ill-armed in­di­vid­u­als”, was the way he de­scribed Hus­sein’s mil­i­tary ad­ven­tur­ism against Yezid.

In that moment I could hear the in­dig­nant mur­mur­ings of the Shi­ite stu­dents. “But”, Hedin added “although Hus­sein lost the bat­tle in Ker­bela, he won the bat­tle of le­git­i­macy; mil­lions of Shi­ites con­sider his cause as a just one, hence Hus­sein be­came the source of in­spi­ra­tion for the Shi­ites through­out the his­tory.”

Hus­sein lost on the bat­tle­ground that day but in the eyes of Shi­ites and Ale­vites he won the mo­ral bat­tle. The Kur­dish Ale­vites of Der­sim used to con­duct their pil­grim­age to Ker­bela in pre­vi­ous cen­turies be­fore Iraq was carved out of the Ot­toman Em­pire. But Imam Hus­sein re­mained a source of in­spi­ra­tion for re­sis­tance and en­durance in the hearts and minds of the peo­ple of Der­sim. Imam Hus­sein’s right­eous­ness and courage to op­pose tyranny has in­spired Der­simis to iden­tify them­selves as the “Chil­dren of (right) Path” or in Turk­ish as they call it “Yol Usagi”.

It is the na­tive des­ig­na­tion of their re­li­gion, although Turks des­ig­nate them as the Kizil­bash (Red Heads), point­ing to their red head­dress that they used to wear. Der­sim was one of the last places to come un­der Turk­ish suzerainty. It prob­a­bly be­came nom­i­nally, or rather ge­o­graph­i­cally, a part of the Ot­toman do­min­ions at the be­gin­ning of the six­teenth cen­tury, when Kur­dis­tan and the province of Di­yarbakir were sub­jected and an­nexed by Sul­tan Se­lim I.

Sub­se­quently, the Kurds who had al­ways en­joyed spe­cial priv­i­leges be­came prac­ti­cally in­de­pen­dent and very tur­bu­lent, and in 1834 an Ot­toman army was sent to pacify the coun­try. No at­tempt was then made, how­ever, to en­ter the moun­tain fast­ness of Der­sim, and its tribes re­mained wholly in­de­pen­dent, paying no taxes or trib­ute and rec­og­niz­ing in no way the Ot­toman author­ity. In 1848 Der­sim be­came a Kaza, with the seat of government be­ing at Khozat, but the Ot­toman Government still ex­er­cised no ef­fec­tive author­ity over the Der­simis.

Re­solved to put an end to this state of af­fairs, the Turks, in 1874-75, sent a mil­i­tary ex­pe­di­tion into Der­sim. Though the troops com­pletely failed to sub­ju­gate the tribes­men and suf­fered se­vere losses, a foot­ing was ob­tained in the coun­try and gov­er­nor­ships were es­tab­lished at Maz­gird, Ovacik, Kizil Kilise, and Chem­ishgezek. In th­ese places the Turks con­structed bar­racks and government build­ings, uti­liz­ing for this pur­pose the stones of the then numer­ous but hal­fru­ined Ar­me­nian churches. The gar­risons of th­ese towns suf­ficed merely to main­tain at their posts the gov­er­nors, whose author­ity did not ex­tend be­yond their im­me­di­ate en­vi­rons.

The Der­simis con­tin­ued to defy the Government. They paid no taxes and contributed lit­tle. This state of af­fairs con­tin­ued un­til 1908, when a sec­ond ex­pe­di­tion, un­der the com­mand of Ibrahim Pasha, Mushir of the 4th Army Corps, was sent to com­plete the sub­ju­ga­tion of Der­sim. The troops pen­e­trated into the moun­tains si­mul­ta­ne­ously from Khozat, Pu­lu­mur, and Kizil Kilise. The Der­simis, though they of­fered a stout re­sis­tance, as re­flected in the tes­ti­monies by the graves of the fallen Turk­ish sol­diers seen in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try, were in the end re­duced to com­plete submission. Their vil­lages were de­stroyed, their flocks seized, and they were left in a state of wretched poverty. Yet there were still pock­ets of ar­eas that the Turk­ish government could not con­trol.

The Kur­dish re­volts of 1925 led by Sheikh Said and the Mount Ararat In­de­pen­dence War against Turk­ish oc­cu­pa­tion in 1926-1938 were clear ev­i­dence that the Kurds had not been sub­dued. The two up­ris­ings were pro­voked by the Turk­ish repub­lic. How­ever, sup­press­ing the Kur­dish re­sis­tance was not with­out Turk­ish losses. In 1937, the Turks turned their gaze once more to the un­tamed Der­sim. With­out any provo­ca­tion, the Turks used all their forces to de­mor­al­ize the Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion of Der­sim. Thou­sands of civil­ians were burnt in caves, the Turk­ish Air Force bombed the en­tire plains of Der­sim and chil­dren of mas­sa­cred par­ents were taken as ser­vants to the homes of Turk­ish of­fi­cers.

The as­sas­si­nated Sakine Can­siz, a fe­male co-founder of PKK was born in this very Der­sim in 1958, only 20 years af­ter the Geno­cide of Der­sim. Her par­ents must have been eye­wit­nesses to the mas­sacres. And no doubt, Sakine must have in­her­ited the mem­o­ries of her par­ents, be­cause as a young woman, around the age of only 20, she was one the two fe­male founders of PKK. She was ar­rested short af­ter the mil­i­tary Junta of 1980 and sen­tenced to 20 years im­pris­on­ment but was re­leased in 1991. Her Turk­ish tor­turer was not able to break down her will and de­sire for free­dom. She did not let her­self be­come sub­dued to the vi­o­lence of Turk­ish nationalism and in­stead spat in the face of her tor­turer. The spirit of Der­sim and Der­simis was there in her mind - she was the daugh­ter of the true path.

Even within PKK she be­lieved in the truth, she op­posed the PKK lead­er­ship’s Stal­in­ist ap­proach. Her prison com­rade Mehmet Şener was even­tu­ally as­sas­si­nated by the PKK. She could flee and be­come a so called “iti­rafci” or con­fes­sor, former PKK mil­i­tants who changed side and worked to­gether with Turk­ish counter-guerilla forces against the PKK. But she chose to stay the course. How­ever, Sakine’s spirit for free­dom and truth hunted her through­out her life. Even af­ter the PKK’s Stalin-like trial shows against her, she never gave up, Sakine re­mained as an un­com­fort­able in­di­vid­ual within the PKK. Though a founder of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, she was sent to dif­fer­ent mis­sions across the world, she did not get any key po­si­tions, yet she was used as courier for dan­ger­ous tasks. Th­ese tasks may have been hu­mil­i­at­ing for her, but her loy­alty and hum­ble­ness was far greater than her de­sire for recog­ni­tion.

Sakine’s cause was just, she was a “yol ushagi”, the child of the true path. Those who as­sas­si­nated her knew that although PKK it­self may not have paid so much at­ten­tion to her ex­is­tence, she had a place in the hearts and minds of the Kurds and the Der­simis. Dark forces, be it Turk­ish ex­treme na­tion­al­ists, Syr­ian In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice, Ira­nian Et­te­laat or even PKK’s dark side knew that Sakine was the brave daugh­ter of Der­sim with spe­cial place in the mind of Car­du­cians who re­sisted for­eign in­trud­ers mil­len­nia ago.

Sakine will go to our minds as the hero­ine of Der­sim; the cry of the Der­sim’s lost daugh­ters, the spirit of drowned Der­simi women in Mun­zur in 1938 Geno­cide. Sakine was the proud daugh­ter of Kur­dis­tan.

Kurds mourn for the three fe­male ac­tivists shot Thurs­day in Paris. One of them, Sakine Can­siz, was leg­endary as a founder of the sep­a­ratist move­ment.

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