our interview

july 01, 2024

Zeynep Kinaci (Zilan) carried out a self-sacrifice action against the Turkish army on June 30, 1996. What was 1996 like for the Kurdish people, the Kurdish freedom movement, and the enemy in political and military terms?

As Kurdish society, we face many problems and difficulties with regard to the protection of our own nation, existence, identity, politics, self-defense, society, organization, education, knowledge, and personality. We also face difficulties in restructuring these. It was Rêber Apo1 who created and developed solutions to our problems. If it were not for him, it would be a matter of debate whether we, the Kurdish people who are subjected to genocide, would have been able to organize, struggle, and develop such a strong cause. That is the reason why the enemy is attacking Rêber Apo so heavily. With the emergence of Rêber Apo and the freedom movement, our enemies – the imperialist, oppressive, and hegemonic powers – joined hands and waged a special war against the Kurdish struggle for freedom and against Rêber Apo. The Turkish Gladio structure was established in Kurdistan, organized under the name of JITEM, and together with the mercenaries of Hizbulkontra, they massacred our patriotic people.

The enemy tried to create personality problems within the societies of Kurdistan to sabotage the freedom movement in this way. There were particularly problems of pioneering, leadership, and militancy. Rêber Apo focused on these problems, especially in the years 1992 to 1995. If one looks at the analyses of Rêber Apo, one will clearly see that Rêber Apo concentrated all his power to resolve our internal problems. A struggle and an ideological war were being developed by Rêber Apo. Particularly in 1995, he wanted to bring about a breakthrough within the freedom movement. As he has said at this time, “In 1996, we will take new steps to rebuild ourselves. We have great goals.” He had prepared the movement in every way for this next step. Of course, the enemy was also aware of this and tried to take measures against it. This measure was the physical destruction of Rêber Apo. They wanted to kill Rêber Apo in the first step, and in the second step, they wanted to liquidate the freedom movement and subject the entire Kurdish people to genocide.

On May 6, 1996, the enemy organized an assassination attack to physically destroy Rêber Apo. A bomb-loaded car exploded in front of the Party Academy where Rêber Apo was staying. The aim of this attack was to leave the Kurdish people leaderless. They wanted to turn the clock back in time, when the Kurds were without Rêber Apo. However, precautions were taken because of the Party knows its enemy well. This consciousness was also formed by the pioneers of the movement, its cadres, and militants. Thanks to the measures taken by Rêber Apo and the movement, this attack was thwarted.

Can we say that comrade Zilan realized the threat against Rêber Apo and therefore carried out this action against the enemy? What messages did she convey both internally, and externally to the enemy through her action?

Comrade Zilan decided to carry out a sacrificial action against this concept of destruction and annihilation that the enemy was applying to Rêber Apo. At this time, comrade Zilan had not even been in the movement for two years, and she hasn’t been a guerrilla in the mountains of Dersim (tr. Tunceli) for long either. Comrade Zilan, a conscious and patriotic person, conducted an action that was against the attack on the existence and free life of Kurds. It was by far not only a military action. With the consciousness and will she received through Rêber Apo and the freedom movement, comrade Zilan decided to carry out a self-sacrificial action. Yes, it was a very strategic military action; it determined the tactics and strategy of the period in guerrilla warfare, but it also paved the way for many other things as well. It was a very sacred and great action. This action of comrade Zilan was an answer for us.

Can it be said that comrade Zilan’s action, personality and ideas represent a turning point for both the Kurdish freedom movement and the Kurdish women’s freedom movement?

Indeed, comrade Zilan’s action was a huge turning point for the struggle, and particularly for the women’s struggle, on an ideological, social, and political level. Zilan blew up backward understandings in relation to real socialism and the military and political blockage. She frustrated the concept of the enemy. It is necessary to make deep analyses about her. In the case of Zilan, Kurdish women created an explosion of freedom within themselves. With comrade Zilan, new developments emerged in Kurdish men as well. The backwardness of men also blew up in this fedai2 action. Comrade Zilan affected everyone, men and women, with her stance.

She caused serious social, cultural, personal, and military changes. Thousands of Kurdish youths have set out to follow her path. For example comrade Sema Yüce3 was following in comrade Zilan’s footsteps, when she carried out her action in Canakkale Prison. In her letter she wrote; “I wish I could have done an action like comrade Zilan”.

With comrade Zilan’s action, Rêber Apo also made radical changes. His focus on women’s freedom and analyzing the shortcomings of real socialism deepened. Through this, he built the ideology of women’s liberation. Rêber Apo once said about Zilan, that she is “our commander, we are her fighters”. Comrade Fikri Baygeldi,4 followed the path that comrade Sema took as the path of free women and adopted it. Rêber Apo is very interested in the reality of Kurdish men and Kurdish women. The ruling powers in Kurdistan had established a very special patriarchal system, but Rêber Apo managed to create a society that overcame this and the fear of death. Our comrades who are currently fighting on the forefront follow this spirit, will and way of life.

How should the relationship between life, war and struggle be evaluated? How is it related to Zilan’s action?

We have nothing to fear anymore. A person who defeats death in her or his personality is very attached to life. In Zilan’s action and personality, a very strong desire to live can be spotted. She killed death. In Kurdistan, the line between life and death was blurred. Before the struggle, life had no meaning anymore; life only took place on a biological level. Life gains meaning through struggle. One struggles in order to give meaning to her or his life.

For 50 years we have been waging a struggle for existence, identity, cultural, political, self-defense, economic and social struggle. In this way, life in Kurdistan has gained some meaning. Life in Kurdistan has become precious. Thanks to Rêber Apo, thanks to Zilan, Sema, Fikri Baygeldi, and many other comrades, life has found meaning. Now human life is valuable. The belief of the Kurdish people is now the belief in free life. All our comrades who are currently fighting in the tunnels of resistance are the successors of Zilan, Gulan5 and Sema.

Zilan saw the threat against Rêber Apo, read and foresaw the conspiracy very well and made a historic move against it. But the conspiracy continues today in a deeper, more widespread and dirtier way. How do you evaluate the leadership of women in the global campaign for the pysical freedom of Rêber Apo and a democratic solution to the Kurdish question?

To defend Rêber Apo means to defend the Kurdish people, to defend free thought and ideology, to defend free life itself. Rêber Apo managed to revitalize and rebuild the Kurdish society. It is a fundamental duty to defend him. In her letter, comrade Zilan gave the Kurdish people and us the duty to defend Rêber Apo. Thanks to this system and paradigm, the number of friends and comrades of the Kurds have increased all over the world.

We used to say that there were no friends of the Kurds other than the mountains of Kurdistan. Now, under the leadership of our international friends, breakthroughs are being made in the struggle for the physical freedom of Rêber Apo. Our people and women need to do a lot of research on this issue. It is necessary to participate in this global campaign in every sense. Everyone should take their participation one step further and make their lives meaningful. From today onwards, participation in the movement must increase even more. Let your children defeat death. What are you afraid of?

The participation of Kurdish women in this movement is very important. They are doing a lot of work and showing great effort, and it is them who are leading this movement. Women are playing a leading role at the international level as well, and I salute their efforts and work, but women should play an even more decisive role. They should clarify their guidelines at the autonomous level and formulate their claims. They should develop more independent actions. Once again, I salute our friends who are organizing this campaign and this resistance. I call on them to enrich the style of this movement and continue with even more effective actions.


1 Referring to Kurdish peoples leader Abdullah Ocalan.

2 ‘Fedai’ literally translates into English as ‘sacrificial’, or someone who is self-sacrificing. In the Kurdish freedom movement, self-sacrifice is an essential concept that has different interpretations depending on the context.

3 Sema Yüce was a leading militant of the Kurdish women’s movement. On March 21, 1998, she set fire to her own body in protest against the attempted assassination of the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and in solidarity with the self-immolation actions of many political prisoners in Turkish prisons. She succumbed to her burn injuries on June 17, 1998.

4 Fikri Baygeldi was a Kurdish militant who burned himself to death in 1998 a few days after Sema Yüce set herself on fire in Canakkale prison as a sign of protest.

5 Filiz Yerlikaya (nom de guerre: Gulan) was a leading militant of the Kurdish women’s movement and a commander of the special forces. On June 7, 2002, she was murdered in Qendîl on the sidelines of a congress by collaborationist forces who wanted to weaken the role of women in the Kurdish freedom movement.