The path of revolutionary Internationalism: Şehîd Ronahî

Heval Ronahî, Andrea Wolf, was murdered by the Turkish state on 23 October 1998 together with 23 of her comrades in Catak.

Heval Ronahî, Andrea Wolf, was murdered by the Turkish state on the 23rd of October 1998 together with 23  of her comrades in Catak, Northern Kurdistan. Ronahî was a German revolutionary that had joined the PKK movement. In 1996, she stayed at the Academy of Şehîd Mahsum Korkmaz in Damascus with Rêber Apo (Abdullah Öcalan). Learning from him, she gained a perspective on internationalism and the revolution in Europe as well as on the freedom of the Kurdish people. Here Heval Ronahi gave her promise  to follow and deepen the revolutionary path. Afterwards, she went to the free mountains of Kurdistan and took her place as a member of the free women's army YAJK in the war against the occupiers of Kurdish soil. 24 years ago today, she gave her soul to the revolution in the mountains of Botan and became immortal.

The revolutionary Andrea Wolf,  Şehîd Ronahî, was born in 1965 in Munich, Germany. From her youth onwards, she and her brother participated in the anti-system youth movement. As punks, they didnt accept capitalism, fascism and racism and carried out actions against the police, fascists and ecological disastrous construction projects. In 1981 she was arrested and spent months in prison, which  motivated her to struggle even harder.  Şehîd Ronahî took part in the radical feminist movement and organized many actions, both legal and illegal. In this time the so called autonomous movement, which Heval Ronahî was a part of, was very strong among the youth in Germany. In the 80‘s she participated in significant ecological and anti-capitalist struggles. She and her group participated in the protest to stop the atomic power plant in Wackersdorf and also in the protest against the enlargement of the airport in Frankfurt (Startbahn West). In Frankfurt she also built women‘s structures, they occupied houses and built revolutionary feminist centers. She always recognized the importance of the mentality of self-defence and trained in martial arts – from the cities in Germany to the mountains of Kurdistan she would teach Karate to her comrades. While she was participating in revolutionary organizations, agents of the German secret service were in her very close surroundings three times.

In this way, she personally got to know the reality of the German state, and understood the difference between the truth of revolutionary resistance and betrayal. In 1987, as a consequence of betrayal by agents,  she had to spend another year in prison. She  stayed in contact with RAF members (Red Army Fraction)  with letters, discussing ideological and political topics. In all of her organizing, Şehîd Ronahî was known to be very clear, decisive and radical. When after the fall of real socialism the leftist organizations fell into a serious crisis she didn‘t stop her activities and continued to take up the initiative. In Frankfurt they built up the organization „No peace“ (the full name was „No peace with the banks“) and struggled for a new revolutionary anti-capitalist identity.  The group focused mainly on sabotage actions. They were looking for a new way to make a revolution in Germany. Besides particpating in these illegal actions, Heval Ronahi was also took part in the organization of a support network for the self-defence of migrants against fascist attacks. In this time, at the end of the 80's, she also got to know the PKK during her participation in campaigns against the law for criminalizing political organizations (§129 a) and b)). In 1995 she had to go into hiding due to an arrest warrant, issued because of an obviously constructed participation in an action carried out by the RAF.  Şehîd Ronahî criticized the German revolutionaries a lot and saw the necessity to build up a new form of organization. On this basis, she deepened her understanding of internationalism and, in the year 1996, left for Kurdistan.

In her diary she writes: 

"My concept of internationalism was formed anew. Until now, we were thinking ins a schematic order: first to build up a movement here and then with others. But if we are internationalists, we can and have to do both at the same time. And we can take part in the struggle on the other side of the world in order to learn, because our horizon is not stopping at our national borders. Especially since we as people in the metropolis can only really understand our situation if we are looking at ourselves with the eyes from outside."

Şehîd Ronahî took part in the Academy of Mahsum Korkmaz and was deeply influenced by it. Rêber Apo‘s (Abdullah Öcalan) stance on life and his friendship had an especially big influence on the German revolutionaries. In her diary she explained that she never met another human like him in her life, who, as a man, took the freedom of women equally seriously and put so much effort into it: "The men, in order to show who they are, are always „better“ than women. I know only one human, that, as a man, really is interested in our liberation: Abdullah Öcalan. He is not only talking about it, but this interest finds its realization in his actions and orders. He says, that the man is capitalism, the woman is socialism."

Rêber Apo had many discussions with internationalist comrades from all over the world. With the comrades who had come from Germany to the academy at that time he discussed internationalism, the role of Germany in the war against the freedom movement, and the German personality and revolutionary perspectives for Germany.  Rêber Apo asked: "So did you get to know this enemy?", and an internationalist comrade from Germany answered "It is imperialism, my president".

Rêber Apo responded to this answer with an interesting evaluation, which is today even more valid: "Looked at it basically it is imperialism. So it is also your own enemy. It is really like this that at the moment we are fighting 50% against the German army and the German bourgeoisie. You should have fought directly against your own oppressors. You should have fought and won, but unfortunately you left this task to me.  Such a poor person like me you burdened with that fight. But we had to make you part of this war. In the end we are fighting together against the same class. That is clear. Yesterday I told to the friends: „This war is not only a Kurdish war, it is also a Turkish and also a German war." (quote from a discussion with German comrades who stayed at the Academy of Mahsum Korkmaz before the conspiracy against Rêber Apo and before he developed the new paradigm). 

Şehîd Ronahî learned Turkish at the academy and took part in the lessons. Rêber Apo wanted to progress the world revolution within the personalities of her internationalist comrades. To prepare for their future tasks, many comrades were traveling to the mountains as well. Şehîd Ronahî went with them and took part in the guerilla practice. While with the guerilla she always continued her ideological reflections and discussions, she wanted to deeply understand the struggle of PKK and the ideology of Rêbertî. She shared her observations and reflections with her comrades in Germany with letters. In the writings she calls them to also participate in the ranks of guerilla in order to learn the philosophy and experience of PKK and to struggle against the orientalist mentality:

"I am often asked why more Germans/Europeans are not here. The pool of experience here is very rich. It is hard to explain: prejudices, perspectives on their own role in Germany, Eurochauvinism, men‘s chauvinism. Here they have to give up their privileges to use women. The fear of one‘s self, because without this privilege they are nothing. But this nothingness is not understood as a starting point to build up a new identity – they prefer to flee from this. It is an old story, I also know."

Şehîd Ronahî gave instruction in the mountains for physical conditioning, self-defence, and swimming to young female comrades. She took part in the war against the KDP and insisted on going to Botan, where she went in 1997. She knew that there was a chance to fall Şehîd there, and with a strong internationalist consciousness she took part in guerilla life. She said that it is not important in which place we will fall in the revolution, but we have to know for what cause we are fighting:  

"I saw the murderous machines of the imperialists and got so angry. Why is Turkey not stopping its dominating attack on Kurdistan? Of course I know why, but it really touched me again. I now see it like this. For me it doesn't make a difference where I am fighting. I can fall too. But I know, for the greater cause, it is important that I will return."

Şehîd Ronahî also experienced contradictions and made them a topic in discussions with the comrades, always wanting to understand more. She saw herself responsible for the revolution in Kurdistan and, for this reason, criticized the comrades around her if she observed shortcomings in daily life. She also believed very much in the development of the women‘s army and the system of gender struggle inside the PKK. She saw that the women‘s freedom movement, with the upbuilding of autonomous structures, was more progressive than the German organizations she knew. Inside the German setting she had experienced, despite her participation in the feminist movement, which often organized separatists, the gender struggle on a daily basis was still being mostly carried out on an individual level inside personal relationships between men and women. For example, each woman was struggling to make "her boyfriend" better, trying to carry out the gender struggle in this way. In Kurdistan she learned that with this approach we will not be successful against patriarchy: "Speaking politically, it is about the question of how far I trust in our strength as women, because men will not give up their privileges by themselves. This has been my experience and it is really like this. Besides Abdullah Öcalan, I don't know any male comrade who has a serious interest, that we as women stand up and get strong. It is not possible by only attacking the privileges within a personal relationship, especially since there is no other place where this contradiction is struggled with."

Şehîd Ronahî, with her personality, became one of the lights to show us our way as internationalist women and internationalists in general. The PKK was an internationalist organization from the beginning. The first two friends starting to build up the group around Abdullah Öcalan, Haki Karer and Kemal Pir, who were Turkish. Rêber Apo always connected the revolution in Kurdistan with the world revolution in his philosophy and developed his guidance as an answer for people in the whole world. Şehîd Ronahî understood this, and on this basis decided to progress the German revolution. Her personality is still an example for us today.

A comrade  described her like this: “Ronahî, our lively comrade always having the urge to go further. Always struggled with comfortability, inconsequence, was impatient with herself and others. She was starting to look for practical solutions. With clarity, she positioned herself on the side of the denounced ones.“ As a German she was humbly approaching the Kurdish struggle, at the same time didn‘t give up her radicality, her own previous experience and her critical thoughts. She participated with her full energy in the work and understood the revolution in Kurdistan as her own revolution.

Her belief in PKK was strong: "I don't want to fall into the ideology of saying everyone has to come to them, with them – this is the only way. But on the one hand, I get sad when comrades who are close to me don‘t share a common understanding (…). I am going there because I see the principles and values as true and I don‘t know any other place, any other process which is setting them as a standard for themselves and puts them into practice." 

"I don‘t know – without wanting to make propaganda – no other movement that is less dogmatic than the PKK, although we can say it is authoritarian, but what is more authoritarian than revolution? And secondly, which is really realizing women's liberation.“ In her observations, she was always also thinking about the necessities of the German revolution, how it can be developed and how the relationship between the struggle in the mountains and in the metropolises should look like. In her last letter to her comrades that was published, she makes clear that Kurdistan is not a place of refuge, but a place to find solutions for the organizational problems in Europe: „In this way to the connection with them [the PKK] is not only a „point of refuge for failed existences“ but a real chance to find a solution. I am convinced you could make a big difference with the accumulation of experience, knowledge, history that is combined in your group when you would get together with them, also in the questions about organizing and developing a perspective for Europe. I just wanted to give this to you think about again."

Şehid Ronahî got her code name from Şehîd Ronahî (Bedriye Taş) who set herself on fire in Germany on Newroz 1994 together with Şehîd Bêrîvan (Nîlgûn Yildirim). This action was directed against the banning the PKK and the Kurdish liberation struggle by the German state, as a consequence of which many comrades were put into prison. By taking up her name, Şehîd Ronahî became an answer to the action of Şehîd Ronahî and Şehîd Bêrîvan, showing that the German and Turkish states cannot seperate people thriving for freedom from each other, and that the attacks against the PKK also sparked fires of resistance in other peoples around the world. Şehîd Ronahî participated in the ranks of the guerilla as a German revolutionary and like this spread the fire of resistance of the Kurdish people. In this spirit, the conspiracy starting in the same year and politics of isolation against Rêber Apo and the PKK were proven to be without effect. In 2013, during the peace process between Abdullah Öcalan and the state of Turkey, despite the Turkish state‘s attempts to prevent it, a grave stone in her memory was installed in the village of Kelahêrê in the region of Şax and was given the name of 'Place of Matyrs Ronahî'. The Turkish state bombed and destroyed this place in 2015, still aided by the technology and financial support of the German state.

Şehîd Ronahî, while experiencing war for the first time in Kurdistan, saw the aircrafts and other weaponry that are produced in Germany.

She saw the urgent necessity for the creation of a strong anti-militarist movement that could really stop these weapon productions and weapon trades before they are used to massacre the Kurdish population:

"I wish there would be movements in the metropolises attacking this war, rendering it impossible. Just cutting off the supply – that would be something. A militant movement, that is paralyzing the war machine." 

This analysis of Şehîd Ronahî is still completely relevant today. Western states are still shipping weapons to Turkey and the Middle East that are being used for committing genocide. Prohibited chemical weapons are used thousands of times these days, mostly coming from companies in the Western states, and the Turkish state, the German state, and the NATO states are committing genocide against Kurds together. Just last week the identities of another 17 guerillas who fell as a result of these weapons were published. The world is staying silent in front of these crimes against humanity. The two female guerillas,  Şehîd Sara Tolhildan and  Şehîd Rûken Zelal, carried out an action against Turkish police officers in the city of Mersin, Northern Kurdistan on September 26th, to awaken the people to these undescribal brutalities. Even the HPG saw it necessary to publish a video of a comrade dying under the effects of the chemical weapons, to finally make people take action about it. We have to remember and understand the legacy of Şehîd Ronahî: It is necessary that we as internationalist comrades of the Kurdish movement immediately build up and make unstoppable movements against this dirty war against the guerillas  in the mountains. They are our guarantor for freedom and we owe them to fight side by side by all means available, to tell everyone we know about the cooperation of Western states with Turkey and the complicity in the massacres taking place, to write to all journalists and politicians we know, to go to the streets and organize actions. Our efforts must be strong and successful, and we cannot stop until the use of chemical and nuclear weapons in Kurdistan is ended for good. 

(The diary of Andrea Wolf published in German can be found here)