Çewlik: The spirit of 15 August will lead us to victory

Zozan Çewlik, commander of the Central Headquarters of YJA Star (Free Women's Associations), spoke to ANF about the start of the PKK's armed struggle in Kurdistan on 15 August 1994.

The 15 August offensive played a major role in enabling the Kurdish people to survive. The guerrilla struggle that developed along the line of Heval Egîd created a first in Kurdish history. The Kurds have been exposed to exploitation, war, massacres and genocide for centuries. For this reason, many betrayals have often occurred. Society was fragmented and divided. On the other hand, the Kurds have always fought against the occupiers and never gave up resistance. Many uprisings took place before the PKK, but they never lasted long. They were crushed by massacres and expulsion. The Kurds fell into a state of hopelessness in the face of the enemy.

Zozan Çewlik, commander of the Central Headquarters of YJA Star (Free Women's Associations), spoke to ANF about the start of the PKK's armed struggle in Kurdistan on 15 August 1994. Here are some excerpts of her interview.

Çewlik said: “The 15 August initiative was different. It was organized and had a strategy and a goal. The classic Kurdish way of fighting was overcome. For this reason, the Turkish state has not been able to defeat the guerrillas in Kurdistan to this day. 15 August brought about fundamental changes for the Kurdish people, and the same goes for Kurdish women. The offensive gave rise to great hope among the population. In the revolutionary struggle, the Kurdish people have become strong-willed, organized and hopeful people.”

The reality of women in Kurdistan

Çewlik added: “If we look at the reality of Kurdish women, we see  enslavement within the male system of domination that has lasted for 5000 years. They were enslaved both as Kurds and as women. Violence against women was legitimized in the patriarchal system of rule. Women were not seen as human beings, they were made into commodities with no will and the basis of a patriarchal concept of honour. That was the prevailing idea. Women played an important role in society. However, they were excluded from many areas. That was also reality in Kurdistan.

If we look at history from a different perspective, we see Kurdish women who fought for freedom at every opportunity and never surrendered to the enemy. In order not to surrender and to defend their honor and dignity, they blew themselves up or through themselves from cliffs, leading the resistance. There are many heroines in Kurdish history. Despite the massacres they experienced, Kurds took part in the freedom struggle. Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] was a great leader for the Kurdish people and Kurdish women as well. His attitude to the women's liberation struggle is clear. The women's struggle and the women guerrillas were built up together with Rêber Apo. Theory and practice took place simultaneously.”

Women have been involved in the struggle from the beginning

Çewlik continued: “Women have been involved in revolutionary work since the emergence of our movement. The will and color of women were brought to the fore. This has always been the attitude of Rêber Apo and our movement. And since Rêber Apo started this fight, Kurdish women say: We are with this resistance, whatever the cost. An example of this is the resistance of Heval Sara [Sakine Cansız] in the dungeon of Amed. Women have been attacked at every level, both by the enemy and by society. Heval Sara recognized the reality of Rêber Apo and the party very early on and joined the fight.

The 15 August offensive marked a turning point in our history and led to strategic changes in both our movement and our society. It showed the ways and methods of the battle line. The Kurdish women did not hesitate either and took part. 15 August had a positive effect on women's guerrilla warfare. An autonomous army was not formed until 1993, but women were already fighting armed. Today, women are fighting the enemy all over Kurdistan. They perform great feats and there are many valuable casualties. The August 15 offensive was a basis for women's struggle for freedom.”

Çewlik said: “At this point I would like to once again pay tribute to our female pioneers who were the first to join the guerrilla struggle. The YJA Star is a concrete expression of the resistance line created by women like Hanım Yaverkaya, Besê Anuş, Azime, Çiçek Selcan, Rahime, Ozan Mizgîn, Adife Sakık, Heval Sara, Bêrîvan, Zîlan and Bêrîtan.

These women not only fought against the enemy, but also against a society that only saw men as strong. That is why they did not lag behind in the armed struggle. Today, Kurdish women are organized in all areas. We have asserted ourselves and gained experience.”

The women fought free

Çewlik continued: “Anyone who doesn't know us will be amazed when they first meet us. They wonder how there can be two revolutions within one revolution and two armies within one guerrilla army. It's difficult to understand if you don't know Rêber Apo's philosophy. As YJA Star and HPG, we have the same origin, namely the 15 August 1984 initiative. Many movements worldwide have resorted to the method of guerrilla warfare to defend their freedom. Women too took part in these revolutionary struggles and paid a great price for it. But the PKK has proved to be different. The guerrillas in Kurdistan are also a way of life. The way of life determines the way of fighting. Women have become an organized force with a will of their own. That makes the difference of the guerrillas in Kurdistan. The August 15 offensive produced courageous pioneers who fought against the enemy as well as anything reactionary. The Kurdish women have proven themselves with their army in life and in war. They fought free.”

The women's guerrilla has changed the way men think about domination

Çewlik added: “Women used to be unable to defend themselves. Rêber Apo, the PKK and the emergence of a women's army brought about change and transformation. We don't just look at the guerrilla from a military perspective. The women guerrillas play a crucial role in bringing about change. It changed thinking based on male domination. And that's one of the differences that defines the guerrillas in Kurdistan. 15 August was the basis for Kurdish women to show how they want to fight and live. For this reason, despite the support of many ruling powers and the line of collaboration in Kurdistan, the Turkish military, as one of the largest armies in NATO, has not had any success against the guerrillas for 39 years.

A major reason for this is the strength that the PKK has gained through the emergence of the women's army. The influence, will and courage of women have fundamentally transformed both women and men. Rêber Apo's paradigm creates a free personality in both. Commander Egîd's line has become a way of life and a way of fighting for the freedom guerrillas of Kurdistan. The struggle of the Kurds is seen worldwide as a role model. Our guerrilla warfare has shown everyone that there is no freedom without defense. The women and society fighting for freedom in all parts of Kurdistan are oriented towards the guerrillas. She is a model for all women and peoples who want freedom."