Kedistan is reprinting and translating this article by Joseph Andras published on December 31 2019 by l’Humanité, at the author’s request, in solidarity with his wish to provide as wide a coverage as possible to the plight of our friend Sara Aktaş.
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Sara Aktaş “Women of the Red Times”
This is something that never ceases to astonish: the most literate among the mammals has persisted for millenia in regimenting his equal. When he isn’t busy enjoying himself by locking her away or controlling what is going on between her thighs. This is not the case for all males, of course. But given their numbers, one is authorized in using the ladle and not the spoon– it is truly as a group that the masculine needs to be questioned and, somewhere in the Middle-East, a movement has begun to offer some answers. It so happens that this movement is taxed of “terrorism”. It also happens that such qualifications are never innocent. What we call power requires this sort of legitimacy. State power, in this instance. And when the State draws up lists of bastards, one is well advised to look over the lists twice : for the State has law on its side, even should that law be another name for terror!
Let’s speak clearly: we are talking about Turkey and of the Kurdish revolutionary movement as historically constituted around the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK and of its sister organizations. Let us now speak this other name, Sara Aktaş. Unknown in these parts; over there, somewhere between two seas, the name appears on the covers of two books of poems : Ruines de guerre (Ruins of war) and Le contraire serait mensonge (The opposite would be lying)
It all begins in Îdir, not far from the Armenian border – Iğdır, in Turkish. A land of cotton and apricots. Sara Aktaş is born there, end of February 1976. She then studies philosophy in Ankara and joins the Kurdish Liberation Movement in the 1990s. In fact, that is not quite the beginning of the story: at the time of her birth, they were still counting the dead in Irak from the last war that had opposed the peshmergas and the victorious army of the Baathist regime; in Turkey, the PKK was on the verge of coming into being : marxist, autonomist, authoritarian and the proponent of armed struggle against historical Turkish oppression. Initially absent from the organization’s ideological corpus, the question of women’s emancipation impressed itself as essential during the 1980s, to the point of becoming the foundation of Kurdish revolutionary socialism. Women in the movement, it is said “have taken the lead in the struggle for freedom.”
Thus, Sara Aktaş assails “male fascism”. The same, according to the “women’s science of liberation“, that emerged during the Neolithic on the ruins of the “cult of the Mother”, as it existed in “primitive socialism” prior to the power grab through hunting, monotheism, Nation States and capitalism. Aktaş was one of the spokespersons for the Free Women’s Democratic Movement, founded in the opening years of 2000 before being replaced by the Congress of Free Women, itself replaced by the Free Women’s Movement. She was co-founder of the Democratic Society Party and instituted within it a feminine quota of 40% : the party was outlawed by the regime in 2009 purportedly for its links with the PKK. That same year, the poet was jailed following a massive raid carried out by the AKP despot – we are speaking of Erdoğan – against the KCK , the Kurdistan Communities Group – the raid resulting in some 8 000 arrests. Aktaş was not without knowing the cost of defying Turkish nationalism: there followed ten years of jail in Konya, as well as in Sivas which she had already experienced. Torture also. In captivity she found poetry as a means of expression – simple, naked, she will tell us. “In my eyes, poetry has never flowed from some dreamlike language.”
The revolutionary woman was liberated in the summer of 2014 and set up the Feminist Association of Southeastern Turkey – soon outlawed.
“We / with our buried revolt / our serenity hiding in lake bottoms / Forty braids in our hair/ we come from vertiginous valleys / We are the women of the Red Times“.1
Two years later, the government stopped her at Atatürk airport. The government claims she was about to escape to Germany with a forged passport; she insists she was only carrying her identity papers and going to Îdir to meet her family. Her poems – along with her articles and the manuscript of her unpublished novel were filed against her (“If my books are examined, they will show that not a single sentence incites hatred in the people” she says in her defence.) She was assigned to residence, then incarcerated twice. Behind bars, answering the question of the young painter Zehra Doğan, herself in prison for having published on the web a drawing of her own creation along with the testimony from a Kurdish child, Aktaş answered: “Every corner of the Earth were women are massacred must be a space of struggle for women.” ISIS was then in its death throes; with Syrian rebel troops at his side, Erdogan would soon invade Northern Syria, a revolutionary bastion with a Kurdish majority. At the end of 2017, barely released from jail, she learned she was again targeted by an arrest warrant: after a total of seventeen years in prison, she decided to flee. She hid in Istanbul then, with the help of smugglers, she hid in Iraki Kurdistan. She stayed there for one year, ill, and working as a journalist. In the spring of 2019, she left for France. Accused of being one of the figures of the KCK, she is under threat of two sentences at the moment: ten and seventeen years of detention.
“We are the ones awakened out of the void / leaning back against the mountainsides / countless dawns have set in our eyes / have found new life in our bodies/ between laments engraved in our skins / and the sounds of drums / We have broken out of our cage.“2
Sara Aktaş is now requesting asylum in our country, France : refusing her request would bear the full weight of dishonor.