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.

Français | English | Castellano

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.

Joseph Andras


joseph andras

In 2016, Joseph Andras published his first novel, “De nos frères blessés”, to salute the memory of Fernand Iveton, an independence activist. On this occasion, he received the Goncourt Prize for the first novel, which he refused. In May 2017, alongside D’ de Kabal, he released a book-disc “Si il n’y resteit qu’un chien”, a poem about the port of Le Havre. In 2018, he spent nearly two months in Chiapas. In September 2018, he published “Kanaky. Sur les traces d’Alphonse Dianou”: an investigation into a FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) activist killed in 1988. In April 2017, he was one of the signatories to a forum denouncing the imprisonment of journalists in Turkey. On March 25, 2019, he published in Humanité, an article on the Kurdish singer Nûdem Durak.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
Vous pouvez utiliser, partager les articles et les traductions de Kedistan en précisant la source et en ajoutant un lien afin de respecter le travail des auteur(e)s et traductrices/teurs. Merci.
Kedistan’ın tüm yayınlarını, yazar ve çevirmenlerin emeğine saygı göstererek, kaynak ve link vererek paylaşabilirisiniz. Teşekkürler.
Ji kerema xwere dema hun nivîsên Kedistanê parve dikin, ji bo rêzgirtina maf û keda nivîskar û wergêr, lînk û navê malperê wek çavkanî diyar bikin. Spas.
You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Por respeto hacia la labor de las autoras y traductoras, puedes utilizar y compartir los artículos y las traducciones de Kedistan citando la fuente y añadiendo el enlace. Gracias.
Auteur(e) invité(e)
Auteur(e)s Invité(e)s
AmiEs con­tributri­ces, con­tribu­teurs tra­ver­sant les pages de Kedis­tan, occa­sion­nelle­ment ou régulièrement…