Diyarbakir, Turkey

May 2007

The PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, is outlawed in Turkey and labelled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. It has become very active again in the last few months and the Turkish military now has full operations against them in southeast Turkey. Tension is high, especially with general elections scheduled for July 22.

The women’s side of this story is particularly interesting because women guerrillas are accepted in the PKK – unlike the Turkish military, women are treated equally as they are allowed to fight alongside the men.

The three women’s stories that we are sharing in this reportage offer an insight into what life was like as a PKK fighter during the height of the war (the PKK began its separatist campaign in 1984) and of what it might be like to be a fighter in the mountains still today as the war continues. Moreover, these accounts explain the struggles for a woman reintegrating herself into Turkish society after spending many years in the mountains and in prison.

Servet Oner is now 27 years old and was just 16 when she left her family to go in the mountains to join the PKK struggle. When she secretly returned to Diyarbakir for health reasons, she was captured, tortured and sent to prison for 6 years. She was released in 2003.Servet lives in Diyarbakir, studying philosophy and working for the Centre for Kurdish Arts and Culture of the town. Her family accepted her choice and now she lives with them. She dreams to live in a big house with a lot of books, she dreams of having a family, but not before the war is over.

Fatma Kaya is 28 years old. She decided to join the guerrillas to fight for Kurdish rights in the late 1990s. She was caught as she was carrying out a mission in Istanbul, imprisoned and tortured. She was released only a year and a half ago and is currently studying in Diyarbakir. She hopes someday to write a book about her story and struggle, fighting to pursue an ideal.

Ikram Narin is 35 years old and now manages a cafe’ in Diyarbakir. She talks about how women can fight and survive in the guerrilla. When her father found out that she had gone to the mountains to join the PKK, he sent a message to the fighters: he wanted her back and he was ready to send her 4 brothers in exchange. She was captured after 4 years in the mountains and imprisoned for ten years. Now she is free, but she cannot get used to her life in Turkish society.