Slain Kurdish activist Cansiz was former guerrilla

10th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

Sakine Cansiz, one of the three Kurdish women found slain in Paris on Thursday, was a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and a former guerrilla for the organisation that has waged an armed struggle against Turkey for nearly three decades.

A survivor of 12 years in a Turkish jail, she was one of a handful of prominent women in a movement regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

She was considered very close, even a mouthpiece for Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader whose peace talks with Turkey have been linked to the killings.

Cansiz, who was thought to have been 55 when she died, was a revolutionary Marxist in her early 20s when she joined a small group of fellow Kurdish militants at a conference in Lice, southeast Turkey, that gave birth to the PKK in 1978.

Six years later, the organisation took up arms against the Turkish state, initiating a conflict in which 45,000 people, most of them Kurds, have since been killed.

In 1979, Cansiz was arrested and imprisoned in the city of Diyarbakir. Kurdish sources say she was a victim of the torture that was routine for political prisoners in Turkey at the time.

Finally freed in 1991, she adopted the code name "Sara" and became an active PKK guerilla.

Sporting olive green fatigues and with her trademark long, hennaed hair, she served time in Syria, where Ocalan was based at the time, northern Iraq and at the organisation's training camp in Lebanon's Bekaa valley.

She later moved to western Europe and became a leading coordinator of the PKK's attempts to secure financial and political support from exiled Kurds.

Her influence saw her become close to the PKK's military commander, Murat Karayilan. Based in the mountainous north of Iraq, Karayilan was to become the leading figure in the movement after Ocalan's 1999 capture and subsequent sentencing to life imprisonment.

An international arrest warrant issued by Turkey resulted in Cansiz being arrested in March 2007 in Hamburg. But the German courts refused to extradite her and she was released a month later.

In recent years she has lived in France, where, according to Kurdish groups, she was granted political asylum in 1998.

© 2013 AFP

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