Seeing the sun rise at Herekol

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Published in German in Yeni Özgür Politika and on ANF German.

“When I arrived in Besta and saw the sun rising on Mount Herekol, it was wonderful, to say it in one word. You feel like newborn there.”

Wolfgang Struwe is a revolutionary who has dedicated himself to the freedom struggle of Kurdistan. Wolfgang (63) lives in Hamburg. He got to know the Kurdish freedom movement in 1986 and since that day he takes part in its struggle in various fields. In 1993 Wolfgang had found his place in the guerilla fight in the mountains of Kurdistan. He says about this time, “It was truly unbelievable for me”. He works in the office of the Informationsstelle Kurdistan (ISKU), the walls are full of bookshelves and on the wall we see an old picture of the Kurdish youth Halim Dener, shot by German policemen in Hanover in 1994 while placarding posters.

Wolfgang Struwe comes from Gütersloh near Bielefeld and had already got to know the anti-fascist fight in the 70s. At that time he refused military service. Wolfgang says: “I was faced with the decision either to stand on the side of the ruling order as a soldier and thus as a guardian or to fight on the side of the oppressed and exploited people. Of course I stood by the side of the oppressed. My family insisted that I should marry, but I refused to do so, just as I refused to do military service.”

Dreams bigger than a small family

Struwe, whose dreams do not fit into a small family, says: “I decided from the outset against a life planned in advance. That’s why I moved to Hamburg. I made serious decisions myself. In Bielefeld I took part in the anti-imperialist resistance. In my mind I was always on the lookout. At that time in Hamburg there was the resistance in the Hafenstraße. The police wanted to evacuate the people from the occupied houses. I moved to Hamburg to support this resistance.”

Struwe gets to know the Kurdish freedom struggle and decides to become part of the revolutionary struggle. Struwe knows the revolutionary struggle in many regions worldwide and gets to know the cadres of the Kurdish freedom struggle at meetings. He remembers: “I had already heard that there is a Kurdish people, but I had no idea on which level his struggle took place. He says that at that time the Greens (german green party) called the PKK “terrorist” and “ready to use violence” and led a dirty campaign against the Kurdish freedom movement.

Since the resistance of Amed

Struwe recalls that almost the entire left had adopted this Green discourse against the PKK and said: “From then on I began to build closer relations with the PKK. I took part in actions and demonstrations for the PKK. In the German left movements we discussed the PKK struggle a lot. After the hunger strike for the resistance in the prison of Amed I decided to build closer relations with the Kurdish freedom struggle”.

His way meets with that of Engin Sincer

The life he dreamed of is embodied in the PKK, says Struwe and tells: “The modesty, the respect and the form of the collective life were exactly the way of life I was looking for. Then I gave my word. In the Kurdistan Committee my path crossed with Engin Sincer. Of course his name at that time was not Erdal but Hayri. He had a quiet and mature nature. He was very much loved, he talked with everyone and listened. He had a big heart that embraced everyone”.

The beauty and difficulties of the mountains

Struwe says that his dream was to experience the guerilla fight in the mountains of Kurdistan and looks back: “Even if it was our wish to fight in Europe, I went to the mountains of Kurdistan in 1993. That was unbelievable for me. I said to myself ‘Yes, now I am really in the middle of a fight’. I had learned that there were other Germans in the mountains besides me. I had quite problems with the language. There were some who spoke German. There were as many difficulties as life in the mountains was beautiful. But there were also days when I couldn’t talk to anyone.”

We embraced each other with longing

Struwe remembers a pause when they were just passing from South Kurdistan to the North: “One of them shouted to me from behind in German: ‘Hey, what are you looking for here?’ When I turned around I was facing my friend Erdal [Engin Sincer]. I knew he was in the mountains, but I never dreamed of meeting him under such circumstances. We embraced each other with longing and warmth. He had a heavy radio battery on his back. And if I had been given the whole world, I would never have been so happy as I was at that moment.”

Especially in the darkness it was difficult

Struwe continues: “I got to know nature, many herbs and animals whose names I had not even heard. Above all, I experienced collective life and a cooperative to the death. Even if I had read hundreds of books, I would not have been able to get to know the fight like that. It was most difficult for me to walk in the dark. The guerrillas are used to walking in the dark. They have eyes as if they were cats. I remember falling down while running. Like a little child, I learned life anew. It was a completely different environment for me. There were no similarities with the fight we fought in Germany. It was as beautiful as it was difficult. When I arrived in Besta and saw the sun rising on Mount Herekol, it was wonderful, to say it in one word. You feel like newborn there.”

Sakine Cansız, candles and tears

While he was in winter camp in Besta, the military operations had come to a short halt: “One had to spend the winter camp on the one hand with the war and on the other hand with writing reports. The winter conditions were very harsh. In Besta two other German friends were with me. We sat in a tent and talked about how our friends celebrated New Year. To be honest, we had missed Germany very much. While we talked like this, our friend Sakine Cansız (Sara), Medya and a friend from the guerrilla whose name I don’t remember came into the tent. The friend Sara had homemade Helva and a homemade candle with her. When she said, ‘Because you miss your home, we brought you Helva’, our eyes filled with tears. I had never seen such a sensitive and warm-hearted person before”. When Struwe tells this, his eyes fill with tears.

“She lives in the heart of all revolutionaries.”

Whenever Sakine Cansız went to Hamburg, she had visited the ISKU office. Struwe continued: “In Hamburg she was in prison for a month. Everyone, even the guards, respected her very much. When I heard that she had fallen, it hit me hard. I remember we couldn’t hold back our tears. Our friend Sara fought so that nobody else would know the torture she had been subjected to. Her death left a deep impression on everyone. Even if she is no longer with us physically, she lives on in the hearts of all revolutionaries. It is important for us, of course, to continue with her ideals and her struggle. “

Turkey and Germany together

When Struwe returned to Germany after more than a year in the Kurdish mountains, the PKK had been banned. There was extreme repression against the Kurdish population and, as Struwe describes it, they were even forbidden to breathe: “All associations in which Kurds could meet and receive information had been closed. While the Turkish state tried to destroy the guerrillas in the mountains, the German state wanted to smother the fight for freedom here. It wanted a PKK that could be controlled and under its own influence. But the influence of the PKK nevertheless increased every day,” says Struwe, declaring that the German state aimed to smash the sympathies for the Kurdish freedom movement.

The PKK ban produced the ISKU

Various solidarity groups jointly set up the Kurdistan Information Centre (ISKU). Struwe describes the ISKU as a reaction to the PKK ban: “We started to publish all the news from Kurdistan in this way. At that time there was little information in German. That was a great mission for us. The German media didn’t bring any information about the Kurdish freedom struggle anyway. And when they did, it was negative news. In this way we tried to close this gap.”

Rojava – the bridge of revolution

Struwe points out that the contribution of left-wing circles in Germany to the Kurdish freedom struggle is not sufficient and adds that the Rojava Revolution has generated greater interest and solidarity: “The Rojava Revolution has changed a lot for many. It has destroyed many prejudices. Just as the revolution overturned the rulers’ plans, it gave the revolutionary groups the feeling of ‘If you want to, you can make it’. Today many revolutionary groups see their future in this revolution. Many things that they wanted to do, that they dreamed of, are implemented in the Rojava Revolution. The searching people today have turned to this revolution. This of course makes the rulers nervous and robs them of sleep.

Meeting with Öcalan in Damascus

Struwe stresses that peace must be defended against all the dirtiness of war and that the Kurdish freedom movement is fighting for peace. He reports on his first meeting with PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan: “I will never forget the first meeting. We were in a house in Damascus. Suddenly there was movement. Everyone started to clean up. They cleared away the ashtrays. Suddenly there was a serious mood in the house. When I became curious and asked, nobody told me anything. When the door opened and Öcalan stood in front of me, I was very surprised. He embraced me as if we had known each other for years. It was as if he was attaching more importance to me because I came from Germany. He radiated a great cordiality. Before me stood a person who had brought so many people together for one purpose. We talked about politics in Germany. He thought it would be easier to make a revolution in Germany. When I asked for the reason, he explained that everyone was educated in Germany”.

The whole world fit into his heart

The second time Struwe met the PKK chairman in the academy: “Everyone spoke Turkish and I had great difficulties. The PKK was in a difficult phase. Öcalan’s burden was quite heavy. He always emphasized the necessity of women’s struggle. He had a modest attitude and a heart so big that the whole world could fit in. Once he said: ‘While the revolutionary struggle in Europe is in decline, we are giving it a greater new intensity'”. Struwe says he will never forget the two occasions when he met Öcalan.

“We haven’t managed to get the ban lifted.”

Struwe has been following the PKK ban for 25 years. He reports on his experiences: “In so many years we have not managed to achieve the lifting of the ban. Many campaigns against the ban have been organised. But none of them had the strength and continuity to get the ban lifted. But I must add that with the PKK ban Germany has not managed to weaken or corner the PKK. We do not accept the attitude of the German state towards the Kurdish freedom movement and join forces against it”.

PKK ban affects democratic forces

Struwe refers to the demonstration on 1 December 2018 under the motto “The desire for freedom cannot be forbidden – Together against police laws, PKK ban and nationalism” and says: “With the PKK ban the democratic opposition is fought here. In order not to allow this, it is the responsibility of all democratic forces to join these demonstrations and mobilize all people.

If my life was enough…

Struwe criticized the campaigns for Öcalan’s freedom as insufficient and said that Öcalan was an opportunity not only for the Kurdish people but for all revolutionary groups worldwide. Therefore not only Kurds should stand up for him, but all revolutionary forces worldwide should actively participate in the campaign.

We close our meeting where it began, in front of Halim Dener’s picture. Struwe explains: “If my life would be enough, then I wanted to go to Kurdistan and see the sun rise again on Mount Herekol. With my heart and all my love of freedom…”