II. Remembering means fighting – Internationalism and Prison Resistance of the Şehids of May

In May, we will be releasing a series of articles related to the history of revolutionaries and their struggles. The stories and fights of Bobby Sands and Ulrike Meinhof, Hakî Karer and Deniz Gezmis still have a special meaning for us today and give us revolutionary perspectives for the future. As internationalists, we continue their heritage and struggle, until the success will be ours.

Remembering the Şehids of May: Haki Karer, Deniz Gezmiş, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Mahmut Zengin, Eşref Anyik, Ferhat Kurtay and Necmi Öner: Internationalism and Prison Resistance

The month of May marks the Şehadet (martyrdom) of many important figures in the struggle against Turkish fascism. Three of the friends that this article is written in honour of; Şehid Haki Karer, Şehid Deniz Gezmiş and Şehid Ibrahim Kaypakkaya were Turkish in origin, however, the line that these friends helped to create was one of internationalism. None of these friends believed that the freedom of the Turkish population could be achieved without simultaneously realising the freedom of Kurdish and other minority people living within the borders of the Turkish state. The martyrdom of these friends serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of an international perspective, and why it is necessary for all people to be united in the struggle to overcome capitalism and achieve freedom for all.

This month is also an extremely important time in the current context as many of the Şehids that fell in May fell in acts of resistance against the prisons they were being held captive in. With more than 7,000 friends currently on hunger strike in Turkish prisons it is necessary to get to know the roots of this resistance and remember the names of those who fell fighting in the dungeons of Amed no 5 and Mamak.


Haki Karer is perhaps one of the most important figures in the history of the PKK. After Abdullah Öcalan was freed from Mamak prison at the end of 1972, he moved in with Haki Karer and Kemal Pir with whom he began to organise the foundations of the party and a new political movement. At the time Haki Karer was a student at Ankara University, however, after a decision made at the Dikmen meeting in 1976 the friends, decided to make Bakur the central point of their organisation. Haki Karer first moved to Batman and later Antep. Like most internationals who now come to Rojava to join the revolution, Haki Karer could not speak Kurmanci when he first arrived in Bakur, though he still managed to organise tirelessly with or without language.
On the 18th May 1977, Haki Karer was murdered in a coffee house by Alaattin Kapan a member of ‘Sterka Sor’ an organisation that was designed to look like part of the Kurdish left, but was later found to be associated with the NATO counter-guerrilla operation, operation GLADIO. It is clear when reading Öcalan how close the bond was between the two friends, Öcalan often referred to Haki Karer and Kemal Pir as his ‘secret soul’ and after Haki Karer’s death vowed to establish the party as a direct response,

‘Our political platform and the name of our organisation, PKK, was set up and decided upon as an immediate consequence of his (Haki Karer’s) murder. We all regard it as his legacy’.

Haki Karer can therefore be seen as the first internationalist Şehid in the struggle of the PKK, and it is essential for us to remember his diligence and commitment despite the linguistic obstacles he faced.


Deniz Gezmiş was another figure who inspired Abdullah Öcalan as a young student. Gezmiş founded the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO) in the 1971 along with two other comrades, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin Inan. Gezmiş was a radical Marxist-Leninist who, before his capture by the Turkish state in spring 1971, had been to Jordan to train as a guerrilla with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), a step that the PKK would later follow in the early 1980’s when it sent hundreds of fighters to Lebanon to train with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). After his capture Gezmiş was charged with violating the Turkish Criminal Codes 146th article, which concerns attempts to ‘overthrow constitutional order’ and sentenced to death by the Turkish state on 3rd May 1972. After the execution of Gezmiş on 6th May 1972 Öcalan wrote, ‘the execution of Deniz Gezmiş and his comrades called on us honest sympathisers to continue their legacy.’ Gezmiş was a strong supporter of the struggle for a free Kurdistan and an internationalist until his death. His last words are an inspiration to anyone with an anti-imperialist, revolutionary conscience,

‘Long live a fully independent Turkey. Long live the great ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Long live the Turkish and Kurdish peoples’ fight for independence. Damned be imperialism. Long live the workers and the villagers.’


Ibrahim Kaypakkaya was a major leader of the communist movement in Turkey at the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. He founded the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist Leninist (TKP/ML) in 1972 and was known to Abdullah Öcalan and the early Apoci movement. Kaypakkaya was an internationalist who was greatly interested in the Kurdish question. He published a thesis on the topic in 1972 where he directly connected the freedom of Kurdish and other minority peoples living within the borders of the Turkish state to the Freedom of the Turkish majority. Because of his ability to organise, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya was seen by the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation as extremely dangerous as he was someone who could almost single handedly bring communist ideas to Turkey. Kaypakkaya fell Şehid on the 18th May 1973 after resisting torture in the notorious Diyarbakir (Amed no.5) prison for more than four months. In one instance he was force to walk barefoot for 50km over snow and ice. Kaypakkaya’s legacy is an important example of prison resistance and internationalism.

Ferhat Kurtay
Necmi Öner
Mahmut Zengin
Eşref Anyik

Mahmut Zengin, Eşref Anyik, Ferhat Kurtay and Necmi Öner also fell Şehid within the walls of Diyarbakir (Amed no.5) prison. On the 18th May 1982, the four friends covered themselves in newspaper that had been soaked with paint , and, whilst holding hands burned themselves to death. This action was designed to be similar to the action of Mazlum Doğan who set his cell on fire in Diyarbakir on Newroz (21st March) the same year. The aim of the actions of all of these comrades was to draw attention to the torture of prisoners in Diyarbakir and the inhumane conditions they were forced to endure. The martyrdom of these friends marks an important moment in PKK history as at this point many members of the party were imprisoned in Diyarbakir or being trained in guerrilla tactics in Lebanon, this left a vacuum in Kurdistan which could have led to an organisational crisis had it not been for the actions of those resisting in the prisons. In fact, one of the most important discussions within the party at the time was concerning whether or not friends from the party should leave the Middle East and shift the focus of the party to the European diaspora. The prison struggle clarified this line and made it clear that the struggle should continue to be based in Kurdistan.

Remembering means fighting

The importance of our Şehids cannot be underestimated when looking at the revolution that has been achieved in North Eastern Syria, it is clear that the Şehids of May who are remembered in this article helped to clarify the lines of internationalism and prison resistance that are central to our ideology. However, they are not alone in this, we remember our martyrs because each of them shows us the way to live and struggle against capitalist modernity. Each person taken from us is a promise to continue the fight and keep struggling because another world is possible. Capitalist modernity will fall, and we the people, will be its executioner!

Şehid namirin! Biji Berxwedana Zindana! Long live internationalism!

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