Ayşe was first arrested at just 12 years old. She described the event at a later date:
“We were taking part in a protest, when nearby, in a doorway, four cops had a comrade pinned down. I don’t know how I dared, but I went over and I challenged them. Two of the cops attacked me, and they took us both into custody. Not long after this, some other comrades rescued us from them. They joked, and called me ‘the little militant’”
She was only a school student when she became a symbol and a hero of the rebellion that began in Gezi Park against the ruling religious-fascist regime in Turkey. She said that she did so as a woman, in a country and system where 86% of women experience some form of physical or psychological abuse in their lives. She was arrested, and sentenced to a ridiculous 103 years in prison, as reactionary judges argued that the red scarf she had worn to protests marked her out specifically as not just a dissenter – but a “socialist terrorist”. Her case was known across the country and the world. She became famous and known as “the girl with the red scarf.” When she was released briefly in February 2014 before an impending retrial, she escaped to the mountains and joined the banned PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) following the path that she had learned from revolutionaries she had met in prison. Upon hearing this news, her mother said:
“Turkey lost my child. People want to create their own justice in a country with no more justice left. Even though I will fear for my daughter’s life and all the challenges she will face as a PKK member, I would also fear about her in a country where youngsters like Ali İsmail Korkmaz are killed by the hands of the state just because they used their right to protest. Whatever decision she took, I am still behind my daughter.”
Nuray Erçağan added that her daughter had met PKK members while in custody in Alanya Prison and that an incident that took place on her daughter’s first day there had been influential in her decision to join the PKK. “It was so cold in Alanya prison and my daughter didn’t have 150 lira for a blanket. So a woman in the same block, Serhildan, cut her blanket in half and gave it to Deniz. For the next 4 months Deniz heard the stories of the heroism and defiance of Kurdish women. She saw that our struggle as Turkish socialists was comparable with theirs. This all affected Deniz.”
During her time within the guerilla ranks of the PKK, Karacagil said she learned much about life as a free woman, and the speed at which the revolutionary process can happen. She was inspired by the leadership of the Kurdish women, and the dedication that Kurdish militants had for their struggle. She met one member of HPG (the armed wing of the PKK) who told her “we won’t be just talking about freedom and humanity – we’ll make it.”
Two years after leaving to join the PKK, she wrote a letter home to her parents announcing that she had joined the armed units of the MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey and Northern Kurdistan) to break the siege of Kobane. After the victory over ISIS in that city, she released a video in which she stated her joy, and remarked at how beautiful it was to live in a time of revolution. In 2017, she joined hundreds of other young communists from across the world in the ranks of the International Freedom Battalion to liberate ISIS’s de-facto capital city of Raqqa.
Tragically, she fell as a martyr during a clash with the Jihadi fascists during the morning of May 29th, 2017.
In life, she symbolised the bottomless resistance of the masses against their oppressors. By standing against Turkish state and capitalist system, she showed that the flame of proletarian struggle is not yet extinguished. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, capitalists wrongly declared “the end of history”, meaning they believed that the total victory of capitalism over socialism had been secured. Ayşe was born after these events, and proved with her deeds that as long as there is a bourgeois class and a proletarian class, that there will always be people who will aim to bring about a new world by destroying the old ways of capital. By joining the Kurdish struggle, she showed that the struggle of the Turkish proletariat and that of the Kurdish people are one and the same. They fight the same enemy – their Turkish colonialist oppressors. Only through helping their Kurdish allies throw off the colonialism they face in their own homeland will the Turkish proletariat be able to free itself.
By dying in the service of humanity and socialism, she became a symbol of everything Leninists stand for. In her sacrifice, she became immortal, and an example of how we should all fight for the world we wish to see.
The stories of these young people like Ayşe Deniz Karacagil that give up everything in their lives to actively join a revolution are not being told. The legacy of young communist volunteers in Kurdistan should be one that we hold high, they should be examples of what we set out to be when we identify ourselves with the word “communist”. The bare minimum we should manage is to act like we live in a world where these people exist, and that this sort of dedication is to be expected from being involved in left wing politics.
Kırmızı fularlı gençkadan ölümsüz!
The girl with the red scarf is immortal!