A note written to Konstandinos Erik Scurfield at his funeral. Photo by Erem Kansoy for Telgraf Newspaper (c)

27/03/2015 - 00:00
Beyond Kurdistan: Remembering those who lost their lives for the Kurds

27 March 2015

As the martyred body of Konstandinos was buried in an emotional ceremony in Nottingham on Thursday, it reminds us of a long history filled with sacrifice and sadness.

Giving your life for freedom and justice in a struggle that doesn’t directly concern you is an admirable feat. Many people from all over the world have recently joined the YPG, but the Kurdish struggle is an old one, and throughout the years, many heroes and heroines have become martyrs in the eyes of the Kurds. They will not be forgotten, and recent events show how much the Kurds really value each and every life that helped further their cause.

Margaret George Shello

A young Assyrian woman who joined the ranks of the KDP peshmerga at just 20 years old in 1960- she is considered the first modern female Kurdish guerrilla. Her background allowed her to be accepted into the ranks of peshmerga as a female, where it would’ve been a no-go for ethnic Kurdish women at the time. Shello earned her status as a brave fighter and at times, a commander of men. Her death in 1969 is shrouded in mystery with disputing accounts divided into two camps; one is that she was assassinated by the Kurdish leadership in fear of her growing popularity, and the other is she was killed by a scorn lover for rejecting his marriage proposal. Her photograph was passed amongst Kurdish people to inspire them.


Kemal Pir

The steely-eyed Kemal Pir; one of two Turkish founding members of the PKK, the other being Haki Karer. Ocalan moved in with Pir and Karer after his release from prison in 1972 and in their debates they laid the foundations of the PKK. Pir said “The movement known as the PKK movement…is not an organization; it is an ideological and political movement. That movement has the intention to unite.” He was arrested three times, managing to escape prison twice in the 1970’s. However, in 1982, he was subject to routine torture in the nightmare of Diyarbakir Prison and with others took part in a now famous hunger strike that led to his death and many others.

kemal pir

Lissy Schmidt

A bright German journalist that spoke both major dialects of the Kurds; something many native Kurds are unable to do. She had spent time in North Kurdistan where she reported for ‘Frankfurter Rundschau’ .  She was stationed in South Kurdistan, at the outset of the 1990’s, when Saddam had put a $10,000 dollar bounty on the head of every foreign journalist and aid worker. In 1994, she was assassinated with her bodyguard when a car drove up alongside theirs and unleashed a volley of shots. The perpetrators were later hanged and her book, ‘How Expensive Is Freedom’, was published posthumously the same year and later released in Turkish. A monument was constructed in her honour in Slemani.

The names of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, Ashley Johnston and Ivana Hoffmann have been scrawled into the memories of every Kurd. Their pictures will adorn walls for decades to come, waiting patiently for the day a young person will walk over and ask; who were you?

They are heroes and heroines; all parts of one living, breathing struggle. They walk with us, inspiring strength when we need it most. For in Kurdistan, martyrs never die.

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