The body is not enough

In 1996 at 23 years of age, Zeynep Kınacı (codename: Zilan) straps explosives around her stomach in the Tunceli (Dersim) region. Disguised as a pregnant woman, she blows herself and seven Turkish soldiers to death. On this day, she goes down in history as the first Kurdish suicide bomber. The photograph of her as a martyr spreads quickly. People return her gaze countless times and her act becomes the most important symbol of female militancy for the Kurdish freedom movement. To become like Zilan (Zilan’laşmak) became what other Kurdish female fighters also aspired to from this time on.

However, Zilan’s message is not solely directed against her Turkish oppressors. It is an expression of a courageous and contradictory emancipation movement that starts in the patriarchal and militant context of the Kurdish liberation movement of the 1970s. The current conflict zones can be traced back to exactly this time. Zilan’s message is radical and universal. She tells us: Women are not always understanding. They can resist. They can become killers if necessary. Zilan blows up the gender hierarchy: from now on, the total overcoming of the body becomes the imperative. The hope of never-ending glory is beckoning when the body itself is the only bargaining chip to bring about this reality.

Every resistance movement has a special relationship to images: First: how to get the images they need to be circulated? But also: how to honor their fallen ones, their martyrs, so that their images will never be forgotten? The Kurdish resistance movement has an extremely popular and successful image machinery integrated into their DNA: an aesthetics of worship of their martyrs. The fallen stand in front of the green screen ready to be processed into excessive TV spirals. Yet the presence of beautiful and proud female martyrs indicates the absence of the wounded, the disfigured, the old and the emaciated. The media paradise requires glamour and exceptionality. Once the image is ready to be disseminated, upon the death of a guerrilla fighter, the the war expands across continents and reaches those who are elsewhere, both relatives within the Kurdish diaspora and beyond.

Mazlum Nergiz