This Fire Never Dies
A year with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party
An extraordinary inside-look at the PKK
After Frederike Geerdink was expelled from Turkey in 2015 for her foreign correspondent’s work, she decided to continue her coverage of the Kurdish people by spending a year embedded in the PKK. Her journey takes her from the guerrilla fighters’ headquarters in the Qandil-mountains in northern Iraq to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. Along the way, Geerdink examines the freedom movement’s culture, sketches the Kurdish people’s history and ideologies, and bears witness to the many stories, dreams and choices of the everyday fighters.
The PKK has been at war with the Turkish state since 1976. Their struggle forms one front in a broader fight for greater Kurdish autonomy in the region. The conflict has already cost 50,000 lives and includes sister organizations in Syria, Iraq and Iran. Though they are minorities in their respective four countries, the Kurds number forty million people.
In May 2016 Geerdink heads for a PKK training camp in northern Iraq. Writing in a style that is both accessible and engaging, she takes readers inside the daily life on the bases; she details her joys and frustrations of immersing herself in her subject. Completely cut-off from the outside world, she is forced to slow down to guerrilla fighter’s time and they ask her to expand her historical perspective. It is a universe surprisingly unperturbed by the coup attempt in Turkey that July and the extensive political purges that follow it. The PKK has its own path, its own tempo.
Geerdink tackles such questions as: What are the PKK fighting for? Why do so many women join? Will the fighters ever lay down their weapons? How has the organization changed since their leader’s imprisonment? She offers surprising insights into the history of ideas behind the PKK and their fierce opposition to nation states, capitalism and their real enemy: patriarchy. She also addresses the PKK’s civilian casualties.
As an independent journalist Geerdink is critical, though she finds it hard to remain impartial: understanding and sympathy for the fighters and their vision prevail in her account. Part journalism, part travelogue, part war reportage, the result is an illuminating and human portrait of the PKK and an excellent overview of a turbulent region.