This interview was first published in german on Perspektive Online
On 03.01.2023, Zeki Gürbüz and Özgür Namoğlu, two communists in Rojava, West Kurdistan, were killed by a Turkish drone attack. Özgür, like other internationalists such as Ivana Hoffmann, went to Rojava from Germany and was previously active within the anti-fascist movement in Germany. We spoke to Şevîn Ocak from Young Struggle and asked questions about Özgür and his life.
How did you learn about the death of Özgür Namoglu?
On Friday, 6 January, the Twitter page of the MLKP-Kurdistan (Marxist Leninist Communist Party) published that Zeki Gürbüz and Özgür Namoğlu were immortalised in a drone attack by the Turkish state. At the same time, Turkish bourgeois news agencies started speaking of targeted attacks on Zeki Gürbüz, a revolutionary whom Turkey had been searching for many years because he fought against fascism.
Özgür was at the same place and was also hit. The statement said that Özgür’s fighting name was Fırat Neval and that he was one of the cadres of the new generation of guerrillas. His simplicity, his discipline and his modesty showed in his person the traits of the new man we want to create, it said.
On Saturday, 7 January, the declaration of the Central Committee of MLKP followed, in which his immortality was confirmed again and at the same time the story of Özgür’s life was told. As family and comrades, we were deeply affected and gathered in Dortmund, Özgür’s hometown.
The news had spread quickly and within a few hours hundreds of people gathered at a spontaneous commemoration. Everyone knew Özgür because he was the child who grew up among comrades and the revolutionary struggle. He had touched many people with his life and they now wanted to remember and commemorate him.
How did Özgür Namoglu become political and how did you experience him in political work in Germany?
Özgür grew up in a revolutionary family. His direct relationship to the revolutionaries showed at a quite young age. From his birth until his first school days he had to grow up under illegal conditions in Turkey. This situation later led to a leap in his consciousness. Even as a child, he knew the role of fascism in Turkey and the struggle that Kurds and communists were waging against it.
In 2008, Özgür had to flee to Germany and became a member of the Communist Youth Organisation (KGÖ) in 2009. Özgür knew that he wanted to be political and no matter where he was, whether in Turkey or Germany, he did not just watch, he always acted. From 2013, exactly in the times of the Gezi protests and a lively time for antifascist, Özgür started the work of Young Struggle in Dortmund.
Through his youth among revolutionaries, Özgür had a consciousness from an early age, which now paired with a concrete responsibility in practice. He participated in the organisation of summer camps and anti-fascist actions in the Ruhr area, especially in Dortmund and Duisburg.
He also participated in the work of the “Rote Antifa” [meaning Red Antifa], an anti-fascist group known for its anti-fascist and internationalist protest. In a short time he made contacts with many young people, especially in and around Dortmund. The work, which started with two people, became events in which dozens of young people participated.
In September 2014, Serkan Tosun became immortal in Rojava. He was the first MLKP casualty there. With this new development, Özgür had also reached a point of determination after which he did not miss a single solidarity action for Rojava and even partly helped organise them. Özgür, who was known to be rather calm and quiet, shouted the slogans for Rojava the loudest and especially the slogan “Thousand greetings to those who fight and fall in Rojava”.
When Özgür had the idea to go to Rojava, he did not tell anyone in his town. Like Yasemin Çiftçi and Ivana Hoffmann, he became one of the young communists who became role models for whole generations world wide.
How did you get to know him and what do you remember most about him?
After the internationalist Ivana Hoffmann became immortal in Rojava on 07.03.2015, a festival was organised in Duisburg the same year, which was dedicated to her. I met Özgür at that festival. Unlike me, Özgür knew Ivana and had worked with her in Germany. I was also from Dortmund and we were introduced to each other so we could travel back together. I was unorganised but interested and from that day on Özgür accompanied my politisation.
Özgür didn’t talk much and was very thoughtful in what he said. I admired that very much, because it was unusual for a man not to act cheeky and know-it-all. He was calm and determined at the same time. This manner always gave me a lot of security. He was convinced of what he said and what he did. I felt no insecurity, no doubts.
But at the same time he was a very shy comrade who did not like to be in the foreground. I looked at old photos taken at summer camps or congresses. Özgür was never the centre of attention in the photos, he was always in the back and with some luck you could spot him. Few people manage to be as solution-oriented as Özgür and yet be so modest about it at the same time.
His party wrote in the statement that Özgür was particularly specialised in the technical and tactical struggle in Rojava. Many of us who knew him from before were not surprised. One comrade remembered that he demanded thinking ahead from her when playing chess because he was always thinking about the next move of the other side.
Another comrade remembered him from school and told us how the Bundeswehr [German Army] visited there and at an information event comrade Özgür – whom no one from the grade ever heard speak – stood up and gave a political speech against the Bundeswehr.
Özgür managed to touch many people during his years in Germany and was remembered by many as a loving comrade. It is all the more gratifying to read that, despite the difficult conditions in Rojava in the middle of the war, these qualities did not leave him and influenced other young people there as well.
How do you assess the attacks of the Turkish government on the Kurds in Rojava at the moment and what task do you see as Young Struggle here in Germany?
The attacks on the Kurds are no surprise. Time and time again has the Turkish state attacked the Kurds when the pressure of the oppressed masses increases against the government. The current economic situation in Turkey and the upcoming elections put pressure on the fascists, so a public enemy has to be established. In Turkey this has for centuries been the Kurds.
At the same time, Rojava is a place that is shaking the fascist state. They want to suffocate the revolution, but they have so far failed to do so for over 10 years. Especially communists in Rojava are under attack, as they are not tolerated internationally by the USA and other imperialists.
Here in Germany, the Rojava revolution is very important for all anti-fascists and revolutionaries. But in the same way, the defence is also a question at the international level. The besiegers have to be besieged by us today, so that we can stop them. The European economy and the Turkish state are closely linked.
Everywhere there are various ways to stand in the way of Turkish fascism and its plans. At the same time, it is important to keep alive the memories of all the revolutionaries that fascism is trying to destroy. We have to tell their stories and shout out their names, we have to commemorate them and continue our struggles in their name.
Commemorative events, rallies and other actions have already taken place in numerous cities. Are further commemorative actions for the two communists planned?
More than a thousand people took part in the first central commemoration in Stuttgart on Sunday, 8 January. It was nice for the families, but also for the comrades of Zeki and Özgür to see how many people remember and commemorate them. On Sunday 22 January there will be another commemoration for Özgür and Zeki at the Kurdistan Centre in Dortmund (Bornstraße 166, 44145 Dortmund) from 2 pm on. We as Young Struggle will organise travel to this event.
Whether at the upcoming commemoration demonstration for the Communists Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Lenin in Berlin or elsewhere – Özgür and Zeki are two communists who, like many before them, became immortal in the defence of a revolution that is of great importance for the revolutionary movement worldwide and which must be defended – so we will always remember them and carry their struggle onto the streets.
Özgür means “free” in Turkish. Comrade Özgür lived up to his name and fought for freedom. So now it is our task not to forget Özgür and to continue to fight in his name.