Barbara Anna Kistler was born in 1955 in Zurich, Switzerland. We just commemorated her 30th death anniversary, with her death in January, 1993. Barbara was a Swiss revolutionary, anti-imperialist, and guerrilla fighter.
Kistler was a torch bearer in shaping the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggle in Switzerland. She also worked in various women’s groups, seeking to bring a Marxist-Leninist line to the women’s movement. She was a member of an organization called Group against Isolation which was working to form a Communist Party in Switzerland.
In the mid-1980s, through her consistent anti-imperialist and internationalist work, Barbara Kistler established contact with supporters of the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP/ML) who had fled to Switzerland after the military coup. Through these contacts, she studied the Programme of the Party closely and she moved to Turkey to become active in the class struggle under the leadership of the TKP/ML. In 1991, she was arrested in a big raid by the reactionary Turkish State, in which two of her compatriots were martyred. Despite being subjected to severe torture in prison, she proved herself as a devoted Communist, not relenting to the slightest. In front of the fascist court of the Turkish State, she defended herself with these words: “You have no right to condemn proletarian internationalism!”
An international campaign demanding her freedom developed which helped obtain her release later that year. She was deported back to Switzerland, but after only a month she returned to Turkey clandestinely, where she became a combatant of the TKP/ML’s Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants. For over a year, Barbara Kistler fought with unflinching commitment in the mountains and countryside of Turkey to advance the New Democratic revolution. In late January 1993, the location of her guerrilla unit was tracked by enemy forces, and so the members were trapped with limited equipment through the Munzur Mountains. Many succumbed on this march, including Kistler who fell victims of to blood poisoning from pneumonia after two weeks on the march.
Barbara Kistler’s struggle in knitting splintered forces of the Communist movement at International level, in nurturing new elements and in spearheading the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist movement is unforgettable. She possessed the unique energy of a revolutionary She manifested every quality that demarcated a Marxist revolutionary from an ordinary person. In every juncture she overcame the most arduous obstacles. The story of her life was that of courage personified. We need to resurrect such characters to extinguish the globalisation backed neo-fascism entangling our entire globe Even if physically gone, her spirit shimmers, till this very day. Till her very last breath she invested every ounce of her energy to the struggle of the international proletariat waged against imperialism, fascism, feudalism, capitalism, and all forms of reaction.
Barbara started working after a short school life. Her venture in politics started from the age of 16. Her circumstances enabled her to tighten her bond closer to the working class, and to the oppressed. Apart from the apparent face of her country, she has also tried to see the facts concealed beneath it She opposed the social system, taking part in organizations that were in tune with her ideology. She took part in the front lines of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist struggle in Switzerland. She sympathized with Reboolie Bunker, an autonomous organization, through which she participated in secret and open campaign organizations against state repression in her country.
The 17-year-old carried a 3-week prison sentence during the attack against the commune she created with her friends. In the same years, she also participated in solidarity with those who supported Vietcong and were detained from left radical groups.
The most important relationship established among the Swiss groups was the relationship with KGI (Committee against Isolation). It analysed KGI as Marxist Leninist among the existing groups. KGI had emerged as the nucleus in the struggle to establish the communist party; but failed to achieve the proposed structure in the process and limited itself to certain academic issues. She also established a close relationship with the Marley Band. Her most important contribution here was to radicalise the feminist thoughts and movements within this movement with Marxist Leninst thoughts and conduct the women’s movement to instill the class-based understanding.
In 1980, she met communists from Turkey who had fled to Switzerland to evade the military coup. In 1986 Barbara Kistler came into contact with sympathizers of the TKP/ML She met the Turkish revolutionaries in Europe in 1980s, taking part in the Prisoners Solidarity Committee against attacks against revolutionaries in Turkish prisons. She visited Peru as a journalist while conducting activities in solidarity with anti-imperialist groups.
After the Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua, volunteers from Europe took e part in the organized work. It entered organizational relations with TKP-ML in 1989 After meeting TKP-ML, she actively participated in the process of practically reclaiming their places in the struggle for socialism. Then she moved to Istanbul.
On 19 May 1991, she was arrested in Istanbul together with her collaborators. She was held incommunicado for 10 days Kistler was released on September 16 and returned to Switzerland. Then she went back to Turkey. She decided to set out to the mountains of Turkey to join the armed struggle of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army of Turkey. She was killed in Tuncelli province, in 1993
The house she stayed with İsmail Oral on 19th May 1991 fell into the enemy’s hands. In extensive tortures that lasted for 15 days, she unflinchingly acted n accordance with the tradition of comrade İbrahim Kaypakkaya’s “giving a shit and not telling a secret”, remaining undeterred. During the prison process, the class solidarity in terms of cooperation between the Turkish revolutionaries and the Swiss revolutionaries was accentuated. They succeeded in utilising prison as the school of revolution and the court as the platform of revolution.
After 8 months of imprisonment, Turkey wished to take part in the guerrilla war, the central ring of the class struggle. Under supervision of Barbara Kistler formation of the liberation army belonging to various nationalities took place in TIKKO. This was the most solid example of internationalism. She got used to the circumstances in a short time.
2 of TIKKO Temporary Winter Camps near Pülümür where Mıntıka Association was founded were unearthed on 21 January 1993 and placed under siege. Upon learning the camp is under siege, the guerrilla troops planted their leading troops on all the mountain ranges surrounding the camp. 3 bombardment planes were removed from enemy Erzurum and 3 cobra helicopters began intensive bombardment. The enemy could not approach the guerrilla troops, nor can cause losses. On the one hand, intense winter conditions, on the other hand, hostile attacks, forced the guerrilla troops to leave the area. Since all the villages in the region where guerrilla troops stayed were under military occupation, the troops could not visit any village. After a long walk under bitter winter conditions, the target was reached by making 3 guerrillas martyred.
In accordance with the true meaning of the companionship relationships which made Barbara sympathized with TKP-ML, she experienced the most beautiful examples of sacrifice, solidarity, friendship. 3 more guerrillas were martyred after reaching the targeted village. Barbara Anna Kirstler, joined the band of these martyrs among the unforgettable names of the international proletariat at in Dersim province Kurdistan, who was overpowered not by the enemy but by the ruthless winter conditions. Barbara Anna Kirstler, being an example of an international proletarian revolutionary, was martyred in Yel Mountain, with the honorary membership of the Central Committee.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has studied national liberation movements