Deniz Gezmiş

Deniz Gezmiş (27 February 1947 – 6 May 1972) was a Turkish Marxist-Leninist revolutionary, student leader, and political activist in Turkey in the late 1960s.[1] He was one of the founding members of the People's Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO).[2]

Deniz Gezmiş
Deniz Gezmiş.jpg
Born(1947-02-27)27 February 1947
Ayaş, Turkey
Died6 May 1972(1972-05-06) (aged 25)
Altındağ, Turkey
Alma materIstanbul University
Parent(s)Cemil Gezmiş
Mukaddes Gezmiş

He was born to an inspector of primary education and syndicalist Cemil Gezmiş[3] and a primary school teacher Mukaddes Gezmiş. He was educated in various Turkish cities. He spent most of his childhood in Sivas, where his father grew up. He graduated from high school in Istanbul where he first encountered left wing ideas. Gezmiş and companions are considered by some as "Turkey's Ché Guevara and compañeros".[4]

Political lifeEdit

The identification of Deniz Gezmiş, issued by Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and given during guerrilla training in 1969

After joining the Workers Party of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye İşçi Partisi), he studied law at İstanbul University in 1966. In the summer of 1968, he and around 15 other students founded the Revolutionary Student Union (Turkish: Devrimci Öğrenci Birliği).[5] He also founded the Revolutionary Jurists Organisation (Turkish: Devrimci Hukukçular Kuruluşu).

Gezmiş became increasingly politically active, established the Revolutionary Jurists Association in January 1966[6] and was involved into the student-organised occupation of İstanbul University in June 1968.[5] After the occupation was forcibly subdued, he spearheaded protests against the arrival of the US 6th Fleet in Istanbul,[7] during which on the 17 July 1968 several US soldiers were harmed and pushed into the sea.[8] Deniz Gezmiş was arrested for these actions on 30 July 1968, and released on 20 October of the same year.

As he increased his involvement with the Worker's Party of Turkey, and began to advocate for a National Democratic Revolution, his ideas started to circulate and inspire a growing revolutionary student base. On 28 November 1968, he was arrested again after protesting US ambassador Robert Komer's visit to Turkey, but was later released. On 16 March 1969 he was arrested again for participating in right-wing and left-wing armed conflicts and imprisoned until 3 April. Gezmiş was re-arrested after leading Istanbul University Law Faculty students on a protest of the reformation bill[clarification needed] on 31 May 1969. The university was temporarily closed, and Gezmiş was injured in the conflict. Although Gezmiş was under surveillance, he escaped from hospital and went to Palestine Liberation Organization camps in Jordan to receive guerrilla training.[9] In 1969, Gezmiş led a group of students who "violently disrupted" a lecture american scholar Daniel Lerner was to give at Istanbul University.[10]

During the 1960s, Gezmiş crossed paths with the infamous American Soviet/Russian CIA mole Aldrich Ames. While scouting for information on Soviet intelligence, Ames recruited one of Gezmiş' roommates, who gave him information about the membership and activities of Devrimci Gençlik (DEV-GENÇ), a Marxist youth group.[11]

Arrest and trialEdit

On 11 January 1971, Deniz Gezmiş took part in the robbery of Emek branch of İş Bank/İş Bankasi(TR) in Ankara. On 4 March that year, he kidnapped four U.S. privates[12] from TUSLOG/The United States Logistics Group headquartered in Balgat, Ankara. After releasing the hostages, he and Yusuf Aslan were captured alive between Gemerek-Yeniçubuk, Şarkışla and Sivas following an armed stand-off with law enforcement officers.

Their trial began on 16 July 1971, after the coup d'état of 12 March. Gezmiş was sentenced to death on 9 October for violating the Turkish Criminal Code's 146th article, which concerns attempts to "overthrow Constitutional order". According to legal procedure at that time, a death sentence had to be endorsed by Parliament before being sent to the President of the Republic for final assent. In March and April 1972 the sentence was placed before Parliament and in both readings the sentence was overwhelmingly approved. Prime Minister at that time was Nihat Erim. Some politicians such as İsmet İnönü and Bülent Ecevit opposed the sentence, but others, amongst them Süleyman Demirel, Alparslan Türkeş and İsmet Sezgin voted in favor of it.[13]He and his colleagues within the AP (Adalet Partisi - Justice Party) gave votes in favor of the executions, shouting, "Three from us, three from them!".[14] - referring to the right-wing Democratic Party politicians (including former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes), who had been executed in 1961 after Yassıada Trials. The Republican People's Party (CHP) appealed to the Constitutional Court in order to impede the confirmation by the parliament should be cancelled, and the Constitutional Court overturned the decision made by the parliament. But the Parliament again constituted and reaffirmed the death sentence. In attempt to stop the execution of Gezmiş and two other prisoners, 11 militants of the People’s Liberation Party – Front and the Turkey People’s Liberation Army, amongst them Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Mahir Çayan kidnapped three technicians. They brought the technicians to Kizildere where they were surrounded by armed forces on the 30 March 1972. All in the group including the hostages, except for Ertuğrul Kürkçü, were killed in the ensuing firefight. [15] [16][13]

On 3 May, President Cevdet Sunay signed the decision to execute Gezmiş. He was executed by hanging on the 6 May 1972 in Ankara Central Prison along with Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan.[13]

His last request was to drink tea and listen to Concierto de Aranjuez, Joaquín Rodrigo's guitar concerto.

Long live a fully independent Turkey. Long live the great ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Long live the Turkish and Kurdish peoples' fight for independence. Damned be imperialism. Long live the workers and the villagers.

— Last words of Deniz Gezmiş.[17]


Gezmiş's grave in Karşıyaka Cemetery, Ankara
  • Those who were executed on 6 May 1972 requested to be buried alongside Taylan Özgür in Ankara, but their last wish was not granted.[13]
  • In 1980, former prime minister Nihat Erim was assassinated by Devrimci Sol.[18]
  • In 1987, Süleyman Demirel, who had initially actively supported the executions, told a journalist who was interviewing him that the executions were "a mishap which occurred during the Cold War".[19]
  • While the executions of Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan, and Hüseyin İnan under the 1970 military junta dealt a blow to the morale of the Left in Turkey, in the long run, they established the three youths as symbols under which the Turkish Left would gather. The conflict between the Right and Left continued to escalate within the 1970s with the Cold War in the backdrop, and would ultimately lead to the 1980 military coup.


  1. ^ Çandar, Cengiz (6 April 2008). "The 68 generation, Deniz Gezmiş, and us". Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 30 June 2008.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Mullenbach, Mark J. "Middle East/North Africa/Persian Gulf Region". Third-Party Interventions in Intrastate Disputes Project. University of Central Arkansas. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  3. ^ Deniz Gezmiş'in babası öldü, Milliyet, 24 June 2000.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 December 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b Ulus, Özgür Mutlu (8 December 2010). The Army and the Radical Left in Turkey: Military Coups, Socialist Revolution and Kemalism. London: I.B.Tauris. pp. 108, 110. ISBN 9781848854840.
  6. ^ Silverman, Reuben (2015). Turkey's ever present past: Stories from Turkish Republican History. Libra. p. 97. ISBN 978-6059022477.
  7. ^ Ulus, Özgür Mutlu (8 December 2010). The Army and the Radical Left in Turkey: Military Coups, Socialist Revolution and Kemalism. I.B.Tauris. pp. 109. ISBN 9781848854840.
  8. ^ Gokay, Bulent (22 November 2006). Soviet Eastern Policy and Turkey, 1920-1991: Soviet Foreign Policy, Turkey and Communism. Routledge. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-134-27549-6.
  9. ^ Yayla, Atilla (1989). "Terrorism in Turkey" (PDF). SBF dergisi. Ankara University. 44 (3): 249–262. ISSN 0378-2921. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008.
  10. ^ Adalet, Begüm,. Hotels and highways : the construction of modernization theory in Cold War Turkey. Stanford, California. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-5036-0555-8. OCLC 1013997802.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Suzal, Savas (2 March 1997). "Disislerinde CIA Köstebegi". Sabah. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  12. ^ "NBC Evening News for Wednesday, Mar 17, 1971". NBC Evening News. Vanderbilt Television News Archive. 17 March 1971. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d Çelebi, Semra (6 May 2009). "1971-1972: Last Days of Young Revolutionaries before Execution". Bianet.
  14. ^ "Demirel: Denizler'i milli irade astı". Ensonhaber. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  15. ^ BİA Haber Merkezi - İstanbul (31 March 2007). "Kızıldere Katliamı". Bianet.
  16. ^ Çelebi, Semra (6 May 2009). "1971-1972: Last Days of Young Revolutionaries before Execution". Bianet.
  17. ^ Çelenk, Halit. İdam Gecesi Anıları, Tekin Yayınevi, 2002, 14. Basım, s. 86.
  18. ^ "Nihat Erim | prime minister of Turkey". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Deniz Gezmiş ve arkadaşları". Sabah. 6 May 2013. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2014.