Born in Istanbul, she participated in the students' movement in 1976. She interrupted her vocational training to work in several factories and take part in the fights of the labor movement. After the 1980 military coup, she was active in a human rights organisation in Istanbul.
As a journalist she wrote for the magazines Kadınca and Kim and the newspapers Radikal gazetesi and BİA. Having been a part of the women's rights movement since 1987, Koçali was one of the founding members of the feminist magazine Pazartesi, whose editor-in-chief she was for a while.
She was involved in the founding of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) as well as the Socialist Democracy Party, which broke away from the former in 2002, and a member of the executive committees of both parties. She has been the secretary general of the SDP since May 2004.