Azem Bejta was born in the village of Galica (medieval Kalica) in the Skenderaj town of the Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire. He was the son of Bejta Galica, a patriot who died fighting against the Ottoman Empire and for Albania's separation from the Serbian state. Azem followed his father, and first fought against the Kingdom of Serbia in 1912.
Azem Galica was one of the leaders of armed resistance to Serbian rule in Kosovo in the years 1912-1914. With his Kacak fighters, he resisted Serbian forces that invaded Kosovo during the Balkan Wars and early in World War I. In the winter of 1915–16, during World War I, Kosovo saw the Serbian army retreat when Kosovo was occupied by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary.
In 1915, after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Kosovo following the rout of the Serbians, Azem Galica began an armed resistance against the new invaders. However, after persuasion by Luigj Gurakuqi, Prenk Bib Doda and Fejzi Alizoti, as well as the opening of 300 Albanian schools, the right to fly the Albanian flag, and assurances that the Austrians would respect the customs of the country, the Albanian language, and both the Christian and Muslim religions, Azem Galica accepted the Austrian occupation.
In 1918, the Serbian Army pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo. After World War I ended, Kosovo found itself in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (later known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) on 1 December 1918. Galica again became an outlaw, fighting again the soldiers and police of the King.
Disaffected Kosovar Albanians, who had rallied around Hasan Prishtina, formed a 'Committee for the National Defence of Kosovo' in Shkoder in 1918, their main demand being the unification of Kosovo with Albania. The best known of the Kachak leaders were Bajram Curri, Hasan Prishtina and Azem Galica. A general revolt started, known as the Kachak (outlaw) movement, led by Azem Galica, against the incorporation of Kosovo into Yugoslavia. Fighting blew up in Drenica, Azem Galica's home territory. It was estimated that there were 10,000 active rebels at this time.