News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
The Huffington Post, a popular online news site based in the United States, posted a report a number of days ago on the role of women in the revolution in Rojava. In particular the report drew attention to the recent formation of the YPJ as an all female division of the YPG, and the importance given to gender equality within the organization more generally.
Yesterday the Turkish Radikal Gazetesi ran an interview with Asya Abdullha, the co-president of the PYD, entitled “If Women are not Free there is no Democracy.” Over the course of the interview she speaks about (among other things) the necessity of making women’s issues a central role in the revolution and the contribution women have made to developments in Rojava thus far. Below are a few excerpts from the interview translated to English:
Reporter: Do you think in general that Turkey understands the role of women in the Kurdish Movement?
Abdullah: In the Middle Eastern politics the place that women are most active is in the Kurdish movement. This is not propaganda, this is the reality. Whether it be in the political, social, philosophical or military arena, the struggle of Kurdish women deserves attention. However the people of the Middle East have been enslaved by a mentality of male hegemony. And there is an historical background to this. When one says politics men come to mind. When it is a question of state formation, they think it must be men. For this reason the political, social, economic, and diplomatic problems in the Middle East have grown so large. At the foundation of these problems is a patriarchal order and mentality. A democratic regime where everyone could express themselves, that can provide a place for this expression in its construction of the future is the worst nightmare of the powers in the Middle East. The struggle of women also provokes a lot of fear. If you paid attention it was always men whose decisions mattered during the Arab Spring. Despite the serious affect of women on the revolutionary process, their voices were not taken into account in the formation of the new system. In Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya it was this way. In Syria too. If you look at the rebels attempting to make a revolution in Syria there is almost no participation by women. How can you talk about democracy and freedom without gender equality? If women are not free how can a society become free?
Reporter: What impact is the Kurdish women’s movement having on the new order in Rojava?
Abdullah: Women are at the forefront of the revolution in Rojava. No one can deny this. In politics, in diplomacy, in combat, in confronting social problems, in providing social services, in the establishment of a new and democratic system and a new and democratic family women are at the forefront. Everyone has to get this into their heads. Because this wasn’t told to Kurdish women. We labored and we sweat to attain this power. But we will still need to struggle more against this backwards, patriarchal attitude. We realize this. In every revolution where it was said “First lets make the revolution and after we will worry about women’s rights” the efforts of women were stolen. We are determined now to allow this to happen.
Reporter: Lately in the course of the fighting with al-Nusra as number of fatwas came condoning the rape of women. Do you have a number as to the instances of rape?
Abdullah: These gangs which are supported by foreign powers and have come from abroad to make jihad are doing savage things that have nothing to do with religion or democracy. They have nothing to do with Islam, they are using it as a tool. And they have bad intentions not only for Kurdish women but all Syrian women. There have been many rapes. For example in the city of Al-Hasakah recently many Armenian women were captured, raped and murdered. According to their professed beliefs if they capture a woman and making her to recite the tekbir three times they make her their own. In this region there is a particular history and culture. they have designs upon this culture. We live together here as Kurds, Arabs, CHristians, Druzes, Sunnis and Alawites. Today Kurds have been taken as a target but their target is all of Syria and the shared life here. The reason for attacks against women is also that we are fighting them on the front. Kurdish women are not only defending their own position but the position of all women in Syria. Many witnesses have offered testimony: Gangs are stopping buses as they travel from one city to another. In their hands are swords and machetes and they are saying “if there are any Kurds among you we will blow of their heads and go to heaven.” As women of the Middle East we all need to resist this together.