News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
ANF has posted a new article by Halil Deniz, “The Guaranty of the Rojava Revolution: The Women’s Battalions” in which he discusses the recent formation of the YPJ – an all female defense force – and speaks with a number of commanders and fighters in order to understand both what the YPJ is and how and why it was founded.
Deniz begins by drawing attention to the prominent role of women in areas under the administrative control of the PYD and YPG. He notes, for example, that in Afrin – a city with a population now exceeding one million as a result of the current refugee crisis – over 65 percent of individuals involved in the administration of the city are women. He then goes on to provide a brief history of the YPJ and presents a number of conversations he had with YPJ members. Below are some excerpts from the article, translated into English.
The History of the YPJ and its Composition
With the rapid increase of female fighters the first all female battalion – The Martyr Ruken Battalion – was founded on March 5th, 2013 in Arfin. Afterwards female battalions were founded in other cities. Now there are two female battalions in Afrin. The final goal together with the successful conclusion of the Rojava revolution is to found a new, all-female army.
The YPJ has battalions in all of Rojava’s cities as well as liaisons and organizational activities in all of its towns and districts. Although the exact number of female fighters is unknown it is thought to be in the thousands.
The average age of the female fighters is between 19 and 20. While the majority of the fighters are Kurdish, Arab and Armenian women – among others – are also taking part. While the YPG is composed of fighters of all ages the majority of the YPJ’s members are young women. Although there are those who are married and have children who want to join the YPJ they are not accepted – with some exceptions – due to the need for the protection of families.
There is no hierarchical relationship between it and the YPG. The main barracks and work system is the same however the military structure and battalions are separate.
The YPJ General Commander Axin Nucan on the YPJ’s Training
Deniz interviewed the YPJ General Commander, Axin Nucan, and asked her about a number of topics. On the military education that women receive before joining the YPJ. This is what she is reported to have said:
Women who want to join the YPJ train with the YPG for twenty days. After this short period of training all of those who want to join undergo a period of intense training. In this training women receive political and military training in addition to education on women’s history and gender mainstreaming. When their training finishes and they are assigned to a battalion this education still continues
Nucan on YPJ’s first Casualty
Our first martyr was comrade Berivan. Here every woman suffers. Berivan became a mother as a child. She was very much abused by her husband. She suffered a lot. She was forced into marriage. In order not to remain there and continue to suffer she looked for another solution and found her salvation in joining the the YPJ. Imagine a very dark room full of pain, but that somewhere there is a small beam of light. In these circumstances some people become afraid and won’t approach the light. Some go perseveringly toward the light and manage to be saved. In just this way Berivan walked toward that beam of light with perseverance and ardor through a world full of darkness and was saved from that darkness. She succeeded in becoming a freedom fighter in the YPJ. She fought for the freedom of her country, her people and the women of her country and when she fell as our first marty she wrote her honorable name in our history in a way that will never be erased.
YPJ Fighters Speak
Deniz also spoke with a number of young fighters in the YPJ. Below are some excerpts of interviews he conducted with them:
Avesta Cotkar (Age 22): I am from Afrin. I have been in the YPJ for a year. When the events in Syria were beginning in 2011 I was studying in Aleppo. Around that time I got involved with the Kurdish youth movement. We are a family of three children. We did not stand by indifferently and together with my siblings we joined the youth movement. Actually while we were in the youth movement we were not aware of anything.We didn’t know what was happening politically, how our lives would be affected and how we would live later. After being active in the youth movement for sometime I decided to join the YPJ. At first my family was against it but I insisted and they consented and supported me. After me my sister also joined.
First I had four months training. I can see very clearly now the difference in myself before and after this training. After this training my view on events, my knowledge, my thought process and my perceptions completely changed. I feel very different now. I thought I had realized everything. Now I understand very well what we have lived through and how we need to proceed from here. From the perspective of my perception of events and my evaluation of them I can see that I am completely different person. My mentality changed in a short period. And of course the way and style that I express myself completely changed.
Zilan Cudi (Age 25): I am from Kobane. I have been in the YPJ for six months. Before I joined I was living at home. I mean according to the popular parlance I was a `home girl.` When the revolution began like thousands of Kurdish youth I decide to fight. If I must be honest I decided to become a fighter with a desire for revenge. Under the Baath regime my whole family and especially my father were terribly oppressed. With this desire I came and joined up. I went through political and military training. Today I have all the equipment necessary to be a fighter. I can use any kind of weapon. Now when when I turn and look I see this: the gains that are people have made are more important that personal revenge. Perhaps I joined up for personal revenge but after my training I think very differently. What is important is the revenge of our country, our people, and their gains. If people take ownership of these gains it will be enough to say that I have taken my revenge.
As a woman is it difficult to fight? No it is not. Anything that a man can do in war I can do. In this sense I have no difficulty. What kind of difference can there be between a male and female fighter anyway? If a man can fight for 15 hours without a break so can I.We use the same weapons. In fact I use them better.
Now my only thought is to succeed. By fighting we will bring this revolution to a conclusion, and by doing this we will also achieve freedom for women.