News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF) In a report carried by ANF, Jina Zekioğlu interviews members of a 6-women committee from the Cizîre Canton in Rojava which is currently on a visit to Diyarbakir. The committee is meeting with various local organizations in an attempt to develop joint-projects and to improve cooperation between women’s organizations in Rojava and North Kurdistan. Zekioğlu spoke with the six women – Necah, Axin, Sadia, Jînda, Nora and Mona – about the Rojava Revolution and the role that women are now playing in transforming politics and society. Below is the second part of Zekioğlu’s report, translated into English. Part one can be found here.
Jîna Sêxmûs is 26 years old. She has two children. The fire of the struggle sparklers in her eyes.
Zekioğlu: When you think about the past how do you feel?
Jîna: Very strong! I want to hope that we have left those dark days behind us. It was very difficult. It was difficult in every aspect. I had two children, I was to raise them – the war was a personal awakening for me as a woman. It was all very difficult. We, the youth, played our role and our mission in the revolution. Rojava is a region that possesses fantastic riches both below and above the ground. Our resources are very rich. The youth population is large. There is so much to do that we have no time now to waste. If the cooperatives are able to be brought together they will provide for the livelihood of women. A large majority of those migrating because of the war were men. Many of those who have lost their lives or became soldiers are also men. For that reason there is now a large population of young women. We want to create new projects in order to that this population might be utilized. In this way we will be worthy of our freedom which we have won through countless difficulties.
Sadia Abdullah is 38 years-old. She is an English teacher. She has a position in the administration of the Legislative Assembly of the Cizîre Canton and is preparing draft laws.
Zekioğlu: One of the most meaningful gains of the kurdish freedom struggle is what you have all lived through. Ultimately these gains are being drafted into laws, and you are debating these. You responsibility is very great, is it not?
Sadia: Certainly! As it happened in history is happening again today. Kurds struggled for freedom for the sake of their lives. And this struggle is still continuing. After so much sacrifice is is very difficult to produce laws. We could not even imagine what we are writing now with our hands. It is an exciting and important duty.
Zekioğlu: What have been your gains such far? Can you explain a little about the administration of the assembly?
Sadia: Before the revolution women had no ability to speak or make a decision. Now we have such an ability. We are active in every sphere. Right now we have a temporary administration. An election will be held shortly. We implemented a 40% quota for women. However we have been working to increase this to 50% or 60%. We work on a co-Presidency system. For example, in the Cizîre Canton our co-president is a Christian. We try to respond to all demands.
Mona Abdulselam is 43 years old and the spokeswoman for the Sara Women’s Society.
Zekioğlu: What was the mission of the Sara Women’s Society in the Rojava Revolution?
Mona: We were women coming together against violence. Before the revolution we had various projects. Our struggle is not only to be Kurdish or to be women, but when you at both at once it becomes even more difficult. We as the Sara Women’s Society have desired to prevent violence against women both before and after the war and to serve the freedom of women as individuals. Because I worked I was able to go out before but in general it would difficult for women to leave their homes. They could not speak for themselves. Those subjected to violence could not go to any organization for help. In short we didn’t count!
Zekioğlu: To what degree are the laws put in place and the rights that have been made clear enough?
Mona: In the first place, women are not writing laws. This is an important achievement. There are many women working in the women’s organizations that have been opened. These organizations and political structures supporting them play an important role in the gains made for the freedom of women. Women are now conscious of their rights to a certain degree. If they encounter a problem they know where to go and to whom to apply. They know how to organize and how to change this system.
“We do not want to destroy the family, we want to make women equal.”
The Ceren Women’s Society and the Sara Kadın Women’s Society are discussing becoming sister organizations in the course of this visit. The 6 women from Rojava are debating what kind of projects they will develop in order to efficiently direct the women’s struggle, how they will increase participation and how they will organize. They are sharing their personal and communal experiments with the women of Diyarbakir.
Zekioğlu: You founded a Women and Family Ministry. This ministry by virtue of its name is able to obstruct the existence of women outside of the family. In many countries including Turkey there is an understanding based on conservative Islam in which there is an attempt to implement women’s right under the auspices of a family ministry. Do you find this name to be correct?
Sadia: In particular we have been very pleased with our work here. We have had many meetings. We took notes. We listened to suggestions. When we return to Qamişlo we will work around these suggestions. The only reason that women bow down before violence is the economy! Because women have not had economic freedom those who want to terminate their marriages are unable to. If they had jobs through which they could maintain themselves, no woman who have bowed before violence. In Rojava a great majority of women are founders of families and hold them together. It used to be that this was abused. And it is not that is no longer abused. We do not want to destroy the concept of the family, we want that women will be equal to men within the family. We talk about a Family Ministry so that we can have an effect for women both in the sphere of the economy and employment and in the sphere of social security.
Zekioğlu: In Turkey the name used to be Ministry of Women and The Family. Later the “Women” portion wasd dropped and only the “Family” remains. Are you afraid it could turn out like this? Have you gotten legislative guarantees around this?
Sadia: Our laws are clear. Women have a place at all levels of government. Our assembly is 40% women. We will increase this proportion to at least 50%. In this way the laws individuals will not be able to change the laws in accordance with personal interests. Women can stop any such steps in the necessary places. But at the same time we have received criticism in this area and we are considering them carefully.
Zekioğlu: In many places in the world women are subjected to violence under the mandate of religion. In Rojava some months ago a fatwa was issued saying that “the women and property of Kurds are helal [permitted].” What are you doing in the name of stopping violence mandated by religion?
Mona: There is no religious mandate for murders that are carried out in the name of honor. We plan to put this into our laws under the umbrella of violent discrimination. There are those who want to use religion as a vehicle to murder women. In recent years radical islamists have a policy of attacking Kurdish women. The fatwa which they released is an example of this. We are struggling against this. It is not possible for us to work side by side with an understanding that is against the right to life.