News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF/Nergiz Botan – Qamişlo) Remziye Mihemed, Finance Minister of the Cizîre Canton, has
spoke with ANF about the work of her ministry and the development of a new economic model in Rojava more generally. Mihemed told ANF that a financial policy will be implemented and natural resources will be put to use in a way that is in line with the needs of the people. “Everyone except for the Kurds had the right to use and manage our rich natural resources. Kurds were condemned to poverty while surrounded by all kinds of wealth” – said Mihemed – “Together with the system of Democratic Autonomy the people are building their own, independent economies.”
The Cizîre Canton declared its autonomy on January 21 of this year and work on building a government began immediately. Of the 22-person government, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Commerce are run by women. In the following interview, Mihemed speaks about the role of women in the new government, their attempts to put resources to work for the people, and the importance of ecological development and conservation.
You have a place in the government of the Canton that was the first to declare autonomy. You will now represent the gains women have made in Rojava at the governmental level. What are you feeling?
For me it was not perhaps such a strange situation. Because before this I was the president of the Qamişo [People’s] Assembly. At that time I also experienced much excitement. However taking a position within a governmental framework founded on a system of Democratic Autonomy for the first time was a different kind of excitement. Within the government I was given the position of finance minister. A women has never been a finance minister before in the Middle East. It was within the system of Democratic Autonomy that a woman was able to have such an opportunity for the first time. This is a demonstration of how much Kurdish women have moved forward.
How was the financial policy directed at Rojava before? How will your financial policies be shaped?
The Assad regime until now never used its financial resource will the goal of serving the people of Kurdistan. Our people were forced to migrate to Aleppo or to Damascus in order to make ends meet. There was a policy of state bribery in place. That is to say the possibility of working here was very restricted. An example of this was that there was not even a factory or textile workshop here that could employ a small number of people. It was impossible to install three sewing-machines in a textile workshop. A day or two later regime authorities could come and put a seal on the shop’s door. The tried everything to keep the people from developing communal labor or from coming together and working in common. They always implemented policies that kept society dependent on [the regime]. ın this way they encouraged Kurds to emigrate abroad or to other cities within Syria.
On the other hand agricultural products that were produced here were taken to cities such as Aleppo and Damascus, processed, and sold back. For example cotton was harvested here however it was taken to Aleppo to be processed. In the same way our wheat was taken to Damascus, Homs and Hama to be turned into flower. Also oil, our most important source of income, was managed from outside. In short everyone except for the Kurds had the right to use and manage our rich natural resources. Kurds were condemned to poverty while surrounded by all kinds of wealth. Together with the Rojava Revolution and the system of Democratic Autonomy which we are constructing are independent economies, that is the people are constructing their own independent economies. We in the Finance Ministry will direct our work that that the rich natural resources in Rojava, both above and below ground, will be managed in Rojava and the income they generate will be returned to the people.
Right now there is a state of war. We are forced to bring in tools for production due to the embargo directed against some of our region. This also has an effect on our work.
For the same reason we are experiencing difficulties in developing large-scale projects. Because of this the development of smaller-scale projects is more suitable for our people and in this way we are also paving the way for large-scale projects. For example tailor workshops and bakeries are being opened. These are small steps that began before the proclamation of the cantons but are steps directed at production within an environment of war and thus not to be belittled none the less. Outside of the Finance Ministry the Ministry of Economy and Commerce are also involved with many projects. Of course we have relationships and common projects around this subject, because spheres formed within the system of Democratic Autonomy are never independent of one another.
Are you working to construct economic independence for women?
During the regime era it was even a problem for women to leave their homes. The Rojava Revolution became at the same time a women’s revolution. In order to form an understanding of women centered finance we will support the women’s organizations. We will always be read to give support to current projects and future projects. In the most recent period there were projects realized that were directed toward women, such as bakeries, clothing retail, tailor workshops. We are showing every kind of material and moral support to those developing such projects.
It is still a very new government and ministry but what projects have you prioritized within this process?
As your have pointed out because the cantons are just being formed we are still at the phase of putting together this system. We are preparing the Finance Ministry’s procedures. According to them we will prepare projects and present them to the government, and after they are approved we will put them into practice. That is to say right now we are only managing systematic work.
The headquarters of the Finance Ministry, like the government, will be in Qamişlo. We in the Finance Ministry will have relations with 21 other ministries in the Cizîre region. We will work on projects open to the people in a way that the people will be able to develop their own finance. Within the framework of the Democratic Autonomous government, we are working to put together a tax law designed in accordance with the character of society.
Who is Remziye Mihemed?
Remziye Mihemed has been involved in work around women’s issues in Rojava since 2000 and in 2005 she was selected to be a member of the Yekitiya Star coordination committee. She continued to work on women’s issues in the Cizîre region until 2011. In 2011 she was chosen as the co-president of the Qamişlo People’s Assembly. On January 21st she was appointed to the Finance Ministry. Remziye Mihemed was born in 1978 and graduated from middle school.