The Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement

solidarity with rojava

This article is an opinion piece written by NCAFC member Clémentine Boucher after a Kurdish human rights campaigner led a workshop on Women in the Kurdish Struggle at NCAFC Women and Non-Binary Conference this January. Do you want to respond, or write about another topic for anticuts.com? Please get in touch via [email protected]

The Kurdish struggle for independence is crucial for the region, and for the world: not only is it part of the post-colonial struggle, it is also a feminist struggle and, in some areas, a fight for radical democracy.

The Kurds have been fighting for independence from Turkey since Turkey’s own independence in 1923. Guerrilla forces (mainly the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have been organising themselves and fighting the Turkish government since 1984, seeking an alternative society to the nation-state, namely ‘democratic confederalism’, an autonomous, direct form of democracy closely resembling anarchist federations. This has already been installed in Rojava, the region of Kurdistan that overlaps Syrian territory, in Amed and Mêrdin.

In 1993 came the first guerrilla movement that was entirely and autonomously organised by women. This extended to everywhere in life, and was promoted by the founder of the PKK himself, Ocalan, as he claimed that “no revolution can take place while women are slaves”. Slavery here applies as much to Turkish domination of their territory as to the household: hence the YPG (the People’s Defence Unit) is a military as well as a social and political organisation. Indeed one of their martyrs, Sakine Cansiz, co-founder of the PKK, wished their military involvement to empower women in all cities, towns, and villages. And they are: women coordinate their own organisations, armies, and conferences themselves. They also have ‘women houses’, for instance, that are basically community and aid centres, that they can go to for mutual support.

Kurdish women are effectively, as Egyptian feminist Mona Elthahawy would put it, orchestrating ‘two revolutions’: one at the top, overthrowing political leaders, and one in our heads, destroying the Patriarchy. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of such a movement, something that has never been seen, even in Western Europe. Because what we are witnessing is women, living in a heavily patriarchal region, making history by fighting for their own freedom and equality, whilst joining the anti-capitalist fight.

Another amazing thing is that the Kurdish forces aren’t just fighting the Turkish government; they’re also fighting IS, and are very effective at that. Their forces have managed to reclaim most of the Kurdish territory that was taken by IS, and have received a massive influx of soldiers in recent months to help them in further endeavours. The YPG has a further advantage, as they seem to scare the IS troops: indeed, their soldiers believe that they won’t go to heaven if they are killed by a woman.

Yet the Kurdish independence movement has been very heavily repressed by the Turkish government, which has a veritable war plan against the PKK (which, we should note, is listed as a terrorist organisation by the British government).

The government has been using horrendous tactics to suppress the rebellion: since 2014, more than 260 people have been killed, many parts of the region have been placed under curfew since November 2015, Turkey still denies them their language, and it is accused of having dropped two bombs on demonstrators during a peace process, killing many, in order to then blame IS for such crimes.

While there is pressure mounting asking for them to stop, Erdogan’s government is ready to go against its own people who support the end to the violence against Kurds. The problem is that Turkey is seen as a useful ally in the fight against Assad in Syria and IS (although that is very far from the truth, because there is evidence that Erdogan’s government facilitated the passage of IS troops across its own borders for several years, thereby contributing to their rise).

So now, more than ever, the Kurdish women fighting both oppression by the Turkish state and fighting IS need international solidarity in order to end this violence. NCAFC have called a student bloc for the national demonstration on March 6th, starting at 12:00 in front of Trafalgar Square, to support the Kurdish peoples and to force the British government to pay attention to the atrocities that are being committed against them, by putting pressure on their fake ally that is Turkey.

We demand:

  • the UK government stops supporting the Turkish government’s assault on the Kurds, takes action to force Turkey to stop it’s criminality, and stops arms deals to Turkey which are part of that repression
  • the de-criminalisation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who are currently a major force in the Kurdish liberation movement

If you want to know more about this, here are some useful websites that can provide information:

http://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com

http://www.kurdishinfo.com

http://kurdishquestion.com

http://ypgrojava.com

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