Rainbow Resistance...


Syria: The struggle of the Kurdish women

Marta Morales

Courtesy: http://rojwomen.org/

If there is an example of struggle, organization and resistance of women against the violent discrimination they are subject to, this example is showed by the young Kurdish women who take part in the militias, particularly in the Syrian civil war.

In early 2013, three Kurdish guerrilla women were killed at the Information Center of Kurdistan in Paris, a fact that led to a significant mobilization which exposed the cooperation between the secret services of the Turkish and French governments and let once again crystal clear the discrimination experienced by women either for political reasons, or because they belong to any organization or even because they express themselves.

Likewise, it is evident the male chauvinism that prevails in organizations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq, where women are kidnapped and raped to satisfy the sexual whims of the "war lords".

Furthermore, such organizations impose the women strict rules through the Sharia (Islamic law), which forces them to be fully covered from head to toe and as woman is considered a weak and decorative object, it is resorted to them only in order to have sex and enjoy it, even during battles.

As if this were not enough the raped women, often underage, are disowned by their families, and because of that so many of them do not even dare to denounce the violation, and those who do are condemned to be victims of this social stigma which even today is very strong within the society in which they live in.

The two revolutions of Kurdish women

That situation, coupled with the jihadist groups offensive in the northern Syria whose population is Kurdish in its majority, has generated a revolution in the women's consciousness, which is evidenced by their enlistment in both, the police and the Kurdish Protection Units (YPG). Both divisions have female sections carrying out works together with men, although the women have autonomy to deal with cases involving women.

And since 2013 it is remarkable the incorporation of women in the women's section of the Kurdish militia (YPJ). They are mostly young, not more than 20 years old, occupying trenches and bunkers just a few hundred meters away from the enemy positions.

"The Emirs of ISIS beg us to withdraw women from the front because for them it is a disgrace to die in their hands", [1] said Abdull Rahman, member of the negotiating committee of the Kurdish militia and jihadists for the management of truces and the exchange of prisoners.

These "gentlemen" are more fearful of women than of men, since, according to their beliefs, "to die in combat killed by a woman will prevent them from entering the paradise", in the words of Zilan, a militia woman.

Since 2011 when the fight began in Syria, Kurdish women have been sustaining a relentless struggle for the recognition of their people and for the rights of women in an extremely patriarchal society.

One of the tasks that has been carried out is the management of a Center for Training and for the Emancipation of Women in Qamishli, a city at the northeast of Damascus. In this Centre it is possible to arrange almost everything, since workshops on literacy in Kurdish language up to computing and sewing classes, etc. Among the courses that are in high demand is that of "Women and Their Rights", because according to what says Brahim, an active female member of the center: "woman emancipation begins because she understands that she is entitled to be an individual who is capable of running her own life."[2]

The reason why the Syrian Kurdish women organize and participate themselves in both, the training and assistance centers to women and the fighting trenches show this double "revolution" that operates not only in the battle fronts but also in the minds of a people that has been oppressed for decades and has been split along Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, and where women have always been the most discriminated, abused and subjugated in the society.

Despite having no "mountain experience" many of them, both in Syria and in other countries that make up Kurdistan, enlist to defend against extremist groups; they also organize themselves to help their peers in the fight against discrimination and are enthusiastic to face the "war lords", with weapons in hand.

We may therefore hope that a solidarity movement be developed amidst the different Kurdish organizations in each country, in which the women emancipation premise can be a first step on the way to take down and crush, on one side, the male chauvinist methods used in the name of Islam, and on the other side, to break down the borders that the West and the various regional governments imposed once to Kurdistan.

[1] David Meseguer, "Las milicianas kurdas plantan cara al yihadismo en Siria" (The Kurdish militia women face jihadism in Syria).

[2] Note of Karlos Zurutza (IPS), published in Resumen Latinoamericano, Diario de Urgencia, especial Kurdistán.

Originally published in IWL-FI Newsletter, 29 September 2014.

Tags: Kurdish women, women's struggles

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