What is self-defence?

Women’s self defence means much more than just in military terms. As important though the battle with weapons is, women’s self defence also has many other colours and shapes. Women defend Rojava and ourselves on many different fronts and in many different ways.

The first step of women’s self defence is always unity. When we are divided we are vulnerable, either to patriarchal attacks within our communities, or to colonisation or invasion from dominant outside powers. When we create collectivity and solidarity we are strong. This means that when we are in our struggles, whether at war, at a protest, raising out voices, or creating art, we must remain united and be a collective force. It also means that the creation of this collective force is in itself a form of self defence. The patriarchy has spend thousands of years trying to destroy women’s (and through that humanity’s) collectivity. When we find, protect and develop that collectivity we are practising self defence.

We also fight for our society, for our land, and for the children and future of that land. We must know and love what we are defending. Women’s self defence is not aggression or violence. It is not born out of hatred, but out of love. When we build links in our societies, celebrate each other, and rely on each other, we are also practising self defence.

Self defence means struggling to overcome the mindset of patriarchy. The threats against Rojava and against women’s freedom come at their roots from fascism, colonialism, capitalism and the nation state. All of these things come with beliefs and mentalities that are also within us all. We cannot defend against the enemies outside unless we are also challenging the enemies within us. We call the spreading and dominance of these ideas “special warfare”. Women have been particularly affected by patriarchal special warfare. The mindset of patriarchy has turned women against each other, taught us we cannot trust ourselves and our judgement, that we are weak, that we need the approval of men, and that we do not belong in leadership or political roles. When we educate ourselves about women’s history, women’s power, and what really gives value in life, we are practising self defence.

The Rojava revolution must defend its territory, but also so much more. We are fighting for the values of the revolution, not just for land. And those values can, do and must extend much more widely than the territory of North and East Syria. When women all over the world challenge patriarchy, fight for freedom and true democracy, and live by revolutionary values, we are defending the Rojava revolution. By struggling for freedom, we are already in solidarity with the women of North and East Syria, including the fighters of the YPJ.

The YPJ is also not just a mirror image of a patriarchal, masculine, state military. Women’s self defence means something very different. When we look at nature we can see the immense power of a female animal defending her young. Completely unstoppable and dangerous to her enemies, but never acting unprovoked or to dominate another being. Women’s physical self defence taps into values of protection and care. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Rojava neighbourhood self defence forces of the HPC-Jin. The HPJ play an active role in developing their communities, and depending the mental and physical defence strategies of every woman, every house, every street and every town. They are women of their own communities, ready to defend those communities as much as is necessary.

When women all around the world step up to defend Rojava, we draw on all these meanings of defence. We create unity and collective power. We educate each other. We raise our voices and insist women’s voices are in the forefront of struggle. We refuse to be kept back by patriarchal attacks or mindsets. We redefine what strength means and what it means to defend, with our own power. We take whatever action is necessary. And we do it all with love.

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