Meaning of şehîd culture and women

The revolutionary şehîd culture of the Kurdish movement famously says “martyrs do not die”. This means if we continue someone’s work, keep their struggle going, and live their values, then their energy and spirit is still with us. Women Defend Rojava is part of this tradition, carrying on the struggle of the thousands of women who have fallen fighting for freedom all over the world.

To say şehîds do not die is a promise, a promise that we will keep struggling and we will make sure that what they died for carries on. The political work of the movement- against capitalism, the state, and patriarchy- is in part an act of revenge for fallen comrades. But not one carried out in rage, impulsively, our even with hate. One that builds slowly and takes revenge with love, by building a new world and winning true victories, not creating cycles of violence.

All over North and East Syria every roundabout, every road, and many homes display pictures of şehîds. Instead of the advertisements of capitalist modernity, they smile down at us and remind us of our values and our commitment every day. The şehîds’ cemetaries are places of beauty, life, and respect.

Şehîds are honoured but the culture doesn’t glorify death. Recklessness or courting danger are not in the spirit of the movement. An important principle is to belong to life, and to find a way to live well, with love. Enemies have taken many wonderful friends from the struggle, but you should never give yourself without a fight. The goal is not death, but life, but to truly live we must struggle.

There’s no pain of loss greater than the pain of a mother losing her child. North and East Syria is full of such mothers, mothers who have lost their children in the fight against fascism and for a better world. Mothers of the şehîds have become a symbol of the incredible strength of the women of the revolution. Despite and indeed because of their immense pain and suffering, they are in the front of revolutionary struggle and often some of the most tireless fighters for change. They know better than anyone the stakes of the struggle, who the enemy is and what it means to give everything we can.

We must remember our şehîds for their own sake and for what they symbolise for the movement. But its also important to remember them for their families, particularly the mothers. To make sure they know they are not alone and the immense sacrifice of their children is still a powerful force in the world. And so is their own presence, their revolutionary anger and love. When the mother of a şehîd talks about her daughter or son, she shares pain but also pride, and inspiration. She gives revolutionary energy and force.

There would be no revolution without society. And the most important thing if you want a strong connection with society, is to get the support of mothers. A society with mothers at the core is a society based on values of care, peace, genuine justice and equality. And this is what makes so many mothers supportive and proud of their children going to war to defend that society and those values, despite the risks.

There are so many stories of mothers knowing before that their daughter or son would soon fall şehîd, or knowing it had happened before they were told. This connection that we cannot at the moment fully understand shows the power of the love a mother has for her child. That force turned against capitalism, the state and patriarchy is one of the greatest weapons of the revolution.

In North and East Syria, families of the şehîds are organised. The “Malbata şehîdan” is the institution for şehîd families, working at every level of the families’ lives to bring them together, solve their problems, be a force in society, and organise on connected issues. Women Defend Rojava visited the Malbata şehîdan in Heseke, to ask why these families are still resisting threats on the revolution. Women shared how just like in any other organisation, autonomous women’s structures are essential, and how they feel about self defence.

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