This text was written by an internationalist woman who came to Rojava and took part in the women’s revolution and the struggle for women’s liberation and a free life. During her stay in Kobane, the city of women’s resistance against the IS, she shares here her experiences and feelings related to the murder and femicide of the women’s movement activists Kongra Star – Zehra, Hebun and Emine, who were killed by a Turkish drone in June this year:
I’m in Kobane and it’s been barely four months since three civilian women were killed here in one strike, taken by a drone of the Turkish state. A machine, a robot driven by a human? Someone sitting watching the screen of a computer and killing by pressing a button.
Three women were sitting in the garden talking in the afternoon, one of them a mother, hosting the others in her home. They were targeted and eliminated by a NATO state, using state-of-the-art technology, without any big interest or attention from the outside world. Our beloved Zehra, Hebun and Emine were just another event on the list of many, nothing remarkable about it, just three fewer lives and everything stays unchanged…
Two years have passed since I came to Rojava as an internationalist. Like many other comrades I came with the idea to take part in the revolutionary process here, and especially to connect, work together, and build bridges with the women’s movement.
It is an historic opportunity to be here and participate in the building process of a new land where an alternative system is applied, already different from the oppressive nation state model of organisation. It is a Democratic Confederalist system co-ordinated by a people’s administration. One of the fundamental pillars is women’s liberation. This system is a powerful tool for any society, which really represents the voices of the people, and takes care with the multicultural nature of society. It can become a real alternative for many, and hopefully it can also become an example in different parts of the world, leading and helping to deepen social changes.
Many internationalist comrades who come here are aware of how the western society in one way or another is facing big economic and social crises, and how it has been silenced under capital and had its soul stolen. Social inequality and injustice are becoming more and more obvious and unsustainable. Society becomes more distant from our own values and ethics, and is instead overwhelmed with exaggerated materialism and individualism. And so, many of us come here to look for inspiration and tangible evidence that things can change for the better, and are actually possible.
In the time I have spent here I have already witnessed many things. I have learned the actual meaning of resistance.
On one side I have felt so much joy, and been filled with hope and power. I have seen how much has already been managed and built, how much sacrifice and effort was given in order to reach this point, and I have also seen great progress in the society and many amazing things and inspiring developments which are still in constant progress and of course not without difficulties and contradictions.
On the other side I understood what is the reality of living under constant attack, occupation, and threat of genocide. How is it possible to create or even simply live while under constant threat of annihilation? I am realising the breadth of global hypocrisy, and everyday I face the truth that the value of life changes very fast depending on which side of the colonized world you live. I am seeing how many lives it has already just to continue the existence of the people here.
Women, children, old, young… everybody is included under this silenced genocide. A people living in their home land, the same people who are trying every day to build a place, a home, a country, an alternative where the word democracy can fulfill its true meaning, where different cultures and ethnicities can live together in peace.
I have been asking myself over and over, probably with the naive part of my heart which still wants to believe in humanity and justice: how can we, as people supposedly having worldwide democratic values, how can we over and over accept these kinds of realities? How can we just turn our eyes away from where it is not comfortable to look?
How have we become so apathetic? We chase the story of our individual freedom, satisfied with some small privileges, which at best make us a bit more lucky than our neighbors in our loneliness.
Our societies have became so political, but without any capacity for making decisions about our own lives and their organisation. The so-called political sphere has become unreachable for the people and overtaken by a powerful oligarchy, which is this time more dressed up and hidden than in the old imperial times.
The so-called “War on Terror” became a worldwide strategy for the elimination of any opposition to the neoliberal system, an excuse to invade oil-rich territories and carry out atrocities in different communities.
Terrorism seems to be defined as:
-the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
-the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorisation.
-the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
-a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
How much more proof do we still need to call out the Turkish state’s terrorism? To prosecute it and its jihadist proxies?
Unfortunately it is not just about them. International silence condones their terrorist practices and politics.
We have to ask: what was so dangerous about these three women in Kobane that they were targeted?
Over the last 100 years, the Kurds as a nation and ethnicity living faced annihilation of their very existence. They were divided among four nation state territories and submitted to assimilation policies and genocide.
The always unsolved “Kurdish question” became a tool for world hegemonic powers, such as the British and French Empires, to keep Middle East destabilised, which has allowed them to continue to rip out its still-beating heart for their own gain.
But rather than accept oppression, the Kurdish people have developed 40 years of popular revolutionary struggle. The jailed Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan has produced a radical proposal, challenging old feudal and patriarchal rules, capitalism, and the nation state solution of 20th century socialism. This proposal for a system that puts women at the front of the political scene has inspired the people of North and East Syria to work together across ethnicities and cultures and for nine years they have been making this dream a reality.
These are radical and revolutionary changes in favor of democracy and equality, and they are a concrete reality you can see, touch and taste. This is why they are serving as inspiration and examples to many women around the world.
Women’s strength and determination for liberation became a symbol of all these developments. Women’s liberation in its very essence challenges thousands of years old structures in which women have been systematically oppressed and the violence against them has been normalised.
To understand femicide we need analyse it as a political and historical strategy which serves to maintain domination over women, and in doing so all of society.
In the Middle East Islamic law (Sharia), which is derived from the Koran although it is often far away from the actual writings of the Koran, has been modified and reinterpreted by powerful religious and political forces for their own benefit. Women have been put under very oppressive social and physical restrictions in order for hegemonic powers to maintain control over them. These laws and rules penetrated Muslim society and customs and became general social standards shaping the social status of women in Islamic culture.
Extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS or Al–Nusra have brought this repression and domination of women to its extreme. Women are treated as property, enslaved through control and violence, and removed from social and political life.
The Kurdish Women’s Movement and the Rojava Revolution have brought to this reality very radical and revolutionary changes. Under the new autonomy and self governance women’s liberation and gender equality are the core of social transformation.
Women are now in fifty percent of leadership positions in all institutions, as well as having autonomous women-only organisations, and many tools and the organisation necessary to ensure equal opportunity and the protection of their rights.
This process is challenging thousands of years of patriarchal values, so of course it needs lot of determination, grass-roots work, education and constant struggle in order to really make deep changes in the society.
Kongra Star is the umbrella organization for groups taking care of this process, organising and educating women from society, creating opportunities for them and ensuring their rights. It is also a symbol of this revolution.
Women like Zehra, Hebun and Emine have also become symbols. Women from Kobane and members of Kongra Star, they not only made crucial steps toward their own liberation, but they decided to struggle for all women, acting as a voice and opening the path to a more egalitarian and democratic society. Their strength and determination are indispensable qualities of women in the struggle. They make them our vanguard, an example for all women.
These women were not a threat to humanity as Turkish propaganda claimed. Rather, they were a threat to the old rules and values which have been imposed on women and all of society, values which represent the dictatorial and fascist, genocidal and femicidal politics of Tayip Erdogan and the Turkish state. The exact same politics and practices are used by the jihadist and extremist groups which are now plundering with impunity the territory of Syria that has been occupied by the Turkish state.
Efrîn, Serêkaniyê and Gire Spî were prospering places which have turned into hell on the earth under the control of the Erdogan’s allies. Normal life is not possible there anymore. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their land and those who stayed are living under constant extreme violence…
Women are kidnapped, imprisoned, raped and again restricted from any social activities. Society lives under threat and constant fear, terrified…
The message is clear: in the occupied territory women are to be put back into slavery. In liberated territory, women who stand up and fight for their people are struck from the sky. It is a clear threat to all who dare to be organized and struggle for their own liberation as women, as a nation, as oppressed people.
Does this look like a fight against terrorism? Or is it really the other way around?
Women of the world cannot stay silent, unlike the international powers.
It is in our hands. We must rise up and become Zehra, Emine, and Hebun. We must follow their path and raise our voices.
We need to give our promise to them and to ourselves that we will not surrender, we will keep struggling and defending the Rojava Revolution. It is a women’s revolution. It is also our revolution.
Raise your voice! Organise! Stop Erdogan! Stop Femicide!