On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Women’s Defense Units of the YPJ in North and East Syria, we send our solidarity greetings, strength and energy to the fighters of the YPJ, who with their courage and determination in the struggle for a liberated and self-determined life against the colonial policies of the states and patriarchal violence are resisting every day.
The basis and theory of the women’s revolution is that of the rose defending itself
It was and is the YPJ Women’s Defense Units that liberated Kobane and many other cities like Raqqa from IS, thus enabling women to build their own institutions that represent their voices and perspectives. It is the YPJ that until today defend the achievements of the women’s revolution in northern and eastern Syria against any attacks from the fascist Turkish state and its militias.
As autonomous women’s defense units, the YPJ are organizing to put an end to any policy of extermination against women as a systematic means of war and to defend their homes, their lands, their mothers and fathers, their siblings, relatives, neighbors, the people of the region, the revolution in Rojava, and their achievements. With their struggle for a free life and for women’s liberation, the YPJ inspire many feminist movements worldwide and have become a symbol of resistance. Numerous internationalists have joined the Women’s Defense Units in the struggle against patriarchal oppression and for a free life. As part of the women’s revolution, the YPJ plays an important role in building and defending alternatives to today’s patriarchal-capitalist world system.
Over the past decade, they have participated in building autonomous women’s structures and have built a social alternative as part of the Rojava Revolution in North and East Syria – a grassroots democratic, feminist and ecological self-administrated project. The diversity and power that the women’s revolution has developed since then is something we also see in the YPJ.
Founded on April 4, 2013, today they have become a diverse force joined by Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian and many other women of other backgrounds. They show us that self-defense means, above all, organizing to stand together against patriarchal attacks and to fight for an alternative. Today, 4 April, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the YPJ on Abdullah Öcalan’s birthday. With his philosophy, which today echoes throughout the world as Jin Jiyan Azadî (Women’s Life Freedom), he played an important role in the emergence of women’s own defence units in the heart of the Middle East, fighting for women’s liberation worldwide.
In doing so, we want to remember and commemorate all those who have given their lives in this struggle. With them in our hearts, we continue to fight for a free and self-determined life in dignity. In memory of them, we would like to publish here the speech of Şehîd Jiyan Tolhildan. She gave this speech last year at the Women’s Forum to mark the 10th anniversary of the revolution in North and East Syria. On the way back from the forum, Jiyan Tolhildan, along with Roj Xabûr and Barîn Botan, were targeted for assassination by a Turkish drone on July 22, 2022. Their struggle, words and strength continue to accompany us:
We welcome this forum and congratulate all women in Syria, the Middle East and around the world. And we congratulate all the martyrs who fought for freedom and democracy, the mothers, partners and children of the martyrs, all the comrades who sacrificed part of their bodies and were wounded for this revolution. A few days ago we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the July 19 revolution. Your efforts of the last ten years, in all their colors, different nationalities, religions and cultures have also graced this hall today. As a commander and member of the YPJ, I bow to all the martyrs of this revolution.
Every society has a history, and this history is full of heroes and pioneers. Especially the Kurdish and the Arab, the Iranian and the Turkish societies, with whom we live together in this region as neighbors. There have always been historical pioneers and they have left their traces in Rojava. The traces of the pioneers such as Besê, Sara, Zarife have developed. These traces have developed through the role of Warşîn, Roksan, Tolhildan Raman, Sosin Bîrhat and Şîlan Cûdî in Rojava. They have sacrificed themselves to strengthen all societies that are struggling today against the system of oppression, the state and the dominant man.
Step by step, the YPJ moved from local villages in Rojava to the entire region of Syria. With their humility and their philosophy of defending their own existence and society, they opposed the brutal ISIS mercenaries who were killing everyone in the name of Islam in order to create a state between Iraq and Damascus. Even now we can observe that the fighters have liberated us from brutality, violence and the accompanying mentalities. We have seen what situation they have created for the society. If we look at all the continents of the world, we see that the nation-state system has really left nothing for women and society.
Besides our self-defense and struggle, there is no other way to create a free individual and a free society. For this reason, we wholeheartedly congratulate all the women who are part of this revolution. And today we as YPJ can say that thousands of women, mothers, with 10 years worth of work and effort of their own hands, have transformed this earth into a holy one. There were so many sacrifices for this that we could have talked about them for hours to list them all. Every mother, every girl and every family saw themselves as responsible. Those who recognized their power took up arms and took their place on the frontline. With self-confidence and without looking back, they have fought without differentiating – these are Arabs, Syrians, Armenians, Turkmen, or that is the Middle East or the women of the world. They have seen ethical political society as the only way. This is what we live for, this is what we fight for, and this is what we are ready to fall for, even as martyrs, without ever having a doubt. Because the idea and philosophy of the Democratic Nation was founded by Abdullah Öcalan as a gift of freedom. This seed was planted 50 years ago in Kurdistan, in the Middle East and worldwide.
Today, in Rojava, a chance has opened up that we can get rid of the fascism of nation states, that we can end the culture of genocide, the culture of rape, the culture of buying and selling. We say we are women, I exist without anyone putting their hands on my body, without taking advantage of my language, without erasing my gender as a woman. We have seen what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria. Our coming together today, is an action, a very democratic and natural action. This kind of possibility would not have existed 10 years ago. Women would not even have believed in women at that level, and women would not have been able to work with women so easily to take action. Because the system of nation states, in the name of nationality, in the name of religion, in the name of cultures had created a total fragmentation, not only in our minds and souls, but also physically.
The ideology of self-defense in the YPJ forces is based on their democratic, equal and natural strength, they make no distinction. They began to organize in their own villages and towns but also organized beyond that with Arab women, Syrian women, Assyrian women and Chaldean women. They took up arms and went to the front lines. Because without organized self-defense, society cannot be defended. And without it, above all, we cannot defend women.
If we look at the continents of this world today, for example European society, they certainly had their heroes and pioneers to achieve freedom, but this is an individual freedom. If we look at the societies of the African continent and the situation of women, we see that women are without defense, yes, they are very knowledgeable, and they fight, they don’t just accept everything, but they don’t have a system that reaches all the women of this continent. Today we also look at the women of the Middle East, their level is not low, so many of them became pioneers, but when their society and their bodies were attacked, they were sold like slaves. ISIS sold and bought so many Kurdish, Arab, Armenian and Assyrian girls and women as prisoners. This is not a story that happened thousands of years ago, but in the last 10 years. This did not happen in secret, but before the eyes of the world public. No one has spoken out about it, except for women, some democratic and feminist movements who have opposed it and taken action. They stood by the women of North and East Syria and consider the YPJ as their own army. Today we see in Afghanistan that especially mothers, women and girls experience so much violence. The pain they suffer is suffered by the whole society. The mentality of self-defense is still too weak. Defense has been left to men for thousands of years. And men, you saw that in Şengal in the form of the KDP and the Iraqi state, who, when ISIS came, before even an “Allahu Akbar” reached their ears, without looking back, left them, the women and the society behind and ran away.
Five years ago, when Raqqa and eventually Deir-ez-Zor were liberated from ISIS, the women who were liberated said, “We wished for death thousands of times. We wished for death, but it was not in our hands when we were in the hands of the mercenaries.” We have seen all this in pictures, videos and films, and now we also see them. But today we face even greater dangers because the ideology of self-defense has not yet arrived as a culture in every home and every society. It has not become the task of every woman. Therefore, plans are simply made and implemented behind closed doors, without asking about humanity, without asking women, although they are the ones who suffer the most from these decisions. Their thoughts and opinions are not represented, but they are the ones who are bought and sold, raped and murdered. We see today how bad the situation of women is in reality, even in the most democratic states. That is why I want to not only to say this here in my speech, but that our mothers stand up and speak about it.
What selflessness and sacrifice thousands of girls of this country have shown in liberating one city after another. This was done out of the conviction to defend all women. In this country, thousands of young women lie peacefully in the cemeteries of the martyrs because they believed that this revolution would succeed. With this conviction and in this faith, they went to the front. They have fought for the whole world and especially for women everywhere. This forum alone is very sacred, but after that, our first and most important task will be to build the culture of self-defense in all homes.
The revolution of Rojava, of North and East Syria, has attracted attention from all over the world. Internationalist women have joined from all directions of the world, have taken their place in this revolution and have even fallen as martyrs for it. With this, we see that the idea that the revolution carries has been spread. Today, the YPJ forces face even greater challenges and responsibilities because the threats posed by the nation-states have become even more serious.
From the first day of the revolution, we were told the following: In a month the revolution will be over, in a year it will be over, it will not have a long future, they have no faith, they are infidels. Under this slogan, they attacked and announced our last moment. Thousands of women’s bodies were sold in markets and given away to each other. But what has been created here in the last 10 years should reach every society, every nation and every religion and show that in fact equality, freedom, and brotherhood has been created with the pioneering role of women. But if their body and society are attacked, women will be the first, before all others, fighting at the highest level with every method, tactic and technique, they will not bow down. Because the slavery imposed on women is broken, women are no longer ready to surrender, in Northern Kurdistan, Southern Kurdistan, Rojava and everywhere in the world.
Women are being captured and murdered, but they do not give up. They defend themselves every way possible. So we are very happy that this forum, where all colors and voices of Syrian society are represented, is taking place today. Women from the Middle East and around the world have also participated. We say to the whole world: we are not attacking anyone, but if the whole world attacks us, we will fight to the last point, to the last breath, to the last drop of our blood. We will not accept anything other than self-defense. No one can destroy this revolution as long as there is still a commander or a fighter. This was the conviction of Sosîn Bîrhat, Tolhildan Raman, Şîlan Goyî and Sozdar Cûdî, who stood until the end and sacrificed themselves in the front ranks for the defense of the free individual and the free society. So that our mothers and daughters can live safely in this revolution.
We are ready to resist all attacks. This is not just words. Today, we as YPJ owe something to the women of Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî. Until we liberate these regions,until we return the refugees, the mothers and girls, we will not be able to sleep peacefully by day or by night. The only task for us will be to liberate these regions again. So that mothers and all women can live together again in peace with their neighbors. This will be our task and our duty. I greet once again this forum. And greet with respect the martyrs of this revolution. We follow their path.
We as YPJ renew our commitment in front of this forum and all these women.
As long as there are attacks on women, we will carry our weapon with us.
Step by step, front by front, we will liberate this region, this is what we promise to our friends and enemies.
This revolution will surely become a reality for women of the whole world.