Rojava celebrate their revolution: If we overcome capitalism we can be free
- 09:29 18 July 2023
ANKARA - While the anniversary of the Rojava Revolution is being celebrated with many events, Stera Abdo from Women Defend Rojava said, “This means that we cannot be satisfied with a few concessions and reforms and become silent. We can only be free as women and peoples if we overcome patriarchy and the systems it has brought with it, such as capitalism, the nation state, fascism and natural catastrophes.”
PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan underlines that while shaping the political theory of democratic confederalism, the emancipation of women is one of the primary problems that need to be resolved, and underlines that a revolution without women's participation will not be successful. As women are the first exploited and colonized class, PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan emphasizes the emancipation of women in order to end all class differences in society and all other forms of exploitation and slavery. According to the PKK Leader, the key to solving all social problems will be the women's freedom, equality and democracy movement. He makes the determination that "a movement based on Jinelogy will ensure the realization of the revolution.”
Women marched to victory
The line that Abdullah Öcalan continues to show, who sees women as the key to the revolution, came to life in Rojava 11 years ago. After the start of the civil war in Syria, women began to play a leading role in the resistance of the Kurdish people and the freedom movement. In the war environment, the role of women who resisted to protect their rights and lands reached a higher level. Kurdish women, who were organized in Syria and Kurdistan in the early 2000s, marched step by step towards the 19 July 2012 Revolution. Women, who have become the main pillar of the Kurdish people's resistance, became prominent and visible in politics, the army, and education in all areas of life. The Kurdish women-centered public organization showed that a new life is possible on 19 July 2012.
Construction of Autonomous Administration
The Rojava Revolution, also known as the Rojava Women's Revolution, that took place on July 19, 2012, spread from Kobanê, where the first movement started, to other cities. Despite the established autonomous administrations, cantons and all attacks, the construction of an alternative life to the idea of the nation state was initiated under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The Autonomous Administration, which was created as the third way alternative to the Baath Regime, showed the whole world that the struggle of the Kurdish people, their resistance against massacre organizations such as ISIS, and the democratic confederalism system against the idea of nation-state is the only solution for the peoples to live together, the elimination of patriarchy and the Middle East.
Women build their freedom
A revolution took place in Rojava, based on Abdullah Öcalan's idea of women's liberation. The resistance, led by women, played a role in the establishment of the autonomous system, making women egalitarian and libertarian. It is possible to say that Rojava is still resisting attacks from outside and trying to strengthen the 3rd way in order to get rid of the codes that feed patriarchy as a whole and replace it with a new one. While women are working on mechanisms based on women's freedom and equality by transcending the patriarchal codes in Rojava, we see that nation states give women a "shake of silence". Are the nation-states that put into effect national laws and international conventions to protect women's rights as a result of women's resistance, are they really in favor of building women's freedom?
Two separate July for women
Nation-states with borders based on maintaining patriarchy would of course have a limit on the rights or practices they "granted" to women. The border of the lands, the border of the peoples and the border of women's rights… All the agreements formed by the nation state and its institutions are not those granted to women by the patriarchy, but on the contrary, the agreements signed with the resistance of women. However, we see that inequalities, oppression, exploitation and violence against women in all dimensions never decrease in countries where the conventions are in effect. Because Turkey's Istanbul Convention, which came out completely on July 1, 2021, dealt a great blow to women's rights, but in the previous one, various breaches were tried to be made in order to get rid of the obligations of the contract, and violence, massacres and rapes did not decrease. While women in Turkey are fighting to restore the convention, women in Rojava are fighting over how to further expand and develop the women's libertarian system. So why are the women who fought for two separate Julys content with little when there is a chance to destroy and rebuild the system?
Contracts or system change?
As the peoples of Rojava celebrate the 11th anniversary of the revolution, President Tayyip Erdogan's government has been increasing its attacks on the opposition and women since 2016. The government, which is based on misogyny and defends the argument "stay in the family despite violence", appointed trustees to municipalities in Kurdistan, which developed the fight against violence against women in local governments, emphasized women's representation by establishing co-chairmanship in the administration, and tried to achieve gender balance in all areas, long before the Istanbul Convention was abolished. All trustees reversed the women's perspective policies and paved the way for local violence. When looked at, the contract was still in force technically… When we look beyond the borders of nation states, to Rojava, while international contracts have no technical validity in self-government, the system is entirely based on a female libertarian structure. Rojava proceeds on the idea that it is important for society to spread a culture of equality and raise awareness in order to minimize violence. Rojava has also enacted a series of laws to criminalize domestic violence, so-called honor killings and killings, forced marriage, child marriage and polygamy.
Contracts are not trivial, but…
Unfortunately, contracts are often the only way to protect the gains of women within the borders of the nation-state. However, even if the contracts are signed, the rights “offered” to women are not fully implemented for fear of harming the patriarchal-fed nation-state ideology. Contracts are of course important, but just as the nation-state is a border, contracts made by the nation-state also have a usage limit. If male supremacy is still seen in all nation-state institutions and capitalist society today, it means that women's libertarian life does not function other than to be controlled by these short-term reforms and "shut up" promises. Whatever hope Rojava offers to women today, it stands on a ground that frightens the whole world and threatens the patriarchal nation-state system, especially when we consider Turkey's attacks. For women, paving the way for the spread of this model will be a far greater win in the long run than simply fighting for contracts.
Kongra Star Women Defend, founded by women who pioneered the July 19 Revolution, evaluated how they built a women's libertarian life without nation-state contracts from Rojava.
“In this context, the question of women's liberation is not only a question of women. Women's liberation is the centre of the revolution. Therefore, for the women here, the slogan "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" is not just something that is shouted at demonstrations, but a philosophy that has to be lived.”
*What kind of a system is operated for the construction of a women's libertarian and egalitarian system in Rojava?
In Rojava, the women's revolution has created a self-administration, now called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which encompasses more than just the Rojava region. The administrative system, which for the first time is democratically administered by the people of the region, is based on the idea of the democratic nation. The democratic nation is a concept of the philosopher and leader Abdullah Öcalan, whose paradigm is based on a grassroots democratic, women's liberation and ecologically just society. In this context, the question of women's liberation is not only a question of women. Women's liberation is the centre of the revolution. Because Kurdish society and also the people in Rojava have understood that it is not possible to create a free society without first liberating women and the whole society from patriarchal oppression. Therefore, for the women here, the slogan "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" is not just something that is shouted at demonstrations, but a philosophy that has to be lived. Here in Rojava, there are various mechanisms for protecting women's rights that have come about through years of grassroots organising and women's struggle.
“There are mechanisms that defend women's rights and equality. Through the women's movement in Rojava and the vanguard role of women in building AANES, there are regulations that empower women and protect their rights.”
*What is the validity of international agreements in Rojava, can you apply these agreements here? What kind of mechanism is operated for the protection of women's rights and a libertarian equality-oriented structure?
As a result of the revolution in Rojava, which is a women's revolution, the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) was established. This system, which has established itself here and organised itself beyond a nation-state system or mindset, has not been recognised internationally. Since it is not recognised, it cannot officially sign or commit to any conventions. So these conventions are not officially valid, but in practice these conventions are fulfilled by AANES, such as the UN CDAW Convention. But beyond these conventions, there are mechanisms that defend women's rights and equality. Through the women's movement in Rojava and the vanguard role of women in building AANES, there are regulations that empower women and protect their rights. For example, there is a 50 % gender quota within AANES and all its institutions. There is a social contract in which women's rights have an important place. In the drafting of this social contract, there was a 50% gender quota alongside the quota of the different ethnic and religious groups in the region. The Kongra Star women's movement and other women's movements were also involved in the drafting process. In 2014, a women's law was introduced for the first time in Rojava, which has now been renamed the Family Law, but in this law, laws are formulated to defend women's rights. There is a Women's Justice Council, which is part of the AANES Justice Council. Apart from the Women's Defence Houses run by the Women's Committee/Ministry of Women's Affairs, there is also the Mala Jin (Women's House) where women whose rights are violated can turn to. The Mala Jin was established by the women's movement just before the official start of the women's revolution and long before the establishment of AANES, however, it is part of the Women's Justice Council. Moreover, there is a strong women's movement that organises from the grassroots and is a political force to defend these achievements of women and to anchor gender equality and awareness of women's liberation in the mentality of society. Laws can be changed quickly, especially if the mentality of society allows it. But once you have created a social consciousness and mentality, it is difficult to undo it.
“This convention did not really protect the rights of women, but with the withdrawal of this convention and the adoption and cancellation of other laws, these violations of women's rights are ‘legalized’.So we see that a struggle for women's freedom cannot be limited only by the promised laws of the nation state, which has become what it is on the basis of patriarchy.”
*I would like to ask this: women are still second-class citizens, their rights, bodies and identities are exploited, despite the fact that contracts are executed in hundreds of countries. Are contracts alone enough to prevent this exploitation or is a new system needed?
Conventions such as the Istanbul Convention are important in that there is something official, something legal that has been written down in order to have a basis to put international pressure, in this case against a nation state. That is why the struggle of women in Turkey against the withdrawal of this convention is very important. But we also see that even before the Istanbul Convention, this convention and thus the rights of women were violated. With the withdrawal of this convention, the Turkish state has only legalized what already existed anyway. This convention did not really protect the rights of women, but with the withdrawal of this convention and the adoption and cancellation of other laws, these violations of women's rights are "legalized". In many countries that have signed these international treaties or have enshrined universal women's rights in their laws and constitutions, women are still second-class citizens, their rights, their bodies and their identities are exploited. All over the world there is a patriarchal system and this can be seen in all countries, despite laws that are supposed to work against this, women are discriminated against because of their gender. For example, with the "MeToo" movement, which drew attention to sexual abuse and rape culture, there was a huge outcry from women in countries with the supposed highest gender equality. If there are women's rights and gender equality, where does this rape culture and attacks on women's bodies come from? So we see that a struggle for women's freedom cannot be limited only by the promised laws of the nation state, which has become what it is on the basis of patriarchy. This shows that laws, however nice they sound, are no guarantee of women's rights anywhere. We can see in recent years, not only in Turkey with the Istanbul Convention, but all over the world, that women's rights that were won through a feminist struggle by women are now under attack. Now women are struggling to defend these achieved rights.
“This means that we cannot be satisfied with a few concessions and reforms and become silent. We can only be free as women and peoples if we overcome patriarchy and the systems it has brought with it, such as capitalism, the nation state, fascism and natural catastrophes.”
* What kind of a system should be built instead of contracts for the liberation of women and peoples, what is the pillar of struggle for this and how should it be?
The struggle of women and peoples must be a constant struggle. We have started a revolution here in which all population groups, religious groups and different ethnic groups are included in the democratic administration. But we are also aware that a revolution or a struggle is not over after 5, 10 or 15 years. We are aware that the real struggle begins after you have built your system and governed yourself, because we do not want to end up like other revolutions that have ended in nation states or dictatorial regimes. We also see that the rights won for women's emancipation are being attacked again today and that there is regression. This means that we cannot be satisfied with a few concessions and reforms and become silent. We can only be free as women and peoples if we overcome patriarchy and the systems it has brought with it, such as capitalism, the nation state, fascism and natural catastrophes. Women are surrounded by patriarchy internationally and we must be aware that women everywhere must fight, organise, become a force of solidarity and networking. We should not give in to capitalism's attempts to divide and unify and take over, we need to become united as women and peoples including our different colours.