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Women's Defense Units (YPJ) spokeswoman: 'We also fight for a mental and intellectual liberation'
January 18, 2017 –– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from ANF English –– YPJ (Women's Defense Units) Spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah described Raqqa operation that was launched at the end of 2016 and led by the YPJ as the operation to avenge all women, and said “Raqqa’s liberation is also the liberation of mentalities. Because as the women of the YPJ, we aim not only liberation from ISIS but also a liberation of mentality and thoughts. Democratic culture and fraternal life must be deepened because war is not only the liberation of land. We are also fighting for the liberation of women and men. If not, the patriarchal system will prevail once again.
In this sense, Operation Wrath of Euphrates to liberate Raqqa is also the liberation of the society. This is how we view it as the YPJ. We will continue to participate in the operation with the same enthusiasm in 2017 and avenge all women with the liberation of Raqqa.”
YPJ Spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah answered ANF's questions on the YPJ’s practices in 2016 and goals for 2017.
As the YPJ, how do you evaluate your practice of war in 2016? In which battles and operations did you participate?
Firstly, 2016 was a different year because some formations were established and the YPJ took part in these formations. Before 2016, YPG and YPJ had co-organized operations. But in 2016, YPJ participated in new formations and operations as the force of women.
In 2016, we participated in Wrath of Habur, Elîn, Cudi, Manbij and Raqqa operations. Raqqa operation continues, and we also participated in the offensives in Aleppo’s Ashrafiya, factory, Seken and Shiqeyf regions. YPJ joined the efforts in Efrîn. A YPJ battalion also took part in the Jaysh al Thuwar units in Shehba and trained the women here. YPJ carried out its mission in Cizire and Kobanê cantons and had a leading role in all planned operations. These initiatives were not defensive; they were liberation operations. We were attacking ISIS gangs and liberating the lands that they occupied. For this reason, 2016 was a different year.
There is another development that took place in 2016. YPJ’s participation in new formations brought out a unique situation. The forces that had mobilized inside the SDF did not include any women. They still do not, and the YPJ is the only force of women inside the SDF. This situation had several important impacts.
Arab people were the predominant residents of the liberated areas. They were impressed when they saw that women participated in military affairs and played a leading role in clashes. This had important consequences. Many women participated in the training in liberated areas. 2 units completed academic training for women’s participation inside the SDF. Currently, preparations for the announcement of an Arab Women’s Academy and Free Arab Women’s Battalion are under way. All of these were a result of the liberation operations that YPJ participated in this year.
On the other hand, there were no women inside the forces that make up the SDF. They were only fighting to defend their land and to liberate their country from ISIS. They were affected when they saw that women participated in the war and fought bravely. In a way, their understanding of manhood was transformed. They lived in a society where men were seen as superior, and they saw women as inferior. They thought women could only do housework and raise children. But the YPJ’s struggle inspired respect in them. They saw that the YPJ did not retreat or abandon its positions. This inspired a great trust, and they state that they have been affected by the YPJ’s discipline of war and life, comradeship and morale.
So, 2016 was the year when the women of YPJ reflected their color. This took place both socially and militarily. Our movement showed that the war was not only a struggle to defend our land but also a struggle to transform people in order to create the ‘new human.’
What impact did the YPJ’S struggle in 2016 have internationally?
Women’s revolution was the most special and impressive aspect of Rojava Revolution. Women took active and leading roles in all areas, including defense. Led by Kurdish women, YPJ protected and developed the impact and respect it has created all around the world. It is the first women’s organization of war and struggle across the globe. There has been no force or classical army like us. Other powers indeed have women’s units, but there is no organization other than the YPJ where women have their own decision-making power, will, conference, congress and social mobilization. YPJ has demonstrated these with its formation, and developed its struggle and leading position throughout the years. This enabled us to have a great impact internationally.
We lead with our lives and philosophy of war. Rojava society transformed significantly with the philosophy that the YPG and we share. This transformation did not only take place inside Kurdish society but among other peoples as well. So our impact was not only inside Syria but also global because women’s participation in defense had not taken place at this level and created a global impact.
We had many visits from different countries. Intellectuals, authors and politicians gave as positive feedback. We saw that we had transformed their perception of women. As the YPJ, we were invited to South Africa. We went there, met with the government, and participated in conferences and seminars. Many committees came to Rojava and visited the YPJ. They had discussions with us in order to make us of our experiences. All of these are a result of the inspiration created by the YPJ as women’s defense force. Many women want to make use of our experiences and organize their own units. Many groups come to Rojava and want to make use of our experiences and training for this purpose.
What are the results of the diplomatic activities the YPJ has carried out in 2016?
Of course, we carried out many public and private diplomatic activities in 2016. The result of these efforts was to reflect the results of our practices outside of Rojava. Many documentaries, promotional clips, interviews and books were prepared on the YPJ. I believe that it is the YPJ that will express itself most effectively. However, our visits and interactions have also had an impact.
How much did the YPJ grow this year quantitatively? What was the level of participation in the YPJ in recently liberated areas?
Actually, the international spirit gained more strength this year. This took place among local peoples, especially among Arab women. Many women from recently liberated areas participated in the YPJ. From Shaddadi to Manbij, many women have joined us. For this reason, we established an academy for Arab people. 2 Arab women’s units were formed inside the SDF with the support of the YPJ. Soon, an Arab Women’s Battalion will be announced. Women from Kurdish and other societies have also joined our ranks this year.
How are YPJ fighters, who impress the world and inspire women, being trained? How was its training system in 2016?
2016 was a different year both in terms of opportunities and recruitment. YPJ experienced professionalization in training this year. We opened tens of military, scholar and field academies and YPJ mobilized women in these places.
With field academies, we promoted professionalization in war tactics and techniques. In recent years, the YPJ gained a lot of experience in the battlefield. We are transforming this experience into an academic consciousness. Hundreds of YPJ fighters receive academic training for this purpose. This is perhaps why women play a leading role. Our training courses are bilingual; in Kurdish and Arabic.
Our training covers many fields ranging from history to philosophy, life, personality, and women’s history. This is because the YPJ is not a brute fighting force but a force of social, cultural and moral consciousness. Women who realize themselves wage this struggle. Another important consequence of the YPJ’s struggle is that women have developed self-confidence. Women would trust men more than other women for too long in our geography. They overestimated men, but now they see the power in other women and do not view men as superior.
Women trust themselves more with the help of our training, and take a more active role in developing war tactics and techniques. They mobilize their intelligence more effectively and achieve better results.
Are there other forces that you have trained this year as the YPJ?
This year, women in liberated areas mobilized and formed their own organizations. One of the most beautiful developments of this year was the formation of Manbij Women’s Military Council. Of course, YPJ offered its educational and logistical support and participated in the Manbij operation. When Manbij Women’s Military council was formed, YPJ handed over its activities to them and withdrew. We have a working relationship with them and are ready to offer our support whenever they need it.
Bab Women’s Military Council was established and we offered our support to them as well. Women from Shehba formed their battalion and demanded us to train them, and we offered our support. We have a working-relationship with them as well. Arab women are in the process of establishing an Arab Women’s Battalion and we offer them our support too.
What is the YPJ’s participation in the ongoing Operation Wrath of Euphrates?
The Operation Wrath of Euphrates differs from other military campaigns. YPJ announced that it has a leading role in this operation because Raqqa is the ideological and political center of ISIS, the heart of Syria and the capital of ISIS. Our goal in this operation is to avenge all women, primarily the women massacred and sold by ISIS and the women of Raqqa that live under ISIS occupation. We have rescued 601 Êzîdî women and thousands of women and children in Raqqa from ISIS so far. As you know, winter conditions are difficult, but we have not experienced any weaknesses morally. YPJ commanders and fighters participated in Raqqa operation and have been on the front lines. The spokesperson of this operation is a woman commander.
As I mentioned, we are also waging an intellectual battle. The liberation of Raqqa is not like the liberation of any other city. It is also the liberation of mentalities. As the women of YPJ, our goal is a mental and intellectual liberation as well as the end of ISIS occupation. Democratic culture and fraternal life should be deepened because we do not view the war as only the liberation of land. We are also fighting for the liberation of women and men. If this does not happen, the patriarchal system will prevail.
In this sense, the liberation of Raqqa is also the liberation of society. This is how the YPJ views it. We will continue to participate in the operation with the same enthusiasm in 2017 and avenge all women with the liberation of Raqqa.
As YPJ, what are your goals for 2017?
2017 will be the final year both militarily and politically. Even if a solution is not reached, the conditions for a solution will be created. On the other hand, there is the possibility that contradictions and clashes deepen. However, the YPJ will always support a democratic peaceful solution. For such a solution to take place, we should enhance our strength. Our goal is to double or triple our forces. In the YPJ, this spirit has become the defense spirit of the democratic nation.
We also would like to professionalize our forces by training and strengthen our units for the creation of a gender egalitarian society that is strong not only militarily but also ecologically. We know that we have this strength and free and conscious women mean that the society is conscious. This is our strategic goal. Again, we will continue to participate in the Operation Wrath of Euphrates with the same enthusiasm and liberate all women with the liberation of Raqqa.